A major landscaping plan has gone ahead to restore the home of Hampshire's opera festival.
The Grange Park in Alresford is to be restored by landscape architect Kim Wilkie with the help of gardener and TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh.
The 600-acre green space contains The Grange, an important Grade I listed neo-classical country house in the guardianship of English Heritage.
It is home to The Grange Festival, the UK’s newest country house opera festival.
Wilkie has been commissioned by the Baring family, which owns the estate, and will work closely with them and The Grange Festival team to restore the original Arcadian vision of the park, creating a new experience for opera audiences in the first season next summer.
Kim Wilkie’s plans include restoring parts of the original driveway so opera goers will not only have a smoother ride to the site, but also experience views of the historic mansion on the approach.
The former parterre garden will be removed and a new lawn with mowing plan will provide private picnic pavilions overlooking the lake and valley.
Mark Baring, owner of The Grange, said: “My father and I are delighted to have secured Kim Wilkie’s help in restoring key features of the parkland at The Grange. We are confident that, coupled with exciting plans for the opera, the changes we are making will help transform the experience of opera-goers.”
Kim Wilkie said: “The Grange is a wonderful Arcadian landscape of ruined temples, grazing cattle and swans drifting on a still lake. The restoration of the park will create a perfect setting on a summer’s evening to wander out from the opera with your head full of music to feast in the meadow.”
Alan Titchmarsh, gardener, novelist and broadcaster, who is on the Board of The Grange Festival, will collaborate with Wilkie to ensure the wider plans for the park are married with the best possible experience for The Grange Festival’s audiences.
He said: “No-one is more qualified than Kim Wilkie to enhance The Grange's landscape so that the building and its setting complement one another perfectly. His work at Boughton, at Claremont and other high profile estates have shown him to be supremely creative; his style, while being sympathetic to existing surroundings, has tremendous originality and verve.
"His ability to elevate and improve a landscape with sensitivity and élan is second to none. It is an honour and a delight for me to have some small involvement in the work of a landscaping giant. The Grange is hugely fortunate to be able to benefit from his skills.”
Michael Chance, artistic director of The Grange Festival, said: “An opera house in Arcadia is what we are all aiming for. Kim Wilkie’s plans to return this fabled park to its 18th century look are inspiring. We at The Grange Festival are thrilled to be collaborating with such an artistically minded landlord, who is mindful of both the rich heritage of The Grange and the rich possibilities of the theatre, and who is investing so much in our combined futures.”
The landscaping project is now under way and will be completed in time for the opening of the inaugural season of The Grange Festival on June 7.