Wakehurst wins award for restoration work

Westwood Lake at Wakehurst Place. Picture: Liz Pearce
Westwood Lake at Wakehurst Place. Picture: Liz Pearce

A major restoration project in a grade two historic parkland at Wakehurst has won a coveted award.

Westwood Lake in Ardingly is part of the 600-acre estate managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for over 49 years.

The one-hectare lake in Westwood Valley is listed as a notable feature of Wakehurst and Chiddingly Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and forms part of a wider wetland conservation area.

The restoration work was part-funded by Natural England under their Historic and Archaeological Protection Scheme.

Jo Barnes, Natural England’s historic environment specialist for Sussex & Kent, said: “I am thrilled that Wakehurst has won a Sussex Heritage Award”

“The Environmental Stewardship Scheme has provided a fantastic opportunity for many wonderful historic features to be saved in Sussex and shows how working together our entire heritage whether it is wildlife or historic can work together with mutual benefits”.

Wakehurst’s conservation and woodlands manager Iain Parkinson explained: “We’re really thrilled to receive this award which is testimony to Kew’s conservation work. It was only achievable through the collaborative efforts of our dedicated team working alongside a range of specialists.

“The project was a complex one and involved many facets, including dredging accumulated silts to increase water storage capacity to supply irrigation water to the botanic gardens. We also installed the new reed bed silt trap which will ease future lake maintenance.”

Westwood Lake is linked to a series of historic hammer ponds, part of the post-medieval iron industry in Sussex. The peace and tranquillity today is in complete contrast to the times when the area was a thriving industrial landscape providing a livelihood for local people.

“It has always been one of my favourite places at Wakehurst,” Iain added.

“The project took three years to complete and we know that many visitors have been following progress with interest. We are now delighted they can see enjoy it fully restored.”

Sussex Heritage Trust awarded the project its Landscape and Gardens Award 2014 at a ceremony last week.

One of the judges said, “This was a well-executed project that already appears well-established and in keeping with its surroundings. This was a very technically challenging project to accomplish, including creating a reed bed to capture the silt. The old silt had to be pumped 500 metres up a steeply wooded slope as part of the restoration.”

The principal contractor was Albourne-based PHB Ltd.

Its Contracts Manager Jon Davies said: “It was a real pleasure to be involved with this project which was not without challenging moments, which is understandable for a contract of this scale and complexity. Through these challenges though, we have forged a close partnership with Kew’s excellent team at Wakehurst to produce a Sussex Heritage Award-winning landscape that all involved should be truly proud of.”