10 things to celebrate about Swindon. No 1. Lots of parks & green spaces. A: Lydiard Park and house
November 2014: Sadly the stormy weather of Christmas 2013 destroyed the ancient walnut tree pictured below. Go here for more information about it. Below is a picture I took just the other day of how this once proud and ancient tree looks now. Such a shame but such is life.
Swindon is a town blessed with a huge amount of green space ranging from the formal Old Town Gardens with its lovely bandstand, to large green areas, including a stately home and park in West Swindon: Lydiard House and Park. I live just a hop, skip and a jump from Lydiard Park but don’t go nearly as often as I should, which is a bit shameful really. However, even if I don’t utilise it too often many people do. It’s popular with runners, families out on bikes, dog-walkers, strollers and, in the summer months, picnickers and BBQers. If only more people would take their blasted litter away with them. How hard can it be? Grrr!
The park is, as their website says:
” … a beautiful historic estate on the western edge of Swindon, with the Palladian House, Church and Walled Garden, set in 260 acres of parkland. The children’s play, Cafe & Tea Rooms, events and education programmes make Lydiard Park a great destination for a family day out …” As it goes on to explain, the park and house host lots of great events and I’ve been to many of them over the years: classical concerts, pop concerts, Bonfire night, the Big Arts Day and the Victorian Christmas in the big house. I like saying ‘big house’ – it reminds me of Bill and Ben. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then Google it. 🙂 There are umpteen paths around the park, more than one children’s play park, large open spaces for the playing of ball games, a BBQ area and a visitor centre amongst the facilities.
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 all year round to view the ornate plasterwork and original family furnishings displayed alongside portraits and photographs of the St John family. You can purchase a ticket to visit the State Rooms and the Walled Garden, or just pay to visit the house” Something that is well worth doing! As I say, I’ve been several times to things.
A few years ago (okay a LOT of years ago) I was given, to celebrate a special birthday, a hot air balloon flight from the park. It took place on a perfectly clear, warm, sunny early September evening. The balloon was inflated in front of the house and when we ‘took off’ and floated right over the house it was so, so magical. One of the loveliest experiences I’ve ever had. It was just amazing.
Just behind the house is the Parish Church of St. Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze. This is a gorgeous little church. It has closed in pews – something I’d not come across before. You can read more about it on the website but to give you a flavour:“St Mary’s is one of England’s finest small churches and dates back to the 12th century. It is packed with fascinating monuments to the St. John family including St John Polyptych, erected by John St John in 1592 and the Golden Cavalier, a full-size effigy of Edward St John, who died in battle in the English Civil War in 1644.”
There are a couple of really good historical blogs, written by a Swindon historian and writer, centred on the house that are well worth checking out: Status, scandal and subterfuge – “For five hundred years the influential St John family lived at Lydiard Park on the outskirts of Swindon. Read about the St. John ladies and the people whose lives they touched.” And also Good Gentlewoman: “This blog began life as Status, Scandal and Subterfuge, a story about the St John ladies of Lydiard Park, Wiltshire. However, the Ladies have proved so fascinating that I have extended my research to other branches of the family and launched this new website Good Gentlewoman.”
I went up there for a walk just before Christmas (2013) and here a few pictures I took. It was a lovely sunny day and was even relatively mild. The house always looks very lovely in the sunshine.
Sunday 29th December 2013 – more photos:
In no particular order, just some of the other parks/green spaces Swindon boasts are: Old Town Gardens, Queens Park, Faringdon Road park, the Polo Ground, Coate Water, Shaw Forest Park and Barbary Castle – a misleading name as it’s not actually a castle at all. All of which I hope to post about in the fullness of time.
January 2014 – update: Sadly the stormy weather of Christmas 2013 destroyed the ancient walnut tree picured here. Go here for more information.
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