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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Bishopthorpe Gardens & Le Tour

Bishopthorpe Palace Tour Decorations

It gives me great pleasure to provide the Bishopthorpe Gardens update as they have been bathed in glorious sunshine for the last couple of months. 

The grounds have stood up remarkably well considering the variety of events that have been held here, including the village gala, the York Diocese children’s XL & music event, and most recently the St Leonard’s Hospice fundraiser party – at least a couple of thousand people have visited the grounds in the last month alone! Thank you for all the kind comments on the Tour de Yorkshire yellow bikes mounted on the Gatehouse and the bunting showing our support for the Tour – what a fantastic occasion. 

The lawns are looking a bit tired but have coped well with the marquees, gazebos, and pedestrians.  Some steady rain overnight would be most welcome and not the intense thunderstorms we have experienced lately as the water from the storms hardly penetrates the ground but washes the soil from the borders, and leaks ash from the footpaths.

Another downside to the heavy showers is the extra weight the specimen trees carry in the woodland due to a full leaf canopy.  This has led to a couple of large limbs being brought down, thankfully they are clean breaks and some tidying up should leave no lasting damage to either tree affected.

We recently received a bird box made by the children from the Archbishop of York Junior School as part of their community action project for their Young Leaders Award.  Young Leaders Bird Box Action Project Some of the Year 6 class came to the Palace to help put up the box into one of the lime trees.   It’s a very well made box, but there are no visitors just yet!  Other bird boxes we have around the grounds have done well this year - Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robins and Blackbirds have been the most common users.  There has been one exception - our Tawny Owl box has become home to a swarm of bees!  Other species of birds we have seen regularly are the Tree Creepers, Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Goldcrest and my favourite – the Green Woodpecker.  This is a stunning looking bird with green plumage with a scarlet cap and its unmistakable call or ‘yaffle’.  I seem to remember that it used to be known as the ‘Yaffle Bird’ due to its distinctive laughing call, but maybe the sun has got to me!

Another spectacular sight just seen in the last couple of weeks was a pair of Peregrine Falcons, which have been spotted in the York area on a few occasions. The pair were seen circling high up with a family of Common Buzzards.

Elsewhere in the gardens we have built two new rockeries at the entrance to the North Wing and these have been planted with Aubrieta and a mixture of spring bulbs.New Rockeries Build at North Wing Entrance

The terraced area is to have a make-over as we aim to raise the annual beds by 18 inches.  This will help when the river floods and hopefully will stop sending our newly-planted bedding plants down-stream.

A large perennial border is planned this autumn close to the Gatehouse which will bring some colour and a welcome sight to visitors and the public passing the entrance to the Palace grounds.   More tree-planting is also to be done this autumn as some diseased and dying trees are to be removed. I will provide an update later this year with what the replacements will be!


Garry O’Reagan

Head Gardener


The grounds of Bishopthorpe Palace are not open to the public except for open days, retreats, receptions, fetes or as part of pre-booked tours.  Enquiries as to hiring meeting rooms in the Palace or enquiries relating to functions should be directed to the Palace Manager