The Terraces Walk
This circular route will take you through open parkland, tranquil woodland terraces and the formal beauty of the West Garden.
Visitor reception, Dyrham Park
After leaving visitor reception, follow the pathway across the small grassed area, towards the main drive. Keeping the main entrance to your right, cross the drive to the other side.
Inspired by royal gardens
When William Blathwayt, a skilled government and colonial administrator, inherited the Dyrham estate from his father-in-law in 1689, he immediately set about rebuilding house and furnishing it in the Dutch style favoured by the court of William III and Mary II. At the same time as constructing the new house, William also created his celebrated gardens. Through his work, William was familiar with English royal gardens and when he attended the king abroad, he took opportunities to visit gardens across the Netherlands. The monarchs were enthusiastic gardeners, the Queen was passionate about flowers, and the King was fond of formal design and water features. Like many of his fellow courtiers, William followed royal example and created his own ambitious gardens.
Once here, you will see the entrance to a third lime tree avenue. Follow the route of the avenue across the parkland until you reach the tree stump engraved with a compass based on Blathwayt's maps.
The avenue, a tree-lined approach to a house or a garden feature, is one of the oldest ideas in garden history. Typically planted with fast- and tall-growing tree species such as lime, beech, poplar and horse chestnut, they were a popular landscape feature and can be seen across England on grand country estates. Whilst many were planted with the design of enhancing an approach to a manor houses for visitors arriving by carriage, the lime tree avenues at Dyrham frame views of the parkland and surrounding countryside. The avenues seemingly had those on foot, or perhaps horseback, in mind and promote leisurely walks and enjoyment of the landscape. Avenues were particularly popular in the late 17th-century and were associated with the grand palace gardens of Het Loo and Versailles. As with other features of his garden, it’s likely that William Blathwayt drew his inspiration for Dyrham’s avenues from those seen in the Dutch and French royal gardens.
At the tree stump, follow the line of the arrow pointing to 'Old Lodge and Terraces'. Follow the slope down towards Old Lodge, the gathering of Victorian farm buildings.
From Old Lodge, follow the brow of the hill gently around to the right, until you reach the view point next to a large beech tree.
After taking in the sweeping views, turn left at the viewpoint and walk down the hill to the entrance of the terraces.
Enter the woodland terraces through the gate and take your time meandering through the peaceful pathways, slowly making your way towards St Peter's Church.
The Lost Terraces
Once forming part of Blathwayt’s lost Dutch water gardens, the terraces were filled with statues, fountains, flowers and orchards. Built as a place for the Blathwayt family and their guests to stroll, they were, and remain, the perfect place to admire views of the West Front and the avenue from above, and across to Bristol and beyond. Until relatively recently, the Terraces seemed lost to history. Over time, nature had hidden the terraces from view and pathways were crowded with brambles and overgrown shrubbery. However, in 2014 a dedicated team of over two-hundred volunteers worked tirelessly alongside staff to help re-open the Terraces and return them to their former 17th-century glory. The team removed huge amounts of earth and rubble and cleared thick undergrowth in order to make way for new paths. They also transported 140 tonnes of stone across the park, down a chute onto the terraces, to restore over 100m of dry stone wall. Six thousand bluebell bulbs were planted by visitors and volunteers along the terraces, that now bloom every spring alongside a sea of wild garlic. Guilder rose, wild cherry, wild pear, spindle, hawthorn and hazel plants also burst into life over the course of the year.
Exit the terraces through the bottom gate next to the churchyard. Then, keeping the church and house to your left, make your way across the top end of the garden to Stable Court. Do feel free to take a diversion and explore the pathways around the West Garden.
A 21st-century garden with echoes of the past
The West Garden at Dyrham is in the midst of a five-year transformation project to revitalise the garden into a 21st-century garden with flavours of the past. The project is inspired by some key historical documents, including Johannes Kip’s 1710 engraving of Dyrham Park. Kip, a 17th-century artist, was noted for his illustrations of birds eye perspectives of the country houses and estates of the time. The avenue, in which borders have been re-created, represents the historic west entrance to the estate, looking up towards the house and a watchful statue of Mercury (which was restored as part of the re-roofing project). These long flowerbeds, neatly formed topiary and trained fruits all take precedence in the West Garden. To find out more about the West Garden and the project, why not come back and join a free, daily garden tour with one of our knowledgeable volunteers?
From Stable Court, walk through the archway and across the courtyard, with the stables on your left and the tea-room on your right. After stopping for refreshments from the kiosk if you wish, head towards the Greenhouse, then on to East Front.
Once you've turned around and taken a good look at the house and the Greenhouse, head through the gate and back into the parkland. Walk in a north-easterly direction, walking up the slope in the dip between the two hills.
A lost water garden
In the 17th century, Dyrham Park looked very different to the landscape you see today. Had you been visiting in the time of William Blathwayt, you would have seen his great formal water gardens (built between 1692-1704), that once occupied the space in front of the East Front. Once again inspired by Dutch gardens such as Het Loo, Blathwayt overcame the challenges of the landscape and moved huge amounts of earth in order to recreate the formal parterres, canals and terraces of the flat Dutch gardens. The Johannes Kip engraving of Dyrham Park from 1710 has the East Garden at the top and shows water cascading down the hill from the Statue of Neptune into elaborate gardens. This incredible bird’s-eye view gives us a remarkable insight into what Blathwayt’s gardens would have looked like, before they were lost to history.
At the top of this slope turn right, keeping the fenced area to your left, walk up the hill towards the viewpoint next to the main drive.
After another moment enjoying the view of the house and the parkland, walk up the driveway through the lime tree avenue, back towards the main entrance and visitor reception.
Visitor reception, Dyrham Park
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