Major conservation work in iconic Petworth Park landscape

The house and upper pond at Petworth House and Park PICTURE BY ANDREW BUTLER
The house and upper pond at Petworth House and Park PICTURE BY ANDREW BUTLER
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A major civil engineering project is being planned by the National Trust at Petworth Park to restore the water quality of the Upper Pond.

Work is to be carried out to repair the carved sandstone of the historic Tillington tunnel, the largest of those that feed water into the pond running from Tillington.

Martyn Burkinshaw, landscape manager at Petworth, said: The tunnel has collapsed in a number of places reducing the flow and it’s hoped that preserving the historic infrastructure, will improve the water quality and restore the look of the landscape created by Capability Brown.”

The project is one of a series of schemes being carried out to preserve the Upper Pond created by the famous landscape gardener - an entirely artificial feature in the landscape that went on to inspire JMW Turner’s iconic painting Dewy Morning of 1810.

The work is also aimed at bringing the view he depicted back to life.

One of the schemes, the felling of trees on many of the pond’s islands to bring back the Turner view, has been criticised as ‘Disneyfying’ the landscape.

But Mr Burkinshaw said it was essential conservation work approved by Natural England which would protect the small islands in the pond.

““This intervention is about looking after Petworth’s hugely significant history so it continues into the future. The works we are carrying out are a unique opportunity to not only address the condition of the Upper Pond for wildlife and its value as a Capability Brown landscape but also to be able to reopen historic views as painted by JMW Turner, which have been lost in time.”

He said the shape of the Upper Pond had also changed and the crisp lines around the edges had shifted: “This year Petworth also has the task of repairing the coping stones surrounding the pond and replacing some in a reinforced mortar to define the shape of the pond as it was initially designed.

“Floating Pennywort, an invasive species, found its way here ten years ago and this spring Petworth will work to remove the plant from the water.

“Over the summer months blue-green algae blooms in the pond due to the large concentration of phosphate in the water.

“This too is something Turner wouldn’t have seen.”

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