Cirencester Park – Family seat of the Earls of Bathurst
Situated to the west of the town, this is a superb example of a forest style garden and is well worth a visit, it can be reached via Church Street and Cecily Hill. It is here where entrance to the park is gained (see picture above).
With its width of 4.8 kilometres and a length of 8 kilometres and occupying some 3000 acres it provides an opportunity for the visitor to walk in a relaxed environment.
At the entrance stands a castellated building it has been known as the barracks and also as the armoury.
It was built in 1898 and was at one time the Head Quarters of the 4th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, it is possible to visit this building. The mansion built in the early 18th century is not however open to the public.
Allen Bathurst was the 1st Earl Bathurst, an honour which was bestowed 60years after being raised to the peerage in 1712.
Sir Charles Bathurst (Lord Bledisloe) created the Bledisloe Cup competition for the Best Kept Village in Gloucestershire and the rugby union match between Australia and New Zealand.
It was his friendships with Alexander Pope the satirist /poet, garden and landscape designer (1688-1744) and Stephen Switzer landscaper and designer (1682 –1745) that helped him to develop the park which can be seen today.
Alexander Pope, apart from being a leading poet of the age, was an expert on the classical land-scapes of ancient Greece and Rome and a enthusiastic supporter of landscape gardening rather than the, in fashion at the time, formal rectangular gardens.
In return for Pope’s assistance in design and practical help, Lord Bathurst created a folly in his park, which he named Pope’s Seat, after his friend.
Alfreds Hall folly was built in the grounds of Cirencester Park, begun 1721, designed by Lord Bathurst with Alexander Pope's advice, completed 1732. Probably the earliest 18th century mock Gothic castle; part former house, part banqueting house and part mock ruin. Located in Oakley Wood, with rides radiating from it through the wood.
Pope visited Cirencester Park over a 30 year period, which emphasises his involvement in its development.
The park design is said to have been largely inspired, by baroque geometry with intentions to make it both useful and peaceful, this has certainly been achieved.
It is these attributes that attract walkers to visit.
Dog owners are permitted to walk their pets (on a lead and must not be allowed to foul).
See notice at park entrance, which gives the permitted areas. Visitors on horseback are allowed to exercise their horses. Unaccompanied children are not permitted and visitors must take their litter home. Benches are placed at intervals for those who just wish to take their ease.
Opening hours 9am –5pm.
Admission is free with the kind permission of Lord Bathurst.
Amongst events held in the park is the Cotswold Show, the dates for 2008 being Saturday 5th July and Sunday 6th July.
This show is a family fun day with events to suit all.
Included is a monster truck show, exhibitions, country pursuits a dog show and much more.
A Caravan Club site adjoins the park and has a connecting footpath.
Within Cirencester park is the famous Polo-ground, founded in 1894 and is the oldest polo playing ground in the UK. Its idyllic surroundings make it probably the prettiest.
Here it is possible to see world-class players competing, at the reasonable cost of £5 for a day ticket, which permits holder’s over 15 years of age to use the member’s restaurant and tearooms.
Alternatively for those who prefer, a payment of £10 will include admission for a car and its occupants for just admission to watch the polo events (May and September in
June, July and August the cost is £15)
Amongst those who have played here are the Royal Princes William and Harry and their father Prince Charles.