A walk around Parke
This mostly level ramble takes you around the edge of historic parkland, giving you an insight into how a small country estate in the 1800s was able to be almost self-sufficient.
Parke car park, grid ref SX805786
Start by the National Trust ranger's office, which is behind Parke House, below the walled garden. Follow the track towards the River Bovey. When you reach the barn and yard on the left, go through the wooden gate on your right into the open parkland. Turn left and walk down between the hedge and the large oak tree to a small leat.
Parke walled garden
Walled kitchen gardens traditionally supplied a variety of fruit, vegetables and salads for the household. The garden forms part of the re-modelled core of the estate dating from the 1820s. Though the estate declined in the late 20th century, much of the historic layout remains. Clinging to the sides of a valley, the walled garden is a great example of an attempt to impose a conventional layout onto unsuitable terrain; but, despite this, the garden is now re-emerging as a fully-working site thanks to the local community.
Turn right at the leat and follow it for about 65yd (60m). This man-made waterway (a common feature on Dartmoor) originally powered the wool mill in Bovey Tracey and also fed the estate pond.
The extensive orchard surrounding the walled garden on three sides was in use as early as 1841. According to Arthur Stevens, the Parke bailiff between the wars, the apples from the orchard were made into cider, whereas culinary and dessert apples were grown in the walled garden.
Can you see the beehives? They should be in front of you. Bear right and follow the ditch which curves around to the left.
The bees in these hives supplied the Parke household with honey for cooking and making into mead wine. They also pollinated the formal, fruit and vegetable gardens.
Cross over a boggy area to get a glimpse of Parke House on your right and the fish pond on your left. The pond is now silted-up and overgrown, providing a great habitat for dragonflies, but would once have supplied protein-rich fish to the House. Continue in a south-westerly direction, following a wire fence on your left. The enclosed field is quite boggy, a good habitat for wild flowers such as orchids, water-dropworts and sedges.
The park at Parke
The landscape you see at Parke today dates from the early 19th century, but there are also influences of 18th-century principles established by Lancelot Capability Brown, the famous landscape designer of the time. Although there's no evidence to suggest Brown directly influenced Parke, his picturesque style typically included a decorative park with grazing and haymaking. Another familiar Brownian device found at Parke is to plant trees in such a way as to make the landscape appear from within to be surrounded by woodland, as well as providing privacy from the inquisitive eyes of the passer-by.
Continue around the parkland in a clockwise direction until you meet the main drive. Follow this and take the left fork towards the car park. Walk carefully though the car park and out of the gate in the far corner down a small lane.
Grazing sheep would have provided meat and wool for Parke House, and cattle would also have occasionally been seen.
On your left you'll see an apple and damson orchard for making cider and preserves. Near the bottom of the lane, look through the wooden door into the walled garden. After you've taken a look, head back to the car park.
The garden once provided a year-round supply of vegetables and fruit.
We hope that you really enjoyed this one-mile walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of countryside for the enjoyment of all. We need your support to help us continue our work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful and refreshing landscape.
If you'd like to support us
To find out more about how you too can help our work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
Parke car park, grid ref SX805786
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