Sunday, 29 March 2009

Ashton Court Estate

The Clifton Gate to Ashton Court

On a visit to friends in Bristol, we were taken for a walk around the Ashton Court Estate, owned by the City, but located outside the city boundaries. It consists of a splendid 840 acre park, at the heart of which is the "mansion", now used as a conference centre and venue for events. Our circuit was about 3.5 miles.

We followed an avenue of trees and headed across open park land towards a copse ....

We then entered the copse and descended a winding path to emerge again into open parkland by a second, smaller Lodge (Clarken Combe Lodge) ....

.... with the path stretching invitingly away before us.

As we approached the mansion we saw this shapely oriental-looking tree apparently coming into full leaf.

Then we came to the recently repainted mansion.

Lunch beckoned and we resisted the temptation to extend the route to revisit part of a previous walk, starting from nearby Leigh Woods and walk up the delightful Nightingale Valley. Instead we climbed back to the higher ground and returned to Clifton Gate and headed back to our friends' place for a gourmet lunch.

Rating: four stars.

More about Ashton Park

Thomas de Lyons was granted a licence in 1392 to enclose his lands and make a park, the foundation of the modern one. Somewhere in the sixteenth century the estate was bought by a Bristol merchant named John Smyth. He remodelled it and created the south facade - in a neo-classical style, inspired by Inigo Jones's Banqueting House in Whitehall. See here for a picture. Further alterations were made in the nineteenth century to create the view from the north shown above.

In 1939, it was requisitioned by the War Office, and used in turn as a Transit Camp, RAF HQ and American Army Command HQ. The last Smyth owner died in 1946 and for 13 years the house lay empty and in decline. Bristol City Council took it over in 1959.

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