A Visit to Helmsley Walled Garden


Last week I visited the horticultural therapy program at  Helmsley Walled Garden in North Yorkshire. Helmsley is set within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and approximately 15 miles east of Thirsk.

The walled garden once served as the kitchen garden for the Duncombe Estate. The original kitchen garden was closer to the River Rye but after being flooded out was re-located to it’s current position. The garden was eventually abandoned in 1984 before the restoration began 10 years later to bring the garden back to life. At the same time Alison Ticehurst felt that the garden should be utilised for benefiting the local community and a healing garden and horticultural therapy project was pursued. In 2014, the garden celebrates its 20 year anniversary.


The horticultural therapy service uses the term ‘Supported Volunteer’ to describe people accessing its sessions. There are currently 20 Supported Volunteers and approximately 100 volunteers helping to run and maintain the garden. The Supported Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the garden, with particular focus on the production and sale of plants to the general public. It is not a service for a specific disability or condition, all are welcome.

Helmsley Walled Garden does not charge for the service it provides for Supported Volunteers. The cost is covered by plant sales, entry to the garden (currently £5.50 for adults) and the on-site café. The service employs three part-time horticultural therapists and is run year round, with reduced hours over the winter months.


On a personal level, I would dare to argue that such a great service which is open to a variety of people and in a fantastic settings should receive direct payment in line with other day services. I appreciate that is by no means as easy as writing that sentence. There are all the legal ramifications and obtaining ‘preferred supplier’ status with the local care authorities but I would be surprised if it does not offer a service in line with other services provided in the area.

The manager highlighted a major concern for the future was that rural public transport is being considerably affected by the government spending cuts, which has reduced services in the area. In the long term, this may hamper Supported Volunteers from being able to just get to the garden.

The garden is open to the public from April 2014 and I thoroughly recommend a visit, if only to admire the long perennial borders and large array of trained fruit trees. There is of course a lot more to offer from a horticultural point of view, including the Victorian glasshouses, but you will be able to feel fulfilment that your entry fee and any subsequent spend it going to help run and worthwhile and excellent service for people in the local community.


For more information on Helmsley Walled Garden, its Horticultural Therapy Program and visiting the garden please visit: http://www.helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk/


7 thoughts on “A Visit to Helmsley Walled Garden

  1. Mr. Brown, please excuse my long reply, here. This post, like so many others you have provided, inspired me to look for and read more information about the Helmsley Walled Garden program. Backtracking, I have not followed all the links in all your posts, or viewed all the linked vids, but the information on the pages in your Horticultural Therapist blog and Churchill Fellows blog provide tremendous food for thought.

    Your report back to the Trust, “Horticulture as a Medical Treatment,” your short video overview, both your blogs, provide a perspective unavailable readily from any other venue. Here, in the Healing Garden, we suspect these fruits of your labor do not grow on trees. Thank you for your diligent contributions.

    Deconstructing things is useful at times, however life, and its mysteries, are always greater than the sum of their parts. Res ipsa loquitur, “things speak for themselves.” Things also spring from their invisible sources, their templates and meta-structure. It is precisely this intangible structure of your inquiry that has inspired us, too.

    In the next few weeks, we are submitting a formal proposal to compose a brief history of selected healing gardens in the US, Europe and Japan to a private Trust. My concern regarding funding is not nearly as great as it is with details of arranging travel and enlisting the collaboration, geographically and linguistically, of diverse gardens and gardeners. Your courageous explorations and discoveries, with the encouragement and support of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, as well as the thorough dissemination of your findings, is an invaluable reference. Thank you. — THGg

    • Why have I not replied to this before now? For that I sincerely apologise. I thank you enourmously for your kind words and support. I wish you look with your proposal for funding and should you wish for any information about how I went about my project or travel within Europe please feel free to ask.

      Thanks again,


  2. Hi there,

    I was wondering if you would like to make a return visit as it is some time since you were last here.
    The Garden has changed a lot and social and therapeutic horticulture is still going strong.

    Let us know I you would like to visit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s