Rushmore Park’s early history is written on the turf within a few hundred yards of the school in the shape of defensive ditches, Romano-Celtic camps and dwelling areas, and burial mounds.
Later, in the time of King John, an area of 30,000 acres was set aside for the pleasure of the monarch and his noble friends. This has gifted the preservation of some of the most beautiful and untouched countryside in Britain.
The school grounds are situated amongst this beautiful countryside and enclosed within the park which was formed just after the reign of Henry VIII. The school grounds are a parcel inside the Rushmore Park proper. An area of approximately 60 acres which has playing fields, formal walled gardens, courtyard gardens, formal lawns, grassland paddocks and natural deciduous woodland.
From 1880 onwards, Rushmore House and the surrounding grounds were converted to the summer residence for Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers. At the heart of the grounds is a walled garden, enclosing nearly 3 acres and a Temple dedicated to Vesta erected in 1890 to commemorate the birth of the General’s first grandson.
The architectural forms in the garden are complemented by huge trees dating from the same period. These include the Sequoia and the majestic Cedar of Lebanon. The trees form breathtaking vistas and feature points that tie the natural geographical formations to the hard and soft landscaping.
The Walled Garden was once a working garden as well as a place of pleasure. In the place of the current Walled Garden Pre-Prep school was an iron-framed greenhouse with heated floors. This would have produced fruit and produce for the house. In the main walled garden today there are large herbaceous borders which major in the spring and summer. The pond, once the school’s swimming pool, is now a beautiful habitat for dragonflies and amphibians, and is a registered breeding ground for the endangered Great Crested Newt.
As well as the formal grounds the environment supports distinct habitats. Specific conservation zones in the school grounds include chalk grassland (which favours butterflies and insects and has been enhanced with wild flower mixtures favouring pollinators), wetland (for the amphibians), tree canopy and understory (favouring predominantly the invertebrates and small mammals). All of the gardening activities necessary around the school grounds are undertaken with these habitats’ ecology in mind. No insecticides are used within the grounds and the use of all other pesticides and fertilizers are minimised.