A beautiful Richmondshire garden created from farmland is opening to the public for the first time this year. Jenny Needham takes a seat by the pond

IT’S such a lovely spot to sit on a sunny day - a bench by a pond, in the shelter of a beech hedge, watching light dance on water and a mother duck with a dozen fluffy ducklings paddling madly behind. And when you tire of that particular view, you can move to the other end of the garden to sit on a huge stone retrieved from an old farm building, and look out across the newly-planted trees onto open farmland, with the village of Gayles in the distance and the dale rising beyond.

Both are views visitors can share for the first time this year, when the garden at Lowbridge House, near Dalton, opens to the public for the first time. “Family and friends persuaded me to share it with the public,” says owner Clarissa Milbank. “I also like the idea – because they have both affected the family - that it will raise money for cancer and MS research.”

Clarissa and husband David moved to the house down the track a decade ago, when the older and younger generations did a swap and son James and wife Charlie took over the running of the mixed sheep and arable farm. At the time Lowbridge had a front garden, largely unplanted, and another smaller area to the back of the house.

Like most farmers, David wasn’t a gardener: digging and fertilising soil, sowing and making things grow tend to lose their appeal when you have spent all day doing something similar on a much larger scale. “I love gardening - he did the mowing,” says Clarissa, “but the pond was his idea. It was a lovely project.”

And so the planning began, the result a lovely, randomly-shaped area of water to the side of the house, fed, in and out, by water from an adjacent stream. It wasn’t an easy task; a lot of earth needed to be shifted. “We got someone to dig out the main bit, made a bank around it and went from there,” says Clarissa. “Fortunately, this is a farm so we had a lot of the necessary equipment to hand.”

It’s not your average pond: not only is this considerably bigger, but the organic shape makes it fit nicely into the landscape, as if it’s been there much longer than it actually has. “We wanted it to look natural,” says Clarissa. “That was deliberate.” The planting is natural too, with dandelions allowed their space alongside enormous orchids and candelabra primulas.

The water is very clear, although Clarissa was about to make a strategic attack on some burgeoning algae blooms when I visited. “It can take over if you don’t keep an eye on it,” she says. Keeping the pond relatively clear of weeds and algae has other benefits, too, making it easier to spot the trout that swim through on their way down the stream that feeds into the pond.

Unfortunately, the clarity of the water also makes it easier for hungry herons to spot the fish. “They are very destructive,” says Clarissa. Not satisfied with a fish diet, the elegant, long-beaked birds will also consume dragonflies, small mammals and frogs. To deter them, she has placed a plastic decoy heron in the reeds at the edge of the water. There are also lily pads in the water for the fish to hide under. “It’s so lovely to watch the fish tickling their tummies on the gravel at the bottom of the pond,” she says.

There are few other ornaments here: a naked lady in the reeds with hands raised to cup a lily; a mini island with a little wooden jetty where Clarissa likes to sit and contemplate – “when I’m not weeding and clearing it!” – and the original millstone from the farm, which has been erected on the woodland walk beyond the pond. Here too, trees have been planted in memory of David, who died eight years ago. This part of the garden is a memorial to him. Other areas were named by David after the grandchildren: Tilly’s Pond, George’s Walk, Amelia’s Pond and Evie’s Wood.

This is where Clarissa’s new companion, a border terrier puppy called Pippi, likes to explore, falling over her too-big feet. She’s also rather taken with anything floating in pond and has taken a couple of dunkings. When the weather is really hot, the family have also been known to dive in, or even float around it on an inflatable boat.

“It was a lovely project, creating the pond,” says Clarissa. “I’m looking forward to sharing it with my visitors.”

Lowbridge House, Dalton, Richmond DL11 7FB, is open under the National Garden Scheme on June 17. Admission £6. The garden also opens by arrangement from June until the end of August. See website for details. W: ngs.org.uk


Roses – always have to be scented and remind me of my mother who was a very keen gardener and had large rose beds of old-fashioned scented variety at the family home when I was a child.

Sweet Peas – they are just part of summer and such an amazing array of colours. A bowl full of scented sweet peas Is so lovely to have in the house.

Daphne Aureomarginata – tiny flowers, which have the most heavenly scent, start in the winter and continue until mid-spring. It's so nice to have a scented shrub in the winter.