Prior Park head gardener retires after 20 years

Prior Park Matthew Ward retires (c)National Trust/Clare Green

After almost 20 years as head gardener, Matthew Ward is leading his last guided tour, before hanging up his trowel and heading off with wife Hillary into a well-deserved retirement.

After 37 years as a National Trust gardener, Matthew has untold tales to tell and knowledge to impart.  His 20 years at Prior Park have seen him lead a number of major restoration projects, in the aim to restore the garden to its 1764 state, and the time of creator Ralph Allen’s death. Continue reading…

Heron moves in to take over island nest

The squatter heron on the nest in the middle of the Prior Park lake

The squatter heron on the nest in the middle of the lake at Prior Park (C)National Trust/Anna Kilcooley

A marauding heron has taken over a coot’s nest in the centre of a lake at Prior Park in Bath – and is refusing to give it up.

A heron has long lived around the lake in the landscape garden, managed by the National Trust, but has recently taken a liking to proudly sitting on top of a stack of weeds in the centre of the lower lake. The pile was originally a nest made by coots, but the heron has now staked a claim to the spot and can regularly be seen relaxing on his new island abode.

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Capability Brown 300 anniversary month at Prior Park – June 2016

The Palladian Bridge at Prior Park Landscape Garden, Bath, Somerset.

The Palladian Bridge at Prior Park Landscape Garden, Bath, Somerset.

A celebration of the 300th anniversary of landscape gardener Capability Brown, is being held at Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath.

The National Trust, which cares for Prior Park, is taking part in the national celebrations for the tercentenary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown with a series of events, classes and workshops throughout June.

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Winter weekend opening at Prior Park

This winter, Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath is open on weekends for those who want to enjoy a beautiful walk and wonderful scenery before or after the busy festive period. The weekend winter openings allow visitors to see the garden whilst it’s changing visibly as it enters a new season and there will also be a winter trail to keep the kids entertained.

The tea kiosk will be open on weekends throughout November and December, offering hot drinks, soups and snacks. There will be a cosy chiminea to welcome visitors to warm up next to in the seating area near to the lakes, and blankets to borrow for those that are still feeling the cold.

For those that fancy a warming walk, why not join one of our free guided walks this winter. We have our City to Garden Winter walk on Saturday 15th December, which takes in local history and beautiful views, please meet outside Bath Abbey at 10am; the walk lasts around two hours. For those that fancy a bit more of a challenge, we also have our City to Countryside Winter walk on Saturday 22nd December, which covers the six-mile Bath Skyline walk, from 10am – 2pm, again meeting outside Bath Abbey. Please do bring a packed lunch for this longer walk. There is no need to book for these walks, simply turn up and enjoy.

Visitor Experience Manager, Katy Smith says: “The garden is quite magical at this time of year, from the autumn hues to the wintry wonderland. For the first time we have the tea kiosk open in the winter, a perfect stop half way around the garden for a warming cup of tea or soup, these are amongst many of the delicacies on offer. As an extra winter warmer help yourself to a blanket or choose a seat near to the chiminea, then complete your walk taking in the beautiful landscape”.

Prior Park is an 18th-century landscape garden, formally owned by Ralph Allen, which has been brought back to life by the National Trust. It offers amazing views of Bath from the Skyline but also boasts the Palladian Bridge across the lakes, one of only four in the world. It offers visitors a tranquil setting to escape to and enjoy.

The garden opens at 10am and visitors can enjoy the garden all day, until dusk.

Norway Maple at Prior Park is country’s tallest

A Norway Maple at Prior Park has been declared the national champion tree for its species after being measured at 36 metres (117 feet) – the tallest in the country by a clear six metres.

The previous champion Norway Maple is 30 metres tall and growing at Glamis Castle in Angus.

Norway Maples are quite common in Britain so it is more remarkable to find a champion tree for the species being looked after by the National Trust at Prior Park.

Matthew Ward, National Trust head gardener for Bath said: “For years I’ve looked at this tree and thought it was unusually big but when we finally measured it ourselves we realised it was one of the tallest in the country.”

It is in a sheltered part of Prior Park, growing amongst other trees on a bank.

The measuring was done by a team from the Tree Register who climbed the tree to be able to use a combination of poles and tape measures to measure the exact height of the tree.

 The garden has a number of Norway Maples and also beech, ash and yew, which grow very well.

“It hasn’t been planted up as a specialist arboretum and because, in the past it had been left alone, there are a lot of self seeded trees creating quite a natural feel to the woodland. We are in a hollow, close to the city and it is a sheltered pleasant spot which the trees certainly seem to like. As well as this superb Norway Maple we have a number of yew trees which grow particularly well.”

The Trust is maintaining Prior Park in the spirit of Ralph Allen, the 18th Century entrepreneur who created it as his vision of blending a garden with the natural landscape.

In addition to the work at Prior Park, the Trust is carrying our a three year survey to reveal the full extent and condition of the estimated 500 tree avenues in its care. The project began last year to help prioritise funding for their care and bring together the fascinating stories associated with them.

Volunteers are still needed to help assess these tree avenues and take part in the project to survey all the ancient trees on National Trust land, which has so far surveyed more than 23,000 trees. Members of the public interested in volunteering should contact their local property.