Routine clearing work at Trewithen Gardens has unearthed an ancient path believed to have been hidden for over 200 years.

Head gardener of the Grampound estate, Gary Long, made the discovery completely by accident whilst carrying out restoration work on the Georgian water gardens, which are currently a woodland walk but are being reinstated – starting with the laurel clearance before replanting begins.

Whilst cutting back laurel foliage on a bank, Gary noticed it leveled out on top – which is unusual. He felt it needed further investigation.

“I cut back one large laurel branch and behind it was a clear path beneath a tunnel of foliage, running for a couple of hundred metres. The thickness of the laurel had protected it and years of accumulated leaf mould had stopped anything growing underneath.”

Keen to date the path Gary dug out some of the gardens’ old maps and discovered the path’s appearance on a landscape plan drawn in 1747 – when the water gardens were at their peak, maintained by a large team of gardeners. 

Staffing changes and changes in attitude, which were most acute following each of the world wars. Left the water gardens untended, then unused and they fell into disrepair and became overgrown. Only recently has Gary begun restoring the garden and it has already revealed a couple of surprises.

The next step for the path is a more rigorous excavation to remove the mulch and see if there is a hard surface beneath. Its hoped the rediscovered path will be the main access to the water gardens when Trewithen re-opens to the public in March.