Lydney Park Estate is one of my favourite places to visit when I need to get away from the world without going too far from home. A visit always feels special, partly because it’s only open in Spring, so making the trip feels like a real treat.
The estate sits in a narrow wooded valley – it’s very well hidden so you’d barely know it was there unless you were looking for it.
Nooks and crannies perfect for exploring
Though most of the grounds are taken up with a deer park, there are lots of nooks and crannies perfect for exploring. Right by the parking area is a level area that’s out of the wind, making it ideal for a picnic spot and there’s a shallow stream that runs along the floor of the valley which kids love to play in – you can even spot springs of spearmint growing wild along the edges of the stream.
The Roman ruins
If you turn left from the parking area and head up a fairly manageable winding footpath uphill, you can climb the side of the valley and at the top you”ll find some ancient Roman ruins.
Though they were first uncovered in the early 1800s, they were the site of an archaelogical dig in the late 1920s, which J. R. R. Tolkien attended and at which a curse involving a Roman ring was discovered. (More on this in Matthew Lyons’ much more comprehensive account.)
The unusual acoustics of the hilltop, set so far back from any main road, with almost a clear view down to the river Severn, and little more than the sound of the wind in the beech trees rustling round your ears gives the site quite an ancient, unearthly feel.
The Spring Gardens
Heading back down to the parking area and this time continuing right takes you to the Spring Gardens. Filled with rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, flowering cherries and more, this garden’s construction began not long after the Second World War.
Though it’s much more popular with visitors than the Roman ruins, it can still feel quite secluded, especially if you head uphill onto the higher levels above the main circuit of paths. It’s a little more wild along the top edge too – you can see tracks in the mud where the wild boar that were reintroduced into the Forest of Dean some years ago have been rooting around.
The garden erupts into a blaze of flowers all at once in Spring, but the blossoms only last a short time – a month or two – so it really feels like something special to catch them all in bloom.
You could easily spend a whole day at Lydney Park Estate, though if you are disciplined, you should be able to just about get round everything in an afternoon. We have visited with family aged from 4 – 79 and found it fairly accessible, though wheelchair-bound visitors might find it tricky to reach some areas of the gardens, so it may be best to call ahead and check.
Refreshments are available from the tea shop onsite, or head to Taurus Crafts just round the corner for more substantial meals and an organic grocery shop if you prefer to go for a picnic.
Lydney Park is just off the A48 between Chepstow and Gloucester and is easy to find if you look out for the signs. View on a map.