Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In praise of Bradgate Park

Yesterday I visited Bradgate Park, which is a few miles north west of Leicester. It is a part of Charnwood Forest - somewhere to take people who insist that the Midlands are flat - and contains the ruins of Bradgate Park, which was the home of the Grey family - as in Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for nine days.

The park was privately purchased from the Grey family and given to the people of Leicestershire by Charles Bennion in 1928.

The best account of it is to found on the site of Leicestershire Orienteering Club:
The herds of deer, about 340 in number at the last count, wander at will within the park - one of the finest herds of parkland deer in the country. Deer have been kept at Bradgate, in this fine example of ancient parkland, since the 13th century and to protect them from stress they have areas of the park reserved to them where they can escape from human presence when the park gets to busy.

Bradgate Park contains nationally important geological exposures (some are over 700 million years old and rank as some of the oldest in England). It also contains some of the last important fragments of wet and grass heathland in Leicestershire, wonderful veteran trees and other special habitats, with a diverse range of flora and fauna including rare plant species and is also a valued site for a wide range of birds, vertebrates and invertebrates.

In addition it is home to moles, common shrews, pigmy shrews, bats, voles, mice, rabbits, foxes, adders, stoats, weasels and badgers. Throughout the estate there are 350 veteran trees - some over 500 years old and growing at the time of Lady Jane Grey and many others over 300 years old. Throughout the seasons, it is possible to find up to 106 species of bird, 20 species of mammal, 4 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, a host of plant species, trees and shrubs as well as lichens, fungi and a host of invertebrate species with many of the flora and fauna regarded as locally rare.
It is the sort of local amenity that you take for granted until you visit it. Then you are reminded what a miracle it is.

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