Snowdrops at Lydiard Park

Snowdrops at Lydiard Park (Jane Gifford)

Snowdrops (Jane Gifford)

Each February the display of snowdrops at Lydiard Park is more spectacular than ever, partly by clumps getting bigger and self-seeding, partly by deliberate dig-and-divide work by staff and volunteers each March.

The snowdrops are in all the woods as you walk around the site, by the lake, on up to Lydiard House, and an especially vivid display in front of the stable buildings where the Coach House Tea Rooms are located. People visit from long distances to marvel at the sheer numbers in every nook and cranny.

Many are the basic, but beautiful, wild variety, while more are a double version. Very rarely, you can find hints of cross-breeding with an unusual variant linked to Lady Diana, a historic character who loved her garden plants in the large Walled Garden beyond the Coach House Tea Rooms. A few specimens of the Lady Diana snowdrop are carefully preserved in a secret location.

But people come simply because they know they can go for long walks along elegant tree-lined paths, and see snowdrops en masse in lots of picture-perfect woodland combinations. Come and see for yourself!

Then come back again in April to see the first displays of wild flowers, the bluebells, the cowslips and then later to spectacular pink displays of red campion and much much more.

John Ball (Gardener)







Lydiard Park Honey

The Apiary is situated close to the Walled Garden, where the bees forage for nectar and pollen. The nectar is liquid that the bees turn into honey, the pollen is used by the bees as their protein to feed their young.IMG_0188

The nectar and pollen will combine to give trace elements in the honey, this has been found to help with hay fever systems and other allergies.

Honey Make-up

17 to 18% water content, these years Lydiard Honey is measured at 17.4%.

35% Glucose (Dextrose)

40% Fructose (Levulose).

4% other sugars

3% Other substances.

The other substances will cover, Organic acids, minerals, free amino acids, proteins and the pollens from the forage area of the bees.


Lydiard Honey on sale in the Coach House Tea Rooms and Lydiard House

Honey has a built-in antibacterial substance based upon the production of peroxide by an enzyme, which is added by the bees. This active sterility of honey has caused it to be used for wound dressing, without any side effects upon healthy tissue and the fact that it does not dry out.

To clear crystallised honey, remove the metal top and place the jar in a microwave for 20 seconds to just warm the honey, if you heat it over 45 Deg C. you will kill the beneficial parts within the honey and revert to very tasty sugar.

Stephen Greenaway, Lydiard Beekeeper.

Final blog from Simon Brooks – Head Gardener

SAM_1801A period of intense heat has given way to heavy showers, interspersed with glorious sunshine. This has meant that the early flowering plants are receiving a well needed replenishment of water and nutrients, which should help many of them to produce a second flush of blooms later in the year. A sudden explosion of flowers means the Walled Garden is looking fantastic and well worth visiting.

Bedding – As the leaves of the bulbs die off, the team will soon be lifting and storing many of them for re-planting later in the year. Summer plants are growing well, and will soon replace the bulbs in the beds.

Fruit – As the blossom of fruit trees gently blows away, we await the outcome of the pollination and hope for another good crop.

Flowering plants – A riot of various colours, shades of green and emerging buds all around the Walled Garden include Geraniums, Sweet Rocket, Pulmonaria, Astrantia, Peonies, Centaurea (both the blue and white varieties), Lilac, Tiarella, Thalictrum, honeysuckles, Asphodelines, Hemerocallis, Aquilegia, Phacelia, Spanish broom, Euphorbia and Verbascum.

Notable plants – A selection of three very different plants to enjoy this time around – firstly, the bold red of the perennial Poppies punctuate the view in the Walled Garden. Secondly, delicate white with blue stained Irises are an almost angelic view amongst the greenery of other plants. Finally, the bold purple flowers continue on the Judas Tree (Cercis silaquestrum) trained against the wall, providing a natural lighting effect to the wonderful brickwork.

Plant sales – As the available plants start into growth, the sales area shows the potential effect buying a plant from Lydiard can add to your own garden. Surplus annual plants are for sale, including crimson flowered beans and sweet peas, just speak to a member of the Garden Team.

Sadly this will be my final Garden blog, as I am leaving Lydiard Park to take up the reins as Head Gardener closer to home. It has been a wonderful 2 ½ years at Lydiard Park, working with dedicated staff and volunteers, meeting regular users and explaining to visitors all about the history of the site.

I will depart with this quote from the notable horticultural authority of Vita Sackville-West – “The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.”

Thank you.

Simon Brooks, Head Gardener

Plants bloom ahead of time

After the sunshine and warmth around leading up to, and including, the Bank Holiday weekend the plants in the Walled Garden are looking fantastic with many starting to bloom ahead of their usual time. This pleasant experience also means some of the earlier plants are going over quicker than we would like, but there is still plenty to enjoy.

Bedding – The final show of tulips are in bloom, and the Garden Team are busy “pricking-out” the summer annual plants sown earlier this year. Look out for the magnificent scented sweet peas.

Fruit – The final work of this season is being finished to train the fruit trees into their highly decorative and productive “goblet” shape. The blossom makes a pleasant sight, highlighting the various forms within the Walled Garden, as well as the flowering of cherries and pears trained on the walls.

Flowering plants – Many of the spring flowering plants are being joined by the late spring/early summer flowering species. Look out for the yellow Tree Peony at the far end of the Walled Garden, and admire other flowers along the way, such as the different varieties of Geranium, Sweet Rocket, Pulmonaria, Astrantia, various Peonies, Centaurea (both the blue and white varieties), Forget-me-Nots, Lilac, Tiarella, Thalictrum, Aquilegia, Euphorbia and Verbascum. Many other plants are well-budded including the perennial Poppies.

Notable plants –  Although not actually within the Walled Garden, anyone passing the Coach House Tea Rooms cannot fail tA2 Wisteria Rooto miss the sight, and more importantly the smell of the stunning Wisteria adorning the exterior of the Stable Block. Enjoy sitting in the Coach House Tea Rooms as the scent wafts in. Back inside the Walled Garden the purple flowering Lamium orvala, is a magnet for the various species of bee who are enjoying the recent increase in temperature and going about their vital environmental work.

Plant sales – As the available plants start into growth, the sales area shows the potential effect buying a plant from Lydiard can add to your own garden.

Simon Brooks, Head Gardener

A Roman Road in Lydiard Park

Philip A Rowbotham

When people think of Roman roads in Britain the majority only consider the main named highways between the larger towns such as Ermin Street, Stane Street, Akeman Street and Watling Street. In the case of this particular selection of road names which have the suffix “street” added to them, they were identified by the Anglo-Saxons for no better reason than that they were straight and therefore they used their word “streat” or “strete” to describe them. The use of “street” to denote roman roads is not confined to main roads however but to many of the minor ones as well, although care must be taken in built-up areas.

It was the name “Hook” with its suffix “street” which provided the first clue to the fact that a section of Roman road almost certainly existed between the western outskirts of Swindon; running from the roundabout on Whitehill Way towards the hamlet of Hook situated on the road from Royal Wooton Bassett to Purton. In an easterly direction the road most probably provided a connection to the Roman pottery kilns at Toothill Farm. In the west it can be detected as a longitudinal hump in the right hand field next to Lower Hook Street Farm, further along on the right hand side by the graveyard and finally at the left by Old School House Restaurant.   There is also a possibility that the roman road splits into two just before the caravan park, with a right hand section heading towards the Bolingbroke public house.

By use of Google aerial photographs, an examination was made of the whole of the route and this showed the characteristic parallel “parch-marks” lines caused by differential vegetation growth in the ditches either side of a Roman road, within the present southern boundary of the Park. This small section runs westward [approx: 280 degrees] from the “tradesman’s entrance” to the Park used by outside contractors, through Elm Plantation and parallel to the start of the existing single track section until rejoining the modern road again prior to No 24 Hook Street.


Google “parch-marks” with resistivity superimposed.

(After: Google Maps/Archeoscan.)

A further check was carried out to ensure that the parallel lines showing on the Google map were not made in the immediate passed, and a comparison was made with the aerial photo’s taken by the RAF just after the last world war. These showed that what Google map was showing was not recent since the parallel marks were also present in 1952. Finally, contact was made with Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre who carried out a check to ensure that no previous record existed of any roman road being found in Lydiard Park.

The first attempt at a geophysical survey using both magnetometry and resistivity was carried out in September 2013 using equipment provided and operated by Bath and Camerton Archaeology Society (BACAS), which unfortunately was unsuccessful. A second attempt, using only resistivity was carried out by Archeoscan of Gloucester on the 9th of April this year using another section of the Google “parch-mark” to the east of the first attempt. Two parallel black lines running alongside and just to the north of the Google “parch-marks” were revealed, with a slight positional discrepancy between the aerial photo and the measurements on the ground.


The author would like to acknowledge Swindon Borough Council for allowing access to Lydiard Park to carry out the investigation, to Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre for their guidance, to Google for the use of their mapping system, to BACAS for their assistance and loan of the equipment used in first attempt and finally to Archeoscan for carrying out the successful work.


Garden Interest

Easter has well and truly arrived; the mallard was escorted from the Walled Garden with ten chicks. Excellent teamwork from a combination of gardeners, wardens and the education team, who kept the dogs away as the mallard waddled through the copse near the house and down the lawn to the lake. Success! We suspect a second mallard wants to breed in the safety of the walled garden too. The garden plants are also full of the joys of spring, most of them a fortnight early, which is good for visitors.

Bulbs – Visitors are taking photos of the lovely yellow species tulips – clusiana, all along the west wall bed. Also Tulipa praestans – vivid red in the main annual bed, as well as the east wall.  White is also a theme at the moment, with bulbs such as Narcissus “Thalia” – with two flowers on the stem, and the lovely Leucojum vernum on the north bed – spring snowflake. Real native bluebells (narrow leaves, deep purple flowers, or white) abound in the copse near the house; and across the whole site. Many gardeners have Spanish bluebells (wide leaves, pale blue, pink or white flowers) that are not nearly as nice.

Fruit – We have more or less completed a big effort to improve the ‘goblet’ shapes of the 140 apples trees in the beds. The public are making more frequent comments about them, presumably because the shapes are more obvious, and many people have commented that they are inspired to try the idea at home. The blossom on many fruits trees are starting to burst open with the promise of spring. The wall peach trees on the south-facing bed have suffered over the years with peach leaf curl; this year we have tried the organic method of control by covering them with a big sheet, and barley straw on the floor (to stop splash of spores from the soil); this has made a definite improvement.

Flowering Plants – More white plants are blooming, from honesty Lunaria, for some reason we have more white ones than purple; sweet rocket (Hesperis) which is again flowering very early, and even the white Centaurea. The big draw is the clumps of spring pea (Lathyrus vernus), feeding the brown bumblebees. The other draw for bumblebees and humans are the dead nettles – especially our large garden red ones (Lamium orvala) and the native white lamium which we tolerate on the wall beds.

Notable Plants – Sophora japonica – on the west wall with spectacular yellow flowers beloved by bees; our specimen is not huge, because of the local soil (it prefers clay), but all the nicer for being compact. Another bush flowering, this time white, is Amelanchier ovalis on the north-facing wall. The public are especially noticing the spring pea clumps and the species tulips, and asking about the many peonies that are about to open up.

Andy Dyer and John Ball, Lydiard Park Gardeners

“There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.”

9. Lydiard Park Copyright Jane Gifford 2007We are busy keeping up with the spring flurry of growth – plants, grass and weeds all compete for the attention of the Garden Team. Add to this the provision of annual plants for the seasonal summer beds and there isn’t a spare second in any day. With the variety of plants starting to emerge from their winter slumber, Thomas Jefferson summed our passion for horticulture up in his quote “There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.”

Bedding – Regular lines of daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and tulips are looking good right now, especially the contrast between the blue hyacinths and red tulips along the main path.

Fruit – Further formative pruning, training and staking is being done to get the “goblet” shape perfected and form a structure within the garden. These forms are highly decorative as well as productive. Blossom is starting to emerge, highlighting the forms of the espalier and fan trained trees against the walls.

Flowering plants – Around the Walled Garden you can now find many bulbs on the outer borders, including Scilla sibirica, Narcissus “Rip van Winkle”, Hyacinths, Fritillaria persica , Muscari, Leucojum vernum and Tulips. Elsewhere there are Euphorbia, Omphalodes, Violas, Lathyrus vernum, Chaenomoles and Sophora flowering. The emergence of foliage is also worth looking out for as peonies break from their soil based thick red buds, Lamium orvala opens a rich crimson and deep green leaf, silver Cardoons erupt and many other foliage rise in various shades and forms.

Notable plants – Shade loving Pulmonarias adorn the ground on the North facing wall, along with glorious displays of Primroses and Cowslips. Look out for the dainty, lilac coloured Pasque flower elsewhere – it has had a real battle in the wet weather, but survived and is now flowering well.

Plant sales –  More plants are being lifted for sale, particularly nice examples of primroses will soon be available as will many other interesting plants.

Simon Brooks, Head Gardener