Autumn is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as the English poet John Keats reminds us. And what could be nicer than a long walk around the grounds of an elegant stately home, followed by afternoon tea in front of a roaring fire or dinner in a unique award-winning setting? Set in 20 acres of gardens, Francis Place's bird's-eye view of Middlethorpe shows Thomas Barlow's garden shortly after he had completed work on the house. He seems to have wanted a formal baroque layout of the kind he would have seen ornamenting the villas of Rome, but the flat terrain of the Vale of York made this difficult. In the mid-eighteenth century, Francis Barlow deformalized the garden, following the taste of the time in the style of Capability Brown. Today there is plenty to explore in these wonderful National Trust's gardens.
Award-winning Head Gardener David Barker has overseen the gardens for over 34 years and he can often be found interacting with guests and the Head Chef who picks produce from the kitchen gardens. The enchanting walled gardens at Middlethorpe do not just produce a beautiful display of flowering shrubs and plants, but have been planted with vegetables and fruit: apples, pears, plums, peaches and greengages, all of which are used in the hotel kitchens by the Head Chef to create wonderful dishes. Four years ago, David planted twenty four pear trees down the centre arch of the walled garden. They are all old varieties, some with Yorkshire connections, and were chosen with some guidance from the Head Chef for their size and flat bottoms.
Guests can follow a special tree trail around the grounds of the Historic House Hotel, with a copy of their 'Discover Middlethorpe Hall - A brief history and some trees of interest' Guide and Map, to identify 14 prize specimens, from a Deodar Cedar and a Turkey Oak Tree to a Sequoiadendron giganteum.
Middlethorpe Hall is one of only three Historic House Hotels of the National Trust and is York's finest hotel, restaurant and spa. The hotel is a 10-minute drive from the medieval city of York with its 13th-century defensive walls (the longest and best preserved in England), narrow streets, gothic minster and bookshops specialising in antiquarian books. Visitors can explore York's Roman, Viking, and medieval heritage plus a wealth of attractions like the iconic York Minster.
Budding arborists will also spot a Northern Red Oak, a giant of an oak from North America, capable of topping 30m (100ft). The leaves are greenish on the top side with a bluish tinge below, but they really flare up in the autumn when they turn red before falling. A great photo opportunity!
In the stunning 'Walled Garden' visitors will discover a selection of Fruit Trees. In the autumn look out for the Medlars Trees which produce a fruit looking like a small pomegranate, ready for harvesting at this time of year, ideal for making jam, served at breakfast.