As you’ve probably gathered by now I do like a ’10 of something’ where I'm interested in both my bag (history) and today’s experience. Now, our good old parks were a conscious creation of the Victorians, 'a spatial reaction to the problems in fast-growing urban industrial environments' and so successful were they that most places of any size have a park today and sometimes more than one. We rediscovered our parks during the pandemic when daily exercise was one of the few reasons we could escape lockdown, however, maybe the future for some parks is uncertain with budgets being squeezed more and more. Let’s celebrate them by using them.

The Cotswolds has quite a variety from its wildlife park, water park and country parks to the municipal park such as the one in Evesham where I spent quite a bit of my youth. There's everything from grand parks like Cirencester Park to the more humble recreation ground and playground, and paid attractions to ones you can wander into free of charge.

Great British Life: Cirencester ParkCirencester Park

Cirencester Park

I’m starting grand at Cirencester Park. Cirencester House, the Grade II* Listed seat of the Earl of Bathurst, has a 3,000 acre park replete with a quaint 1721 folly, ‘Alfred’s Hall’, courtesy of the 1st Earl (1684-1775) ably assisted by Alexander Pope who stayed here to recover from the exigencies of translating Homer. Although the house is private the park is open including its wondrous five mile long avenue of chestnut trees, a walk that affords a splendid view of the ‘Cathedral of the Cotswolds’, St John’s Church. The park is an important polo hub with matches played on Sundays during the season. Now, where did I last see my mallet? The house also has Britain’s tallest yew hedge.


Great British Life: Entrance to Birdland Park & Garden, Bourton-on-the-Water (author – Christine Matthews, source – to Birdland Park & Garden, Bourton-on-the-Water (author – Christine Matthews, source –

Birdland Park & Gardens

Although I enjoy a simple walk in the park (it’s a doddle) it’s also interesting to go somewhere where there’s both a picturesque environment and an attraction. The first one of these I’ll feature is Birdland Park & Gardens, Bourton-on-the-Water, a village renowned for its low-arched bridges over the Windrush. Set in in nine acres, the park/gardens first opened in 1957, the year of my arrival, moving to its current site in 1989. There’s over 500 birds to enjoy, everything from owls, cassowary and rare Waldrapp Ibis to flamingo, pelican, crane and various waterfowl. There’s also some life-sized dinosaurs although they’re hopefully not real.


Great British Life: Boy Angel at Cotswold Scuplture ParkBoy Angel at Cotswold Scuplture Park

Cotswold Sculpture Park

On the outskirts of Somerford Keynes, near Cirencester, is the Cotswold Sculpture Park, an ‘elemental’ exhibition enabling us to experience contemporary sculpture with more than 170 pieces by over 70 local and international sculptors in a beauteous setting and in the open air too. A ten acre site that was previously a wild thistle field, the land has been transformed into a mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland with ponds, glades and gardens. Joining up the various spaces are meandering paths leading you around the park and its sculptures. Events are staged at the Amphitheatre whilst the Poppin Tearoom serves hot and cold drinks and snacks.


Great British Life: Abbey ParkAbbey Park

Abbey Park, Evesham

Reverting to childhood, it was Evesham’s riverside Abbey Park where some of my youth whiled away. Originally the grounds to mighty Evesham Abbey, the dissolved abbey’s belltower is still a singularly distinctive feature looking down on a park that benefits from a natural terrace with views over the adjacent River Avon. The bandstand is still used whilst children focus on the fun of the water play fountains and newly renovated play zone. There’s artwork, a skate park and lily pool with events held in the park throughout the year and boat trips to be taken on the river. The adjacent Crown Meadow is where I played junior school footie and where today’s Battle of Evesham Festival takes place.


Great British Life: Cotswold Water ParkCotswold Water Park

Cotswold Water Park

A colossal 40 square miles with 180 lakes and wetlands interlinked with footpaths and bridleways is the full extent of the Cotswold Water Park. South of Cirencester, the park provides for all one’s outdoor needs: Nature reserves, country parks, birdwatching, water sports, cycling, fishing, horse riding, caravanning and camping. If you like your creature comforts there’s a full range of accommodation options available including self-catering, lakeside lodges and beautiful hotels. There’s tens of thousands of breeding and watering birds for the ‘twitchers’ in what is generally a fantastic all year round environment for observing wildlife.


Great British Life: Pittville ParkPittville Park

Pittville Park, Cheltenham

I’m in the mood for another gratis park so I rock up somewhere where I reckon green spaces are nailed on, Cheltenham, spa et al. The town is overflowing with Regency architecture of course but the Grade I Listed Pittville Pump Room is outstanding, built from 1825 by J.B. Forbes as an assembly hall for the spa’s flourishing social life. It was, of course, showcased in a parkland setting. Opened in the same year (1825), it’s Cheltenham’s largest ornamental park and has not just the Pump Room to admire and enjoy but also lakes, woodland, aviaries, play areas, tennis courts, pitch and putt, and skate park. There’s refreshments at Central Cross Café and the Kiosk.


Great British Life: Cotswold Wildlife ParkCotswold Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife Park

One thing I’m learning is that parks come in all shapes, sizes and purposes. Why not add some wildlife to the mix? Set in 160 acres of landscaped parkland and gardens a couple of miles south of Burford, and dating to 1970, the Wildlife Park exhibits more than 260 different species of animal. There’s a Georgian Gothic manor house, designed in 1804 by William Atkinson and built by Lechlade’s Richard Pace for the then owner, William Hervey. The park is famous for its exotic planting, particularly in its sheltered walled garden where even bananas grow and also has a narrow gauge railway, first installed in 1974, which undertakes a circuit just under a mile in length.


Great British Life: Neigh Bridge Country ParkNeigh Bridge Country Park

Neigh Bridge Country Park and Cotswold Country Park & Beach

Located at the western end of Somerford Keynes village, Neigh Bridge Country Park can be found betwixt the Thames and manmade Neigh Bridge Lake which offers a 40 minute or so lakeside walk; it’s buggy friendly too. The lake is in the midst of the Cotswold Water Park we featured earlier but is worthy of separate inclusion particularly with the stripling Thames so close; the Thames Path National Trail is here. Cotswold Country Park meanwhile is just one mile north-east and has its lakeside café plus the UK’s largest inland sandy beach, a beautiful swimming lagoon and activities including water sports, AquaVenture inflatable course, SUPs & kayaking, boat hire, and mini golf. Why not combine the two parks in one fun day? They’re that close.


Great British Life: Hillfield HouseHillfield House

Hillfield Gardens, Gloucester

I never realised there was so much water in the Cotswolds. I’m now fairly securely back on terra firma though as I head for another city park, four acre Hillfield Gardens in Gloucester. The gardens were originally part of Grade II Listed Hillfield House which was built over 1867-69 with the gardens being opened to the public in 1933. The London Road gates and lodge were originally the grand entrance to the mansion. Those five Ashlar stone pillars are also Grade II Listed as are several historic monuments within the park: The remains of St Mary Magdalen’s Chapel; the decagonal King’s Board; Scrivens Conduit, dating to 1636 but rebuilt in the park in 1937.


Great British Life: Adam Henson at Cotswold Farm ParkAdam Henson at Cotswold Farm Park

Cotswold Farm Park

And finally, I’m at the Cotswold Farm Park which brings me to the world of Cotswold Life columnist, TV presenter and farmer Adam Henson. Well, we’ve had a bit of everything so why not end by meeting over 50 of the rare breeds among British farm animals. Adam’s passionate about them. There’s lots more though including a zipline, the chance to bring your horse and ride round the estate, or you can enjoy seasonal events (posing among the pumpkins, exploring the Enchanted Light Trail, watching the Springtime Lambing, or the satisfaction of digging up spuds). You can stay using anything from a luxury lodge or safari tent to camping pods and pitches for tents and caravans.