Yorkshire Gardens - Wentworth Castle Gardens and Stainborough Park

Yorkshire Life last visited Wentworth Castle Gardens and Stainborough Park in Barnsley, at the start of a major restoration project. We return to discover everything is blooming

The Wentworth estate stretches over 500 acres and is the only Grade I listed park and garden in South Yorkshire. It boasts an incredible collection of 26 listed buildings and monuments. If this wasn't impressive enough, the gardens are also home to the National Plant Collections of Rhododendrons, Camellias and Magnolias.

The estate was born of a fascinating family feud, which has now become legendary in this part of South Yorkshire. Back in the 18th century, two cousins, Thomas Wentworth and Thomas Watson, were both contestants in a race to inherit the glorious mansion of Wentworth Woodhouse some seven miles to the south of Wentworth Castle in Barnsley. Unfortunately Thomas Wentworth did not inherit, and in 1708 he purchased Stainborough Hall in direct response to his cousin's inheritance, and almost immediately set about embellishing the Stainborough estate in a bid to outshine his cousin across the valley, who he fondly referred to as, 'the vermin over the hill'.

This year, Wentworth Castle Trust, the independent charity that cares for the estate, has celebrated the 300th anniversary of Thomas commencing his 'grand glorification scheme', with a series of events and activities.

Among these has been the first-ever opera and two outdoor theatre performances. The first three years of operation have seen a year-on-year encouraging increase in visitor numbers, a trend which continues today despite the much-heralded economic downturn.

Following the tragic early death of its former director, Steve Blackbourn, earlier this year, Vicky Martin joined the trust in August. She previously worked for three years at Wollaton Hall, Gardens and Deer Park, in Nottingham, where she was general manager.

Vicky has 15 years experience managing and developing attractions and destinations and previously worked at Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway in the New Forest, which is world famous for the Rothschild collection of Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias.

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'I am thrilled to have joined the team at Wentworth,' said Vicky. 'It's a very busy time for us - with the adventure playground proving to be a huge draw for families, and events from specialist talks, Halloween Trails and ghost walks taking place through the gardens.

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