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Nelson's Oak investigation at Garden Open Day

  • Sutton Hall Resort Thirsk Yo7 2PS (map)

Sutton Hall Resort, near Thirsk is opening its gardens to the general public on Saturday 10th September for its second open day that will raise funds for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. This time, managers and staff at the self-catering resort also want to try to identify the person who donated the ‘Nelson’s Oak’ tree in the grounds.

The oak tree was recently planted in the grounds by an owner of one of the self-catering apartments, who turned up with a sapling one day and explained to the Resort’s gardener Susan Langdale that what he had planted was derived from one of Nelson’s Oaks planted in the Forest of Dean over 200 years ago. He went on to recite the history of tree planting that Admiral Nelson had instigated after writing a ten-page memorandum in 1802 about the shortage of oak to build the ships of the future. The gentleman did not give his name and left before Susan could ask him any further questions.

“It all happened so quickly. The gentleman had already planted the tree when he began to tell me the Nelson Oak history but he left very quickly before explaining why he had wanted to plant the oak here. I would really like to find out more so hopefully someone will come forward and solve the ‘mystery’ and to thank him for his contribution to our lovely gardens.”

 commented Susan Langdale, Sutton Hall Resort’s gardener.

This is the opening passage of his memorandum that is now in the Nelson Museum, Monmouth. Nelson wrote: “The Forest of Dean contains about 23,000 acres of the finest Land in the Kingdom, which I am informed, if in high cultivation of Oak, would produce about 9200 loads of timber fit for building Ships of the Line every year; that is, the Forest would grow in full vigour 920,000 trees….”

In addition to the Nelson Oak, a hidden Japanese garden has been identified in the grounds of the Hall and the open day provides an insight into the historic heather and rock gardens, its valley gardens and a woodland walk.

The Hall is an 18th century manor house, originally built in 1700 when Francis Smyth owned it. It was passed to his daughter Mary Smyth when she married Thomas Thrust who was a commander in Nelson’s Navy. James Harry Edwards who became the owner in 1901 created the re-discovered garden, designed in a Japanese style.

“There may be a connection between the past owners of the house and the oak tree planting and it would be very interesting to learn more from the ‘mystery’ owner who planted it”. added Linda Barnard, manager of Sutton Hall Resort.

Opening of the gardens will be from 10am to 3pm and entry is £3 per person. Refreshments will be available. All proceeds will be donated to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Charity.

The gardens are normally only available to the Resort’s resident guests and include a croquet lawn, a walled garden, tennis courts and a woodland walk where natural habitat and wildlife are abundant.