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Helmsley - High spirits in the Ryedale Valley

PUBLISHED: 18:53 23 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:57 20 February 2013

Boroughbeck leading to All Saints Parish Church

Boroughbeck leading to All Saints Parish Church

As its walled garden undergoes a £50,000 makeover, Jo Haywood discovers that business is blooming in Helmsley

Spring suits Helmsley. The warm seasonal sunshine gives the Ryedale valley town a healthy glow, reflecting off the creamy white stone of the pocketsized cottages and grander family homes to produce a deliciously buttery sheen.

And on the day of my visit - a particularly beautiful early spring day - it was not only the buildings that were positively beaming: local folk had a noticeable spring in their step too. 'Don't take it all, Cyril,' said one wicker-basket wielding lady as she passed a gentlemen removing his pocket-money from the cash machine.

And as another lady trotted speedily across from the Market Square to Browns department store, one half of a chatting couple piped up: 'You're looking frisky this morning, Marjorie. Must be spring.'

Everyone was cheerful - and it was catching. I found myself wibbling on to the lady in the newsagent like she was my best friend, discussing (at length) the joy of dolls' houses in the discount bookshop and chirping an over-the-top 'Ciao!' to the couple who I, perhaps mistakenly, took for Italian in the coffee shop. Foolish? Perhaps. But fun? Absolutely.

There is also a distinct feeling of high spirits in Helmsley Walled Garden at the moment as work nears completion on the latest round of renovations. The garden was granted 50,000 earlier this year from the People's Millions after a landslide victory in a public vote. 'The money's wonderful,' said garden manager Rebecca Williams, 'but it's even more special because we got it through a public vote. We got 5,800 votes, miles more than anyone else. It just goes to show that people care very much about what we do here.'

The five-acre garden, which sits in the grandiose shadow of Helmsley Castle, dates back to 1758. It was originally built to supply the Duncombe estate with fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, but was abandoned more than 30 years ago.

It is now being gradually restored, petal by painstaking petal, as part of a long-term process launched in 1994 by Alison Ticehurst, a tireless enthusiast who motivated a hardworking team of volunteers until her death in 1999. Her spirit lives on though in the dogged determination of the current team, who are working their green fingers to the bone to ensure the 50,000 windfall is well spent on two sections of the garden in time for an official June launch.

'The Physic Garden will be restored to its former glory, full of medicinal plants that will help to bring a bit of history back to life,' said Rebecca. 'We'll be including some interpretation for visitors so they know which plants are for which part of the body.

'And we'll also be creating Ginney's Garden of Contemplation, named after one of our special needs volunteers.'

Useful contacts

Helmsley Walled Garden: Cleveland Way, Duncombe Park, Helmsley, YO62 5AH, 01439 771427, www.helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk

Helmsley Castle: 14 Castlegate, Helmsley, YO62, 01439 771580,

www.english-heritage.org.uk

Duncombe Park: Helmsley, YO62 5EB, 01439 772625 or 770213, www.duncombepark.com

All Saints' Church: The Rev David Wilbourne, 01439 770236, www.helmsleydeanery.org

Helmsley Arts Centre: Meeting House Court, Helmsley, YO62 5DW, 01439 771109, www.helmsleyarts.co.uk

Helmsley Open Air Swimming Pool: Baxtons Road, Helmsley, YO62 5BH, 01439 770557, www.north-yorks-moors.com/helmsley-pool

North York Moors National Park: Lodge Lane, Danby, YO21 2NB, 01439 772737, www.visitnorthyorkshiremoors.co.uk

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