Bradgate Park

Last week we looked at Britain’s first country park: a local council owned, repurposed railway line, on the Wirral.  Bradgate Park is another excellent country park, but in this case the land is a historical estate and deer park, which is owned by a trust.

Described as “Leicestershire’s most popular countryside destination” and having a huge ‘local’ population, Bradgate Park is 830 acres of wild and rugged landscape, just outside of the city of Leicester.

It contains the ruins of one of the first unfortified, brick-built country houses in England, which was the birthplace and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey.

In 1928 the estate was purchased by a local industrialist and was given to the people of Leicestershire, with Bradgate Park Trust being set up to manage the area for the benefit of all.  It was designated a Country Park in 1970.

The underlying volcanic rocks produce an interesting landscape, with rugged hills and rocky outcrops, steep slopes and thin soils, providing habitats for plants and animals not usually found in the central England.

The Visitor Centre houses an exhibition of the story of the park, and a tarmac driveway crossing through the park allows easy access for pushchairs and wheelchairs.  There is even an off-road mobility scooter that can be borrowed by the adventurous!  All of this is free, the only cost being your space in the car park.

If you live within reach of Bradgate Park I would encourage you to go and explore for yourself, but if not then you can take a virtual tour on your computer or tablet.

Check out the 18th century folly of Old John Tower, on the 2nd highest point in Leicestershire, for some fantastic views.

There is a full programme of events and walks.  You can join a 1 hour guided history walk on March 8th 2018. It is free but only 12 places so booking is essential.

But Bradgate Park is part of something much, much larger.  Join me next Friday to find out more.

The First Country Park

A Country Park is a public open space, often near to a town, providing opportunities for outdoor activities.

In 1968, Cheshire Council purchased a disused railway line on the western side of The Wirral.  This long and narrow strip of land, between Hooton and West Kirby, was officially opened as Wirral Country Park in 1973.

You can still see evidence of its previous use.

At Neston, a sandstone cutting provides plants with a shady and damp environment.

At Willaston, the station has been beautifully restored.

There are over 400 Country Parks in England, though only 31 have accredited status, which shows that they have met certain criteria.  Amongst other things they must be within 10 miles of a housing area, free to visit, have a natural or semi-natural landscape and have signposted routes and access to toilets.

Wirral Country Park can be reached by a vast number of people with the cities of Chester and Liverpool close by.

The railway has been turned into a walking trail, the 12 mile “Wirral Way”.  This also doubles as a cycle route and has a suitable surface for wheelchair users.  A rather more churned up and muddy horse riding track runs parallel.

The visitor centre at Thurstaston is open daily (except Christmas Day) and is staffed.  It provides more extensive facilities with toilets, picnic and barbeque areas, and access to the beach.

The end points (Hooton and West Kirby) are still linked by train, via the eastern side of the Wirral, so although the park is long and narrow you can walk right through and not have to retrace your steps.  You’ll be rewarded with extensive views across the River Dee into North Wales.

If you’ve signed up for worksheets, check your inbox for a map of Wirral Country Park.