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EUROPEAN GARDEN HERITAGE NETWORK – EGHN

Vivary Park

In the centre of Taunton, one of the fastest growing towns in the southwest region, stands Vivary Park, as lively and full of activity today as it was when it opened in 1895. Visitors can enjoy walking through the extensive lawns and formal flowerbeds or rest in the shade of mature specimen trees. Children love the park because of its boating ponds and play areas – one of which is surrounded by a model railway.
There are more modern perennial borders, shrubs and herbaceous plants at the borders of the park and in places around the wildlife pond. Each year, 56,000 bulbs are planted by hand which make a stunning display in spring.
In the centre of Taunton, one of the fastest growing towns in the southwest region, stands Vivary Park, as lively and full of activity today as it was when it opened in 1895. Visitors can enjoy walking through the extensive lawns and formal flowerbeds or rest in the shade of mature specimen trees. Children love the park because of its boating ponds and play areas – one of which is surrounded by a model railway. There are lots of activities available if you are feeling energetic; Vivary Park has excellent sporting facilities including a bowling green, tennis courts, and 18-hole putting green and a full 18-hole golf course. All this is only a short walk from the town centre.

The idea of having a park which everyone could enjoy in the middle of Taunton became possible after the government became concerned about the general well-being of people living in towns and passed the Public Health Act of 1875. This Act meant that the council was able to buy land from the Kinglake family and start planning the design. The name “Vivary” comes from the time when the land was used as a fish farm or ‘vivarium’ for the local priory although nothing remains of this medieval past today except for the name itself.

After its Victorian heyday, Vivary Park became very run down and neglected but at the end of the twentieth century Taunton Deane Borough Council, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, undertook a major restoration project costing three quarters of a million pounds to restore the gardens and ironwork to their former glory. The newly-restored park was formally re-opened by the Queen on 2nd May 2002.

The park was laid out in 1895 much as it appears today. The Victorians had a passion for finding exotic plants overseas and then displaying them as dramatically as possible. Vivary Park, full of vibrant and interesting plants, is a testament to this passion. Formal flowerbeds, which can still be seen here, were most popular before the First World War; it was hard to keep them going later when times were hard and there was less manpower available. There are more modern perennial borders, shrubs and herbaceous plants at the borders of the park and in places around the wildlife pond. Each year, 56,000 bulbs are planted by hand which make a stunning display in spring.

The most striking aspect of Vivary Park are the magnificent white gates that date from the park’s original design in 1895. The recent restoration of the gates has left them looking as impressive as they did when they were first installed. On coming through the gates, there is a war memorial dating from 1922 in the middle of a formal garden which has a border of posts and chains which have ivy trained over them. If you choose the right time of year, you will then catch the powerful scent of roses from the National Rose Society Provincial Rose Ground, which was planted in the 1960’s. To the right of this is a picnic area set around a small aviary, from where you can see the wildlife lake. This was originally built for practical reasons to cope with storm water but is now home to a variety of water birds including mallards, Chinese geese, laysan teal, moorhens and North American ruddy ducks. If you are lucky, you may spot the pond’s resident kingfisher.

Further into the park there is an ornamental fountain in honour of Queen Victoria which was built in 1907. It has recently been restored to its original bright colours and is fully functional. Beyond this are two huge oaks that were planted in 1902 when Edward VII was crowned; they overlook a bandstand that has been there since the opening of the park.

Beyond the bandstand is Vivary Park’s widest open lawn, which is home to a huge variety of public events. These range from the well-loved Taunton Flower Show, which has been held every year since 1851 and has an average of 24,000 visitors over two days, to a variety of different musical events – from classical to rock concerts – in the summer. There are more than thirty organized events each year – many of which are free.

Sport has always been a very important part of Vivary Park. Outdoor tennis courts were included with the original purchase of the land, and the golf course, which was opened in 1928, is extremely popular with its tall trees, water hazards and exceptionally well-kept greens. The Bowling Club has both indoor and outdoor facilities and a putting green is available for those who do not fancy a full round of golf. Vivary Park really is a park for everyone; there is something for you here whether you are interested in exploring gardens, watching wild birds, listening to concerts or just messing around with boats.

Address:

Vivary Park
Taunton
Somerset, GB
TA1 3JW
Tel:01823 336344 (Steve Cuthill, Community Parks officer)
Email: s.cuthill@tauntondeane.gov.uk (Community Parks Officer)
Website: http://www.visitsomerset.co.uk/taunton/things-to-do/vivary-park-p156483

Owner/Management:
Taunton Deane Borough Council
Contact person: Steve Cuthill, Community Parks Officer

Opening times:
8am – Dusk

Admission price:
Entry to the park is free. Fees apply for putting, bowls, tennis and golf course.

Events, exhibitions:
A variety of events in the park. Flagship events are the Taunton flower show, est. 1851 and Proms/Pop in the Park.

Customer services:

  • Shop:None.
  • Tea Room/ Restaurant: Golf clubhouse serves refreshments and lunches. An ice-cream stall by the putting serves drinks and ice-cream.
  • WC: Full facilities including baby changing and disabled by both children’s play areas.
  • Parking: One car park by golf course entrance. Otherwise, town centre car parks are easily in reach.
  • Seats and benches – location frequency:: Numerous benches and covered seating areas throughout the park. One picnic area near war memorial
  • Average visitor duration: Allow 45 minutes to walk the park. Allow 30 minutes for putting.
  • Accessibility – in the park/ garden from the car park:Vivary Park is flat and serviced by smooth, tarmaced walkways fully suitable for disabled visitors. Dogs are allowed on a lease. Cycling is banned during the middle of the day.

Children’s programme/ events or other educational activities::
See above for children’s events.

Maps of sites/ visitor information etc:
Low-level maps are provided at two entrances. Three identification boards can be found around the duckpond.

Transport:

  • By road:Those who wish to park by the golf course need to drive through the town centre towards Wellington. Turn left past the Police Station and then take the second left after the Vivary Arms pub. Following this road will take you to Vivary Park car park.
  • By train: Taunton Train station is a 20-minute walk from Vivary Park.
  • By Bus: Taunton Bus Station is a 5-minute walk from Vivary Park.