Jo’s Monday walk : Valley Gardens to Harlow Carr

Most of my time in England was spent in the city of Leeds, but I did manage a few side trips to see friends. Harrogate was an easy 45 minute bus ride away, and the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr an old favourite, so when my lovely friend Ann suggested that we could walk there from the town centre I was delighted. She and husband Bill drove down from the north east. First stop, coffee and a catch up, and a cheese scone for me. I had always been curious about the Royal Baths in Harrogate, and this proved the perfect opportunity to visit the Royal Pump Room Museum, while the very British weather made up its mind.

Situated on the corner of Valley Gardens, the museum offers an insight into local life in Victorian times, if you were of a certain social standing. The agenda included ‘afternoon tea in the gardens, listening to the band’. Our weather was as good as it was going to get, so it was time to stride out into Valley Gardens, where the RHS show used to be held. It became too popular for this lovely place, and expanded to a less charismatic showground elsewhere.

The flowerbeds were a blaze of carefully tended glory, coleus and begonia vying for attention. Dahlias and chrysanths, pom-poms and spikes, a swathe of colour so breathtaking that I no longer noticed the drab skies. These Grade II listed gardens were originally a footpath beside a stream, from the Royal Pump Room to Bogs Field with its 36 different mineral wells. The gardens were opened in 1887 and the Magnesia Well Pump Room served mineral water from the adjacent well. Passing the Cherub Fountain we continued through Pinewoods, along the footpath to Harlow Carr.

First, to the Alpine House and a little warmth, we then set to, following our noses and the paths at will. No better way to explore a garden. When we lived in the north east my husband was a member of the RHS and we were semi-regular visitors to Harlow Carr. The Spring Show was a highlight of the year but for us the Summer Show became too big, selling lots of things we neither wanted nor could afford. But the flowers were always stunning. A wander in these gardens in Autumn could satisfy all the senses.

There was a four seasons theme running through the garden, with cleverly constructed characters representing each of the seasons. Probably best not to meet them on a dark night.

By this stage of things the legs were tiring and there was still the walk back to the town centre. Being advised that there was an hour’s wait for Betty’s restaurant, the only sit down option in the gardens, we decided to leave. A good choice because we found a beautiful country house, The Pinemarten, just round the corner. If you look closely you’ll find me in the mirror behind Ann’s lovely smile.

Details for Harlow Carr, including a virtual tour, can be found on the website.

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First to link up with me, Sarah indulges a love of Paris in a favourite area of mine :

Gallery: a walk around Montmartre

Kelly caught my eye with this interesting walk :

Tablelands- a walk on the earth’s mantle

Rosemay and I go back a long way, and it’s always a pleasure to share :

Mokare Heritage Trail Denmark

Mel loves to intrepidly go where many of us can’t :

Be careful how you say it… Walking to Shot Hole Canyon in Cape Range National Park, Western Australia

And, just this morning, Aggie sent me this very moving piece. Thanks, hon!

All the beds I have slept in

Many thanks to all of you. I’m not sure if I’m reaching everybody I want to, or if this is the best way to do it. Life accelerates here in the Algarve and I have visitors coming. Already I have things happening here that I want to write about and still a pocketful of UK memories. But the evenings grow shorter and I’ll try to keep up. Take good care of yourselves meanwhile.

Harewood House, West Yorkshire

Like all such national treasures, and there are many, Harewood House in West Yorkshire has to earn its keep. The list of events and things to see and do has multiplied since I was there last. Craftmaking workshops and demonstrations are now part of the experience. You can practise calligraphy, learn to weave willow, or make wreaths with dried flowers., Rounded off nicely with afternoon tea, but none of this compulsory. You can still have a great day with just the basics. I wish I’d paused to visit the exhibition Harewood on Film because the house and extensive grounds have taken a starring role in many a drama. My chief purpose in being there, however, was to entertain an 8 year old. You can imagine that the adventure playground and petting zoo had prior claims on our attention.

Nevertheless, it was hard not to admire the beautiful gardens, though some of the statuary caused rolled eyes. The times were very different. The finest craftsmen of the day were employed when Edwin Lascelles started building his new home in 1759. Locally born architect John Carr, popular interior designer Robert Adam, renowned furniture maker Thomas Chippendale, and landscape gardener extraordinaire, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, all combined their expertise to magnificent effect in creating Harewood.

After scrambling and tumbling in the playground, we set off to explore the grounds, following the edge of the lake to the Himalayan Garden. The plants were waist high and above. Huge gunnera rippled in waves down to the stream, which you could cross by means of stepping stones. The garden must be stunning in May-June, when the rhododendrons are in bloom. Stopping to pay homage to the Stupa, we climbed back to the top of the gorge, and spent a happy 10 minutes sending leaves plummeting down the cascades to join the stream, far below. Simple pleasures.

Some of the trees were amazing in girth. One or two were home to fairies. And another, potentially good for climbing. We arrived at the Walled Garden ready for a hot drink. Not the warmest of days and we were consigned to outdoor picnic tables, but the cheese and ham panini hit the spot for the youngster and my cherry bakewell slice was divine. There wasn’t even a crumb left to photograph! Healthy looking plants marched across the lawns in an orderly fashion while the borders harboured some beautiful specimens. We were a bit disappointed to find that the promised boat ride across the lake wasn’t operating, but he’s young and fit and we were back round the lake in no time.

Flamingos stood to attention on one leg, while the aviary showcased birds of every size and description. The penguin pool wasn’t so easy to capture on camera, but I did manage a kookaburra and a snowy owl. And a shaggy goat story! The house was open by this time, and I was anxious for a bit of warmth. And we certainly received a warm reception. The staff were knowledgeable and happy to chat, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the opulence and sheer wealth on display. Ill gotten gains, and definitely over the top by today’s standards, but beautiful.

Back in the fresh air a glimmer of sunshine persuaded us to take the North Park walk to All Saints Church. An exhibition of stained glassware by Chris Day referenced the slave trade, which contributed to Lascelles enormous wealth.

Exiting through a secret tunnel brought us to a maze filled with willow creatures in a woodland play area, and the adventure was over. A good day’s entertainment, I thought, and only a bus ride from Leeds City Centre.

I haven’t yet finalised my Christmas plans, but I could be tempted by Upon a Christmas Wish. I might even wish for a little snow to enhance the experience. But not yet awhile!