AirToob Lightning
(Original post: August 29th, 2008)

This is Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, one of the less well known English Heritage sites, and one of our favourite walking and picnic spots.

This view southwards from the "new" house (begun in 1834) shows the main vista down to the The Long Water, with the Pavilion in the far distance.

The "old" house was situated about halfway between the new one and The Long Water - if you walk there then you can still see the outline of its foundations as bumps in the grass.

Because the house was effectively moved backwards, the newer developments in the foreground were added while leaving the framework of the original 18th Century gardens in the distance still largely intact.

Around The Long Water in the picture above you can see the Woodland Garden, designed for getting pleasantly lost in.

Looking south-east from the house...

Walking south from the house, just before you get to The Long Water, you come to an area dedicated to Croquet, that most English of games (invented by the French).

Walking south-west from the house you come to the Orangery. Inside there are now café tables and chairs where you can picnic in bad weather, as well as interesting historical stuff. (No café though - Wrest Park doesn't have any of those, although it does have a shop in the house where you can buy drinks.)

If you head south from the Orangery you come to the Bowling Green House, reminiscent of a small Italian railway station.

It was originally intended as a Tea Room.

Alongside the bowling green is one of the mini-canals, this one called The Leg O'Mutton Lake, running east-west.

Through the back (or front) door of the Bowling Green House is the western edge of the grounds...

...go through the door, turn left, and you are walking along the naturalistic canal developed by Capability Brown that loops nearly all around the Woodland Garden, forming a pleasant boundary to the Park for much of its perimeter.

Originally the canal was formal and laid out in straight lines; Capability Brown softened it to a curving waterway that looks like a natural river.

Inside the Woodland Garden is a maze of paths, some straight, some curved, with "secret rooms" in the woods containing statues, ornaments, a Victorian Pet Cemetery (still trying to get a good photo of this), and other interesting things!

My wife must be about the millionth visitor to do this (it's hard to resist).

If you take the left-hand path at a fork like this and then take the next right, don't expect it lead to the right-hand path from the fork - it might, or it might not!

I don't remember exactly where we came across this 18th Century lead statue, one of many interesting statues in the park.

Although most statues in the park are the originals, many of them are not in their original positions - various owners liked moving them around.

The Ladies' Lake on the east side of the park is the mirror image of the Leg O'Mutton Lake on the west side.

Originally these two water features formed a single east-west canal that intersected The Long Water.

The Ladies' Lake is currently leaking, hence the low water levels. If it isn't fixed soon and wildlife moves in and becomes established (not necessarily a bad thing), then regulations may prevent restoring the original water level.

Emerging from the Woodland Garden, often somewhat bewildered, you come across the Pavilion that stands at the far end of The Long Water.

The Pavilion is a rather magnificent structure, intended as a Tea Room and for more elaborate entertainments.

Following Capability Brown's man-made river anti-clockwise, we can see that it is obviously enjoyed by many different residents!

The "river" curves into the park at this point, so when you cross the "Chinese" bridge (earlier versions were more Chinese than this) you are actually heading north-east-ish.

If you bear left and keep walking for some distance... are back here!

There is a lot more to Wrest Park than I can show here - I may update this post from time to time.

Admission is free to English Heritage members. If you visit and you're not a member, it's probably worth joining!

[Location of Wrest Park on my England Map]
[More on Wrest Park]

[My photoblog of RHS Gardens, Rosemoor, Devon]