The main structural and engineering works to restore Prior Park Landscape Garden’s 18th century dams has begun, with contractors expected to be on-site throughout 2020.
Known as the dams project, the extensive works will see the National Trust garden’s historic structures strengthened, an empty lake refilled, paths reinstated and the return of a small cascade – a long-lost original feature.
The project will fall into three phases, with the initial site set up and protection works occurring this autumn.
The main engineering works, which will include conserving the stonework of the middle dam, upgrading the lower dam’s outlet and reprofiling the banks, is expected to take most of 2020.
This will then be followed by the final landscaping phase when 18th century-inspired trees and shrubberies will be planted, and the iconic reflections of the Palladian Bridge will be restored.
The contractors selected to undertake the project are Alun Griffiths Ltd, a leading civil engineering and construction company in the West of England and Wales, with particular experience of water projects including environmentally and archaeologically sensitive locations.
Griffiths’ Operations Director Simon Dunn said: ‘We are very excited to work with the National Trust to carry out these important restoration works at Prior Park.
“We look forward to working closely with the garden team to return the historic structures to their former glory and assure you of our commitment to minimising disruption to visitors during the project’.
The garden will remain open for the duration of the works to allow visitors to see conservation in action and the ambitious restoration project up close.
Whilst there will be some changes to visitor access routes, Prior Park’s Palladian Bridge will still be accessible and is well-positioned to act as a viewing platform for the works on the dams.
“Having the contractors on site is a really momentous stage of the project” said Alice Norland, Head Gardener at Prior Park.
“We’ve been busy readying the garden for their arrival and we’ve already seen a lot of changes and progress made. Reaching the main engineering phase of the project is very exciting.”
In preparation for the project, Prior Park recently relocated its Tea Shed and installed a new natural play area – with both now situated in the more tranquil top end of the garden, away from the area that will become the contractors’ work site.
“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see 18th century engineering deconstructed, rebuilt and restored” explained Tom Boden, General Manager of Prior Park.
“We’re enormously grateful for the support the project has already received, both from visitors to the garden, as well as the donors whose generosity has made this important restoration possible.”
The essential multi-million-pound restoration project was funded through money granted by the National Trust’s central conservation fund and a very generous legacy donation.
It is with thanks to the generosity of local donors Andrew Fletcher, the Bath Centre for the National Trust, the World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund, individuals, trusts and foundations, plus community fundraising events that Prior Park was able to secure the additional funding needed to undertake the capital works of the project.
Fundraising to support the reinstatement of the garden through future planting is ongoing.
If you would like to support the project, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/prior-park where you can find an appeal page and donate online.