Picture Post: Hackfall Woods - the stunning landscape shaped by a famous Yorkshire family

Hackfall Woods near Masham today appears to be a natural wonder but there are occasional reminders such as this folly that the landscape was shaped by people.

View of Fisher's Hall, one of a number of follies in Hackfall Woods. Picture: Tony Johnson

Set in a 350ft gorge, the site was purchased in 1731 by John Aislabie who is famous for his stunning landscaping work at nearby Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal.

But it was his son William who was largely responsible for transforrming the look of Hackfall Woods to create an ornamental landscape.

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The building in this picture is Fisher’s Hall, which is generally believed to have been named after William Aislabie’s head gardener William Fisher.

However, there has been debate in the past as to whether the name was actually a reference to it being a fishermans’ rest building because of its proximity to a river.

These days Hackfall is looked after by the Woodland Trust and in 2007 a major restoration project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund which saw buildings preserved, water features dredged and footpaths improved.

However, the woods has faced challenges since its halcyon days when it was a tourist destination during European Tours taken by wealthy young men in the 18th Century and was an inspiration for the likes of JMW Turner and William Wordsworth.

After a long period of decline, the site was sold in 1932 to a timber merchant who felled many of the trees. In 1987, the woods came under threat from commercial development but were taken on by the Woodland Trust in 1989 on a 999-year lease.

That same year, Hackfall was classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a site of ancient semi-natural woodland – paving the way for the site to be restored to something like its former glory.

The Visit Harrogate website states: “Modern visitors can once again bask in the stunning scenery and enjoy a mass of period features including a host of man-made waterfalls and courses displayed throughout the woodland.”

Technical details: Nikon D850 camera with a 28-70mm lens, exposure of 1/100th of a second at f13, ISO 250.

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