There was a hint of Spring in the air over the weekend, with some warm sunshine despite a stiff, cold wind in more exposed places. I finally managed an expedition, to one of the places that has been on my 'must visit' list for a while...Wentworth Castle Gardens, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire.
It's an interesting place and its mixed use seems increasingly common among our larger heritage estates. The house itself was once the home of the Earls of Strafford. Thomas Wentworth bought the site and an older house in 1711. He dedicated a great deal to rebuilding the house and landscaping the estate, perhaps aggrieved that what he believed was his birthright, the nearby estate of Wentworth Woodhouse, had passed to another relative. The house is not generally open to the public. Nowadays it is run as a residential college - Northern College - for men and women of all ages who, for one reason or another, have no qualifications but are seeking to return to learning.
The wider estate it is set in, Stainborough Park, was at one time beautifully landscaped with carefully planted trees, various follies and monuments and a sinuous lake. The changing fortunes and ownership of the house led to a break up of the estate, and some of the land was decimated by open-cast mining whilst other areas were farmed. In 2002, a trust was formed to restore and preserve what is South Yorkshire's only Grade I listed estate. New trees have been planted, features restored, the lake dredged and the parkland returned to a deer park.