Reigate park's "lost" pond, admired by Queen Mary, restored to former glory

A pond in Reigate's Gatton Park, which was admired by Queen Mary but has been lost for more than 50 years, has been restored to its former glory.

The Pulhamite Pond in the park's Rock and Water Garden, named after its creators, James Pulham and Sons, is to be officially opened this coming Sunday (April 21).

Originally constructed in 1912, the pond was the centrepiece of the Rock and Water Garden, through which its creators transformed an area of the park which was a sloping lawn and shrubbery, into a dramatic rock escarpment with naturalistic pools.

James Pulham and Sons were craftsmen, known as “rock builders,” who were famed for their picturesque rock gardens, follies, grottos and ferneries built around the UK during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

At Gatton Park, they wove a mixture of hoggin and stone paths through the rock work, using Kentish Ragstone and sandstone to make up the face of the rock garden and the surrounding ponds.

In November 1913, the garden was described in The Journal of Horticulture and Home Farmer as ‘a rockery cascade,’ planted with ‘heaths, alpines, bog plants and aquatics.’ Such was the beauty of the garden that Queen Mary would visit at peak times of the year. But during the 1950s, regular maintenance of it ended, and the garden was lost.

Many of the paths and ponds became buried and trees seeded into the rockwork, converting the once open rock face into scrub woodland.

The garden's centrepiece, the Pulhamite Pond, was cracked by the tree roots that were growing in it, and so did not hold water for many years.

Now though, the pond is back to its former splendour thanks to the work of the Gatton Trust volunteers.

The group was formed in 1996, originally under the name of the Gatton Park Conservation Volunteers, with the aim of trying to restore the lost rock garden. No records from Pulham and Son survived and the only plans to work from were those on the 1913 Ordnance Survey map and an estate map of 1923. A spokesman for Gatton Park, said: “Gatton Trust has now restored this wonderful example of James Pulham's work to its former glory. “This work has been carried out by contractors, staff and volunteers over the last nine months and the end result is stunning.”

The project was also supported by, among others, The Pilgrim Trust, the Alpine Garden Society, the Surrey Gardens Trust, and Surrey Historic Buildings Trust.

Reigate and Banstead mayor Roger Newstead also allocated the Councillor’s Community Awards for the restoration.

The spokesman said: “The restored Pulhamite Pond area has also created a magical space for education, theatre and recreation.”

At the opening this Sunday, volunteers and staff will picnic by the park's also recently restored Victorian Parterre, before walking to the Rock and Water Garden for the official opening, followed by a guided walk of the park and gardens.

Gatton Park, which is centred on the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, consists of 250 acres of parkland and a Palladian mansion set in the North Downs. Dating back to the Domesday Survey, Gatton was enhanced in the 1760s by the great landscaper Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, with lakes, a serpentine and woodlands blending with gardens created at the turn of the last century. The Park is currently being conserved, restored and developed as a centre for excellence for all aspects of education for students of all ages, the public and pupils of the school.

It is open to the public on the first Sunday of the month from February to October from 1pm to 5pm.

Website: www.gattonpark.com

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