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An 18th century garden with a Palladian influence

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Bath is rightly famous for its architecture, but there may come a time when you want a break from all the bricks, stone and concrete. When that moment arrives, the best thing to do is to walk out of the city, one kilometre to the south. You'll arrive at Prior Park, the prettiest of Bath's green spaces. It can sometimes be a relief to escape the urban jungle for a while - but in truth, the city and the park have more in common than you might think. This is a landscape garden, and it was as carefully designed as any of Bath's famous buildings.
Prior Park was created by a local entrepreneur called Ralph Allen. He lived in Bath for most of his life, and had a big influence on the city. He even became the mayor in 1742! When designing the garden, Allen received assistance from Alexander Pope and Capability Brown, two famous figures from the 18th century. Pope was a popular poet, and Brown was Britain's greatest landscape gardener. With the artistic vision of one, and the vast design experience of the other, they created a garden that entranced anyone who saw it. Throughout Europe, it became known as the perfect example of a typical English garden.
Prior Park has remained largely unchanged since its creation in the mid-1700s. The 250 years between then and now took their toll, and by the start of the 21st century an extensive restoration was required. Thankfully, this work was carried out in 2007, so the garden is once again a clear representation of Ralph Allen's original vision.
The park includes 28 acres of trees and lakes, spread out across a dramatic valley. Throughout the garden you'll find dozens of scattered treasures, from temples to water features. The pick of the bunch is the Palladian bridge. Its unusual design features a triangular roof, held up by a series of columns. This is one of only 4 such bridges in the entire world.

Palladian Bridge
Photo Nigel's Europe
There's another Palladian construction at the top of the biggest hill in the garden. This is Prior Park Mansion, which was once the home of Ralph Allen himself. It was designed especially for him by an architect called John Wood. His other work includes such landmarks as The Circus, and St. John's Hospital.

Prior Park Mansion
Photo Nigel's Europe
Despite including these magnificent structures, Prior Park's biggest selling point is its greenery. The grass and trees are lush and beautiful, making this the finest picnic spot in Bath. The best location in the entire park is at the top of the hill, where you can look down on the city from above. The panoramic view stretches across the entire settlement, all the way to its western edge.
Prior Park is now in the hands of the National Trust who are running it as green tourist location. This means that there is no car parking here except for disabled badge holders. There are good public transport connections, though if you have the energy the walk up to it is great.
More great views can be had from a walking trail called the Bath Skyline. This 10 kilometre route passes by Prior Park, before winding its way up and down the eastern side of the city. The path leads through woods, farms and meadows, making it a very peaceful stroll. Along the way you'll pass all sorts of old structures, including Roman and Iron Age remains.
Visitor Information
Prior Park is managed by the National Trust and is open daily (except Tuesday), Mid February to October (and weekends in winter), 11.30am to 5.30pm (4.30pm in winter). Entry costs around £5 for adults, £3 child. Prior Park is at Ralph Allen Drive, Bath, Somerset BA2 5AH. Tel: 01225 460705

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