Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the reopening of Stainborough’s Grade I-listed Wentworth Castle Gardens. Closed for two years due to a funding crisis before a county-first partnership was struck between Barnsley Council and the National Trust, Josh Timlin looked into what’s been done to turn its fortunes around.

OFTEN described as the jewel in Barnsley’s crown, it doesn’t take long to see why that description is such a well-used one when it comes to Wentworth Castle Gardens.

Despite being situated less than ten minutes away from the town centre’s hustle and bustle, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d journeyed to a far-flung countryside location given its serenity, rolling fields and the sheer beauty of its 500 acres.

Indeed it’s a place I’ve personally enjoyed both as a journalist and a visitor - I covered its Victorian conservatory’s reopening not long after joining the Chronicle’s ranks in 2012 and returned a year later to see the culmination of a £3.74m renovation to the main house and historic monuments.

But while its attractiveness hasn’t ever diminished, several years later its future looked bleak to say the least: its ruling body - the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust - announced that it had no choice but to close in spring 2017 due to spiralling running costs.

It was a sad time for those who poured hours of time into whatever was required to retain its splendour, not to mention a significant blow to the town’s tourism trade, and it remained closed for two years.

However, that last point - tourism - turned out to be the key in its resurgence and why the long-term deal was ultimately struck. 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 promised to bring their wealth of experience in managing and conserving historic places in order to save it.

Five years on, it’s clear to see it’s flourishing more than ever before, so that promise most definitely rang true.

A National Trust spokesperson said: “We work in partnership with Barnsley Council and Northern College - which is also based at the site - to both care for the estate and make it a destination that welcomes the local community and visitors to the area.

“This wasn’t necessarily the case three centuries ago when it very much was a grand family estate born out of an inheritance family feud in the Wentworth family and built to compete with neighbouring Wentworth Woodhouse.

“When building much of what we see today at Wentworth Castle, Thomas Wentworth even went so far to acquire the old family title, the Earldom of Strafford, in an attempt to outshine his ‘obnoxious relative’ just six miles away.

“After World War II, the family sold the estate to Barnsley Corporation when it became a teacher training college, and in the present day the house remains an innovative adult education centre.

“It’s an exciting, long-term journey that we committed to together.

“We have lots to do in the years ahead, including further conservation and facilities work, but we recognised the importance of getting Wentworth Castle Gardens open again.

“From one man’s anger over his perceived lost inheritance, the estate has survived over 300 years and with continued efforts can continue to be a central part of the Barnsley landscape for the next 300.”

Visitor numbers, volunteers and events are growing year-on-year and this month is no exception.

Throughout June, opening hours will be extended on Thursdays until 6.30pm - perfect for an after-school picnic or time to relax exploring the gardens leaving the day’s work behind.

During the ‘Big Help Out Week’, visitors are invited to get stuck in with counting butterflies, fence-painting, crafting or having a go at volunteering on the taster mornings.

Torri Crapper, general manager at Wentworth Castle Gardens, added: “It’s an enormously special place filled with nearly 300 remarkable staff and volunteers who are all passionate about their work and making the estate welcoming to all.

“I am proud to work alongside partners and community groups who have collaborated together to continue the ongoing conservation of this unique landscape.

“Weekends are an understandably popular time, however I’d encourage those with the option to visit during the week for an altogether different experience.

“The size and orientation of the gardens and parkland means at times, it’s just you, the wildlife and the view.

“The unique quality of the gardens mean they reflect and reveal not just one style of gardening but layers of design from the three centuries of its existence.”

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.

“It’s created jobs and it brought 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.”