Bolton Hall Open Gardens





Two gloriously sunny Sundays meant that the visitors who flocked to Wensley on May 26 and June 2, 2013, could thoroughly enjoy the chance to explore as much of the 17 acres of gardens at Bolton Hall as they wished. Click on the picture above to see more photos.

This was the first time the gardens had been open for several years. Lord and Lady Bolton did not charge much for admission but even so over £1,600 was raised for local churches and a hospice. (Sadly, Lady Bolton died on May 16, 2016 – truly a lovely lady and much missed. See below)

On May 26 £830 was raised for Redmire and Castle Bolton churches, and the following Sunday £750 for St Teresa’s Hospice. In addition the hospice volunteers raised £420 by selling scones and teas to those visiting the gardens.

“These are not manicured gardens – they are fun gardens,” said Lord Bolton. For these days they rely on just one estate gardener – Jason Hanslip – to help them compared with 25 when the Georgian garden was created.

There were two gardeners when Lord and Lady Bolton moved into the Hall in 2002 and began restoring the gardens. Of the Italianate garden then Lady Bolton said: “You could not distinguish the lawn from the borders and the path. We rediscovered the side borders ..and we replanted the big borders by the terrace.”

On the first of the three terraces they created a vegetable patch because the old kitchen garden was about half a mile away. She loves to grow herbs and vegetables from the seeds she has collected herself. “It is really satisfying. You feel you have achieved something,” she commented.

The two gardens which needed the most work were the “secret garden” and the arboretum. They found the latter overgrown with self-seeded trees which Lord Bolton cleared. For the open days that old Pleasure Garden was awash in bluebells and many other wild plants including primroses, daisies and red campion.

The “secret garden” with its small waterfall, ponds and the almost tropical exuberance of its plants again enchanted visitors. It was in 1905 that the then Lord Bolton decided to change part of the Italianate garden into a rock garden and made it his own secret place. But in 2002 it was completely overgrown and the pond had silted up. The rocks and paths were hidden by weeds and debris.

Lord Bolton helped with the heavy work and removed fallen and damaged trees. This had then made it possible to see the magnificent great Cedar of Lebanon trees on the west side of the garden.

A group of friends (Helen Francis, Hilary Stirling, and Eithne Cunningham) joined Lady Bolton in the painstaking work of clearing the overgrowth. Some of the ferns in the original rock garden had survived, including the unusual Royal Fern.

Those who visited the gardens this time thoroughly appreciated how that garden had developed – and the way in which care had been taken to retain as many wild flowers as possible.

Below: Lord Bolton giving directions to a visitor. 



Over 650 people gathered at Wensley Church on May 26, 2016, to celebrate and give thanks for the life of Lady “Pip” Bolton. It was a beautiful service graced by some haunting solos by Charity Schofield.

The church has so often been graced by the floral arrangements prepared by Lady Bolton for the flower festivals there. For me the most inspirational – and the one I thought about so much during the service – was that she created in 2003 (shown below).

Her son, Nick, read the poem, “You Can Shed Tears That She is Gone.” One verse states: “Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, or you can be full of the love you shared.”

Those who accepted the invitation to go to Bolton Hall afterwards were surrounded by the beautiful gardens she helped to create. But even in giving thanks for a life so fully lived, often in raising thousands of pounds for charity and in helping others, it was still difficult to accept that she had left so soon.


Harry Lord Bolton died on Jun 10 2023, aged 69. He is survived  by his second wife, Valerie, whom he married in 2019, and by his three sons, Tom, Ben and Nick  and eight grandchildren.

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