On Sunday 11th July 40 members of Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust (BGT) enjoyed a guided walk of Great Linford Manor Park in Milton Keynes. Almost 10 years The Parks Trust commissioned a conservation management plan to guide them on how to manage Great Linford Manor Park as a historic parkland. The plan highlighted the need for major specialist work to restore the park’s heritage features and to provide upgraded public access infrastructure to enable visitors to enjoy the park to the full.
The plan identified that Great Linford Manor Park has ancient origins, with St. Andrew’s Church and archaeological remains of the village dating back to early Medieval/Saxon period. But the main parkland has features that represent the work of an experienced landscape designer during the 18th century. It is possible that the designer was Richard Woods, as plans survive for his designs at neighbouring Little Linford Hall, but it is unclear how much of his work there was carried out. As he was in the local area drawing designs at the time, it is possible he also drew designs for Great Linford Manor, although without surviving plans or planting records we will never know for sure.
Based on their research, the Trust commenced work on a bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2015, which achieved a grant offer from the Lottery of £3.1million. The funding is being used to ‘Reveal, Revive and Restore’ the historic landscape and raise public awareness of the important local heritage.
The BGT members were guided around the park in two groups, one led by Ellie (Community Engagement and Activity Coordinator for The Parks Trust and volunteer social media officer for BGT) and the other by Andrew (Friend of Great Linford Manor Park and Parks Trust volunteer). The groups started at the Arts Centre, which is situated in the historic courtyard of the present Manor house. Members were surprised to discover that an earlier medieval Manor lay beneath their feet and was uncovered during excavations in the 1970s. They then explored features of the 18th century pleasure garden including: the water gardens, the Doric seat, the wilderness and the ha-ha, all of which are undergoing restoration and re-interpretation in the restoration work.
The visit concluded with a tour of the exterior of St. Andrew’s medieval church (the inside was closed due to Covid-19) courtesy of Stephen, the church’s verger. Refreshments were kindly served from the north porch of the church by Trudy; an entrance to the church that hadn’t been open for 50 years and until Covid came along!
Ellie Broad from The Parks Trust said, “It was a delight to show around so many fascinated members from BGT and we were blessed with such beautiful weather too. I am looking forward to taking BGT members around again once the National Lottery works are complete”.
Park visitors can look forward to the building works being complete in September 2021 and a full programme of park-based activities throughout 2022. New sign boards and paths will be improving accessibility around the park and new interpretation will bring the heritage landscape to life. The Trust is hosting a Celebration event on Saturday 18th September 2021 where there will be talks, live music, guided walks and family activities.
For more information about the Great Linford Manor project visit www.theparkstrust.com/glmp. Heritage. Walks take place every second Friday of the month at 10:30 and every last Sunday of the month at 14:00. St. Andrew’s Church run a dementia friendly community café every second and fourth Tuesday of the month with guided walks.