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The garden vision at Beningbrough

Winding path through billowing floral beds on either side and oak beams overhead
The first complete garden area redesigned using the plans | © National Trust / Joanne Parker

Find out how award-winning landscape and garden designer Andy Sturgeon was appointed by the National Trust to help revitalise the garden at Beningbrough, the work that has already happened, as well as what is planned for the future.

Celebrating 300 years of change

2016 marked the 300th anniversary of Beningbrough Hall and in celebration of this historic milestone Andy Sturgeon was set the task of creating a long-term plan to refresh, improve, and in some areas re-invent the eight-acre garden.

Through the combined talents of Andy and our own dedicated garden team at Beningbrough, the creation of a new long-term design vision has ensured a garden that will continue to delight and inspire visitors, now and for many years to come.

The changing face of the garden

The garden at Beningbrough is no stranger to change, having been treated to redevelopment by its various masters and their differing tastes and the fashions of the time. From the avenues of the first formalised garden on site in the 17th century to its deconstruction to suit the popular designs akin to those of ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th, the garden has never stood still for long.

Little detail is known about the specifics of the gardens of the past. Consequently, unlike many other National Trust properties, the garden cannot be tied to a certain era or design, allowing Andy and his team a certain amount of creative freedom to develop areas of the garden that some visitors may be less familiar with. 

Overhead shot showing countryside, gardens, hall, walled garden and tree lined avenue
Beningbrough stands proud in the Yorkshire landscape | © National Trust / Skyward Media

Who is Andy Sturgeon?

Andy is one of the UK's leading landscape designers, with over 30 years’ experience and a plethora of awards including numerous RHS Gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, plus the prestigious Best in Show accolade. Both The Sunday Times and House & Garden Magazine placed Andy in their top ten designers in Britain, positioning him at the top of his field.

He is also no stranger to reviving historic spaces: amongst his commissions are the spectacular 2.5-acre roof garden adorning the roof of London’s iconic Battersea Power Station, and a temporary instalment within the medieval Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo, Italy.

Find out more about Andy and his work at his website: www.andysturgeon.com

I am genuinely excited to be working with the National Trust and I am really looking forward to developing these already spectacular gardens over the coming years…our commission at Beningbrough recognises our passion and ability for these long-term historic projects.

A quote by Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Designer

The long term vision

Throughout the design and implementation of the new vision, historic views will be maintained and improved, new planting schemes created, and some areas re-invented. Whilst not all areas of the garden will be changed, Andy’s approach to the landscape will ensure that all areas of it are cohesive and in keeping with everything else we have to offer at Beningbrough. 

The tender and designs were only started after a thorough conservation management plan was completed to determine different factors for consideration around the garden.

The story so far

To kick start the project, as part of the tercentenary, 300,000 spring bulbs were planted to create the ha-ha walk. Swathes of white kick start the new year in the garden with snowdrops, leading into the bobbing heads of daffodils in spring. This area is closed for 2024 due to the building work needed for the new Mediterranean Garden.

Other areas of work have been more subtle such as opening up views out to the parkland and beyond and improving pathways. Some of the planting, removing and cutting back of hedges to reclaim spaces has started to give the longest time to recover and grow.

The Pergola was the first full new garden from the plans, and was officially opened in June 2018. Hear more about the creation of this tranquil spot from Andy and the garden team. The Pergola at Beningbrough (video)

What's happening right now?

Work had begun in the area that will become the Mediterranean Garden - the largest development to date. Beds had been cleared ready for development. This was paused as the pandemic impacted the UK. Plans are now back on track with peat free plants growing and local stone sourced. Contractors will commence with the hard landscaping in autumn and through winter, the area will be fenced off however visitors will be able to see how things are progressing.

To enable the work to safely take place, several other paths are likely to be closed on your visit in autumn and winter, the team on the day can explain the current recommended route around the garden.

In spring 2024, planting will start and the space should be open by summer...we'll keep you posted!

A walk through the Mediterranean Garden

Visitors will see the garden slowly start to take shape over winter and the start of 2024. Until completion, and indeed a time when the plants have started to grow into their spaces, here's a walk through from the designers. A virtual journey if you will of what to look forward to expect in the area that currently is predominantly grass.

Illustration of a large Mediterranean style garden with stone paths, water, trees and planting
Explore the paths or wander straight through | © Andy Sturgeon Design

From grass to garden

The area is the biggest of the garden transformations to date from Andy’s plans, and in fact for over 40 years when the walled garden and small formal gardens were developed by the National Trust. From an area mainly set to grass, expect formal hedging, water features, paths to meander through, new seating and lots of new planting. This is the view as you enter from the top of the double border.

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Documenting the past

Some aspects of the garden are documented in history like the American Garden, first appearing on a Ordinance Survey map in 1852. Others are very much National Trust creations from the late 1970s including the walled garden and small formal gardens next to the hall. An important part of determining the plans depends on the archaeology under our feet.

The TV programme The Great British Dig featured Beningbrough, along with trying to solve the mystery of possible wings on the hall, they also strived to find evidence of what the garden might have once looked like.

Watch Beningbrough's episode On Demand with Channel 4

Since then, local volunteer group Roads to the Past have continued to dig and document any clues about the garden and help to make sure any garden developments don't impact what has gone before.

An ongoing legacy

Beningbrough has received several bequests over the years and the late Mr Ian Reddihough left a generous gift in his will to support the ongoing development of Beningbrough. This money has enabled the garden vision to progress and will continue to support ongoing projects each year, some small, some larger, all intended to make Beningbrough one of the best gardens to visit in North Yorkshire, no Yorkshire, no the north of England...and maybe a little beyond.

Overhead shot showing countryside, gardens, hall, walled garden and tree lined avenue

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