Plumpton Rocks re-opens after restoration work

29 July 2016

Plumpton Rocks near Harrogate, the renowned Grade 2* listed garden, considered to be one of the finest 18th Century landscapes in the North of England, has just completed a major restoration programme.

The gardens described by Queen Mary as, ‘Heaven on Earth’, are also making a starring role as Wild Cat Island in the BBC’s new feature length film adaptation of Swallows and Amazons which will be released next month.

The three year project achieved the restoration of the parkland, lake, woodland and perhaps most importantly, the magnificent Grade 2 listed dam designed by John Carr of York in the 1760s.

Over the last few decades the lake had gradually silted up and the major 18th Century vistas, painted by Turner for his first commission in oils in 1797, had been lost. There were concerns that this historically significant landscape would be lost for ever. The situation became critical in 2012 when English Heritage placed the garden on its Historic Landscapes at Risk Register. This catapulted the garden as a priority for funding and enabled a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme to be entered into between the owner, Robert de Plumpton Hunter and Natural England. Over the next year a major plan of restoration was formulated and work started in 2014 to restore the former parkland.

Subsequently, extensive works have been carried out to the woodland, lake and recently the dam. The latter received substantial grant funding from Historic England and The Country Houses Foundation.


Restoration Aspects

Formal Parkland
The 36 acre former parkland had been ploughed up in 1982 and the original individual specimen parkland trees had been lost. The restoration has allowed for the fields to be reverted back to grassland with 80 individual parkland trees planted. This reconnects the parkland once again with the Rocks and the remaining John Carr buildings of the Hall, stable block and farm.

Over the last 250 years the lake has gradually silted up. This meant a large portion of the northern part of the lake had been lost and had become over grown with self-seeding trees. The view looking south towards the Dam and Lover’s Leap had been lost. Natural England and Historic England grants allowed for the desilting of the lake, taking it back to its original 18th Century proportions. The Creek was dug out with several inlets and two islands were reinstated at the north of the lake.

The dam was designed by John Carr of York, around 1760 and is the only such structure he designed. Carr appears to have been influenced by Vanbrugh’s work at Castle Howard, as the dam is constructed of massive blocks of stone and designed to give an Arcadian feel.

The dam is Grade 2 Listed but over the last hundred years had lost 5 of its 6 ball finials. These have been reinstated and the dam has been repointed.
Plumpton Rocks is open to the public Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays March to October, 11am to 6pm. It will also be open every day in August.

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