Autumn is the most wonderful time to visit an arboretum and Thorp Perrow near Bedale in Yorkshire is truly one of the most lovely. The estate is privately owned by the Ropner family whose ancestor, Sir William Ropner purchased the estate in 1927.
Each generation of Ropners have made their mark at Thorp Perrow. Currently under the stewardship of Sir Henry and his wife Natasha, it was Sir Henry’s father John, who together with his wife Niki made numerous changes and improvements to the estate and arboretum to make it the spectacle you see today. Niki is still actively involved in the running of Thorp Perrow and on the day of our visit she was anonymously manning the ticket booth, undetected by the hundreds of oblivious visitors!
On their website, the Ropners describe Thorp Perrow as ‘slightly amateurish’ – a rather self-depreciatory description considering the work and commitment given by the family to the running of the arboretum. Notwithstanding, it still manages to retain a ‘family atmosphere’ which adds to the charm of the place.
Spanning around 100 acres, Thorp Perrow Arboretum contains over 1000 trees and is home to five National Collections; Jugluns (Walnut), Tilia (Lime), Cotinus (Smoke Bush), Fraxinus (Ash) and Laburnum. It is clear that Sir Leonard Ropner (son of Sir William) had forward vision when planning and planting the arboretum. Wide grassy avenues of Lime, Cypress and Beech lead to grassy dells and collections of trees which seem to have been planted specifically to demonstrate their autumn glory.
A particularly dramatic part of the arboretum is the Japanese Maple avenue which leads towards the house from a pillared rotunda. Curator Faith Douglas told me that the maple avenue was planted by Sir John (son of Sir Leonard) to replace an Elm avenue that had suffered badly from Dutch Elm disease. The elms had been briefly replaced with an avenue of Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip tree) which did not do well and these were finally replaced with the more successful maples.
The beautiful lake is a big draw to visitors who are able to look over the lake towards Thorp Perrow Hall and gardens, a particular feature of which are the clipped topiary yews which date back to the 1800s. Beside the lake I spotted a felled tree trunk that had been cleverly carved into a fairy house – if you look carefully you can even spot the resident pixie!
The overall feel of Thorp Perrow is of a family-friendly space. Seasonal events are aimed at all ages – a large number of families were enjoying the spooky Hallowe’en trail and other events are planned through Christmas as well as the summer months. A busy cafe is situated beside a shallow stream where children were enjoying a paddle. There is also a Birds of Prey and Mammal centre as well as a woodland adventure playground and Thorp Perrow encourage children to learn and enjoy through trails and activities.
For further information please see the website https://www.thorpperrow.com/