Since 1927, the National Garden Scheme has encouraged the owners of exceptional private gardens to open to the public on one or two days a year to raise money for charities. Over £50 million has been donated, from admission fees and plant sales. I picked up a booklet showing all the gardens open this year in Yorkshire and (now that I'm a lady of leisure) I am going to enjoy visiting a few of the more local ones.
Beacon Hill House sits high up on the moors between Ilkley and Bolton Abbey. Its open day coincided with one of our first very warm and sunny days of the year but much of the steep plot of about seven acres is woodland, so there was plenty of shade. The house was built in 1848 by a businessman, Benjamin Briggs Popplewell, who chose the 1000ft high location hoping that the bracing, clean air might cure his consumptive child. (I don't know whether it did!) The original gardens were more formal and exposed than what exists today but there are traces of Victorian arches, walls, follies and a rather splendid Gothic dog kennel.
It has not been a good Spring for gardens. The magnolias were badly browned by frost and a recent spell of very dry weather has left many plants looking parched and weak. There were some rhododendrons in flower but some were past their best and the herbaceous plants are not yet flowering. The daffodils are over, though the woods were full of bluebells. The house has a pretty orchard and some of the trees had blossom. I love seeing trees coming into leaf, all maturing at different rates too. There were some attractive coppery tones among the spring greens.