One of the most popular posts on this blog so far is Harold Peto – designer of the Petwood Gardens, which I posted in August 2014. In it I mentioned that Emma Brealey, Managing Director of the Petwood Hotel, had a dream – to restore the lost Peto gardens.
Well, after five years in the planning stage, Emma’s dream is now coming true.
Recent visitors will have noticed the result of Phase 1, the restored Long Walk. Now contractors are hard at work on Phase 2, starting with the restoration of the famous terrace, and any day now a totally new Temple of Atalanta will be installed in the park, including a specially prefabricated dome, to be lowered on to a purpose-built ring beam above the recently built foundations.
One of the first steps in this imaginative project was to commission research into the history and development of the gardens, and the findings from two reports were summarised in 2014: “The gardens were designed and laid out in 1912 by Harold Peto, and were largely planned around a central axis that leads south from the main house building. The garden contained many ornamental features including sunken, rose, azalea and Italian gardens, a central raised terrace and a classically inspired Temple of Atalanta, flanked by pergolas. Many of these elements are still extant, although the Temple of Atalanta has largely disappeared.”
Emma told me today: “After the interest in the completion of phase 1 of the restoration works this spring, it is enormously exciting to have commenced work on the next phases which involve more hard landscaping works. The Temple of Atalanta is being reproduced to the original design of what it looked like in 1915. The terrace outside of the main bar is being rebuilt from the foundations upwards following severe weathering over the last century. The front of the hotel is undergoing some soft landscaping works and the car park will be modified in the New Year.”
In a Lincolnshire Life article written in June this year, Emma expanded on the background and aims of restoration project:
“When the house was built for Lady Weigall in 1905, she invested heavily in the garden design and engaged the services of Harold Peto. Sadly, the country house garden that should have been a legacy of Harold Peto fell into disrepair over many decades, when the estate became a hotel and was not run on a wealthy inheritance.
“The outline structure of the gardens is still visible today and has a beauty of its own, but we felt that the glory of the original design should be restored. We have spent five years designing a scheme that will restore the gardens to their Edwardian splendour and, more importantly, ensure that they can be maintained for future generations.
“Our reasons for doing this are twofold: we want to improve and enhance the Petwood and its surroundings, but we also want to encourage footfall into Woodhall Spa.
“There is lot of interest attached to the Harold Peto name and the other Peto gardens in the country receive upwards of 4,000 visitors a year, and some even in excess of 40,000 a year. It all helps to put Woodhall Spa on the map. We are really excited about bringing the classic garden design of 100 years ago to today’s generation. We are fusing the history of the grounds with current landscaping methods and are confident that the end result will be a pleasure for all the Petwood’s guests and visitors to enjoy.
“The Long Walk planting scheme was devised by seven times Chelsea Gold winner Julie Toll. It comprises 2,600 plants across two large beds and includes several varieties of climbing rose which will be trained to grow up and across the newly reinstalled Horley festoons.”