One of the first ever school excursions I have a vague memory of going on was to this vast park in the north-west of Leicestershire. That was way back in the mid-eighties (* a couple of photos are included at the bottom of this post!) but other than climbing over some rocks there’s very little else I can tell you about that day trip to Bradgate Park. However, I can remember some stuff from my return there earlier this year…
Usually I don’t go into Leicester too much but on this trip back to the UK I went four times including three consecutive days with this trip the meat in the sandwich of the Leicester City FA Cup match and appearing on BBC Radio Leicester to talk about it a couple of days later. In a way it’s actually down to the latter that I wanted to go to this park as I’d heard presenter Ian Stringer talking about it a few times on the podcast extra with Kasabian’s Tom Meighan.
My wife had already returned to Japan for work a few days earlier so it was just my parents and me on this half day trip. Bad weather and other things kind of got in the way when she was around so it was a shame that we couldn’t go then as she’d have probably loved this park. From Hunts Hill Car Park we ascended the fairly short hill to the park’s most prominent landmark; Old John Tower. I actually had no knowledge of this jug-like folly beforehand so seeing it was a huge bonus for me.
Built in 1784, local legend has it that this structure is a memorial to an estate worker called John who was killed in a bonfire accident during some birthday celebrations. There is also some story about the stonework at the side of the tower being altered to look like a handle in homage to John’s liking of ale. It’s a good story but I’d imagine it’s no more than just that!
From Old John we descended on the other side and could see herds of red and fallow deer at one point which was pretty cool. I guess I’ve been spoiled by experiences at Nara Park or Miyajima (Hiroshima) where the animals are very tame and roam among the people.
My parents wanted a hot drink from the tea room so whilst they lined up for that I took a quick look at the visitor centre near Cropston Reservoir which was really interesting. Little did I know that the park had a long, long history with a range of geology including rocks with some of the oldest known developed forms of fossil animal life in Western Europe. Some of these rock outcrops were created in conditions varying from volcanos rising out of the ocean, to magma flowing deep underground and from tropical deserts to Ice sheets. Fascinating stuff that went way beyond what I learned in A-Level Geography classes at school!
Among the various stuffed animals were some interesting tidbits of information but nothing really beats the history of Lady Jane Grey. The Grey family lived in the house on this land for over 200 years, and it is believed that it was her birthplace. She later became the Queen for a mere nine days before being overthrown by Mary I. Jane and executed in 1553. Should you be interested in more on this matter then why not check the internet!
The 16th-century ruins of Bradgate House were pretty impressive too. It would have been nice to get a bit closer to them as we could sadly only view from afar. Thank god for the zoom function!
* As mentioned at the top of this post, here are a couple of pictures of my friends and I from June 1984 when tight shorts and luminous socks were obviously the height of fashion for one particular primary school student!
Back to 2020 now and it was lovely to spend a couple of hours of quality family time amidst such wonderful landscape. It seems like there are many possible walks to do throughout the 850 acre (340 hectare) park and I hope to explore the place again the next time I’m back in Britain.
Bonus: Before all that I began the day in Market Harborough town centre as I went to visit my old school friend Matt who set up Nature’s Pantry in June 2016. Wholesome and healthy fast food seems to be the order of the day at this place on Church Street which is just a stones throw from the Parish Church and the Old Grammar School.
The goal of the place is to make healthy fast food that suits the modern lifestyle and dietary requirements involving some stuff that I’d never even heard of before my visit. It really was an education in some ways which is rather apt given that they do kids lessons of some sort upstairs whereby children learn about food and nutrition in “a fun and engaging way”.
I’m indecisive at the best of times so, with all the chat on top of that, it took me a while to make my choice. I eventually decided on the first drink from the beverages list and did think I was probably being a little boring! My order was an awesome Vitamin C natural smoothie including pineapple, carrot, papaya, banana and orange (£3.95) and a delicious mint freezer fudge (£2.50) from the naturally sweetened treats section. Both were delightful and it was really impressive to see Matt and co. going about their business whilst a steady flow of customers came and went during my 90 minutes or so on the premises.
Click here to read ‘Taking My Wife On Her First Trip To Leicester’
Click here to read ‘On The Fox (Hunt) Trail……In Great Bowden (Leicestershire, UK)’
Click here to read ‘Appearing As A Guest On BBC Radio Leicester’s Football Forum’