At 840 acres Bradgate Park is Leicestershire’s largest county park. The park is located in the valley of the River Lin and is made up of grass, heath, bracken, rocky outcrops, and small woods. A reservoir is located in the park.
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The park was created from Charnwood Forest around 750 years ago as a hunting park. The village of Bradgate was in this area and was moved to a new town, now called Newtown Linford. Since 1240 there have been red and fallow deer in the park.
In the grounds is a folly, Old John Tower, built in 1784. The Folly is 690 feet above sea level giving views across Leicestershire and surrounding counties. The tower is named after a favourite family retainer who was killed by a collapsing bonfire during birthday celebrations. It is open for visitors taking part in the Country Parks guided walks programme.
Also in the park are the extensive ruins of the red brick Tudor Bradgate House, where Lady Jane Grey was born. She was the nine day queen (1553). It was in the 15th century that the Grey family became owners of the estate. They were connected with the royal family in that Elizabeth Woodville was married to Sir John Grey; then when he died she married Edward IV. Her oldest son, Sir Thomas Grey, was responsible for beginning the building of the brick Bradgate House circa 1499. His son completed it.
Jane was the great granddaughter of Sir Thomas. Jane was born at Bradgate in 1537. She married Lord Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland’s son. Her ambitious and greedy family forced her to take the crown when her cousin, Edward VI, died. She was executed nine days later for treason by powerful forces wanting control of the country for themselves. The house became empty in 1719 and was a ruin 70 years later. In the chapel (roofed) is an alabaster tomb of Sir Henry Grey and his family.
The small visitor centre has displays about the house and park, Lady Jane Grey and her family, Old John Tower, Swithland Slate Quarrying, the history of Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood, the gift of the country park to the people of Leicester and Leicestershire, the geology, flora and fauna of the park, and the park's herds of deer. In the same building is a café serving a small number of snacks.
There are walks available in the grounds. It takes an hour to walk from one side of the park using the main path to the other, allowing time for a snack, coffee, or exploration.
There are many interesting villages in the area, and it’s close to the city of Leicester, with its interesting museums, making a day’s visit to the National Space Centre, Pumping Station Museum, Jewry Wall Museum, historic guildhall and other interesting sites an easy commute.
At one entrance to the park is the village of Newtown Linford with several good eating spots. At the opposite entrance to the park is an award winning bed and breakfast, Horseshoe Cottage Farm, from which it is easy to enjoy walks in the park.
Newtown Linford, Leicestershire
Three entrances: main one in Newtown Linford; also Cropston (Hallgates) and Old John (Hunts Hill). Swithland wood has two entrances, north and south.
Tel. 0 116 236 2713
Open: Visitor Centre, summer, Tue-Sun, noon-5pm, in winter weekends only, 1-4pm; Park, year round, dawn to dusk
Pay car parks; picnic areas; just opposite the Bradgate car park is a good restaurant, The Village
Tel. 0 1530 245 801
Web: Go Leicestershire
To stay: Horseshoe Cottage Farm
All photos © by Barbara Ballard