Oxford Centre of the National Trust
Programme of May Visits
|Monday 11th May 2020||Berkeley Castle||£32|
|Wednesday 20th May 2020||Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens||£33|
Berkeley Castle is close to the River Severn, on the edge of Berkeley village. It is a Norman fortress and also a family home. It has been lived in by the same family for over 900 years. There is an imposing Great Hall and elegant state apartments, with magnificent furniture, Elizabethan tapestries, and rare paintings. The Castle is surrounded by 8 acres of landscaped gardens, created by the Berkeley family in the mid-17th century. They include Queen Elizabeth’s bowling green, sweeping lawns and terraces, and the 8th Earl’s swimming pool, now a lily pond with a plume fountain.
In the old walled garden there is a butterfly house with a huge variety of species flying freely in the landscaped humid environment. Also located here is the restaurant, which is a yurt, selling a variety of light lunches and snacks. Just beyond the walled garden is the 13th -century church which has medieval wall paintings and many interesting tombs.
There are seats in the Castle and dotted about the gardens, from where there are far-reaching views. There is a shop selling souvenirs and gifts, and a plant sale area.
Access: This is a Norman Castle and there are steep steps and uneven polished floors throughout, as well as flights of steps between the different public areas. There are 24 steps to the keep. These were purposely designed to be uneven in order to trip up invaders! There is another way into the Castle but even here some other steps are unavoidable.
Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens
First planted in 1810 and reopened to the public in 2019 after a 2-year restoration, these Grade 1 listed gardens feature outstanding scenery and should be particularly colourful in May when the rhododendrons are in bloom. There is also a renowned rock garden, dolls house museum, rare colony of wallabies, huge carp in the 7 ponds and free-roaming deer.
NB For security reasons, Leonardslee is a cash-free site so any purchases must be by credit or debit card. If you don’t have one or forget to bring it, there is an office at reception that will exchange your cash for a card which you can use on site and will refund any unspent money at the end of the visit. Also, the journey should be about 2 hours each way but, if we get caught up in traffic, especially on the way home, we could be later than usual arriving back in Oxford.
The self-service Clocktower and Courtyard Cafes offer hot and cold meals, salads, sandwiches, snacks and drinks including vegan and gluten free. Only food and drink purchased on site is permitted to be eaten in the gardens, so no home-made picnics please, although of course you could eat yours on the coach just before we arrive! They also have picnic baskets to hire (deposit back when you return it) from their farm shop where you can buy local meats, cheeses, freshly baked bread, pre-packed sandwiches, cakes, and pastries to enjoy within the gardens.
Access: It is approximately 50 yds from the coach park to the entrance and toilets. The upper section of the gardens – i.e. cafes, gift shops, dolls house museum, rock garden and wallaby enclosure – are all accessible and just a gentle 10-minute walk from the entrance. Access to the lakes in the lower section is by woodland paths some of which have steep slopes and steps, however they have a fleet of golf buggies to transport you to and from that area, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
On the day
We use Plastows Coaches for all our visits. The coach picks up passengers at Headington Shops, at The Playhouse and then either at Redbridge or Water Eaton Park and Ride depending on the destination.