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.

Meet four contemporary artists at Dyrham Park

Leo Fitzmaurice’s Holland, Credit Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Leo Fitzmaurice

Art lovers are being offered a unique opportunity to meet four contemporary artists in the beautiful setting of Dyrham Park, near Bath.

 The National Trust has organised a study day on Saturday September 29, linked to the contemporary arts exhibition ‘A World Away’. In this exhibition the global connections of William Blathwayt, who built Dyrham Park in the 17th century, are explored through the work of contemporary artists.

Four of the artists featured in the exhibition will take part in the study day: Helen Sear, Shirley Chubb, Steve Johnson and Leo Fitzmaurice.

 “This really is a fantastic opportunity to hear these artists talk about their own work in context, here in the beautiful setting of DyrhamP ark,” said Dr Rupert Goulding, the exhibition’s curator.

 “We’re very lucky to have been chosen as one of five National Trust properties to exhibit works on loan from the Arts Council Collection, as part of the Trust New Art programme for 2012.”

 Trust New Art is the National Trust’s 3-year programme in partnership with the Arts Council England to promote contemporary and modern art in its historic places. In total, 19 works have been loaned by the Arts Council Collection toDyrhamPark.

 The study day costs £30, including light lunch, but places are limited so anyone interested is encouraged to book their tickets by contacting 0117 9371330

 William Blathwayt, a politician and administrator who specialised in colonial affairs inAmericaand theCaribbean, was the Monarch’s link to a global economic network.

 He was also known for using his position of influence to purchase many items for his south Gloucestershire home, sometimes sent as gifts or favours to encourage his support.

 Dyrham is still filled with reminders of the global reach of his career such as the cedar wood fromVirginia used to create the magnificent staircase.

 He also collected Dutch Delftware extensively while on trips toThe Hague, with many magnificent pieces from the golden age of Delftware on display around the house.

 “Dyrham is a testament to the career of William Blathwayt and the opportunities he had to collect great art and exotic materials from across the world and bring them back to his ‘world away’ from government and politics,” said Dr Goulding.

 “In this exhibition we have used contemporary art to explore the themes of globalisation and Blathwayt’s long range networks. We would like the contemporary art to help our visitors look again at the historic collection and perhaps gain a deeper understanding of the house and its creator.”

 The exhibition will run at Dyrham Park until October 28, 2012.

 Trust New Art is the National Trust’s 3-year programme in partnership with the Arts Council England to promote contemporary and modern art in its historic places. In total, 19 works have been loaned by the Arts Council Collection, one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary British art in the world.

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.

Great strides made as Britons step out

More than 350,000 walks, or one every one and a half minutes, were downloaded from the National Trust website over the last year.

And four of the top ten walks were in the South West, including the most popular – a walk along the Bath Skyline, which was the most popular for the second year running with 14,000 downloads.

The other top South West walks were Stourhead in Wiltshire (seventh with 4,964 downloads), Brownsea Island in Dorset (eighth with 4,724 downloads) and Lansallos in Cornwall (10th with 4,177downloads). All of the walks are free to download and include a map and details of the things that you might see en route.

Walking on the South West coast path between Pencarrow Head and Lansallos Cove, Cornwall.

In 2010 and the total number of downloads increased by 40 per cent compared to 2009 as more Britons sought out walking routes for days out or during weekends away.

Jo Burgon, Outdoor Programme Director at the National Trust, said: “We have seen a remarkable growth in the popularity of walking in the past couple of years.  Our downloadable walks cater for a wide range of walkers with everything from short circular routes to the more challenging hill walks.

“We’re finding that more people want to get out into the great outdoors but often need to be pointed in the right direction. You don’t have to be an expert to go walking, you just need to enjoy getting outside.”

There are 72 different walks to choose from on the website in the South West out of a total of 240 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Together, the 240 walks cover a total of 858 miles, the distance between Lands End and John O’ Groats. All of the walks can be downloaded for free from

New South West entries on the website include five walks near Arlington Court in Devon, Lacock and Avebury in Wiltshire, Ebworth, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, Lamberts Castle in Dorset, and routes at Cotehele, Trelissick and Fowey in Cornwall.

August was the most popular month for walking with more than 50,000 downloads, or more than one every minute, with the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend the most popular day of the year.

The Bath skyline walk topped the walks chart for the second successive year with over 14,000 downloads during 2010, fifty per cent more than the second placed walk Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

This popular six mile circular walk has spectacular panoramic views of the world heritage city and a short diversion takes you to the stunning Prior Park gardens.

In third place was Flatford Mill in Suffolk, made famous by Constable’s landscape paintings.

An ambitious target has been set to have 1,000 downloadable trails on the National Trust website by spring 2012.  These will include the popular walks together with cycle routes, horse-riding routes and canoe trails.

The first ever National Trust walking festival is set to take place this year between the 22 October 30 October.