WORK is underway to restore the unique Japanese Garden at Cowden, in Clackmannanshire, to its former glory.

Located on the far eastern border, a mile from Dollar Academy, it was established in 1908 by Ella Christie of Cowden Castle, before being handed over to her great nephew Robert Stewart.

An act of vandalism in 1963 – which saw the tea houses and bridges burned, and lanterns and shrines knocked into the water – ripped the garden apart.

However, 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 wants to share it with the community.

She said: “I want it to be another jewel in Scotland and the only way you can do that really, is to enjoy it with other people.” 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, ’slopes of Fuji’, to fund apprenticeships and establish a maintenance fund.

The full cost of the project – which includes plans to build a museum – stands at £1 million and help is needed to make the dream come true.

Sara said: “Although the restoration is being overseen by a Japanese team, locals including ‘Digger’ McCulloch, David Moser and Jamie Macauley are heavily involved and we will be taking on local apprentices. Once the garden is open it will get a lot of publicity and we have got Japanese gardens all over the world who are wanting to twin with it.

“I’m dealing with all the big companies, but I really want to get Clackmannanshire behind it. I really do, because if you have given money to something, you are then part of it.” The project, which is due to be completed in 2016, is being overseen by Professor Fukuhara, who won the Chelsea Flower show and restored the Japanese Gardens at Kew in London.

It will be a prominent feature in the county once finished, with plans for it to be open to the public for at least 20 days of the year, depending on funding.

Sara added: “Anyone really who wasn’t a teen in the 60s probably doesn’t know about it, because it was vandalised in 63. So this is going to be massive, because it will be known. It will be known world wide. It’s of world wide significance already, but once it’s restored it will be even more so.” To donate: Clydesdale Bank in Dollar or via

History of the garden: - In 1906, Ella Christie went on a tour of China, Hong Kong, Russia and Japan.

- When she returned to Cowden Castle in 1908, she was inspired to create her own Japanese Garden.

- She employed Taki Handa to create it, who became the first and only Japanese woman to be accredited for the design of a Japanese Garden.

- Upon her death in 1949, it was handed over to her great nephew Robert Stewart.

- Tragedy struck in 1963 when the tea houses and bridges were burned, while the lanterns and shrines were knocked into the water, in an act of vandalism.

- When Robert’s daughter Sara Stewart took ownership in 2008, she decided to begin a project to restore it.

- In 2013, Professor Fukuhara offered to plan and direct the restoration at a reduced rate.

- The following year, the garden became a charity to raise the necessary capital.

- Work began in the autumn, to restore the west islands, banks and stepping stones.

n The current focus is the replanting of the ’slopes of Fuji’ and restoration of the central island.