Forget the yellow brick road, head to stately home Wentworth Woodhouse and follow the rosy-red paths from Georgian times.
Footpaths created 200 years ago have been restored in the gardens of the Grade I listed Rotherham mansion.
Visitors can now follow the paths to the garden’s beauty spots – like guests of the Marquess of Rockingham would once have done.
The formal walking routes were likely created around the time of the garden’s remodelling works by Humphrey Repton, in the early 1790s. But years of neglect had left many barely visible and recent snow had worsened their condition. They needed to be made safer for local people to come and enjoy fresh air and exercise during the pandemic.
The Trust’s gardeners and their volunteer teams, the Welly Wangers and the Bramble Bashers, put in weeks of toil and got the paths back on track.
They lead from The Stables to the West Drive, down past the Ha-Ha to the Mulberry Garden and ornamental stone Punch Bowl. A further stretch, known as the old carriage drive, had completely grassed-over but is now back to its original condition too.
The routes were researched from historic photos coupled with Head Gardener Scott Jamieson’s knowledge, then carefully excavation began. The local HQ of TC Harrison JCB, one of the largest JCB specialists in the UK, kindly loaned an eco-friendly E-Tech 1.5 tonne digger which delicately peeled back years of leaf mulch and mud.
Said the company’s joint MD Robert Wilson: “Wentworth Woodhouse is just 10 minutes from our Chapeltown HQ and we didn’t hesitate when the Trust reached out to us to see if we had a machine capable of the delicate task.”
Path edges were manually cut by the garden volunteers, then 58 tonnes of Scottish red granite gravel were laid and levelled. Original paths would have featured -red-shale’ burnt colliery spoil, a mining by-product available in abundance from an estate built on coal. But the material is no longer recommended as it is high in sulphate..
“The paths look fabulous. We have restored this original historic feature and made them safer for everyone visiting our beautiful gardens, a vital source of income while the house is closed in the pandemic,” said Wentworth Woodhouse’s Operations Manager Ian Taylor.
“We are incredibly grateful to TC Harrison JCB and our hardworking gardens team and volunteers. They made a long and difficult job so much easier. With regular maintenance, the new paths will last for years.”
The gardens are currently carpeted in snowdrops, with daffodils and bluebells expected in coming weeks. They are open 10am-4pm every day until 28 February, and then Wednesday to Sunday thereafter.
Admission costs £5 for adults, £2.50 for children, with under fives free. For COVID-19 safety regulations and online booking see here.