Yorkshire Lavender: How a farm in the Howardian Hills became a scented visitor attraction by accident

Thirty years ago, property developer Nigel Goodwill took on nearly 60 acres of south facing land just outside his home village of Terrington. Unbeknown to him at the time it was to be the start of a summertime visitor attraction when he planted lavender.

For much of the past three decades Nigel’s daughter Emma Jane has been The Lavender Girl, on the Yorkshire Lavender logo, and has been exceptionally busy lately ensuring everything is ready for another busy season as the Yorkshire Lavender Farm opens once again today until the end of September.

“I started selling the lavender by having a little stall outside our house when I was about five or six years old,” says Emma.

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“It’s what I know. It’s how I spent my childhood and just the norm for me. I can’t see myself doing anything else. And it’s such an idyllic place too. The two Amandas who work in the shop say there’s no other place you can work where you can get such a great view, looking out to the cows grazing in the fields nearby, to Sheriff Hutton Castle and to York Minster.

Emma Waddington at Yorkshire Lavender, the farm her father boughtEmma Waddington at Yorkshire Lavender, the farm her father bought
Emma Waddington at Yorkshire Lavender, the farm her father bought

“One of my friends said recently that her stepdaughter had been asked ‘where is your happy place?’ and nine or so of the class had said Yorkshire Lavender, that’s so nice.

“We get people that spend the day here. I’ve had people just napping on the lawn. We do picnics, you can prebook, come to the tearoom and get a basket full of food and drink, and wander where you like. We’re not just a regular lavender farm, not just for children but for the older generation too. We have coach parties and WI groups visit every year.

Emma says that when her father took on the acreage, which came about the year following his wife and Emma’s mum Lynne’s passing through breast cancer, he’d done so to give them all something to focus on.

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“Dad bought the land for myself and my brother Sam to have somewhere to run around in and to keep us busy. He didn’t have any plans for it other than that at the time. Then he was in the waiting room of a dentist’s surgery and saw an article about lavender, how it needed certain facing land, the kind of soil it needed, and he thought, I’ve got that.

Nigel and Emma still work together to run the lavender farmNigel and Emma still work together to run the lavender farm
Nigel and Emma still work together to run the lavender farm

“He decided to plant a few rows of lavender. He was retired at the time, looking after us, and it was something for him to do while we were at school, and it just went from there. There had been no intention to build a lavender farm or a farm business.

“He planted more lavender and then added a polytunnel so he could propagate the lavender. He then bought a Portakabin and opened to the public in 1997 and it has just grown from there.

Emma now runs the business, but Nigel is always around.

“Dad’s always here pottering around. He’s retired without retiring. The customers know him as the guy who goes around on his lawnmower and he also has a mobility scooter now. He’s usually found sitting outside the polytunnel in the nursery.

Nigel Goodwill started growing lavender over 30 years agoNigel Goodwill started growing lavender over 30 years ago
Nigel Goodwill started growing lavender over 30 years ago
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“Julia is our head gardener and has been here for 20 years, she handles all our growing these days. I’m not an expert. I know how to grow it and what to do with it. Lavender generally just likes to be left, it likes sandy soil, doesn’t like to be too wet. That’s why we have it on the hillside where it has good drainage.

“When it is time to cut the lavender it’s all hands on deck, everybody has a part in the harvesting. We all have bacon sandwiches each morning for sustenance, it’s a two or three day full-on event and everybody gets their hands dirty.

“There are about 140 varieties of lavender and we have 70. We try to propagate as much as we can, and we sell them in our plant nursery.

“At this stage it is not flowering yet. The buds generally start in June. The main varieties are Grosso and Hidcote. All lavender is edible but the English lavender is generally better because it is less oily. The variety Grosso is quite powerful so you wouldn’t put that into any food.

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Yorkshire Lavender has become a popular Howardian Hills’ attraction, its lavender varieties’ whites, blues, lilacs and purples creating a wonderful sight, but Emma says it’s more than just about the lavender and produce that is made from the lavender oil that is available in the shop and online.

“We are always adding things to the garden. We’ve a play area, open green areas, the pond, a lavender maze, snakes and ladders, different types of garden including a Mediterranean Garden, wildflower nature field, sensory garden, theme garden and our lavender field is beautifully designed into unique wavy rows.

“We also have our cricket sculptures. Dad bought some old rollers to flatten the grass at the top of the farm for a cricket pitch for us when we were younger, he later made cricket sculptures of a Yorkshire vs Lancashire Roses match.

“As well as selling the lavender, dad also started with lavender food and we still have lavender biscuits made by Bothams of Whitby. Blueberry lavender conserve is one of our most popular items, along with bubble baths, hand creams, muscle rubs and a lavender gin. We also sell herbs, perennials, grasses and mint.

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“Artist Robert Dutton will be hosting his popular pastel painting workshop and we have other special events and workshops, bar nights and food nights in our tearoom through the season.

Emma was a nursery teacher in Flaxton and Poppleton. She ran EJ’s Tearoom for a few years and took over the running of Yorkshire Lavender fully last year. She has two children of her own - Evelyn and Kendall - but hasn’t relinquished her Lavender Girl title. Her husband Josh, who has his own business is the unofficial extra handyman.