Hidden gems: Valley Gardens, Harrogate, Yorkshire & Agatha Christie

One of the last warm days of September we took a ride to Harrogate, Yorkshire, in part because it’s close, in part cause I wanted to see the gardens! For readers of detective novels, there is a story about Agatha Christie that you might be interested in.

Arx celebris fontibus

Harrogate has developed thanks to its thermal waters, which were discovered around the Sixteenth Century and, in subsequent periods, allowed the town to have a great amount of tourists, especially among the nobility and the well-to-do. Although with time most of the thermal structures have closed, the fame still remains, in the museums and in the only original spa still open and in operation, the Turkish Baths, Victorian style.

Detective novels fans may remember Harrogate for another reason as well. In 1926, Agatha Christie stopped at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, under false name; they searched for her for about ten days, until a member of the band of the hotel recognized her. The reason for this small (dis) adventure is unknown, maybe it was amnesia, depression or just advertising.

I said, the gardens. This summer we visited a lot of parks and gardens.
Mainly, there are two gardens in Harrogate. One is the Stray, perhaps treated truly as a city park, ideal for walking the dog, jogging, bringing the children to play and flying kites. Here you also find the Tewit well, which is the one that, once discovered in 1500, gave way to the spa development of Harrogate. The Stray also hosts the Bonfire Night in early November.

The other park is Valley Gardens which, as the name implies, is kept as a beautiful garden, with flowerbeds, different species of plants and ponds. Here too there are areas dedicated to sports activities (basketball, skateboarding, tennis….) and play areas for children. There is also a beautiful and characteristic walk dedicated to  the moors, with plants typical of various places.

We went on a Saturday and during a food festival, so there were plenty of booths and really lots of people. Despite not loving the crowds (one day I’ll tell you why the crowds in Japan, instead, don’t hit my nerves), in Harrogate there was that ‘home’ atmosphere: a small town, a few minutes by train from the main cities, but with that attitude of the inhabitants that seem to say: ‘We have everything here, why moving? The others come here!’, with his habits, regular festivals every year… I don’t know… writing I was reminded of Odaiba… home sweet home…. However, it was a short but pleasant encounter, and there was another little trip to the Harrogate Flower Show.

Returning to Valley Gardens, a really nice and interesting thing to see is the Magnesia Well Pump Room, built in 1858 and whose mineral-rich water was used to treat gout, rheumatism and anemia. The building has been restored and reopened as an exhibition in 2015.

Or you could sit in the Sun Pavillion, an Art Deco structure with a glass dome, on which various wisteria plants climb. Today it’s used especially for weddings and private events.

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