Prior Park to undergo £2.2 million restoration

At the end of the project we will be able to refill the lakes and restore the reflections
Published : 30 Apr 2018 Last update : 07 May 2018

A £2.2 million restoration project to safeguard the future of the lakes in this much-loved Georgian landscape is being planned by the local National Trust team. The Trust has cared for Prior Park for 25 years, and from next year will undertake major repairs to the 18th-century dams.

As an independent conservation charity, the Trust has £2.1 million in place for the restoration and in this 25th anniversary year we are launching 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, Prior Park General Manager, 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.’ 

In the mid-1700s, the garden was the grand vision of one Ralph Allen. From humble beginnings, local entrepreneur Allen 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 the 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 to allow it to be fully restored and then the middle path reopened (the path has been closed for safety for a number of years). A small cascade – one of Allen’s original features – will also be reinstated here, and the lower dam is to be strengthened.

Prior Park is a haven for wildlife, but one particular animal is proving less than welcome. Invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) have all but eradicated the native white-clawed crayfish. Larger, aggressive and fertile, signal crayfish are burrowing into the banks of the lakes and dams and opening up holes. There’s no successful non-chemical method of control, and chemical control would harm the natural environment and any remaining native species. So expert engineers, ecologists and architects have come up with a cunning new plan – the new design for the middle dam will be reinforced to prevent the crayfish burrowing in.

Alice Palfrey, Prior Park Head Gardener, sees the garden 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.’

With the £2.1 million already secured through gifts, legacies and the National Trust’s charitable funds, people who love and value the garden can now be part of this important conservation project.