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The Grotto at Prior Park Landscape Garden has been given a new lease of life thanks to a clever lighting installations and a virtual reality walk through the landscape gardens that make the most of the 18th century grotto at the gardens.
Thanks to collaborative work between the National Trust, the University of Bath and Enlightened Lighting, the new lighting and virtual reality experience will highlight the architectural features of the grotto.
The aim of the work is to help visitors to understand how the garden would have looked and felt in the 18th century.
The grotto was originally built in the eighteenth century by Alexander Pope as a retreat from the open for Mrs Allen. It was designed to show of rocks, minerals and fossils that decorated the floor and roof.
Over the course of time parts of the grotto have vanished and parts been claimed by nature. At the start of 2016 the National Trust team at Prior Park removed some ivy and a large turkey oak that had grown through the centre of the floor and was threatening the unique eighteenth century mosaic.
After this initial piece of work to save and reveal the grotto’s structure the specialists at Enlightened Lighting installed blackout curtains and atmospheric up-lighting to highlight architectural features throughout the grotto.
Leading up to the grotto, a virtual reality walk through the garden was created by John Tredinnick based at the University of Bath. The computerised walk follows a path through the garden highlighting structures such as the gothic temple, thatched cottage and mysterious pineapple house, allowing visitors to get a feel of what the garden would have been like 300 years ago.
“This has brought the grotto brought back to life with support from local people,” said Anna Kilcooley, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator for the National Trust.
“The grotto is now a destination in the garden, instead of being a rickety old structure most visitors walked past. The garden is planted to be like a time capsule, with trees and shrubs which would have been in the country in Ralph Allen’s time, and this project means visitors can take their step back in time that little bit further. It’s important that we keep these stories alive for years to come.”
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the death of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the famed landscape designer who had a hand in the creation of Prior Park. During this year, gardens across the country have been hosting events related to his work.