£1m grant helps restore Yorkshire follies walk that once inspired Turner

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A 250-YEAR-OLD route through ancient North Yorkshire woodland which inspired artist JMW Turner, has been restored following a £1m grant.

The circular walk created by William Aislabie through his estates at Studley Royal, Laver Banks and Hackfall Woods, in Nidderdale, has been painstakingly recreated by local writer Mark Reid and forestry chiefs.

The original route took visitors – including European aristocrats visiting England on the Grand Tour of Europe – through the follies and features which Mr Aislabie installed in the forests and gardens.

The work is part of the £1m restoration of Hackfall Woods by a team of landscape architects, ecologists and hydrologists, which last year scooped a coveted European heritage award.

Much of the original landscaping was as a result of design and work undertaken by the Aislabie family, who bought the woods in the 18th century.

Paul Mosley, the Woodland Trust Hackfall officer, said: “For the first time in 200 years, walkers can re-discover the unique landscape journey though the Aislabie Landscapes of North Yorkshire, visiting Studley Royal, Laver Banks and Hackfall.

“The stretches of the walk through Hackfall takes visitors on an inspirational and picturesque journey around the garden features created by William Aislabie.

“This section of the walk includes some amazing viewpoints, vistas, water features and follies that enhance the natural features of the woodland landscape.”

Details of the newly restored walk, which takes in more than 17 miles of rolling countryside, have been distributed through 1,000 free copis of a guide and is also available to download from the Woodland Trust website.

Mr Reid said: “The whole swathe of countryside from Fountains Abbey to Hackfall is culturally and historically renowned, and 200 years ago these breath-taking landscapes were firmly on the map of well-heeled travellers taking in the Grand Tours of the day.

“What William Aislabie created at Studley Royal and Hackfall led the way for garden design on a grand scale, with a private carriageway that linked up his landscape gardens.

“Sadly, this route fell out of use in the nineteenth century and has since been lost. But I was able to use a little artistic licence, combined with clues and evidence of the original to create something which hopefully William Aislabie would have approved of.”

A five-year Woodland Trust project to restore the castle, follies, cascades and fountain at Hackfall Woods, near Ripon, won the 2011 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage.