Situated on the edge of the Howardian Hills, just outside Terrington, Yorkshire Lavender is set against the backdrop of the most stunning views of the Vale of York. With its 25th Anniversary this year, we spoke to Nigel Goodwill, founder, about how it came about and how he will be celebrating this summer.
How did Yorkshire Lavender come about?
My wife, Lynne, died in 1993 from breast cancer when our children (Sam and Emma) were just 5 and 3 years old. The following year, some land near Terrington came up for sale, so, on a whim, I decided to put in a bid, which was accepted. I didn’t want to the children to know until it had all gone through so, with the completion date approaching, I set up a code phrase with the solicitor in case he rang and one of the children answered the phone. On the completion date, the solicitor rang and told Sam: “You can tell your father to go and run a bath”, so I knew it had all gone through! I took them down to the land, opened the gate and told them: “This is your land now” and, as I watched them running across the farmland waving their arms, I knew it was the right decision.
What made you settle on lavender?
As time passed, I began to wonder if we could grow anything on the land. I initially thought that garlic might be a good idea, until someone told me that garlic crops had to be rotated, which sounded too much like hard work! Then one day, whilst I was in a waiting room flicking through a magazine, I spotted an article on how to grow lavender, and the idea grew from that moment. In fact, I still have the magazine!
How does lavender grow so well in Yorkshire?
Out of all the herbs, lavender is the most hardy. The plants are easy to grow and look after and seem to be quite happy with the Yorkshire climate. You don’t need to rotate them. They just need cutting back each year around September. They don’t even need watering very much! They prefer the driest conditions and don’t need protection against the winter.
Do you bring in new varieties?
There are about 140 varieties of lavender in the world and Yorkshire Lavender has around 80 varieties on site. We mainly grow Lavendin (Lavandula x intermedia) and Lavender angustifolia. I tell people that the best time to visit is around 12th July! We occasionally bring in new varieties and we do sometimes grow our own Lavender stoechas (French lavender).
Lavender is known to help with sleep; what else is good about lavender?
One of our great pleasures has been tracing the history of the lavender plant and how lavender oil has been used for centuries for its healing and antiseptic properties. We went on to make our own Yorkshire Lavender products. People come from miles around to buy our lavender products to help with insomnia. Each type of lavender has a different scent, and its essential oils are widely used in aromatherapy to help with anxiety, mood, depression, and relaxation. There is also research on the antiseptic properties of lavender which can help with arthritis.
What’s the secret to running a business with family?
We rarely have arguments and we just all get along very well. It’s a real family business and the staff are very much part of that family too. Sam and Emma, have always been involved in the running of the business. Sam now runs the online retail side, and Emma runs Yorkshire Lavender’s tourist site, as well as overseeing the Evelyn Jessica range of products – named after her daughter.
How did Yorkshire Lavender survive throughout the pandemic and what were the main challenges?
We closed the gardens to the public for the whole of 2020, but our online sales service was the busiest it had ever been! We ended up putting a marquee in the car park, because the building had to be closed, and to support social distancing, so our staff could work on packaging products to send around the world.
Yorkshire Lavender is a tourist destination. Did you always intend it to be for the public?
When I first started it was a nursery, and then I thought it would be nice to open it up to the public so I set out an area where the plants could be sold. After around 6 years, as public interest grew, we put a portakabin on site so we could start to sell lavender products. People come from all over the world. We once had a coach load of people come from Peru. They landed at Leeds Bradford Airport and came straight here! In summer, the lavender, with its stunning array of different colours, from white through a complete range of blues, lilacs to magnificent deep purples, along with the range of distinct and heady scents, is a wonderful experience.
What else can people do when they come to visit?
The farm is set within an area of nearly 60 acres which is home to our spectacular lavender gardens. We have the lavender maze, a huge snakes and ladders game situated on the hillside, play areas for children, a cricket match area called the ‘Spirit of Yorkshire’, a specialist Plant Nursery, EJ’s Tea Rooms and a gift shop. We can also cater for events such as birthdays and hen dos. We hold workshops, Alpaca Walks and have plenty of space for picnics – you can even pre order your picnic to collect and enjoy amongst the lavender. We are also dog- friendly.
How are you going to celebrate your 25th anniversary?
We are hoping to celebrate with two main events. On the weekend of the 16th & 17th July, we will have a special weekend with food vans, walks with our gardeners to hear about propagating lavender and varieties. There will be children’s activities to include face painting and games.
Our actual anniversary is on the 21st July, where we will be holding a ‘Twilight Tea in the Tepee’ with afternoon tea from 6pm to 8.30pm. More details are on our website: www.yorkshirelavender.com.
What does the future hold for Yorkshire Lavender?
Just to carry on! We see people from all over the world so hopefully, now travelling is back on the agenda, people will come back to visit.
is growing Evelyn Jessica and Goodwill Hampers (thegoodwillhampercompany.co.uk). We focus on eco-friendly products with as little plastic as possible – our wines have wax tops instead of cork or plastic, and all of our glass bottles have lasered labels rather than plastic sticky labels.
The last 25 years have certainly has been a ‘voyage of discovery’ for us all and I’m sure the beauty and therapeutic nature of lavender has played its part.
For more information about Yorkshire Lavender, visit www.yorkshirelavender.com.