Norton Conyers, Wath, Nr Ripon – Sir James and Lady Graham
Mentioned in Domesday Book, but now reckoned to have been a settlement founded by the monks of St Cuthbert’s in the 7th century, Norton Conyers has been the home of the Graham family since 1624 with a break of only 20 years. The present house is medieval, with alterations and extensions in the 16th, 17th and notably the 18th centuries. The distinctive Dutch gables date from the end of the 17th century. James I and Charles I visited the house, but perhaps the most significant visitor was Charlotte Brontë who based Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre on Norton Conyers. The house has undergone 30 years of restoration which culminated in being treated for a serious death watch beetle infestation. We will tour the house with Sir James and Lady Graham, before visiting the walled garden with its 18th century orangery and double perennial borders backed by towering yew hedges.
Old Sleningford Hall, Mickley – Mr and Mrs Tom Ramsden
Old Sleningford Hall dates from 1810 and the ornamental garden, walled garden and mill pond date from this time. Tom Ramsden’s parents came to Old Sleningford in 1954 and restored and simplified the garden, removing gloomy Victorian shrubberies and opening up views from the house. Tom and Jane took over the house in 2005 and have made more changes including the semi-formal terrace to the south of the house, with box hedges, Nepeta and pots of Agapanthus. The walled garden and mill pond lie below the house. A wide herbaceous border runs the length of the tall south-facing brick wall, the glass house is given over to Pelargoniums and tomatoes in the summer, and the beds are a mouth-watering display of vegetables and fruit, all contained within a swag-topped yew hedge through which clambers scarlet-flowered Tropaeolum speciosum.
Littlethorpe Manor, Nr Ripon – Mr and Mrs John Thackray
Littlethorpe is a late-Regency house, but the eleven-acre garden has been extensively re-landscaped since 1998 by the head gardener, Eddie Harland. Immediately behind the house is a sunken white garden, with a pattern of wide box hedges enclosing Santolina, Pyrus salicifolia and the white polyantha rose ‘Katharina Zeimet’, around a central armillary sphere. Beyond is the old walled garden, now transformed into an ornamental garden with a central circular gazebo supporting honeysuckle and Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’. A brick pergola leads through a blue and yellow border towards the front of the house. Here the previously sloping lawns have been levelled, Irish yews frame an ornamental pool and steps lead down to a lime avenue. Across the lake, surrounded by generous marginal planting, is an eye-catcher in the form of a classical temple. This is a spectacular garden, imaginatively planted and beautifully maintained.