Rvigton terraced gardensRivington Terraced Gardens, near Rivington Pike in Lancashire, were designed in the 1920s for the soap magnate Lord Leverhulme. In their heyday, the dramatic series of themed, hillside gardens were a jaw-dropping sight.

The once spectacular gardens gradually fell into disrepair. They were acquired by North West Water (now United Utilities) in 1974, as part of our catchment land surrounding Rivington reservoir.

We set up the Rivington Heritage Trust in 1997 to champion the gardens’ future, and enhance them for the benefit of the public and the environment. Several United Utilities employees sit on the Trust, with other members including Chorley and Bolton Borough Councils, Lancashire County Council and several independent trustees.

Rivington pigeon towerThe Trust was recently awarded a Development Grant of £60,000 in order to develop detailed plans to restore and improve the gardens. A conservation project aims to carry out repairs to decaying structures such as the Pigeon Tower, improve access around the Gardens, research the site’s fascinating history and make targeted landscape improvements to give visitors a tantalising glimpse into the gardens’ past.

The project, if successful, will also ensure the gardens are better managed, safeguarding them for generations to come.

Creating a brighter future for the gardens, and indeed, looking after the surrounding catchment land in Rivington, requires careful management of competing stakeholder priorities.

For example, in the past we have had to clear the gardens of rhododendrons after the plants became diseased. This generated disapproval from some visitors, and required us to introduce signage and a press campaign to explain our actions.

On the wider catchment land surrounding the gardens, we continue to balance the needs of tenant farmers and leisure users with the need to maintain high quality ‘raw’ water in the reservoir. To this end, we recently managed to get all farmers on our land to agree to a stewardship scheme which curbs activities that could damage the land, or affect water quality.

This has meant that some activities, such as fell races have had to be restricted or redirected. While this does not suit everyone, we have to strike what we believe to be the right balance between the needs of the environment, and the needs of customers who use this beautiful, yet sensitive landscape.

If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews