THE official opening of the Japanese Garden at Cowden will take place slightly later than expected, due to the poor weather conditions experienced earlier this year.

A project to restore Clackmannanshire’s hidden gem, located on the far eastern border, a mile from Dollar Academy, has been under way for several years.

It was thought the garden could be unveiled to the public this month, for the first time in around six decades, but the opening has been moved to June.

Tom McCappin, project manager, said: “The really bad weather that we had in March, although it only lasted for a week, did have longer-term implications in terms of various things were delayed.

“We’re getting new paths put down and new access to the garden, so everything like that was delayed significantly because of the weather.”

Although the trustees of the Cowden Castle Japanese Garden charity made the decision to open the spot this year, work will be ongoing to bring it back to its best.

And the restoration project for the unique garden, which first began to take shape around 100 years ago, has been going well.

Construction has taken place for an arched bridge, the lake has been re-filled with water and planting is under way.

Grass-cutting has commenced and there is plenty of tree-cleaning going on to make sure the garden looks pristine for its opening.

Tom said: “Initially, when we open the ticket office, the café area will be in temporary accommodation for this season.

“But the plan eventually is to have the proper, probably timber-framed, lodge-type buildings.

"There’s also going to be temporary toilets for this season as well.

“We’re looking forward to getting people coming through the gates.

“When we do open there still will be several parts of the project which will be ongoing.

“We’re getting a large oak-framed gate but that won’t be complete until later in the year, although the garden will still be open.”

The Japanese Garden was established in 1908 by Ella Christie, of Cowden Castle, before being handed over to her great nephew, Robert Stewart.

Vandalism in 1963, which saw the tea houses and bridges burned and lanterns and shrines knocked into the water, ripped the garden apart.

When it was taken on by Robert’s daughter, Sara Stewart, in 2008, she decided to embark on a project to bring it back to its best and wanted to share it with the community.

The garden was once described as the "most important Japanese Garden in the Western world" by Professor Jijo Suzuki, 18th hereditary head of the Soami School of Imperial Garden Design, Japan, 1925.

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

Before Ella’s death in 1949, it had notable visits from HM Queen Mary, historian Andrew Lang, George Blake and novelist Annie S Swan.

In 2014, it became a charity to raise the necessary capital to allow restoration of the paths, islands, tea houses, bridges, and 'slopes of Fuji’, as well as to fund apprenticeships and establish a maintenance fund.

Check for more details on the garden's website,