Lydiard Park … Alan Titchmarsh loves it, it’s got one of England’s most beautiful churches, and it’s just one of Swindon’s many amazing green spaces!
After a seemingly interminable winter, most of us can’t wait to welcome some decent weather in order to enjoy the great British outdoors again. And if spending time in breathtaking green spaces is your idea of heaven then Swindon really does take some beating, not least the jewel in its crown, Lydiard Park.
In a recent edition of ITV’s ‘Masterpiece’, national treasure Alan Titchmarsh could be seen lavishing praise on Swindon’s treasure, Lydiard House and Park. Britain’s best loved gardener confessed that he was “bowled over” by the fact that such a beautiful country house and park was to be found inside the boundaries of a town like Swindon.
In fact, Mr Titchmarsh shouldn’t have been surprised. Quite simply, Swindon is one of the UK’s leading urban destinations for green spaces. Whether it’s country parks, wildlife reserves, gorgeous lakes, idyllic walks or historic estates, you would be hard pushed to find a British town of comparable size with such a diverse range of accessible green spaces.
Taking pride of place, Lydiard Park is a beautiful historic estate on the western edge of Swindon, with a Palladian House, Church and Walled Garden, set in 260 acres of parkland.
At the heart of the park is Lydiard House, a striking Grade I listed Palladian house that for 500 years was home to the St John family. The ground floor state apartments of Lydiard House have been beautifully restored and are open to visitors to view the ornate plasterwork and original family furnishings displayed alongside portraits and photographs of the St John family.
Lydiard Park itself is open every day from 7.30am to dusk (except Christmas Day). There are 260 acres of historic landscape with lawns, woodlands, lakes and pasture. Wide, accessible paths criss-cross the site making it a great location for a walk, run, jog or bike ride. Dogs are welcome in the park, and there is also an adventure-packed children’s play area, huge playing fields, a café, and charming Tea Rooms housed in the old stables.
Strolling around the park, you will glimpse many of the remnants of this once-grand country estate. Many of the 18th century historic landscape features have been restored, including the Ice House in the woodlands near the house, where ice was stored to chill food in the summer months. The large lake has also been reinstated and the Georgian Walled Garden was recently restored to its former glory.
Just behind the house, you will find the 12th century parish church of St. Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze, widely recognised as one of England's finest small churches. It is packed with fascinating monuments to the St. John family including a full-size effigy of Edward St John, who died of injuries sustained in the Battle of Newbury, in the English Civil War.
The historical and architectural importance of St Mary’s was recognised in former Times editor and National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins’ landmark book ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’. Sir Simon said of St. Mary’s: “Were the South Chapel to be removed lock, stock and barrel to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, it would cause a sensation.”.
It’s not just about the heritage, though. Modern day Lydiard Park is a haven of activity with events all year round, including Open Air Theatre, Music Festivals, The Luna Cinema, and more. The Park is also the venue for The Royal British Legion's Royal Wootton Bassett Field of Remembrance and the Race for Life on Saturday 19th and Sunday 29th May, a huge weekend on the Swindon calendar when thousands of participants walk, jog and run to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
As part of the National Garden Scheme, Lydiard Park’s charming Walled Garden will be open for charity as part of the National Garden Scheme on Sunday June 10th from 11am to 4pm. Enjoy spectacular displays of beautiful flowers and bulbs, alternating with topiary, elegantly presented alongside unique garden features.
For visiting details, opening hours and a full list of upcoming events at Lydiard Park, go to www.lydiardpark.org.uk
Lydiard Park may be Swindon’s jewel in the crown, but if Alan Titchmarsh did a tour of the whole town he would soon realise it has plenty of competition, including Coate Water Country Park with its nature reserve, mini-golf, splash pool and miniature railway, the 36-hectare Stanton Country Park, the Victorian gem that is Old Town Gardens, the lush woodland of The Lawns, and many many more.
Watch this space for details of more amazing green spaces and outdoor events in Swindon!