Parish council gifted Aysgarth’s Edwardian Rock Garden

The famous Edwardian Rock Garden in Aysgarth, Wensleydale, now belongs to the local community thanks to it being gifted to the parish council by Adrian and Rosemary Anderson.

left: Rosemary and Adrian Anderson with Cllr John Dinsdale in the Rock Garden.

The Andersons bought the Grade II listed Rock Garden in 2012 and have maintained it and kept it  open to the public throughout the year. This year, however, they wanted to sell their house in Wensleydale and settle in York but didn’t want to put the Rock Garden on the open market in case a new owner would keep it as private land.

They had researched gifting the 0.14acre walled site to the National Trust or English Heritage but when no solution was found they approached Aysgarth and District Parish Council and its chairman, John Dinsdale.

“John has been so enthusiastic from the start,” said Mrs Anderson. “But it is a big responsibility looking after it all the time. The people in Aysgarth have been so supportive.”

Cllr Dinsdale said: “When Adrian and Rosemary Anderson approached me regarding Aysgarth and District  Parish Council taking over the control and maintenance of the Edwardian Rock Garden, I put it to the parish council and we decided we would be honoured to preserve an important part of the local history for the community.  Not only is it a unique, beautiful and calm place, but it is of national importance.”

The Andersons were invited to address the parish council in November 2019. In February this year the councillors studied an independent report on the structural condition of the Rock Garden and considered that the recommendations made in it were relatively minor and not costly.

The councillors approved accepting the Rock Garden as a gift and for the necessary legal work to be carried out.

The ownership of the Rock Garden was transferred to the parish council on September 11 and a few days later the Andersons took Cllr Dinsdale and two other parish councillors around it to explain about its management and to hand over tools.

In her book about the Rock Garden Mrs Anderson wrote: “It was constructed by the Backhouse firm of York and is a rare surviving example of their work. The Rock Garden was designed as a kind of ‘walk through grotto’ with huge waterworn limestone blocks rising to about eight metres in places, low stone lintels and narrow winding paths.

“A mountain stream and cascade add to the alpine atmosphere and at the rear of the garden the visitor emerges into an open south facing lawned area with mixed borders that provides views of adjacent fields and trees.”

It continues to be open to the public but with the request that social distancing is observed. The public enter at their own risk and it is unsuitable for disabled or wheelchair access due to the narrow and uneven paths and steps. Admission is free and there is a donation box near the entrance which is at the west end of Aysgarth village.

The Parish Council are looking for volunteers to help with weeding and general maintenance  the odd afternoon contact John Dinsdale  Tel: 07805285346.

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