CLENT HILLS ROTARY CLUB: Head of Landscape at Hagley Hall, Joe Hawkins, described the work he has been carrying out on the restoration of the historic Grade 1 listed Hagley Park. Joe has been working for three years in pursuit of Lord Cobham's dream to return the parkland to its 18th century glory. His excellent presentation showed how the plan commenced by George, the 1st Lord Lyttelton. was a forerunner of a new concept of natural picturesque landscape design which contrasted with the layout of formal gardens of earlier centuries. Within the original hillside land form, new lakes and cascades were formed, and walkways created through areas of woodland and open spaces, giving ever changing views of the many features and follies which were placed strategically within the park. This new natural parkland garden attracted world wide attention, and was frequently visited by poets John Milton and Alexander Pope.

Over time, lakes had become silted up, building features almost completely lost, woodland altered naturally and pathways overgrown. An archived plan of Hagley Estate dated 1825 has formed the basis for the restoration work but the careful research and detailed site investigation by Joe and his team have revealed some exciting original cascade features. Old photographs and paintings had been invaluable in helping Joe and Lord Cobham to rebuild the Palladian Bridge to the original design and vistas to the Rotunda and Ruined Castle had been opened up. Joe appealed for any other similar records which could help confirm the original layout of the park.

In giving a vote of thanks, Keith Sprason said the presentation by Joe Hawkins to more than 20 Clent Hills Rotary members and guests had taken them on an enthralling journey from 'Paradise Lost' to 'Paradise Regained'.