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North Yorks Dales Cottage Gardens, Arkengarthdale, Scar House (also known as Scar House)


Scar House is a shooting lodge and was built in 1845 on the site of a Norman manor under Langthwaite Scar in Arkengarthdale. The area surrounding the manor when built was Royal hunting forest. Since the mid-19th century the owners of Scar House have used it annually for the grouse shooting season. The Dales Plants and Gardens 1900-1960 oral history project interviewed estate workers and their relatives to discover more about the gardens of Scar House. The gardens of Scar House were initially designed for the ladies of the shooting parties to stroll in whilst the men shot. Limited produce for the dining-table and picnics was also grown, though much of it was either sourced from local traveling butchers or sent up by train to Richmond from other estates belonging to the owners. The regular estate and house workers such as the gardener, gamekeeper and housekeeper formed a close-knit community, the same small numbers are still employed today. In-season the numbers of workers increase considerably as local beaters, flankers, and pickers-up join the community to ensure a smooth shoot.



The landscape of Arkengarthdale

A mid-nineteenth century Darlington doctor poetically began an article on the diseases in lead miners in Arkengarthdale for the British Medical Journal:

"The miners, or ‘groovers', as they are termed, of Arkendale and Swaledale, reside in a wild romantic district, abounding with craggy rocks, wood, and water, hill and dale. In this picturesque scenery, the sublime, the terrific, and the magnificent, are intimately blended; and the sight will amply repay the tourist who is an admirer of nature, in its primeval beauty, unadorned by the hand of man."[i]

The influence of lead mining on the landscape

Today, if people look up Arkengarthdale from where they sit on Reeth green they can see landslips of rock and rubble on the fells of above them. Looking more carefully its possible to see pale grey rock scars with a line of darker grey and dun-coloured rubble or scree below them, these are naturally weathered formations. But close by the same coloured rubble lies in large piles, sandwiched between the purples and green of heather and turf, these are spoil heaps from lead mining. Between 1589 and 1913 when the last mines closed, some 350,000 tonnes of lead ore was extracted from many thousands more tonnes of rock. The waste was left on the moors and fells. The heaps are still toxic today the only plants that have colonized these slopes are a specialist group of plants known as metallophytes. These are not unique to spoil heaps but generalized plants (thrift, spring sandwort, sheep's fescue, alpine pennycress, and Pyrenean scurvygrass) that can tolerate low nutrient levels due to leaching and high concentration of metals.

Traveling up from Reeth into Arkengarthdale, the visitor can see through dank mists suspiciously straight, parallel valleys criss-crossing the moors. Barren and dry in the sun these are not once-natural water channels but man-made hushes. High on the moorland flats or benches lead miners in the eighteenth century damned becks with turf and soil to create artificial lakes. Releasing the water in a torrent down the hillside gouged out rocks and soil revealing clean bedrock where veins of galena or lead ore might be seen and mined.

The landscape and grouse moors

The underlying rock and heavy till in Arkengarthdale is till, a matrix of clay weathered from the shales that lie between the grit and limestone of the Yoredale series. On top of this glacial debris remaining from the last Ice Age, the soil on the moors is peat. Firm islands of juncus reed and bilberry show the walker where to place their feet to keep them out of bog. In autumn purple is the dominant colour of these moors; heather so beloved of grouse and landowner with shooting rights.

The landscape and the gardener

For the gardener, lower down the fell side the moorland peat acts like a sponge, constantly wet it releases water into becks and ultimately rivers in steady drips. The lower fells, where most people live, is a peaty-loam well manured with cow, human, pig and chicken muck. Sheep droppings were for special plants, the potential prize-winning leeks that were watered with rainwater in which the droppings soaked.

The tree-lined valley carved by the River Arkle lies below most of the habitation and pasture land. Stone is the only defense against the constant wind for sheep, people and plants in Arkengarthdale. Summer and the growing season are short and winters cold but to compensate precipitation is year-round. The Dales project interviewees, even if not gardeners themselves, learnt enough watching their parents gardening to know exactly when, where and what to plant in these exacting conditions.


[i] BMJ Special Occupations No. IV. Diseases of miners of Arkendale and Swaledale by Thomas Hayes Jackson, M.D., Darlington, No XXX London: Saturday, July 25, 1857. BMJ 1857; s4-1:619-620 (25 July), doi:10.1136/bmj.s4-1.30.619 Diseases of Miners of Arkendale and Swaledale

[ii] Black Grouse UK: The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for black grouse

[iii] Gordon Home Yorks. Dales and Fells, pp 6-7 Copyright BiblioLife, LLC. Google Books (originally pub A&C Black, London 1906)

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01969 666210

Access contact details

Although much of the countryside is designated as open access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, the individual gardens are private property. Please do not trespass.


Although much of the countryside is designated as open access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, the individual gardens are private property. Please do not trespass.

The single road through Arkengarthdale runs between Reeth (Swaledale) and Barras (Teesdale) on the A66. There is a footpath from St Mary's Church that goes through the grounds of Scar House. The gardens can all be easily seen from the path as it winds its way up the fell.

Further information is available at the North Yorkshire Dales National Park Tourist Information Centre for Swaledale at Reeth (located at the foot of Arkengarthdale).


Duke of Norfolk


The Dales Plants and Gardens project interviewed several people who had members of their families working at Scar House. One interviewee is Parkin Waller, whose brother worked as head gardener at Scar House during the 1930s. The Wallers grew up at Swallowholme Farm in upper Arkengarthdale. Parkin's brother first learned to garden on their farm, at an altitude of 420 metres. By comparison, the Scar House gardens are at a balmy 280 metres. Parkin's brother was one of the first in the area to build a greenhouse at home. The boiler was fuelled with coke and coal from an abandoned lead smelting mill close to the farm. In the warmed greenhouse he was able to grow lettuces out of season and tomatoes, which were a rarity in the northern dales.

Another interviewee, Eleanor Alderson, remembers her mother making jam for the guests at Scar House. Fruit such as raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries were grown in the garden. Raspberry canes, blackcurrant bushes and lily of the valley were grown, netted and framed beneath the bridge wall. Strawberries were grown nearby in a netted and covered wooden frame. Rhubarb and gooseberries weren't grown; they were cottagers' fruit, capable of growing on their own anywhere. Tommy Milner, who came after Mr Waller as head gardener at Scar House in the late 1940s and 1950s, would give the fruit to his cousin, Eleanor's mother, whilst the housekeeper supplied the sugar. The jam was made, not in the kitchen of the big house, but at the gamekeeper's cottage on a range with its open fire fuelled with peat and ling from the moors.

Eleanor's father was the Scar House gamekeeper and had a tied cottage on the estate. Under the front windows of their cottage was a narrow flowerbed. Every two years Eleanor's father alternated potatoes and strawberries in this bed. They grew between the climbing roses cared for by Eleanor's mother who also grew phlox and delphiniums at the back of the cottage.

Only a few vegetables were grown at Scar House. Eleanor remembers Mr Milner giving her mother tomatoes from the greenhouse together with other vegetables such as cabbages and flowers when not needed for the shooting lodge. However, most of the produce either came up by train or across the moors by local carriers.

The head gardener always worked the garden alone, and still does today, only being given help from some of the other estate workers during winter and spring for digging, planting and potato setting.

The flower and strolling gardens run down to the Arkle beck and face out over the moors and now abandoned lead mines. Eleanor remembers roses and dahlias were grown in the garden during the 1940s and 1950s. Roses were no longer grown in the gardens at Scar House by the time Rowena Hutchinson arrived in Arkengarthdale from Leeds with her rose nursery business in 1960.

There are three photographs with this entry that show various parts of the gardens between the 1940s and 2009. In the 1940s photograph there are numerous rows of cane fruit; today they are gone, the ground turned into lawn and amalgamated with the flower garden area. The photograph dating from the 1960s shows rectangular patterns of densely planted rows of perennials and annuals between rows of low, clipped evergreen hedges and gravel paths surrounding and between them. By 2009 the hedges, still clipped have grown taller and lawns have replaced most of the internal borders, some perennials remain and young trees have been planted as decoration. The vegetable garden has become a garden of lawn with a gravel path around it and shrubs, perennials and empty pergolas close to the path.

From the mid-1950s onwards, Eleanor remembers Lady Sopwith having big flower arrangements in the house, perhaps influenced by Constance Spry who created the flower arrangements for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. Before then, flowers with long stems, such as delphiniums and chrysanthemums, were cut for the chapel, harvest festival and church and simply "put into vases with no artistry". One of the first arrangements made by Mr Milner and his wife was for Eleanor's wedding in 1955, "white carnations and something white and airy, you could see through it". The display was made for the altar table and later moved to the side chapel. Rhoda Fraser, Eleanor's niece, remembers that once a year her father, Eleanor's brother, would fill his van full of flowers from the Scar House borders taking them for harvest festival displays throughout the dale. Rhoda's mother went with him to arrange the displays.

Finally, a mention should be made of Rowena Hutchinson's rose nursery. Rowena returned to Arkengarthdale in 1960 to help her parents run their pub in Langthwaite. She brought with her stock plants from her rose nursery in Leeds. From this stock she propagated over 10,000 roses. Many of her bush roses were planted in the gardens at Scar House. Due to the altitude (290 metres) and penetrating frosts, the budding season in Langthwaite was short, six weeks, if lucky, compared to the three months that she had in Leeds. Like Mr Waller and Mr Milner, Rowena also had a glasshouse which she used for breeding roses and growing tomatoes.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Features & Designations


  • Conservation Area

Plant Environment





  • Shooting Lodge (featured building)
  • Description: Scar House is comprised of a group of buildings: the house itself, dog kennels, stables, three walled gardens, a gamekeeper's cottage, and a gardener's cottage being the main buildings. All of the buildings are grouped below Langthwaite Scar with Arkle Beck running through the estate.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: There are three walled gardens at Scar House. Vegetables, fruit and flowers are grown.
Key Information




Agriculture And Subsistence

Plant Environment


Principal Building



Victorian (1837-1901)