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Helmsley Walled Garden sows seeds of growth for the future
9:10am Wednesday 11th April 2012 in Features
DAVID JEFFELS visits a tourist attraction preparing to thrive
AN ambitious £20,000 plan has been revealed to expand one of Ryedale’s most successful tourist attractions, to help it fulfil its role as a therapautic gardening centre.
Over the years since it opened in 1996, Helmsley Walled Garden, in the shadow of the impressive castle ruins, has helped hundreds of disadvantaged people, says manager Mike I’Anson, a former police inspector.
Now the aim is to make the garden self-sufficient with plans for an extension, a polytunnel to increase plant sales, a new shop and a winter- working complex.
The garden dates back more than 250 years and in its heyday it supplied all the fresh produce for the ‘big house’, Duncombe Park. But it had been neglected for years when local doctor’s wife Alison Tycehurst had the vision of regenerating it in the 1990s.
Sadly, she didn’t live to see her aspirations become a reality but the trustees of the charity which was set up to run it continued her plan to transform it into a sanctuary providing horticultural therapy for people with a wide range of problems.
Mike said: “We are working with nature and in doing so we give those we work with, a better sense of wellbeing.”
Those whose lives have been aided include people with mental health difficulties and depression, resulting from such conditions as bereavement or isolation. Others are living with autism or educational needs.
Mike said: “We are not an institution.
We help these people and sometimes challenge them with what we have to offer.”
The five-acre garden supports 15 people at a time in its therapy programme but it has increasingly become a significant tourist attraction in Ryedale, attracting 18,000 gardening enthusiasts to admire the wealth of borders, gardens and beautiful restored glasshouses, home to a wide range of plants.
Run as a social enterprise, the garden has 50 volunteer helpers from all walks of life, said Mike, who spent 25 years in North Yorkshire Police.
On retirement, he joined the garden when he opted for a complete change of career and pursued his hobby of gardening, becoming head gardener and then manager.
The venture has gradually expanded and now boasts a popular café and sales area. Adjoining the walled garden is a complex of restored old buildings which are now used by craft workers.
“The polytunnel will enable us to grow more plants and stand on our own feet financially,” said Mike.
“People come here to come to terms with stresses of weekly work and looking after children. They find that three or four hours work in the garden really does help them cope.”
He added: “We have therapists permanently on the staff and what we are achieving is to grow the horticultural therapy which is the core work of our charity.”
Tourists and plant sales provide it with 75 per cent of its funding costs, while grants provide 15 per cent and the remaining 10 per cent comes from donations.
The plan is to be decided by the North York Moors National Park Authority in the next few weeks.