AMBITIOUS plans have been unveiled to expand one of Ryedale’s most successful tourist attractions to help grow its role as a therapeutic gardening centre.
Since it reopened following a major restoration project in 1995, Helmsley Walled Garden has helped hundreds of disadvantaged people by providing horticultural therapy.
Now, proposals have been put forward to make the Victorian garden self-sufficient through the sale of plants, by developing new facilities such as a poly-tunnel, as well as a scheme to provide an extension, new shop, and a winter-working complex.
Manager Mike I’Anson, a former North Yorkshire Police inspector, said: “We are working with nature and in doing so we give those we work with a better sense of well-being. Those whose lives have been aided include people with mental health difficulties, depression, resulting from such conditions as bereavement or isolation. Others have long term autism or educational needs.”
The five-acre garden, which lies in the shadow of the market town’s castle ruins, supports 15 people at a time in its therapy programme.
“People come here to come to terms with stresses of weekly work and looking after children. They find that three or four hours working in the garden really does help them cope,” said Mr I’Anson.
Run as a social enterprise, the garden has around 50 volunteers and has become a major tourism draw in Ryedale, attracting thousands of visitors to admire the wealth of borders, gardens and restored glasshouses.
Money from visitors and plant sales provide it with 75 per cent of its funding costs, while grants fund a further 15 per cent and donations, 10 per cent.
“We aim to grow ourselves with our new development,” said Mr I’Anson.
The North York Moors National Park Authority will decide whether to approve the plans in the next two months.