Chris Gee un­earths crum­bling arch­ways and over­grown ter­races within a hid­den English wood

Countryfile Magazine - - Great Days Out -

Like the re­mains of a lost civil­i­sa­tion, the ru­ins and fol­lies of Lord Lev­er­hulme’s ter­raced gar­dens add a real spirit of ad­ven­ture and dis­cov­ery to an au­tumn ex­plo­ration of Riv­ing­ton Wood.

In the early 20th cen­tury, soap baron Lord Lev­er­hulme cre­ated a ter­raced gar­den of Ja­panese lakes, pago­das, arch­ways, Ro­manesque bridges and an elab­o­rate ball­room. By 1925 it was all aban­doned and to­day is be­ing re­claimed by na­ture. It’s a great place to spice up a walk with a game of ‘hide and seek’.


Au­tumn is a par­tic­u­larly re­ward­ing time to visit. Deep car­pets of fallen leaves line the paths and fungi flour­ish, while the tree canopy puts on its fi­nal dis­play of colour be­fore shut­ting down for the win­ter.

This en­er­gis­ing cir­cuit climbs through the wood to the land­mark Pi­geon Tower. A handy lit­tle trail guide can be found at the Great House Vis­i­tor In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre.


From Great House Barn car park, take the long drive to Riv­ing­ton Hall, turn­ing right down a path to South Lodge.


Take the path that climbs to a junc­tion, bear­ing right after half a mile. Cross a stone foot­bridge over The Ravine, a se­ries of over­grown man­made cas­cades, then take the steps to the left and con­tinue on to Royn­ton Lane.


Turn up stone steps to en­ter the Ja­panese wa­ter gar­dens. Climb away from the lake to a small group of ru­ined sheds and sta­bles, and then pass the partly walled kitchen gar­den.

The trail con­tin­ues to the site of the Stone House and then climbs the Long Walk, an ex­tended flight of steps that leads through a stone arch­way. From above the ten­nis court shel­ter on the right, take a path to the left, cut­ting across Long Walk be­fore climb­ing to the Lever’s Walk ter­race.

Fur­ther up the steps, turn left – here, ev­i­dence of the che­quer-tiled ball­room floor can still be found. Con­tinue on the broad track to pass the site of Bel­mont Lodge. Ahead is the dis­tinc­tive Pi­geon Tower.


Drop down past the swim­ming pool and take the first path on the right via the gar­den shel­ter steps to Ro­manesque Seven Arch Bridge, built in 1910.

Cross the bridge and head down the stepped path to re­join the main track close to South Lodge. Re­trace your steps back to Great House Barn. After a crisp au­tumn walk, this lovely old cruck barn, pos­si­bly of Saxon ori­gin, is a great place to head for a hot drink, warm­ing meal or snack.

Sun­light breaks through the re­mains of Riv­ing­ton Ter­raced Gar­dens, de­signed by Thomas Maw­son be­tween 1905-1922

Chris Gee is the au­thor of Walk­ing in the Pen­dle Witch Coun­try and the West Pen­nine Moors.

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