Tania Orgill from PlayWood Forest School enjoys a visit with her daughter and a friend to this gorgeous open area overlooking Bath below
With our National Trust family membership soon to expire, we all determined to make the most of what was left, so my daughter, her friend and I set off during the Easter holidays to visit Prior Park Landscape Gardens in Bath. These gardens are a real jewel on the edge of Bath, with gorgeous views, plenty to keep children busy and the opportunity for to enjoy some nature spotting.
With parking spaces at Prior Park restricted to disabled drivers, we parked in Combe Down and walked down the hill to the top entrance (a second entrance is being trialled at the lower end of the gardens), outside which you can also catch a bus to or from Bath. A loud Nuthatch announced our arrival from a nearby tree and the very friendly staff of Prior Park gave us a map and a brief history of the gardens. Prior Park House and Gardens were built by Ralph Allen as his country house, then after his death, the house was separated from the gardens and became a Catholic Public School. The National Trust took over the gardens in 1993 and after three years of work it was ready to open to the public.
The paths are good and suitable for buggies in some areas if not the whole site, while there are baby changing facilities in the simple but clean toilets at the top and bottom of the site.
The girls rushed off to find the Grotto, with its fossil-filled old rocks, before heading down to the elegant Serpentine Lake with its Sham Bridge, where they searched for creatures in the water. Following the path to the view point, you can see Prior Park College and look down to the spectacular Palladian Bridge, one of only four in the world. The sloping field below the viewpoint is often grazed by cattle, and leads to the Horseshoe Walk at the lower part of the field.
The woods were alive with bird song and we watched a pair of Jays in the trees, busy finding a place to make their nest. Flowering wild garlic, daffodils and Snake’s Head Fritillary carpeted the woods either side of a trickling stream. At the Summer House, the girls found magnifiers and spotter charts to study the creatures on the Decaying Path, and a wonderful fallen tree to clamber upon.
Running ahead to the Palladian Bridge, the girls pointed out some very old dates in the graffiti, even one from 1799! Two Mallard drakes landed on the larger lake where a Cob swan (male), was enjoying himself. With no intention of sharing his lake, he raced across the surface of the lake with his long wings outstretched and chased the ducks away. It was an impressive sight.
We were pleased to reach the Tea Hut, where various drinks, cake, ice-cream and a few gluten/diary-free snacks are available. You can also bring your own picnic and use their picnic blankets, seat pads, high chairs and beakers. Two displays are supplied to help the inquisitive to identify birds on the feeders, whilst children have fun playing on the logs or in the den.
We discovered the swan’s nest that we had been told about and watched the female swan, a Penn, carefully arranging the sticks around her. Later the girls found two large swan feathers which they took home to remind them of the day; a highlight of our trip, the girls said.
We were really impressed with Prior Park Landscape Gardens and I hope we can visit again soon with the whole family.
Tickets Adults £6.50, children £3.40, family £16.50
Opening times All year, Nov-feb weekends
Further information www.nationaltrust.org.uk/prior-park-landscape-garden