The Grand Cascade at the Alnwick Garden is built into two listed earth banks, dating from the 1850s, which create the Garden’s slope. Every minute, 7,260 gallons of water tumble down a series of 21 weirs, with water displays on the hour and half-hour.
Jets of water shoot high in the air before splashing onto the terrace, allowing children to run beneath them. Youngsters can also collect water from the water walls at the foot of the Cascade in John Deere mini-tractors. The water feature, built from local Darney stone, is surrounded by hornbeam pergolas which echo the stone curves, and beyond these lie rills and shallow pools.
But there is a whole lot more going on underneath. What appears as an effortless display of water on the surface takes a lot of work below where the water flow is computer-controlled by state-of-the-art equipment in the pump rooms. It’s a different world down here, accessed by a door from the Poison Garden, a mass of pipes, pumps and banks of computer controls. But it does look a little familiar as the underground rooms exactly mirror the above Cascade, even the curved staircases up the sides.
The bank of controls allows the water, pumps and jets to be used in different sequences. It’s computer-controlled so you can put in whatever you want to put in. In the Upper Garden and the Serpent Garden, there are interactive water features and they are all controlled from down here too. There is an automatic water treatment system This is key as the water has to be treated to the same standards as a swimming pool because children play in and around the water.