Some gardens just stay in your memory and you grab any opportunity to visit again. Studley is one of those places for me, for it has the UNESCO site of Fountains Abbey in addition to the stunning gardens and deer park.
I must admit I have never garnered the strength to manage the deer park, as much as I would love to. You might think it's not much of a garden really - just a bit of water, but it's the glimpses, the simplicity that make this garden special for me. Above all, I feel at peace here.
I remember my father once commenting when I was a child, as we strolled round the abbey, that the monks certainly knew how to choose a spot. The whole site, even though the formal garden is anything but natural, feels at one with its setting. That has always been important to me as a gardener. We might start out buying the plants we love, but we soon learn about what grows in our gardens and if we are fortunate enough, how to borrow a view. There aren't really any flowers in sight here (with the exception of the Ribes by the mill, the Geum was in the plant shop) just the natural landscape with the carved out 18th century water garden. Yet is is easy and pleasing on the eye - 'this green and pleasant land'.
As always with places associated with childhood, there is a brimming eagerness, an excitement and this place never fails to deliver. The first glimpse, walking through the abbey, thinking of times past, up to surprise view and that sight for sore eyes and then over the top and down through the tunnel, which is very dark and a little scary and out along the water garden. On to the deer park if you have the energy.
Created by the Aislabies, the site is now run by the NT. Well worth a visit at any time of the year, I visited on 2 April on a warm sunny day with few visitors. I travelled by public transport on the 36 from Harrogate and then the bus from Ripon, which stops at the entrance. Long journey for me, and might be my last visit, but always in my memory. Always a bonus to look around ripon and pop into the Cathedral.
Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2017