A £3.4 MILLION Lottery grant has been awarded to Rivington Terraced Gardens so they can be updated and enjoyed by future generations. Bolton News reporter Andrew Bardsley went to Rivington to see the plans first hand.

BEING based in the metropolitan heart of Bolton, you sometimes forget the beautiful greenery and landscape on the doorstep.

Passing through Horwich and into the edges of Chorley, I soon realised I was moving closer into the heart of the countryside. After parking up at the bottom of the estate once owned by Bolton-born soap magnate Lord Leverhulme, I had no idea what to expect when climbing up the rocky, wet and muddy pathways to have a look at the buildings in the gardens and the magnificent scenery.

I soon realised the gardens are a place of wonder and mystery, steeped in history and littered with quirks and references to Lord Leverhulme and his life.

I was led by Ben Williams from Groundwork, who has project managed the scheme and the successful funding bid from the National Lottery with the Rivington Heritage Trust.

Ben has spent the best part of five years preparing for this, and says it was a relief to secure the funding. He said: "If we hadn't have secured this money, it would have been another 10 years before we could try again. With the way the rate of decay is going, in another 10 years it would have been near impossible to get the project going."

We were first taken to one of the Japanese gardens created in the 1920s by Lord Leverhulme. The garden and stream are often labelled as the Chinese gardens, but as Ben explains, there is nothing Chinese about them.

He said: "Japanese gardens were in fashion at the time, so Lord Leverhulme decided to have one himself. The Chinese tag has stuck over time but it is a Japanese garden envisaged by British designers."

Ben explained that this particular area was in fairly good condition but will be cleaned and minor touches will be made to improve it.

He said: "We don't want to take things back to exactly how they were, and why would you, because it is such a lovely space. It is about preserving what we have and improving what we can."

The winding pathways are full of history and character, and we came across some dilapidated cook houses which were used by the British Army during World War Two to store supplies.

We also saw two summer houses on the site which have been closed off to the public because of safety fears, but will be re-opened as part of the project.

They were used by Lord Leverhulme as viewing posts to look around the spectacular hills of the nearby towns - Blackpool Tower is visible on a clear day.

We then continued up to the area where Lord Leverhulme's home was located, and saw where some of the original black and white parquet flooring remains in the ladies toilets.

The building was demolished after World War Two and was used to house troops, but was not maintained and left in a dilapidated state.

Ben says organisers will map out where the house stood and its internal map as part of the renovation project.

We finally arrived at the estate's 'piece de resistance' – the Pigeon Tower with its stunning panoramic views of the landscape.

The tower was used by Lady Leverhulme where she would knit and carry out needlework for hours on end, but is currently closed off to the public. It is hoped the tower will eventually be re-opened on bank holidays and weekends.

Ben explained: "I have been inside the tower, and in all honesty there is not much in it, but it will be nice for people to have a look. We will do our best to restore it, people are very curious about the tower."

As we made our way back down from the peak of Pigeon Tower, the true beauty of the area continues.

We came across another summerhouse, with majestic walkways showcasing the best of early 20th century craft, which will be improved as part of the scheme.

The walkways will eventually be re-opened and will replace the current timber steps which have become a major bugbear of Ben's.

We came across another pond garden, which evidently needs more work than most, with an unhealthy amount of algae on the water's surface.

My two-hour tour of the terraced gardens only scratched the surface, but you can tell that once this project has finished the area will be a major heritage attraction.

As Ben explains, the grant will not bring the gardens back to the glory of the days when Lord Leverhulme lived there, and it is all about conservation and preservation.

The £3.4 million will go a long way, but more cash is needed and plans are already afoot for the next stage of developments to encompass areas of the estate not included in this scheme.

Two hundred thousand people a year visit the gardens, and hundreds of thousands take part in the Easter walk every year. Surely this will only increase when the gardens have been given the much needed spring clean they so richly deserve in 2018.