Harewood in the 21st century has become quite a complicated place. Most of you will know it as a place to visit. You might come to feed the penguins or watch the kids play on the Adventure Playground. You might come to enjoy Harewood House’s magnificent 18th century interiors or to attend the innovative and stimulating contemporary art exhibitions. You might come to stroll peacefully through the gardens, crossing the Terrace on your way round the Lake, getting caught up in the magic of the Himalayan Garden before reaching the Walled Garden with its vegetable plots and fruit trees.
I hope you do, because Harewood is somewhere for everyone to enjoy. But what you see is the just the tip of an iceberg. Harewood today is a network of businesses, all supporting each other, all designed to keep this most beautiful part of England’s most beautiful county looking good, as alive and as relevant as it has ever been through its 250 year history.
The bit you will see when you visit – the House, the gardens and grounds immediately around it – has been run as an educational charitable trust since the 1980s. This means that any income generated – entrance fees, gift aid, donations, grants and so on – has to be ploughed back into the charity’s activities. We have a dynamic and prize-winning programme of educational events for schools, but we take our educational remit much further than that. You’re never too old to stop learning! We get around 200,000 visitors a year and their support is absolutely vital if we are going to be able to continue to keep it all going.
Surrounding Harewood House Trust is the Harewood Estate, made up of several different businesses. The days of a country estate just being somewhere for a privileged few to stroll around and enjoy the views are long gone. Now, we let cottages in the village, offices in the converted farm buildings and provide the location for the outdoor sets for ITV’s long-running tale of Yorkshire country folk, Emmerdale. We have a farming company, managing the land in partnership with neighbouring farmers. Most recently, we have invested in a major green energy project, which uses wood chip from our own trees to heat buildings across the estate and now Harewood House itself. This makes good business sense and it’s good for the environment too. All this – the buildings, the trees, the waterways, the many miles of public footpaths that criss-cross the estate – needs looking after: windows re-painted, woodland thinned, grass cut, footpaths properly maintained and the rest of it.
Each year we look at what we do afresh, especially at what happens within the Harewood House Trust, what is available for the paying public. This year’s big theme is the landscape. 2016 is the tercentenary of the birth of England’s most famous landscape designer, Lancelot “Capability” Brown and we are delighted to be part of a nation-wide celebration of his extraordinary work. Astonishingly, Brown and his team created over 100 landscapes, four or five a year during his working life, though he can have only seen a few of them reach their maturity. Harewood is one of his finest, still unchanged since the 18th century, somewhere that is designed to be enjoyed, whether you are looking across it from the Terrace of Harewood House (The Terrace, a Victorian addition, was actually built several decades after Brown) or walking through it and catching glimpses of the House through carefully contrived vistas. As well as exhibitions about Brown and his visionary working methods, we have asked several contemporary artists to respond to this landscape in their own way, something we try to do whenever we can, bringing the historic and the present day together. And we’re re-launching the boat (called The Capability aptly enough) to give you long views from the Lake back to the south side of the House, as I’m sure Mr. Brown would have wished.
This winter we are undertaken the first phase of a major re-furbishment of the Bird Garden, an ongoing project that will take two or three years to complete. This has involved clearing and re-landscaping, taking down of some unsightly fences and the introducing new bird species as well as creating better views of some old timers. Everybody’s favourites, the penguins, have a handsomely re-decorated pool, with six new arrivals from Cotswold Wildlife Park joining the colony. We are also introducing for the first time a Farm Experience, with pigs, alpacas, pygmy goats and giant rabbits.
Something for everybody we hope, young and old, newcomers and long-standing season ticket holders. Over the summer we will give you more detailed insights into what goes on behind the scenes, the inside track from the real specialists. This is just a taster of the ever-changing, multi-faceted world of Harewood 2016.
Come and enjoy it!
David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood