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Stourhead: the rope walks

Stourhead Gardens, Wiltshire

We live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty [ANOB] near Stourhead, Wiltshire. It is a beautiful place and the gardens, managed by The National Trust are well worth a visit, see link below. Stourhead is one of the most popular National Trust locations in Britain. It attracts over 400,000 visitors a year, and this leads indirectly to the issue of this rant.

The current Head Gardener, Alan Power, decided quite early in his reign that several grass lawns in the gardens needed to be ‘protected’. He started to erect temporary rope fences to deter visitors from stepping off the hard walkways and onto the grass lawns to admire the views.

These landscaped gardens arranged around a central lake were designed as a open space for people to enjoy at their leisure. The mature trees and shrubs are designed so that visitors only glimpse the lake initially from certain viewpoints, until later in the walk when the vistas open up and the views get more spectacular. It is natural at times to want to stroll ‘off piste’ and relax on the lawns. Children understandable want to roam free.

Before Alan Power took control, the previous Head Gardener, Richard Higgs managed the space successfully without these contraints. But under Alan Power’s direction these temporary rope fences have increased in number, and some are now permanent fixtures made from willow and other natural materials. Some steep banks and edges of lakes are now ‘protected’ by these structures, all in the name of Health and Safety no doubt.

As so it this national treasure is marred at every turn. Every photo image of the landmarks and classic temples in the grounds now feature these ropes and fence posts. Alan Power has made his mark on Stourhead. The rope walks are his legacy to the nation.

You can also opt to follow StourheadNT @ WordPress – see comment from Lauren below.

  1. Fortunately the amount of rope fences has reduced during 2013.


  2. Lauren permalink

    Hi Andrew – thanks for your comment on the Stourhead blog last week. Roping certain areas off around the landscape garden is very much due to conservation needs – the grass and the plants need protection. Our visitor numbers are on a steady rise each year – we reached 400,000 in 2011 – and this is another important factor. Check out our latest post for more information –
    Cheers, Lauren


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