Explore the Lime Avenue ponds

In 2017, the Lime Avenue ponds were restored. Restoration work had been a long time in the planning due to the complexity of the project and the costs involved but with funding in place and a commitment to ‘get it done’ this was the year!

Where are the ponds?

Until now, you would have been forgiven for not knowing that there were ponds beside the avenue of lime trees that run southward from the house. Overgrown and full of silt, there was very little standing water making it easy for them to be missed.

The wish to restore the ponds had been there for some time, but before we could begin, research needed to be carried out to determine what the ponds looked like and a significant amount of money needed to be raised.

A brief history of the ponds

We know the ponds date back to at least 1730 as we have maps that show a body of water in the area. It is not clear however from the map what the ponds looked like. There is reference from 1810 of a series of three pools or pits, connected by sluices.

Historic development of the Lime Avenue ponds - 1909 map of Lyme
Historic development of the Lime Avenue ponds - 1909 map of Lyme
Historic development of the Lime Avenue ponds - 1909 map of Lyme

We do know that the second Lord Newton, Thomas Wodehouse Legh, had the ponds de-silted in the very early 1900s as they had ceased to function as ponds; they were then re-mapped in 1909. The 1909 map is the one we have based this restoration on, some features that were added in the 1980s were removed and what we have now is a functioning pond system that is as true to its historical form as possible.

Turning to the past to restore the present

In 2007, Lyme's then Head Ranger Emily organised a fundraising event to help raise money to restore the ponds. Delving in to Lyme's past, she invited staff, volunteers and friends of Lyme to re-enact a fascinating piece of Lyme's history.

Joseph Watson is a Lyme legend, a game keeper who lived to the astonishing age of 104 and who is immortalised in a portrait displayed on the Grand Staircase. He worked on the estate from 1674 to 1751 and it was to him that the task of stag driving often fell. Once, he drove two-dozen red deer from Lyme Park to Windsor for his master’s 500-guinea bet (which he won), and he was apparently still able to hunt at the age of 102, when he chased a buck for the best part of six hours.

Emily set out to recreate Joseph Watson's journey and she and supporters walked the 210 miles to Windsor. They visited several National Trust properties on the way including Little Moreton Hall, Clivedon and Waddesdon Manor. Upon reaching Windsor, they presented the Duke of Edinburgh with a pair of Lyme red deer antlers. The walk raised around £25,000!

And they are off! The 'stags' head to Windsor to raise money to restore the Lime Avenue ponds
Staff and volunteers set off on fundraising walk from Lyme to Windsor
And they are off! The 'stags' head to Windsor to raise money to restore the Lime Avenue ponds

The remainder of the money needed to complete the project was recently secured through the Higher Level Stewardship scheme allowing work to finally commence.

Pond life

Before the work started it was possible to walk past the ‘ponds’ and not even realise that they were there. Now visitors will be able to enjoy their beauty, observe wildlife in and around them and transport themselves back in time whilst listening to the trickling water making its way down from the moors and through these delightful ponds. We are already seeing wildlife return to the ponds with frogspawn spotted near the banks.

The frogs have returned to the ponds!
Frogspawn in the newly restored ponds at Lyme, Cheshire
The frogs have returned to the ponds!

Many thanks to Landmarc, the contractors who did such excellent job completing the works.