How gardener kept nature alive at stunning Yorkshire spot

The sun sets on a summer's day over a unique Yorkshire landscape with a special connection to much-loved TV gardener Geoff Hamilton.

PIC: Bruce Rollinson
PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Hamilton, who died in 1996 after suffering a heart attack on a charity bike ride, campaigned against people buying limestone pavement to make rockeries from because of its impact on the natural environment.

Following his death, this important area of limestone pavement at Winskill Stones, Stainforth was purchased by conservation charity Plantlife following a public appeal and the reserve dedicated to his memory.

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Hamilton had launched the original appeal to raise funds for Plantlife to buy the site in order that the extraction of rock from its limestone pavement was stopped and varied flora could thrive.

The impact of his work can be seen today in this stunning image of a lone Hawthorne tree. Hamilton’s campaign was also supported by the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

As well as the small patches of limestone pavement, cowslip and early-purple orchid flower here in spring, while mainly yellow flowers of mountain pansy can also be seen, along with carline thistle.

Other species prefer the humpbacks of limestone around the reserve, with the boldest displays of colour found on ledges which are out of reach of grazing animals. Herbs such as wild thyme are beginning to colonise even the desolate patches of rubble waste and pavement remains in two of the reserve’s fields.

A spokesman for Plantlife says of the limestone pavements that were saved from destruction: “The deep fissures provide a moist, shady hideaway for a range of woodland plants, including ramsons (wild
garlic), dog’s mercury, brittle bladder-fern and hart’s-tongue fern.

“Rarities that are harder to spot include green spleenwort, common twayblade and wall lettuce. Such variety underlines why Winskill Stones was well worth saving – it is still a special place.”

Technical details: Nikon D4 camera, 24-70mm lens, exposure of 1/200th sec @ f9, ISO 200.