Heatwave uncovers outline of lost Longleat gardens dating back to the 1600s

Outlines of the walled gardens and the carriageway drive to the house have emerged Credit: Longleat

Outlines of lost 17th-century gardens at Longleat have been revealed by the recent spell of dry weather.

Drone images show long lost walls, pathways, fountains and parterres dating back to the 1600s.

Part of the massive 70-acre, Franco-Dutch formal baroque garden has emerged to the east of Longleat’s Elizabethan stately home.

The gardens once featured canals with cascades and fountains, statues, flower gardens, a maze, a bowling green and The Grove - which was a forest garden intersected by rides at a clearing in the centre.

Outlines of long-lost walls, pathways fountains and parterres dating back to the 1600s have become visible at Longleat. Credit: Longleat

During prolonged hot and dry weather, the grass above the former features becomes stressed and dies off.

When this happens, shadows of what used to be are revealed in outlines on the grass. It happens because the soil buried on top of the former features is shallower than its surrounding areas.

The earliest visible features discovered so far are sections of walled gardens to the front of Longleat House.

They date back to the early 1600s and were painted by the renowned Flemish landscape artist Jan Siberechts in 1675, believed to be the first painting of Longleat.

Other more recent visible features include the 18th-century carriage driveway which once led up to the steps at the front of the house. It remained in use until Longleat opened to the public in 1949.

The overhead view of parch marks created by the hot weather at Longleat Credit: Longleat

Curator James Ford was fascinated by the discovery and said paintings of the gardens can’t compare to the discovered outlines.

“It is fascinating to be able to see these ‘ghost’ gardens and other features literally appearing out of the ground around the house,” he said.

“While we are extremely fortunate to have contemporary engravings and paintings here at Longleat, there is nothing to compare with actual physical evidence.”

Illustrations show former 'long leate' gardens in 1709 Credit: Longleat

But the feature will not be visible for long, as cooler and wetter weather returns to Wiltshire.

“These parch marks, that will entirely disappear again when the rain and cooler weather return, provide us with an invaluable window into a lost world and an opportunity to accurately plot the design and layout of these important elements of Longleat’s history,” James added.