So today involved a slightly impromptu visit to a beautiful estate in the Forest of Dean. I literally only learned of the estates existence this week and today was the official last day of opening.
The Lydney Park Estate only opens it’s door for 3 weeks every year, because that’s how long it’s main attraction tends to last for…the place is covered in Rhododendron bushes!
The original mansion house at Lydney Park was built by the Wintour Family who were prominent supporters of King Charles I. In 1719 Lydney Park Estate was acquired by Benjamin Bathurst and his descendants have owned it ever since.
As we drove up the long winding drive through lush green pastures, we spied a group of deer huddled in the shade of a tree, understandable as today ended up being surprisingly hot and somewhat muggy.
Entrance this year is £4 per person, i believe it’s usually a little more because in a non Covid time they open up a small museum and tea rooms as well.
My partner suggest we started our visit by walking up the hill to the Roman temple. The path up was flanked by huge swathes of ferns and buttercups. Halfway up a huge tree had sometime earlier fallen over and partially blocked the path. Not far after this we came across the most enormous Elm. It’s quite unusual to see them because in the 1970s the majority of the UK’s Elm were lost due to Dutch Elm disease. Boyfriend posing for size comparison!
Then as we reached the top, we were greeted by a huge copper beech tree.
The temple was excavated in the 1920s, but only the bath house and temple remain visible (sadly a mosaic lays hidden under the ground in the temple too)
The buildings are thought to have been built towards the end of 300 A.D and the temple was dedicated to a previously unknown God called Nodens. Famous author and Professor of Anglo Saxon JR Tolkien spent time here and suggested that the God Nodens, of the tribal Silurians in Gloucestershire may have derived from an early Celtic Irish or German God.
Another interesting link to Tolkien is that under the Roman remains are Iron age mine shafts (maybe pre Roman) and was known locally as Dwarf Hill. It has been hypothesised that this may have been the influence for the Lonely Mountain and Moria from Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit!
After exploring the remains we then walked past the car and picked up our picnic basket and went over to the gardens.
The entrance to the main gardens has two statues either side of the gate, which are also Roman, known as a herm.The origins of these statues are unknown (suggested possibly from Bath) but are pretty imposing!
The first thing you come across as you walk through the wooden gate is a splash of orange and yellow as you spot the first of the rhododendron bushes and a lovely pond with stepping stones.
Walking through the gardens is really lovely, it’s very shaded and is just a explosion of colour. There are a multitude of paths to go on, some even walking through the rhododendron bushes.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking…
We walked over 8000 steps today, and it was absolutely worth it.
Such a tranquil, beautiful place and I can’t wait to visit again next year!