The rills are fed from a header pond, which is in turn fed from water sources further up the Combe behind the house.
Firemen traced and cleared the system of lead piping that fed the rills, and located the concealed valves that controlled the flow, but because of blockages in the complicated water system further up the valley, the rills could still only run for a short period before the header pond ran dry.
Wilf and Jim cleared the rills and water tanks of all plant growth and garden waste. The clay was re-puddled and repairs made to the stonework, but water continued to seep away. The stone shelves designed to hold marginal plants in the water tanks always looked like steps, because the water level was never sufficiently high.
In 1983, when BBC Gardeners' World filmed at Hestercombe, the fire brigade used their hoses to pump water down the rills.
‘We had a pump going out the back, and we ran water through the fire hoses and down the rills, but they were leaking so bad, the water just ran through and soaked away,' remembers Jim.
The West Rill in 1975/6.
Restoring the Planting