Like the remains of a lost civilisation, the ruins and follies of Lord Leverhulme’s terraced gardens add a real spirit of adventure and discovery to an autumn exploration of Rivington Wood.
In the early 20th century, soap baron Lord Leverhulme created a terraced garden of Japanese lakes, pagodas, archways, Romanesque bridges and an elaborate ballroom. By 1925 it was all abandoned and today is being reclaimed by nature. It’s a great place to spice up a walk with a game of ‘hide and seek’.
Woods in bloom
Autumn is a particularly rewarding time to visit. Deep carpets of fallen leaves line the paths and fungi flourish, while the tree canopy puts on its final display of colour before shutting down for the winter.
This energising circuit climbs through the wood to the landmark Pigeon Tower. A handy little trail guide can be found at the Great House Visitor Information Centre.
Head for the Hall
From Great House Barn car park, take the long drive to Rivington Hall, turning right down a path to South Lodge.
Claimed by nature
Take the path that climbs to a junction, bearing right after half a mile. Cross a stone footbridge over The Ravine, a series of overgrown man-made cascades, then take the steps to the left and continue on to Roynton Lane.
Turn up stone steps to enter the Japanese water gardens. Climb away from the lake to a small group of ruined sheds and stables, and then pass the partly walled kitchen garden.
The trail continues to the site of the Stone House and then climbs the Long Walk, an extended flight of steps that leads through a stone archway. From above the tennis court shelter on the right, take a path to the left, cutting across Long Walk before climbing to the Lever’s Walk terrace.
Further up the steps, turn left – here, evidence of the chequer-tiled ballroom floor can still be found. Continue on the broad track to pass the site of Belmont Lodge. Ahead is the distinctive Pigeon Tower.
Drop down past the swimming pool and take the first path on the right via the garden shelter steps to Romanesque Seven Arch Bridge, built in 1910.
Cross the bridge and head down the stepped path to rejoin the main track close to South Lodge. Retrace your steps back to Great House Barn. After a crisp autumn walk, this lovely old cruck barn, possibly of Saxon origin, is a great place to head for a hot drink, warming meal or snack.
Main image ©Alamy
Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today and you can enjoy generous savings from the shop price plus, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.