June 8 marks the fifth anniversary of the reopening of South Yorkshire’s Grade I listed landscape Wentworth Castle Gardens. The National Trust work in partnership with Barnsley Council and Northern College to both care for the estate and make it a destination that welcomes the local community and visitors to the area.

This wasn’t necessarily the case three centuries ago when it very much was a grand family estate born out of an inheritance family feud in the Wentworth family and built to compete with neighbouring Wentworth Woodhouse. When building much of what we see today at Wentworth Castle, Thomas Wentworth even went so far to acquire the old family title, the Earldom of Strafford, in an attempt to outshine his ‘obnoxious relative’ just six miles away. 

After World War II, the family sold the estate to Barnsley Council when it became a teacher training college, and present day the house remains an innovative adult education centre. After a period of council care, a private charitable trust took over the gardens, parkland and buildings beyond the house to develop into a viable visitor attraction. Which brings us back to 2019 and the current model.

Visitor numbers, volunteers and events are growing year on year and June 2024 is no exception with a month packed full of ways to connect with Wentworth Castle Gardens and the National Trust. Throughout the month, opening hours will be extended on Thursdays until 6.30pm – perfect for an after-school picnic or time to relax exploring the gardens leaving the day’s work behind. During the Big Help Out week, visitors are invited to get stuck in with counting butterflies, fence painting, crafting, or having a go at volunteering on the taster mornings.

Torri Crapper, General Manager for the National Trust at Wentworth Castle Gardens said “It’s an enormously special place filled with nearly 300 remarkable staff and volunteers who are all passionate about their work and making the estate welcoming to all. I am proud to work alongside partners and community groups who have collaborated together to continue the ongoing conservation of this unique landscape.”

A regular programme of led walks offers a memorable way to discover more about the 500 acres of parkland or significant history of the estate. Choose from ranger walks, themed history walks or house tours, or join the running group if you like a faster pace. The National Trust has sustainable practices at the heart of its efforts and during the month, visitors can find out more with events in composting week and the Great Big Green Festival.

Torri went on to say “Weekends are an understandably popular time; however, I’d encourage those with the option to visit during the week for an altogether different experience. The size and orientation of the gardens and parkland means at times, it’s just you, the wildlife, and the view.”

The unique quality of the gardens mean they reflect and reveal not just one style of gardening but layers of design from the three centuries of its existence. With three national plant collections of Species Rhododendrons, Species Magnolia and Camellia williamsii, the garden is currently full of colour. Other areas take over the show throughout the year – herbaceous borders of the John Arnold Garden, Victorian Bedding in the formal spaces and evergreens and ferns in the naturalised areas. The restored Victorian Conservatory, first brought to light through the BBC programme ‘Restoration’, is full of exotic planting.

From one man’s anger over his perceived lost inheritance, the estate has survived over 300 years and with continued efforts can continue to be a central part of the South Yorkshire landscape for the next 300.

Wentworth Castle Gardens is open daily, plan your visit and how to get involved: Wentworth Castle Gardens | South Yorkshire | National Trust

 

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