Prior Park in Bath to undergo £2.2m restoration

A “vital” £2.2m restoration project to safeguard the future of the lakes in Prior Park’s much-loved Georgian landscape garden in Bath is planned by the National Trust.

The charity has cared for the Grade I-listed location for 25-years, and from next year will undertake major repairs to the 18th-Century dams.

A National Trust spokesperson said that £2.1m was already in place for the restoration, and the charity has launched a public appeal to raise the final £100,000 needed to ensure that all aspects of the work can start early in 2019.

Tom Boden, National Trust general manager at Prior Park, said: “You never tire of the view down through the park’s secluded valley into the heart of Bath.

“Prior Park is greatly admired for its rare Palladian Bridge and lakes, along with the peace and tranquillity it offers.

“In 1996 we first opened the park to visitors and it’s vital that this treasured landscape is there for future generations to enjoy.”

The garden will remain open during the restoration.

The Palladian Bridge at Prior Park, Bath – image copyright: National Trust Images/James Dobson

In the mid-1700s, the garden was the grand vision of one Ralph Allen. From humble beginnings, the local entrepreneur rose to become one of the wealthiest men in the country, and he created this landscape garden and mansion with fine views over Bath. His Palladian bridge is one of only four built to this design in the world, and the three Georgian dams created the lakes that make this garden so memorable.

But time takes its toll, and it is the dams that now need major and expert attention. Working down the garden from the bridge, the middle dam needs the most restoration. The middle lake has already been emptied to take the load off the dam and allow it to be fully restored – including being reinforced to prevent crayfish burrowing in – and then the middle path reopened. A small cascade – one of Allen’s original features – will also be reinstated here, and the lower dam is to be strengthened.

The Palladian Bridge in Prior Park, Bath – picture copyright: Philip Halling

Alice Palfrey, National Trust head gardener at Prior Park, sees the park through all its seasons. She said: “Prior Park is a special place for so many people – a real oasis of calm on the edge of a bustling city. And not just for people, but for nature too – from butterflies and wildflowers to kingfishers and swans.

“It’s great to see visitors relaxing by the lakes, and taking in the view. The garden will remain open during the restoration, so as well as enjoying it in all seasons, you can follow the work in progress.”