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Leicester - Bradgate Park Newtown Linford

Leicester - Bradgate Park

Bradgate Park is a public park in Leicestershire, England, just northwest of Leicester. It covers 850 acres (3 km²). The park lies between the villages of Newtown Linford, Anstey, Cropston, Woodhouse Eaves and Swithland. The River Lin runs through the park, flowing into Cropston Reservoir which was constructed on part of the park. To the north lies Swithland Wood.

The park was cleared by the Greys of Groby in the 15th century; the construction of Bradgate House was begun in 1490 by Sir John Grey, 7th Baron Ferrers of Groby, the husband of Elizabeth Woodville and the ruins of the house are still visible at the centre of the park. The house was the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, later Queen, ruling for a mere 9 days before being overthrown by Mary I. A much later park landmark is the folly known as 'Old John' on the top of the highest hill in the park, built in 1784. This was also built by the Greys of Groby, who were by then Earls of Stamford. In 1928 the park was bought from the heirs of the Greys by Charles Bennion, who gave it in perpetuity to the people of Leicestershire. Plaques on Old John and the main path through the park commemorate the gift.

The geology of the park is mainly Precambrian, and some of the earliest multicellular lifeforms are known from fossils discovered in the park in 1957 (Charnia masoni).

Flora and fauna
The landscape is rocky moorland with a covering of coarse grass and bracken. Several spinneys of woodland (pine and mixed deciduous) are enclosed by stone walls, and are not accessible to the public. The park is home to herds of red deer and fallow deer. Birdlife is profuse - the reservoir attracts many species of wildfowl, as does the river, and the spinneys provide secluded nesting areas for many other species, including large colonies of rooks. Species such as yellowhammer, reed bunting, skylark and meadow pipit are a common sight in the open areas of the park. For 'historical reasons' Deadly nightshade is allowed to grow within the ruins of Bradgate House.

There are pay car parks at Cropston Reservoir, Newtown Linford, and Hunts Hill (at the top of the park near Old John). The park is open from dawn until dusk all year round, though the public footpaths which run through the area mean that in practice the park is always accessible. There is a visitors' centre (with cafe) at Newtown Linford, and another in the centre of the park near Bradgate House (under reconstruction in 2005). The park is administered by the Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood Charitable Trust, trustees are nominated by Leicestershire County Council, Leicester City Council and the National Trust.

It is also possible to travel to the park by bus. There is a walking path from the village of Anstey, easily accessible from Leicester by the 74 bus. The path is signposted from Link Road, and crosses several fields before entering the park proper. Bus routes 121, 123, and some 54 buses run between Leicester and Loughborough, travelling along Reservoir road, at the far end of Cropston Reservoir. The visitor's centre can be seen across the reservoir.

Situated four miles north west of Leicester, Bradgate Park is an ancient deer park given to the people of Leicestershire by Charles Bennion (a director of British United Shoe Company) in 1928 for their quiet recreation. Bradgate is a beautiful area of rolling bracken covered hills, walled spinneys, and small craggy outcrops of slate and granite. There are many ancient hollow oak trees, reputedly topped after the execution of Lady Jane Grey. The park is justifiably popular with visitors, so it is best avoided on Sundays and especially Bank Holidays.

Conspicuous from all over Leicestershire is the distinctive beer-mug shaped folly of Old John on the top of the highest hill. This is an l8th century observation tower built to give the ladies a view of a race course which circled the top of the hill. You can see the large stones marking the course circling the hill. The "handle" was built later to turn the tower into a beer-mug in memory, so the story goes, of a beer-loving family retainer who was killed when a pole in the middle of a bonfire burned through and fell on him. Believe that and you'll believe anything. Below the tower is the remains of a walled enclosure built into the rock face which was formerly a stable for the horses. There are one or two easy routes here.

Below the War Memorial there are easy-angled crags, the haunt of children trying their first scrambles. These rocks are slatey and contain the ancient Charniodiscus fossil (see also Pocketgate Ouarry).

Old John
Old John is a folly atop the highest hill in Bradgate Park, Leicestershire, England. It was built in 1784, by the Grey family of Groby, and was originally an observation tower built to give the ladies a view of a race course which circled the top of the hill. It is well known for its "mug-shape", the 'handle' of which was added later, apparently in memory of a beer-loving family retainer.

In the past it has been used as a meeting place for hunters with their fox hounds, a luncheon house for shooting parties in the park, and an observation tower at the centre of a one-mile long practice horse gallop. Below the tower is the remains of a walled enclosure built into the rock face which was formerly a stable for the horses.

Estate Office
Deer Barn Buildings, Country Park
Newtown Linford
Telephone: 0116 2362713
Fax: 0116 2341851

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