Thorp Perrow Aboretum – Yorkshire Dales Secret Garden

thorp-perrowThorp Perrow Aboretum, not far from the historic town of Bedale in the Yorkshire Dales, is the creation of one man, Sir Leonard Ropner Bt., (1895-1977), who amassed one of the finest private collections of trees in the country.

The 85 acre site, set in over 1000 acres of parkland, was bought by William Ropner Bt., in 1927, but it was to be his son, Sir Leonard, whose passion and love for trees led to the creation of this delightful Aboretum. The present owner, Sir John Ropner Bt., explains that his father was extremely proud of his ‘secret garden’. Here was a man with no previous arboricultural experience who set about creating an Aboretum purely out of his love for trees. As Sir John points out, one of the nicest things about Thorp Perrow is its slightly ‘amateurish atmosphere’ and this is perhaps refreshing – the trees being chosen not for any stylistic considerations but because Sir Leonard loved them.

When the Ropner family originally bought Thorp Perrow there was already a Pinetum -planted in the 1840’s and 50’s by Lady Augusta Millbank – as well as a wooded area – Spring Wood – dating back to medieval times.

aboretumSadly, during the late 1970s the garden fell into some decay and neglect and upon the death of Sir Leonard, his son asked the dendrologist, Alan Mitchell, to come and advise on what should be done with the Arboretum. When he emerged from the ‘jungle’ he was adamant that the collection should be preserved at all costs. Restoration took place thanks to a grant from the Department of the Environment on the condition that the arboretum should be open to the public and so Sir Leonard’s secret garden could at last be shared by all.

The Aboretum is laid out in sections with each section interconnecting with its neighbour via paths, grass walks, glades, bays or avenues. Walk through Thorp Perrow and you take a journey of discovery around the continents of the world with many of the tree and shrub genera and species planted having origins in China, Japan, North America and Europe.

In 2004 some 67 trees within the arboretum were recorded and designated as ‘Champion Trees’ by The Tree Register of the British Isles. Thorpe Perrow is currently home to five National Plant Collections including Limes, Laburnum and Cotinus. No matter what time of the year you visit there will be some outstanding trees to see. In spring snowdrops and crocuses make their appearance with a burst of colour in the woodland. In summer wildflowers, bees and butterflies celebrate summer before the autumn heralds a blaze of fiery reds, oranges and golds. Even in winter, on white frosty mornings, the crisp woodland walks make for a magical time.

Thorp Perrow also has a Bird of Prey and Mammal Centre with the opportunity to learn more about birds of prey and associated wildlife. There is a full programme of events throughout the year.

If you asked Sir John and Lady Ropner to choose their favourite tree, there will be no hesitation. For Sir John it’s the “Acer griseum” (Chinese paper bark Maple). Why? “It has wonderful bark and beautiful autumn colour,” he says. Lady Ropner favours “Fagus sylvatica ‘Laciniata'” (Pictured left). “It is such a beautiful, magnificient and magical tree,” she says. “We also believe that a garden is always evolving and you can treat it as a huge canvas,” Lady Ropner explains. “One can splash lots of paint and energy into it and it will repay you a thousand times all year round.”

Thorp Perrow is also home to Hocus Pocus Plants where you will find an excellent range of trees, shrubs, herbs and wildflowers. Much of the stock is grown or made locally and in the shop you will find hand-made jewellery and a brilliant range of organic, natural soaps, shampoos and more.

Sir John pays tribute to the brilliant team working at Thorp Perrow today who work with Curator Faith Roskrow to ensure that this delightful estate and Arboretum continues to provide a stunning landscape and magical experience to all who visit.

For more information and opening times, log onto their website:

Picture Credits: © Thorp Perrow