Bath has killer hills. Keen cyclists regard them as a challenge. During a weekend in mid-June, I enjoyed the challenge of climbing up one of Bath’s hills to visit the National Trust property of Prior Park. Its major conservation work is nearing completion.
It was easy to see why Ralph Allen (1693-1764), Prior Park’s original owner, chose the site for the construction of his mansion. As a self-made man, he was out to impress Bath’s Georgian society. Prior Park overlooks the city of Bath standing proud on the hill.
Ralph Allen made his fortune by reorganising the postal system. He then invested his money in the nearby stone quarries. Prior Park House is built from the honey-coloured stone that is so characteristic of Georgian Bath. Today, the house is an educational establishment like Stowe House (see previous blog). Meanwhile, the garden is managed by the National Trust.
I followed a path downhill through the woods. I came across a water cascade and the occasional glimpse of the house through the trees. At one point, lots of tiny toads/frogs jumped across my path. I gingerly tiptoed between them. To my delight, I found Pyramidal Orchids in the wild meadow below the house.
The dominant feature of Prior Park’s Landscape Garden is the Palladian bridge. You can admire it from multiple angles as you walk around the lakes at the end of the garden. During my visit, I could see a young man proposing to his girlfriend on the bridge and then celebrating on the grassy banks with a champagne picnic.
Inspired by the Italian Renaissance
Palladian bridges were inspired by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). Prior Park’s Palladian bridge is one of the most elaborate, colonnaded superstructures. It is a copy of the Palladian bridge at Wilton House in Wiltshire (as is that at Stowe).
Dam and Garden Restoration
The National Trust has been restoring the historic dams to meet the future challenges of climate change. Improvements mean that it should now safely overtop in the event of an extreme flood event. The water in the lakes was still low during my visit in mid-June. The restoration work had only been recently completed. The intention is now to replant trees and 18th-century-inspired shrubberies so that the garden will appear more like it did in Ralph Allen’s time.
© Karen Andrews
References and Further Reading
- National Trust (2009): Prior Park Landscape Garden, Bath. A souvenir guide.
- National Trust (2017): Discover Prior Park Landscape Garden. (Leaflet).
- National Trust (2022): Prior Park Landscape Garden. Celebrating the dams’ restoration as we begin reinstating the garden. (Leaflet available at the entrance).
- Symes, Michael (2006): A Glossary of Garden History. A Shire Book
- Taylor, Patrick (2003): The Gardens of Britain & Ireland. Dorling Kindersley. (p.58)
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.