Roaming round Rivington

A gloriously warm sunny day a week ago saw me heading off with the dogs and the camera on a two-part walk to explore the terraced gardens and the old castle at Rivington. I left the van in the same car park as when I walked up to Rivington Pike a couple of months ago but this time instead of taking the steep rocky path on the left I took the one on the right. It was still a bit rocky in places but nowhere near as ankle-twistingly bad as the other path, and being more of a gentle incline meant the walk wasn’t as strenuous.
Conceived and financed by soap magnate William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme), one of the town’s most famous sons and founder of Lever Brothers (now Unilever), the gardens were designed mainly by landscape architect Thomas Mawson, with work spanning a 17-year period up to 1922. Features of the gardens included lawns, terraced pathways, stone staircases, a boating lake, waterfalls, Japanese lake, several summerhouses and pavilions and the Pigeon Tower.
After Lever’s death in 1925 many of the buildings gradually fell into disrepair over the years and were eventually either fenced off or demolished, though the remains of several of those can still be seen. In 2014 the gardens were named by the BBC Countryfile programme as one of Britain’s Best Lost Gardens and in early 2016 the Rivington Heritage Trust secured £3.4million from the Heritage Lottery fund to improve, revitalise and maintain the gardens and their features.
The first thing I came to on my walk was Lever Bridge which crossed the main pathway through the gardens. The design is based on a bridge which Lever had seen while on a trip to Nigeria; with one large arch crossed by six smaller ones it’s known locally as Seven Arch Bridge. A minor path and several steps led to the lower end of the bridge, and the bridge itself consisted of a series of wide shallow stone steps leading up to a steeper flight of steps with a stone summerhouse at the top.
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Seven Arch Bridge
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The summerhouse
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The bridge from the summerhouse
At each side of the summerhouse were steps leading up to the roof but these had been blocked off by railings, so to get to the path above I had to climb up the steep bank nearby. A hundred yards or so to the left I came to what was once the swimming pool/boating lake, though as it wasn’t that big I would have said it was more of a large pond than a lake. It was obviously an area that the conservationists hadn’t yet got round to tackling as the banks were overgrown with vegetation and there were broken tree branches and bits of rubbish floating in the weed-covered water. It didn’t look pretty, and the photo I took was deleted almost immediately.
Beyond the far end of the pond was a triple-arched wall which didn’t seem to serve any purpose, and an arcaded loggia with steps up to a rooftop platform although these, like the summerhouse below, were blocked off by railings. Steps from there led up to another summerhouse and a pavilion and even more steps, steeper this time, finally took me to the Pigeon Tower on the lane at the top. Just beyond the long wall of the Pigeon Tower another path branched off from the lane and took me back down the terraces to a large open area which would once have been the Great Lawn and a tennis court, both overlooked by similar-looking summerhouses.
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The triple-arched wall
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Pigeon tower wall with pigeon holes
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Summerhouse overlooking the Great Lawn
From there I wandered down and along various paths until, at the bottom of a short flight of steps, I found myself overlooking the lake in the Japanese garden down below. The garden was created in 1921-2, inspired by a visit William Lever had made to Japan in 1913, and at one time it featured three Japanese-style pagodas though these have long since been demolished and only their stone bases now remain. The lake looked very attractive and certainly deserved a few photos.
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Overlooking the Japanese garden
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From the lake I gradually made my way via various paths and steps to the main path and headed back to the car park. About halfway along the path split into two with a bench at the junction so I sat for a few minutes just taking in the view. Immediately in front of me was Lower Rivington reservoir, which was where I was now headed, and in the hazy distance right over to the west was the coastline of Formby and Southport; without the haze I would have been able to see Blackpool tower and the Big One at the pleasure beach a bit further north.
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View from the path
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Heading back to the car park
From the car park I drove down through Rivington village and parked at the beginning of one of several tree-lined paths which took me on a pleasant walk to Lower Rivington reservoir and Liverpool Castle. The original 13th century Liverpool Castle on Merseyside was situated just west of what is now the Liverpool One shopping centre and leisure complex, though by the early part of the 18th century most of the fortification had been destroyed or demolished. The Rivington replica was commissioned by William Lever in 1912; it was purely and simply a folly, never intended to be fully completed as it was meant to look like it had been there for many years. Unfortunately construction work stopped when Lever died in 1925 and the castle never reached the stage he’d envisaged.
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Castle entrance with Rivington Pike and Winter Hill in the distance
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The North West tower
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A secret passage – barely wider than my own shoulders
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South West tower
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A wide path took me round the side and the back of the castle and after negotiating some steps and a steep-ish slope I found myself on a sandy but stony ‘beach’ at the side of the reservoir. I walked along until an outcrop of trees barred my way then turned and retraced my steps – and for the second time in just over a week Sophie, the little dog who hates water, surprised me by running in and out of it and playing her own little game. She didn’t swim – maybe that was going a bit too far – but she did go in further than just her paws.
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Lower Rivington reservoir
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Eventually I left the reservoir, made my way back round the castle and took the long wide path back to the van – I’d been wandering round for a total of over two hours and it was time to go home for a brew. When I checked my step counter late that evening I’d completely smashed my 10,000 steps daily target and done a total of 11,894, the majority of them while I’d been roaming round Rivington. It just shows what can be done when you have a camera, two dogs and some lovely sunny weather!
I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday Walk this week where colour abounds in a series of village gardens near Boroughbridge in Yorkshire – I just wish I could get my own garden looking like some of those!
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9 thoughts on “Roaming round Rivington

  1. The gardens would have looked stunning back in the day. Nice to see Sophie having a little paddle, maybe she was feeling hot and realises it’s a good way to cool down. Lovely photos on a beautiful day.

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    1. I would have loved to see the Japanese garden as it once was with the pagodas and the waterfall, it must have been beautiful. Much of the ornamental planting in the gardens has gradually been replaced by woodland over the years and as it would be too costly to restore the gardens to their original plans the conservationists are concentrating on improving and maintaining them in their currently wooded state and making safe any existing buildings.

      As for Sophie going in the water – maybe after falling into the creek on my canal walk a month ago she’s realised that water isn’t so bad after all 🙂

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  2. That bridge is fabulous! If I’m ever over that way, Eunice, this will be a must. And the Triple arched wall and Pigeon Tower too. You took us there once before. didn’t you? I must note it down. 🙂 🙂 Thanks a lot, and have a good week!

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  3. It’s a fascinating place Jo, steeped in local history and with far more to it than I actually explored that day. If you do ever get over this way it’s well worth having a look round, and if you want coffee and cake there’s a cafe in the big barn on the road through the village 🙂

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  4. It’s a fascinating place Jayne, it must have been fabulous in its heyday. I must admit to being disappointed to see that all the rhododendrons have been cut down, especially around the Japanese lake – I’ve seen photos of the place when they were all in bloom and it looked stunning. I had seen that website, in fact I used it to check a couple of details while I was writing the post – I like the photo of the old house that’s on there, now that’s a place I would have loved to explore if it had still been there.

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  5. It’s a lovely place, and so vast it would take hours to explore properly. Lever’s original Rivington estate comprised 2,100 acres, of which the terraced gardens and Lever Park, leading down to the reservoir, are only part, and it’s a great place for dog walking on a nice day 🙂

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