Much has work has taken place since the project began in April 2015.
The remaining trees in the vista area were thinned, expanding the views down the garden and further into the park. This has opened up the terraces, making them an impressive feature as well as revealing the structure of the gardens for the first time in 40 years, when it was planted with conifer and beech. With the help of internal and external volunteer groups such as the Cotswold Wardens large quantities of brash (small branches left after the trees were felled) were burnt to clear the site.
With the timber extracted from the gardens, the tree stumps could be removed by
contractors using a stump grinding machine. As well as those stumps from the recent felling works, there were a number remaining from previous felling works. The same machine could then be used to mulch the vegetation remaining on the terraces, finally revealing the structure.
In the second phase of the project, a geophysical survey was carried out in search of more information of what the gardens used to look like. Disappointingly no results were found to help with the excavations.
We then started to excavate the former pond and fountain, uncovering a red brick edge to the pond and a pedestal in the middle where the water once flowed from. Having taken advice from the archaeologist the pond will be temporarily covered to protect it.
Previous investigative works 20 years ago showed that stone steps were possibly located each side of the pond leading up to the next terrace. Using a map produced at the time, trenches were dug in the area to look for signs of the steps. However no evidence of the steps was found.
The map also showed where paths might have run through the original garden. More excavation works were carried out in these areas using a small digger. Excitingly, this led to the discovery of the original paths, 6ft wide, made of fine amber gravel. Paths were found running through the wooded gardens and along the bottom of the second terrace.
Excavations also took place on the top terrace to look for signs of a retaining wall. Instead of a wall, a tumble of rocks was uncovered. This lay directly in line with the
temple ruins and pond. We understand this could be a water cascade, although no evidence of an inlet or outlet for water has been found.
Hopefully reading this has given you a hunger for the project and the next 6 months or so it going to be very exciting. I will of course keep you updated but please go and have a look at the project for yourself if you have chance.
Max Dancer, Area Ranger, Woodchester Park