Heavenly in Helmsley
Helmsley is an idyllic market town at the edge of the North York Moors. Its picturesque stone buildings and beautiful rural setting are a big attraction. The town also boasts the English Heritage site of Helmsley Castle, and lovely boutique accommodation such as the Feversham Arms, an old coaching Inn converted to a luxury hotel and spa. I stayed there a couple of years ago and it was a real treat.
At this time of year it’s all summer fruits, craft fairs, coffee shops and agricultural events. You will see giant loads of hay making their way slowly through the market place. Drivers who may well get stuck behind them on the winding narrow roads may not enjoy this rural sight.
This year ‘flaming June’ is actually a reality, and not just an old saying of obscure origin. The weather is been uncommonly good. We headed off in my brother’s Mercedes convertible. It was the kind of a summer’s day where it makes perfect sense to have a car where the roof comes down.
Helmsley Walled Garden – the castle estate
Helmsley walled garden has been around for 250 years and originally belonged to the castle estate but it had been neglected for many years until it was revived in the 1980’s as a visitor attraction and a place of healing and tranquility for those in need.
There is a Kitchen garden, apple orchard and lovely walks along colourful flower borders. The borders are planted so that there are always plants and foliage of interest at any time of year. There are also chickens you can feed. Chicken watching is quite a therapeutic activity in itself.
There are lots of old fashioned flowers which I love and a stunning wild flower meadow. The sight of this, with its petaled paintwork of poppies and daisies and cornflowers, is enough to raise the lowest mood.
There are secret doors and vegetable patches, and seats sprinkled about the garden so you can take the weight off your feet and just enjoy the view. I loved the Astrantia, a delicate old fashioned cottage flower and there were lots of sweet peas getting ready to spring into scented glory as the summer progresses.
The Vinehouse Cafe
There is a fantastic restaurant at the garden called the Vinehouse cafe. The cafe is housed within three Victorian Glass Houses, is incredibly popular, and open seven days a week. The glass houses are strewn with real grape vines all along the roof. It was so nice that everyone was sitting outside.
The food is first class . I had a delicious goat’s cheese salad with wholemeal pita bread and slices of melon. The menu features fresh seasonal produce from the kitchen garden every day. There were lots of summer cocktails on offer too, but I resisted the temptation of a gin fizz.
There are plants for sale at the Plant Centre. The blacksmith’s crafts shop also has decorative garden accessories for sale. You can even buy a cute caravan style bird box. For the children there is the Wendy house with a pastel coloured kitchen inside, which I would actually quite like at home!
Gardening is good for you
The Helmsley garden practices horticultural therapy. It works with people to improve their mental and physical health through gardening. The team also work with people with disabilities and those who are coping with the effects of depression, social isolation and long-term unemployment. It’s well known that working outside with nature can have a beneficial effect on our mental state, and that is one of the reasons why gardening is so perennially popular.
Helmsley orchard – apples for all.
The Helmsley garden has an apple orchard which grows over 92 varieties of apples. This is a far wider selection than you would ever see in the supermarket. Some have great names like Dogsnout, Catshead and Flower of the Town. Every year the apples are harvested and many are pressed into delicious apple juice which is then sold to the public.
Apples have been around since the time of Adam and Eve. This familiar fruit has its own folklore and stories. Did you know that apples float because they are 25% air? Or that in Ancient Greece tossing an apple to a girl was a proposal of marriage and catching it was a response of ‘yes’?
Helmsley walled garden is a delightful place to visit, nestled in the shadow of the medieval ruins of the old castle up on the hill. What’s more, if you buy a ticket once, you can reuse it again with no extra charge all year round, so why not pay a visit and make sure you support this lovely Yorkshire attraction.