Bradgate Park & Swithland Wood
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Bradgate Park & Swithland Wood Leicester Reviews
Bradgate Park Sep 01, 2012
Bradgate Park is a really beautiful park on the outskirts of Leicester. It is the historical home of the Grey Family, but has been in public hands for many years. It is home to some of the least bothered Fallow Deer (that’s the spotty kind) I have ever seen.
The Grey family were distant relatives of Henry VIII, and Lady Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days, before being executed for treason by Mary I of England (that’s Mary Tudor, not Mary Queen of Scots). The family were forbidden to grieve, as she was a traitor, and the legend is that the oak trees were pollarded and split down the middle as a quiet symbol of bereavement. Of course pollarding oaks wasn’t rare – it encouraged more foliage, at a time when acorns were used to feed pigs, and made the trees live longer. Taking an axe down the centre of the tree has no real purpose, however, and it’s a more plausible sign of grief. Many of the ancient trees are still disfigured and grow strangely. Still, 500 years isn’t young, even for oak trees, so it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm. As well as the twisted oaks, the park holds the ruins of her family home. It was one of the first non-fortified houses to be built for such a prominent family. It survived Lady Jane by a good couple of centuries but has crumbled to ruin now. You are allowed into the ruins for a few hours a day in summer.
The parkland must have been landscaped at some stage, and there is a beautiful little river running through the parkland between the parts you’re allowed in and the parts where the shyer deer live. As well as the Not Bothered Deer, who are incredibly relaxed about posing for photos, there are maybe-peacocks (I think it was a peacock but it was silhouetted against the sky and might have been a pheasant with a hairdo),and a whole range of more usual wildlife and pretty flowers. The park also has a folly, Old John, but as I was there with a friend with a baby, we didn’t climb the hill to see it.
Entrance is free, and parking is reasonable. Many of the paths would be accessible to a wheelchair and almost all to a buggy. Cycling is allowed, and dogs are allowed on leads but don’t let them chase the deer.
Part of the 2012 - The UK travel blog
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