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The Bishop's Palace and Gardens

Town/City : Wells
County : Somerset
Country : England
Post code : BA5 2PD
Phone : 01749 988111
Web Site :  www.bishopspalace.org.uk

Welcome to The Bishop's Palace. Home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for 800 years this stunning medieval palace is open for all to enjoy. 

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Surrounded by a breathtaking moat you can cross a flagstone drawbridge, under the portcullis and experience a true hidden gem in the heart of the City of Wells.

The Bishop's Palace dates from the early-thirteenth century when Bishop Jocelin Trotman, the first Bishop to hold the title Bishop of Bath and Wells, received a crown licence to build a residence and deer park on land to the south of the Cathedral of St Andrew.

There are also 14 acres of gardens to explore, including the beautiful well pools from which the city takes its name, family events, guided walks, gifts from the shop and perhaps even a slice of cake with your afternoon tea. You are also welcome to look around the Bishop's private Chapel, explore the ruined Great Hall and meet the famous mute swans who live alongside the moat and ring a bell when they want food.

The Bishop's Palace is available for hire.

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The Gardens
NEW! Sensory Trail

The 14 acres of gardens at The Bishop's Palace are a haven of tranquillity and peace. There is evidence that a garden existed here even before Bishop Jocelin began work on the Palace c.1206. Over the years the gardens have changed as successive bishops have added their legacy.

Much of the existing landscaping on the South Lawn was carried out by Bishop George Henry Law in the mid-nineteenth century. This was an era when there was a great nostalgia for the medieval past. The Great Hall was in a state of decay by this time and Law wished to emphasise the impression of a romantic ruin by removing the south wall. The remaining wall and other masonry stand as a decorative curtain, pierced with the tracery of medieval windows and architectural fragments.

You are all free to play and picnic on the lawns enjoying a closer look at the flower beds, specimen trees and shrubs.

Take a look at what magnificent and unusual trees you could come across here: Tree Guide

So much to explore
A beautiful wooden bridge perfectly draped in willow tree branches takes you over the moat and leads you to the well pools and arboretum in the outer gardens.

There you will spot a small stone conduit, known as the Well House, which was built by Bishop Thomas Beckynton in 1451. The Well House is topped with a stone Talbot dog, Bishop Bekynton's favourite hunting dog.

Well pools
Within the tranquil pool in the outer gardens is the source of water from which the City of Wells takes its name. The calm surface, reflecting the Cathedral of St Andrew, belies the very great quantity of water that surges up from four "pots" within the silt.

The average flow from these is 40 gallons (100 litres) per second. From the well pool, the water flows into the moat to discharge over a weir into the River Sheppey. So best to avoid taking a dip in there!

On the far side of the wells, in front of the Cathedral, there are two more pools. One of these is the holy well of St Andrew. It is hoped that in the near future it will be possible to open this area to visitors for quiet contemplation.

Bring a picnic!
To the east is the Arboretum, planted in 1977 by Bishop John Bickersteth to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Some 27 years on, the trees are maturing and the green canopy has been under-planted with wild flowers. It really is a secret picnic spot in the heart of a Wells.

Like that flower?
Plants that are sold in the Palace shop are propagated here in the arboretum enabling you to grow a little bit of the Palace in your own backyard!

Alongside the Community Garden are the City Council Allotments. At some time, pipes were laid from the well pool (whose level is higher than the surrounding land) to troughs in the allotments and the gardeners here are able to fill their watering cans from an unfailing supply.

Unfortunately the City Allotments are not open to the public.

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Featured Attraction

Head for The Heights this year

Head for The Heights of Abraham, the award winning Hilltop Park situated in the spectacular Derwent Valley, just 9 miles from Chatsworth on the western edge of the Peak District National Park.

This "must see" Derbyshire jewel of an attraction is accessed by state of the art enclosed cable cars located on the banks of the River Derwent next to Matlock Bath railways station and the town's public car parks. Simply purchase your cable car ticket, and then sit back to enjoy Instagram-ready views of the geologically stunning valley as you climb to the summit.
TIP: You can save money by purchasing your tickets online in advance of your visit. Go to www.heightsofabraham.com for ticket prices and availability
Once you've purchased your cable car ticket, access to all the summit attractions is free, offering a great value-day-out whatever the weather. Head off to explore 60 acres of landscaped grounds, undercover interactive exhibitions, photography gallery, multi-media show caverns, adventure playgrounds, woodland walks and trails.

You can choose to dine in the Vista restaurant with its stunning views down the valley, or enjoy a snack in the café or out on the terrace with similar breath-taking views. Picnic areas can be found throughout the grounds, and during the school holidays you'll discover extra entertainment like the traditional Punch and Judy show (with a satisfying Heights of Abraham twist) for all the family to enjoy.
TIP: Dining times can be reserved in advance. This is recommended especially during the busiest times of the year. Phone 01629 582365 to make a reservation or pre-order the popular afternoon tea package.
Most visitors are surprised to learn that the Heights is in fact the Derbyshire's oldest tourist attraction. The cable car system has carried millions of visitors to the summit over the last thirty five years, yet it remains one of the latest chapters in the fascinating story of the Heights of Abraham. The Heights first opened as a Pleasure Ground in 1780 when visitors would make the climb from the valley floor on foot to witness some of the finest views across the surrounding area. Almost two and a half centuries later you are still able to wander around the estate with its zigzag paths and pleasant woodland trails. It is easy to understand why the area proved inspirational to the Romantic movement of the period.

As long ago as Roman times, Lead deposits may have been found in the area but it took another 1000 years before Lead mining was officially recorded on site. These impressive mines were active for over 400 years and left behind a legacy of passageways and awe-inspiring caverns. Today, thanks to all that hard work you can follow in the miners' footsteps down the passageways they created, going deep underground into the Heights' famous Show Caverns. From the glow of a single miner's candle to the whole cavern being awash with colour-changing lights, the Great Masson Cavern tour is one of the talking points of a visit to this Hilltop Park. Here, where the Equator was once situated millions of years ago, you can learn all about the rocks, minerals and underground formation of the Peak District. Equally, a visit to the Great Rutland Cavern is well worthwhile. First opened to the public over 200 years ago in 1810, you can experience a day in the life of the very miners who made your trip possible.

Those of an inquisitive mind should make sure they visit The Long View exhibition to see and hear the 230 year story about why the estate has been a favourite place to visit for many generations. On the upper floor the Fossil Factory brings to life fun and interesting facts about rocks, fossils and the formation of the Peak District. Tinker's Shaft SSSI is a spectacular location with a new viewing platform, high above the Derwent Valley and near the exit from the Great Masson Cavern. Interpretative panels provide information on the importance of the site, the natural history, the geology and the labyrinth of lead mines below Tinker's Shaft... directly beneath your feet!

The Heath and Heaven Gallery is a delightful pictorial journey through the Peak District from north to south and shot from the air on a single summer's day. Next to this you will find Through the Lens, a 12 minute film of the Great Masson guided tour, ideal for those who cannot, or do not wish to go underground during their visit.

If you're heading into Derbyshire or the Peak District, don't miss the opportunity to head for the Heights this year and tick this one off your bucket list. The cable car is just the start of a fascinating, relaxing and fun day out for everyone. Keep up to date with the news by visiting the official website for opening times, special offers and details of forthcoming events: www.heightsofabraham.com

MJPL6641MJPL6890The Long View ExhibitionMJPL7135Woodland Adventure

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