A CHURCH has thrown open the gates of a secret garden in the historic heart of York - to the delight of amazed passersby.

St Wilfrid's Rectory garden off High Petergate is one of the largest gardens within the City Walls, and has a unique view of the Minster and the unspoilt roofscape of Georgian York.

But shoppers who called in during the open garden on Saturday, and enjoyed strawberries and tea on the wide lawn, said they had never even heard of it previously.

Edna West, of Huntington, said she had been shopping when a friend told her about the garden, and she had been 'blown away' by it.

"It's absolutely marvellous," she said.

Jean Conyers, of Clifton Green, said she had lived in York pretty well all her life and had never heard of the garden.

Alicia and Tim Short, of Acomb, said they had read about the open garden in The Press and had been intrigued to see what it was like. "It's beautiful," said Mrs Short. "It's a hidden gem," said Mr Short.

Parish Priest Fr Richard Duffield said the garden had long been used as a parish facility and had often been open to the public, although not for a while.

About 150 people had visited the garden, raising funds for the church, and he now planned to open it up again in future, at least once a year.

He added that his predecessors at St Wilfrid's had passed it on the garden him in a very well maintained condition