Rivington Terrace Gardens are one of the main attractions in Rivington. They were conceived and financed by soap magnate William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme), one of Bolton’s most famous sons and founder of Lever Brothers.
In 2014 they were named as one of Britain’s Best Lost Gardens by Countryfile, the popular BBC TV programme.
Known to locals as the Japanese Gardens, they occupy 45 acres of the hillside between Rivington Pike and Rivington Hall Barn. A myriad of woodland paths crisscross the site, linking a number of stone buildings, structures and other features. Work on the gardens started in 1905 and continued until Lever’s death in 1925. The main designer was landscape architect Thomas Mawson.
60 years later, United Utilities own the land, and the Rivington Heritage Trust repair and conservation project is underway.
As the project progresses, and more of the shrubs, self-seeded trees and mud are cleared away, the original shape of Lord Leverhulme’s garden is more visible. New paths are being discovered, new stairways uncovered, and visitors to the gardens are beginning to see how it once might have been.
There is nowhere else like it on Earth. With iconic structures like the Pigeon Tower, the Seven Arch Bridge, the Summer Houses and Loggia, not to mention the Pulham rock faces around the pathways and Lakes – the Italian lake, where Lever used to take his morning swim, and the beautiful Japanese Lake, which was once looked upon from glamorous oriental pagoda-style tea houses – the Gardens are truly unique.
You can follow my GPX route of this area or you can explorer it in your own way, the paths can get a little muddy so choose the right footwear. There are some great views over Horwich and a far from the top of Rivington Pike, Especially Bolton Wanderers Stadium below.
The Pigeon Tower
The top floor of this four-storey building was Lady Leverhulme’s sewing and music room. The second and third floors housed dovecotes. It is situated at the north-eastern corner of the gardens.
The Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden was inspired by a trip Lever took to Japan. Originally it consisted of a lake fed by two waterfalls and surrounded by Japanese tea houses, lanterns, and exotic plants. Of the original features, only the lake and stone bases of the tea houses remain.
At the summit of Winter Hill and built in 1733 from the remains of a beacon platform and pit and from local stone from the River Douglas and wood from the surrounding hills, Grade 2 listed Rivington Pike Tower was formerly used as a hunting lodge by Squire John Andrews, sheltering shooting parties out on a jolly from Rivington Hall.
After decades of disrepair and vandalism the castellated top has been renovated, the roof and chimney replaced, and the door and windows bricked up. Inside, and now unable to be seen, are a fireplace and a small stone-flagged cellar. Due to erosion the doorway now stands a good forty inches above the soil rendering the Tower’s foundations clearly visible.