A project that has been supported by Natural England at Hagley Park in Worcestershire was a worthy runner-up in the 2014 English Heritage Angels Awards best rescue of any other historic building or site category.
The centrepiece of the original Georgian parkland is the Hagley Cascades, a series of lakes linked by cascades of tumbling water. At the top of the chain of lakes stood a rotunda and at the bottom a miniature Palladian bridge, the 2 acting as focal points in the landscape.
Decline in the quality of the historic designed landscapes at Hagley Park has been evident for decades. As recently as 2013 the lakes were silted up, the cascades had collapsed, famous views had become obscured, the rotunda grade 2* listed building was on English Heritages Heritage at Risk register and all that survived of the bridge was its foundations. The paths that had once formed a circuit along the cascades had vanished under feet of soil.
A landscape restored
The restoration of the landscape began with the production of a detailed conservation management plan in a partnership between the Hagley Park trustees, the local authority, consultees and potential funding bodies.
Following several years of partnership project work involving Natural England and English Heritage, the rotunda and the Palladian bridge have now been repaired and restored. The bridge was sympathetically restored following the discovery of the original architects drawings and painstaking archaeological investigation. The cascades have been repaired and historic views and vistas have been reopened. About a mile of the path circuit has been restored to enable visitors to once again appreciate the landscape of the Georgian parkland.
Jez Bretherton, historic environment senior specialist said:
The achievements at Hagley Park are one of this years historic environment highlights and were delighted that the project has been recognised by the Heritage Angels awards.
The project shows what can be achieved by an enthusiastic land owner supported by some excellent joint working. This project is a great example of how Natural England works in partnership with land managers, supports heritage skills businesses and involves local communities to achieve some exciting results.
Some 25 people have been employed in working on the project at Hagley Park, including stonemasons, wallers, carpenters, plasterers, arboriculturists, hydrologists, conservation-accredited architects, landscape architects and garden historians.
Supported by Environmental Stewardship, as well as funding from English Heritage and the land owner, the works include tree planting and grazing management in the deer park to enhance wood pasture and parkland habitat.
Helping safeguard our at risk heritage
Funding from the Environmental Stewardship scheme, which is administered by Natural England on behalf of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has helped hundreds of farmers and other land managers look after heritage on their land. This year Natural England has helped remove 160 items from the 2013 Heritage at Risk register: 150 scheduled monuments, 7 listed buildings and structures and 3 registered parks and gardens. The investment has been responsible for almost a third of all removals from the register.