A unique lost garden is revealing treasures unseen for 80 years as volunteers embark on a £4.2m project to preserve the area for future generations.
Hidden footpaths and an ornate door knocker are among items discovered as the three-year programme to safeguard the much-loved Terraced Gardens at Rivington gets underway.
Project manager Andrew Suter, from Groundwork, said: “It has been fascinating for us to witness parts of Leverhulme’s garden being rediscovered for the first time in decades as we carry out the conservation work.
“It gives everyone involved a very tangible sense of preserving a captivating chapter of local history.”
He added: “We’ve found three old footpaths, an ornate door knocker from the grand ballroom Lord Leverhulme built, as well as some of the original cedar shingles from the Pergola which once overlooked the Japanese Lake. Until this project, these items had been lost to history.”
The work to conserve, repair and protect the gardens will eventually lead to buildings like the Pigeon Tower being made safe and opened during public events for the first time in decades.
Improved information boards and guided tours will help visitors understand the historical significance of the mysterious wonderland.
The project is being part-funded by £3.4m of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund: Parks for People Programme.
Lord Leverhulme worked with landscape architect Thomas Mawson on the design of the Terraced Gardens, known to many locally as the Chinese Gardens, in the early 1900s.
He died in 1925 and the gardens almost immediately fell into a state of disrepair, with a new landowner, Liverpool Water Corporation, taking ownership of the site for water supplies. They were opened to the public in 1948.
Recently, the site was identified as one of the top ten lost gardens in the UK, and was featured on a BBC Countryfile programme in November 2014.
An army of local people have signed-up to help turn the plans into reality, including over 200 volunteers who are getting their hands dirty carrying out conservation work, researching former residents and garden plans and even leading guided walks.
The Rivington Heritage Trust is leading the project, working in partnership with Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside.
Bryan Homan, chairman of the Rivington Heritage Trust, said: “The response from local people who want to get involved has been staggering.
“There was a risk these gardens could have been lost forever, but thanks to the National Lottery money and the local community, we are in a great position to protect this special area for future generations.”
The programme of works will continue until 2018.
To get involved, you can join the Friends of Rivington Terraced Gardens Group or be a volunteer and help with the conservation work, education visits and events. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.