Planning your visit

Project

The National Trust began caring for Prior Park in 1993, and with the help of our supporters we've been working to restore what was an overgrown garden, back to the landscaped vision of its creator Ralph Allen. The work on the garden's 18th-century dams is the next stage of this exciting, yet crucial restoration journey. 

Jan 2020: Contractors began work in Nov '19 and this affects the areas of the garden that are open to visitors. This is the page where we will aim to set out the most important information to help you plan a visit to Prior Park.

Access to the garden

  • Entry to the garden is through the main entrance on Ralph Allen Drive only.
  • Construction vehicles will also enter this way, so there will be someone there from the contractors team to marshal vehicles entering and exiting the site to ensure visitor safety (contractor deliveries should be weekdays only, and over the winter the garden is open to visitors at the weekends only).
  • We're now open every day of the week from 10am - dusk. Last entry is an hour before closing.

Access around the garden

  • We have aimed to keep as much of the garden open as possible.
  • The area beyond the Palladian Bridge is now closed as this forms the worksite, but the bridge is a great place place to see the works in progress. 

Please see map on the link below, where shading indicates areas that are closed to visitors.

Prior Park garden map (PDF / 0.17578125MB) download

Facilities

Toilets: The toilets at the top of the garden will be available for use (lower toilets now closed).
Tea Shed: The Tea Shed is on the Cabinet at the top of the garden and is open every day of the week 10.15am - 3pm, serving drinks, cakes, snacks, plus paninis over lunchtime.

Accessible parking

Unfortunately, parking for blue badge holders is not available. The set up of the site, and safety measures that are in place to separate the works areas from visitor spaces, means that there is not enough space remaining to allow vehicles to turn in the area previously used for parking for disabled visitors. We will reinstate this previous parking offer after the project.

First things you will notice

  • The contractors have set up their access route from the main entrance, through the garden down to the lakes. You will notice plant vehicles around the site.
  • Wooden hoarding has been erected by reception, and there is metal mesh fencing at places around the garden - particularly in the area beyond the Palladian Bridge.
  • The lower lake has now been drained and will remain empty whilst the contractors work on the lower dam. The downstream water is being diverted from the middle dam away from the lower dam to ensure it stays dry. 
  • You may see work taking place on the cascade between the middle and lower lake. 
  • The contractors will soon begin excavation work on the lower dam. 

 

The timeline below highlights the key stages in the dams project as we restore Prior Park's reflections and return this Georgian landscape garden to its 1764 splendour. 

 

Latest updates

25 Jan 20

Crayfish researchers visit Prior Park to collect data

Taking advantage of the drained down lakes, researchers from Queen Mary University of London visited Prior Park to collect data on the garden's American signal crayfish. They are studying the impact of this invasive species' burrowing on the erosion of river and lake banks, buildings and dams. Whilst here, they completed 3D imaging of the dams using a terrestrial scanner, photography using a drone and took soil samples from the lake banks. This data will help build a statistical model that can be used to look at their impact in different circumstances.

Researchers visit Prior Park to collect data on the effect of American Signal Crayfish's burrowing on

15 Jan 20

A fish rescue operation

Back in autumn 2019, we caught and subsequently relocated, many of the fish living in the lower lake. However, due to the large amount of silt and vegetation that has built up in the lake, there was plenty of space for the more craftier fish to hide and evade capture. Having started the process of draining the lake, the lowered water levels presented the perfect opportunity to rescue the remaining fish and safely move them to the top lake. Whilst we were holding the fish ready to move, branches were placed over the surface of the water to keep them safe from the unwanted attention of any nearby predators.

A man wearing yellow full-body waders in the top lake at Prior Park, he is moving through the water carrying a large branch.

05 Dec 19

Installation of access route begins

The garden has begun to look visibly different as the contractors continue installing their access route to their work site. Heras fencing has been erected across the site to define what areas are restricted to contractor access only. Tree protection fencing has also been installed around their access tracks.

The contractors work site at Prior Park is outlined by Heras fencing.