WENTWORTH Castle Gardens will reopen to the public next weekend after being closed for more than two years, it has been announced.

The National Trust, working alongside Barnsley Council and organisations involved with the only Grade I-listed park and garden in South Yorkshire, entered into a 25-year lease that will see them bring their wealth of experience in managing and conserving historic places.

The partnership between the council, National Trust, and Northern College which is based at the site, expects to see up to 135,000 visitors to the gardens annually within the first three years of operation.

The reopening will see the 63 acres of gardens and 500 acres of parkland complement the cultural offer of museums and visitor attractions in the region.

Coun Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesman, said: “Wentworth Castle Gardens is of huge historic significance and also a well-loved visitor destination, so we are delighted that its future has been secured through our partnership working.

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“The fact that here in Barnsley we will have the very first South Yorkshire property for the National Trust makes the collaboration even more special.

“The partnership has worked hard in laying the foundations for a successful, thriving and inclusive visitor attraction. Working with other heritage sites such as Barnsley Museums and the wider visitor economy, it really will put Barnsley on the map as a place to visit, stay and explore.

“Its reopening will have a huge impact on the local economy, first and foremost creating a range of new jobs, which currently stand at over 30. As well as this there will be a wide range of volunteering opportunities, which enable people to become activity involved in the project as well as learning new skills.

“These are exciting times for the borough, which continues to thrive and develop. The reopening of Wentworth Castle Gardens really does make Barnsley a truly unique destination.

“We would once again like to thank the former Wentworth Castle Garden Trust and volunteers for their tireless work over the years. Their determination and dedication has been instrumental in the development of the attraction.”

Responsibility for the site reverted to Barnsley Council during 2017, when the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust which had been operating the site was unable to make the enterprise financially viable, with the site then closed to the public.

Leader of Barnsley Council Sir Steve Houghton described the site as a ‘nationally important’ visitor attraction.

“We have a duty to look after it and by investing in it now we are safeguarding its future, not just in the short-term, but for the next 25 years, while providing an extra boost to the local economy,” he added.

“People will be coming into the borough to visit it as well as our other visitor attractions. It’s creating jobs and bringing the National Trust to South Yorkshire for the first time so it’s putting Barnsley on the map for the right reasons in that way, too.”

Joanna Royle, assistant director of the National Trust in the northern region, told the Chronicle that the reopening was the culmination of two years’ hard work.

She added: “Since gaining access to this important and beautiful place in January, we’ve been working hard to put in vital infrastructure and visitor facilities and build on the great work of the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust team of staff and volunteers. Additional support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has helped us prepare for opening.

“It’s an exciting, long-term journey that we have committed to together. We have lots to do in the years ahead, including further conservation and facilities work and announcing a year-round programme of events, but recognised the importance of getting Wentworth Castle Gardens open again as soon as we possibly could.

“We can’t wait to welcome people to once again enjoy this vital green space as a place to explore, walk, relax, play and spend time together outdoors.”