THE Japanese Garden at Cowden is soon to be opened to the public for the first time in more than 50 years.

The team behind the restoration of the unique spot in Clackmannanshire, located on the far eastern border, a mile from Dollar Academy, is working towards a date of Friday, July 6.

In March, the poor weather brought long-term implications for the project and delayed some of the developments, meaning the opening has been rescheduled a couple of times.

But progress has been made in the intervening period and over 600 visitors had a sneak peak earlier this month as part of Scotland's Gardens.

Tom McCappin, project manager, said: “The weather has been pretty good – we’ve managed to get, in terms of the actual garden, a lot of the work has been caught up with.

“The grass-cutting and all of the planting is finished. It was actually so dry that we had to some watering of the newly planted trees.

“As well as the garden there’s a lime tree avenue which we’ve got a walk through and there’s a short woodland walk which we’ve got ready.

“We’re going to expand that later on in the season and make it longer, at the moment it’s quite short but it is open.

“The work on the new access off the Hillfoots road, the work on the wall is complete now.

"We just need to sort out the passing places, there’s a requirement for five passing places to be built on the Hillfoots road between ourselves and Muckhart."

The garden was established in 1908 by Ella Christie of Cowden Castle, then handed over to her great nephew Robert Stewart.

It was created by Taki Handa, the first and only Japanese woman to be accredited with designing a garden of that nature.

Vandalism in 1963 saw the tea houses and bridges burned, lanterns and shrines knocked into the water, ripping it apart.

However, when it was taken on by Robert’s daughter Sara Stewart in 2008, she decided to bring it back to its best.

Although not complete, trustees decided to open the garden in 2018 and restoration work will be ongoing.

Tom said the project, which has received help from Clackmannanshire Council's community payback team, is "starting to come together".

There are portacabins on site for toilets, a ticket office and cafe and the search is also on to recruit someone to take charge of the refreshments.

The hope is to be open five days a week, Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm, and visitors are already eyeing it up.

Tom said: “There’s so many people that are really keen for it to open.

"They’ve either never heard of it at all and are really keen to come and see it having read about the history on the website, or some people do actually remember it.

"Some local people remember it from before it was vandalised in the 60s and are keen to come back and see how it’s changed."

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