Background

As part of English Heritage’s regeneration master plan for Wrest Park, The Landscape Group were awarded the hard landscaping elements of the park’s ‘Revitalisation Project’. The inspiration for the revitalisation was the discovery of an original plan, which revealed exactly how the park was laid out over a century ago. Working closely with English Heritage historians and in constant dialogue with architects, work was planned with reference to historical maps, pictures and drawings to ensure that our restoration works conformed exactly to the park’s original designs. Across the project, we also ensured that key existing materials were reused wherever possible.

Our Role

Works began with the restoration of four of the park’s historic gardens, famous for displaying French, Dutch, Italian and English designs and styles side by side. Beginning with the Italian garden, the team carried out protection works before laying pathways and associated timber edging, as well as laying foundations for additional stone edging. Soft works included turfing and the topsoiling of beds, after which an irrigation system was installed. The development of the Rose garden involved the installation of new pathways, timber edging and rabbit mesh fencing as per the Italian garden, and a Netpave ground reinforcement grid was also laid. Similar works were carried out in the French garden, including pathways and edging. More specifically the complex and intricate French parterre box-edging was restored to the original specification designed by Earl de Grey in the mid 19th century. The intricate designs were challenging to recreate in metal, however significant time spent planning and studying the drawings ensured that the original designs were faithfully restored.

A number of tree works were also carried out by the team, and included the improvement of areas of previous tree removal works, in addition to the instal-lation of chestnut fencing and other protection works.

Essential to the Revitalisation Project was the restoration of key existing footpaths and lost historic trails. Based on historical evidence and through close planning with English Heritage, the team created a new path network around the park that not only improved accessibility, but also mirrored the park’s original design. As well as using the park’s original plan, an artist’s impression (over a century old) was used to ensure that the paths surrounding the Archer Pavilion were designed and installed to exactly match the original design. These images can be compared in the attached photo document. Additional works around the park included excavation, surfacing and edging, irrigation, installation of fencing, and additional tree works. The completion of the project saw works undertaken to the Archer Pavilion, a Baroque style structure designed by Thomas Archer in 1711. Revitalisation included protection works, excavation, filling and surfacing, as well as extensive seeding to finish the historic vista to its original splendour.

Challenges

As a major tourist attraction, it was essential to keep Wrest Park open to the public at every weekend. Although this presented a challenge to the team, works were phased and programmed in collaboration with English Heritage to mitigate this constraint. For example, elements of work being undertaken during the week had to be completed as much as possible every Friday in order to minimise disruption to the public at the weekends.

The park also contained a number of historic features which had to be protected before construction, including numerous statues, hedges, trees, gates and ornamental lawns. Whilst undertaking works in these areas, fencing and signage was installed to ensure that these historic and valuable artefacts were protected. Any excavation works carried out also had to be observed by English Heritage’s nominated Archaeologists.