The Big Circle

As the rain was pouring down from a leaden sky today, Sarah made a special request that we have a day out in the countryside. Somewhere not very far away…


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Today, at my suggestion, we went to Rivington, to find the terraced gardens. I had never heard of this place until very recently when someone sent me a photo of some monkey puzzle trees there, which are featured on my Monkey Map blog – here. Named as one of Britain’s Best Lost Gardens in 2014 (by Countryfile), they were financed by Lord Leverhulme, founder of Lever Brothers, and begun in 1900. I was intrigued. So off we went. In the rain.

We arrived at the car park, as directed from the Rivington Trust website. Only to find no evidence of any signs or directions to the gardens. Ronnie asks a friendly local who says they are ‘just over there’, along the footpath. We set off, constantly being reminded that we are on land that is owned by United Utilities, which of course immediately sets the tone for our conversation which starts with, ‘How can you sell the rain?’

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We see a right turn, and make the assumption we are heading down into the gardens, I’ve read there is a ravine as part of them. Spirits are starting to flag as we don’t see any evidence of gardens, the rain hasn’t let up and it’s very, very muddy. But, at last, we find the first sign…. and think we must be very near. Nice of United Utilities to let us use it as a ‘resource’, after all it was gifted to the people of Bolton by Lord Leverhulme.

the big circle

So, this is the map of our adventure. We’ve arrived at the first sign and think we’re happily back on track and take a right turn along the path, arriving at a rather nice area planted with conifers, the first evidence we’ve seen of ‘gardening’.

Yes, it also contains some monkey puzzle trees. Two in fact.

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It’s here that we are joined by a very friendly dog, and use the opportunity to ask the dog’s owner where the gardens are. ‘Oh, you’re nearly back at the road here,’ she says, ‘the gardens are up the hill.

We turn round, retrace our steps, and continue up said hill. It’s a pretty long slog. We’re getting a bit miserable now and fed up.

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Arriving at this section of the hill we see evidence of landscaping.

Remnants of what was there before. And a stone steps path. Which we follow.

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And which goes on for an awfully long time. But eventually arrives at this rather folly-ish feature.

This is the photograph that I’ve seen of the gardens, thinking it looked very impressive. And it is. But, as Ronnie points out, ‘If that’s the best picture it’s probably the best bit of the gardens.’ Cynical?

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We find a stone each and sit under the big arch for our lunch. We know how to enjoy ourselves.

And, I observe, all adventures are better when you’ve got a bit of food. After all, no self-respecting hobbit would begin any kind of adventure without food.

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And I do consider myself fairly hobbit-like.DSC05409


We’re done now, and it’s time to head home. We discover we are just a short distance from ‘the wrong turn’.

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Passing the ‘wrong’ turn. But then, there are no wrong turns, life, as the New Seekers once said, is all one big circle.

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So we gazed at the rainy view down to Rivington. And then the two hobbits went home.



Join the Conversation


  1. The gardens at Rivington were designed and laid out by the largely self-taught Thomas Hayton Mawson, who also designed many civic parks. His phenomenal output and concepts essentially became the template for the municipal parks that are such a feature of our industrial cities. Several other structures have survived at Rivington. It had a very atmospheric ‘abandoned’ feel when we were taken there as children 50 years ago.

  2. You didn’t make it to the lady leverhulme’s old sewing room and the piano tower?
    You’ve got to keep going right up that hill to the top, it’s worth it for the views.

  3. The view from the pigeon tower is worth the walk up…I was convinced you can see the coast from there. Taking the binoculars next time

  4. Thanks for this – didn’t know about it. I used to work for a water company (not this one) and I have to say despite being a plc we did one heck of a better job of caring for ‘our’ treasures! We all actually cared about them ourselves.

    1. Hi Mary, they seem to have some HLF funding here, but we both felt UU should be doing more themselves. Felt bit like public access is tolerated but not encouraged by them. Very poor signage and a place that could be much improved if a little money was diverted from UU’s shareholders!

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