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 (now Unilever).
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 Chinese 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.
Since Lever’s death many of structures fell into disrepair. In recent years the Rivington Heritage Trust (RHT) has overseen a multi-million pound plan to repair and conserve many of the buildings and features. The woodland and vegetation is now managed and information boards have been erected.
Exploring the gardens fully could easily take the best part of a day. Some of the most interesting features are listed below.
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 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.
This stone bridge lies at the northern end of Rivington Terraced Gardens and crosses Roynton Lane, the main pathway through the gardens. The design is based on a bridge that Lever had seen on a trip to Nigeria. Also known as Seven Arch Bridge, it has one large arch crossed by six smaller ones.
The gardens are owned by United Utilities but are open to the public free of charge. Their Great House Information Centre is a fantastic place to learn more about them and pick up maps and walking guides.
Rivington Terraced Gardens are situated immediately east of Lever Park and Rivington Hall Barn. The easiest way to get to the gardens is to drive to Rivington Hall Barn and walk from there. Rivington Hall Barn is situated on Rivington Lane (postcode BL6 7SB). There’s plenty of free parking at the barn.
The route to the gardens from Rivington Hall Barn forms part of our walk to Rivington Pike.