Yorkshire's secret Swallows and Amazons garden to be restored to glory

A hidden pleasure garden that once fell into decay will be restored to peak condition thanks to a Historic England grant.

Plumpton Rocks (pic: Charlotte Graham)
Plumpton Rocks (pic: Charlotte Graham)

Plumpton Rocks, near Knaresborough, is a Grade II-listed lake surrounded by 35 acres of wooded parkland home to spectacular rock formations.

It was used as the location for Wildcat Island in the 2016 film adaptation of Arthur Ransome's classic children's novel, Swallows and Amazons.

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The 18th-century dam at Plumpton Rocks

The pleasure grounds were laid out in the 18th century by the Lascelles family, owners of Harewood House, and the mansion nearby, Plompton Hall, was built by them. It was open to the public throughout the Georgian and Victorian periods, and continued to be a popular visitor attraction into the 20th century.

King George V and Queen Mary visited the enclave after their daughter, Princess Mary, married the sixth Earl of Harewood and moved with him to nearby Goldsborough Hall, another Lascelles property. The Queen described the beauty spot as 'heaven on earth'.

In 2012, the man-made lake was placed on Historic England's At Risk register after falling into decline. An initial restoration grant allowed the gardens to re-open to visitors in 2016 following several months of closure.

The pleasure grounds are now owned by Robert Hunter, who is descended from the estate's original owners, the de Plumptons

A further £103,000 has been awarded to site owner Robert Hunter, a descendant of the estate's original Norman owners, the de Plumptons, to fund more essential works to the lake.

It will mark the final phase of the restoration programme, which began with the dredging of the lake and repairs to the dam.

The renowned artist JW Turner painted Plumpton Rocks twice in 1797, and his work now hangs in Harewood House.

Current owner Robert Hunter said:

"“I am immensely grateful for the support that Historic England has provided to enable the restoration of Plumpton Rocks. Together with support from Natural England and the Historic Houses Foundation, Plumpton has been transformed back to its original splendour when Turner painted the landscape.”

Giles Proctor, Heritage at Risk surveyor at Historic England, added:-

“Plumpton Rocks is one of North Yorkshire’s most impressive historic gardens, and the restoration work will help to ensure it remains so for future generations. We hope many people will now visit the site to enjoy the same views that inspired Turner over 200 years ago.”

Plumpton Rocks is open to the public every weekend from March to October and every day in August. Visit www.plumptonrocks.com for more details.