The grounds of Cirencester Park have belonged to the Earls Bathurst since the early eighteenth century. The woodland surrounds the Cotswold town of Cirencester and a walk there makes a good break from window shopping.
Cirencester Park harks back to 1107, when the first castle was built on the site. The mansion you can see today was built around 1714 by the 1st Earl Bathurst, who demolished the Tudor-Jacobean house that was previously there. In 1716, Bathurst acquired more land and used it to plant a landscaped garden, including a little building called Alfred’s Hall (thought to be the earliest recorded Gothic garden building in England). But it might take you a bit of time to find it: the grounds are 3,000 acres in size and have woodland trails for walking and riding. They claim to have the tallest yew hedge in Britain, planted around 1710 and which produces a tonne of clippings a year. It’s said that Alexander Pope invested in the planning of the park, and Jonathan Swift often visited, too. When it was first planned it was meant to be a deer park, but years later, during the First World War, it became a military camp for the Warwickshire Yeomanry. It was also used as a military hospital during the Second World War, and Glenn Miller performed to 7,000 troops here in 1944.
In 1997 the park was replanted and lots of concrete removed from the grounds so that it would look more like it did 400 years ago. The 9th Earl and Countess Bathurst still live on the Estate today but the grounds are open to walkers.