Lodge Park Bridgeman walk
When Lodge Park is open to the public you can explore the grounds of Lodge Park and the wider parkland, designed by Charles Bridgeman in the 18th century. There are great views of the River Leach.
Lodge Park, grid ref: SP146123
Start at Lodge Park and walk towards the 19th-century fountain. This was built for Emily Theresa Sherborne when the Lodge was converted to her dower house. You're standing on the 17th-century deer racing course that stretched for one mile (1.6km) towards the A40.
What is the Lodge building for?
Lodge Park is a grandstand built for extravagant hospitality and riotous entertainment in 1634. It was the personal indulgence of John Crump Dutton, so that he could entertain his friends. Dutton created sumptuous rooms of the latest styles, in which he could provide fine food and drink. The first floor was one large Great Room, where the feasting and drinking could be enjoyed. However, the true motivation for the building was to provide a place for gambling on the deer-coursing outside. The Lodge provided two viewing places to watch the chase: the balcony and the roof.
Walk to the car park, enter the woodland at the far corner of the car park. Follow the woodland walk, keeping to the left when the path splits into two.
What was deer-coursing?
Deer-coursing at Lodge Park involved dogs chasing deer along a mile long walled enclosure. The deer were bred in the park and brought in for the races. Deer would be set off with a head-start and dogs would be released to chase. The finishing line lay in front of the Lodge and guests would bet on which dog reached it first. A ditch marked this point, and the deer could leap over to be captured by keepers and run another day. If a large enough bet was made, then the dogs were given another chance to catch the deer.
When you leave the woodland, turn left towards the Lodge. Approach the building from the right. On the far right by the wall is a pet cemetery; this was probably first created by Joan, wife of Charles Dutton, and 7th Lord Sherborne, who loved animals. In it there's a memorial to Betty Hall, their housekeeper.
Continue to the right, past the pet graveyard, along the iron fence, towards the parkland at the back of the Lodge. Leave the field via the wooden gate. The Deer Park is historically very significant. Sir John Dutton, the 2nd Baronet, commissioned Charles Bridgeman to redesign the Deer Park in the 1720s. Bridgeman was the leading landscaper of the day.
An untouched Bridgeman landscape
The park was designed in 1726 by the most renowned landscape designer of his time, Charles Bridgeman. Remarkably, this scheme was never re-developed, and so here at Sherborne we have one of the best preserved Bridgeman designs, even if his designs are overgrown or eroded in some places. When the park was first laid out, it needed thousands of trees, such as 10,000 Scots pines and 4,500 hawthorn. The plan for the original scheme survives, and is shown largely complete in a painting by George Lambert in the Lodge.
When you enter the pasture, turn right; continue along the fence to the far corner of the woodland. When you reach the end of the woodland, turn left into the field and walk west, towards the Long Barrow. This burial mound dates back to the Stone Age.
Keep walking past the Long Barrow, until you reach the edge of the hill. From here you can see the River Leach. Turn left and walk along the top of the hill.
Keep walking past an avenue of young lime trees on your left. When you reach a second avenue of trees, turn left and follow the middle trees uphill, back towards the Lodge. Notice the buildings in front of you: an old coach house and further to the right, a slaughter house. Any dead or wounded deer would have been brought here for preparation of the venison.
Now go back in through the gates towards the Lodge.
Lodge Park, grid ref: SP146123
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