Wrest Park, Bedfordshire April 2016

by Emma Bumpus on May 4, 2016

St George’s Day takes careertraveller and family to Bedfordshire where knights, gladiators and medieval storytelling bring history alive in verdant parkland teeming with architectural eye candy!

Greeted by jesters, minstrels and glittering armour fit for dragon slaying we are engulfed in the park’s celebrated St George’s Festival, a plethora of Saxons, Normans and chain mailed soldiers preparing for combat. Meandering round the tents of the travelling War of The Roses Federation, a medieval group of re-enactors is an authentic insight to the middle ages which in 92 stunning acres of 18th century gardens echoes 2016 Year of The English Garden.

Beneath the sky-scraping trees that sway towards the banks of the romantic French style Orangery, once home to orange trees bought from King Louis Philippe of France, we inhale tree-lined paths and sweeping lawns sprinkled with picturesque statues, all 40! Prudently situated in wide-open spaces offering far-reaching vistas of the Bowling Green House we are swamped in history and a melee of Georgian falconry, 1066 battle drama and medieval jousting in an arena of pure English heritage.

As we pass Lady Jemima’s horse riding through the park we are spellbound by this event that entertains the whole family amidst the gunpowder, troubadours and medieval clad members who fascinate us with their woodturning, weaving and fire range cooking.

Every corner of this leafy green paradise presents living history through the ages, which built for pleasure, style and beauty presents a treasure trove of art and architecture dating back to 1042-66 and the de Grey family. Outside the Grade-I-listed Wrest House we step into the world of Thomas Earl de Grey, whose love of French and Italian architecture lives on with stunning French Parterre and Italian Gardens. Curvaceous, symmetrical and vividly ornamental flower displays bring joy to the kids who enjoy darting along the zigzag paths outside this imposing chateau like mansion, that once served as a military hospital and convalescent home during the First World War.

Inside is a sumptuous labyrinth of decorative rooms detailing ornate furnishings and family portraits that encircle an elegant entrance hall with beautifully positioned doors leading the eye vertically down to the spectacular canal named Long Water. Perfectly aligned amongst an orderly mass of woodland stands the 17th century Pavilion, which built by architect Thomas Archer introduces baroque architecture with rotunda views at the top of this former hunting house.

As we climb the three-floored spiral staircase beneath an illusory painted ceiling enhanced by Louis Hauduroy in trompe l’oeil, we capture 6 bay window views of the garden that continues our trail of monuments and abundant landscape. Whilst the kids revel is finding a woodland Dog’s Cemetery whose headstones date back to 1830, the adults discover the ‘Capability’Brown Column that commemorates the landscape gardener’s transformation of the gardens in 1758-60.

Ready for some gladiator action we retreat to the main arena but not without noting the elegantly arched Chinese Bridge and Temple, that add yet another dimension to the parkland that exhibits loving traces of 21st century conservation and revitalisation.

Amidst the sword fighting cheers of the crowds who anticipate the battle of St George versus The Dragon finale, Wrest Park remains a cultural oasis, a fertile wonderland and a magnificent backdrop for all things special and best of all, a great day out for the family.

Further information:

Wrest Park
Events at Wrest Park

English Heritage

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