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Lilleshall Discovery Trail

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Lilleshall Discovery Trail
Author: , Published: 18 Aug 2015 Walk Rating:star1 Lilleshall Discovery Trail Walking Guidestar1 Lilleshall Discovery Trail Walking Guidestar1 Lilleshall Discovery Trail Walking Guidestar0 Lilleshall Discovery Trail Walking Guidestar0 Lilleshall Discovery Trail Walking Guide
Shropshire, Telford
Walk Type: Garden or park
Lilleshall Discovery Trail
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot Lilleshall Discovery Trail Walking Guide
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IMPORTANT NOTE: As this site is a designated National Sports Centre, DOGS are currently NOT ALLOWED in the grounds or gardens of Lilleshall. Should this position change in the future, we will remove this note.

A 2.5 mile (4km) circular walk around the beautiful gardens and grounds of Lilleshall National Sports and Conferencing Centre near Telford in Shropshire. Set in spectacular and secluded surroundings, Lilleshall is one of the UK’s National Sports Centres, training grounds and centres of excellence for the country’s leading sportsmen and women. Originally built as a country house and hunting lodge for the Duke of Sutherland, you will have chance to discover Lilleshall’s many gems including the Italian water garden, the pet cemetery and the world-class sport facilities.

The walk includes just a couple of gentle slopes and you will also need to negotiate a couple of gates plus several flights of steps. The majority of the route follows surfaced paths, but the parts through the wild sections of meadow can get a little muddy at times. There is a cafe bar, Queens Bar, at the start of the route to allow you to enjoy refreshments before or after your walk. Please note that dogs are NOT allowed in the grounds. You are likely to come across free roaming peacocks within the grounds. Approximate time 1 hour.

Lilleshall National Sports and Conferencing Centre is located just north of Telford close to the A41, approximately 3 miles from the town of Newport. The main entrance gates to the centre are situated on Pave Lane, which can be accessed from the north via the A518 and from the south via the A41. In both cases please follow the signs for National Sports Centre. Once you have passed through the entrance gates, the centre is accessed via the two mile sweeping driveway and free parking is available in the visitor car park. Approximate post code for Sat Nav TF10 9LQ.

Walk Sections

Start to Apple Walk
Start to Apple Walk

Start point: 52.7276 lat, -2.3726 long
End point: 52.7273 lat, -2.3745 long

To begin the walk, make your way to the main customer reception and entrance for the Queens Bar at the centre of the site. Queens Bar serves a range of refreshments throughout the day, including hot and cold food and beverages, making it an ideal place to prepare for the journey ahead. Equally, if you want to continue your peaceful and relaxing experience at Lilleshall after your walk, the Queens Bar is a perfect setting for a relaxed meal on your return.

Standing outside, facing the entrance, take the tarmac track at about 1 o’clock which runs between the Queens Bar (on the left) and the red sandstone wall (on the right). Pass through the wooden gateway, join the gravel drive ahead and then turn right onto the raised terrace with the main hall to your right.

Take a moment here to appreciate the architecture of the hall itself and your first glimpse of its surroundings. Lilleshall Hall now stands on land which was part of the 12th century Lilleshall Abbey, originally commanding some 30,000 acres. The ruins of the original abbey stand nearby and are managed by English Heritage. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Lilleshall itself was granted to a wool merchant, James Leveson and became the ancient seat of the Levesons, ancestors of the Earls Gower and Dukes of Sutherland, Lords of the Manor of Lilleshall.

The estate was one of several country estates for the Sutherlands, used in holiday times with friends invited to hunt and play polo, tennis and billiards. The present hall dates from 1830 and most of the landscaping was undertaken after this. In 1927 the estate and the manorial rights were bought by Herbert Ford, whose wealth was acquired from the industries of Ironbridge and through marriage to Alice Perrins (of Worcestershire Sauce fame). He ran Lilleshall as an early stately home with pleasure gardens open to the paying public. From 1930 until 1939 the hall and grounds existed as an amusement park with a miniature railway, a children’s playground, tennis courts, 18 hole golf putting greens, archery fields and bowling greens as well as the formal gardens surviving from the time of the 5th Duke of Sutherland. With such a rich history of sport and recreational use, it seems fitting that in 1949 Ford sold the hall and grounds to the Central College of Physical Recreation to become a National Recreation Centre. More about that later...

Now take a moment to look over the balustrade on your left. You will be able to see the bowling green (which dates from 1832) as well as the herbaceous border below you which includes a Judas Tree, noted for its prolific display of deep pink flowers in spring.

Continue along the terrace and follow it as it turns right along the side of the hall, with formal gardens to the left which we will explore in detail later. At the next corner fork left down several flight of sandstone steps to reach the start of the arched garden walkway known as the apple walk.

Apple Walk to Temple
Apple Walk to Temple

Start point: 52.7273 lat, -2.3745 long
End point: 52.7277 lat, -2.3785 long

Walk through the tunnel of apple walk. Apple walk was once a pergola walk of c.600ft in length, consisting of a series of iron arches built into stone foundations. The pergola itself was covered throughout with apple trees and climbing roses. Today, just a third of the original length of pergola remains and is planted with roses, vines, wisteria and clematis.

As you emerge from the apple walk, turn right and, before you reach the archway ahead, turn left to join a tarmac path with the red sandstone wall running to your right. The grounds of Lilleshall are managed by Serco on behalf of Sport England and are undergoing restoration as part of a 21 year masterplan. Restoration plans are aided by the well-documented history of laying out the original gardens at Lilleshall. The garden-making phase was relatively short and covered two distinct periods, around the 1830s (the period for which Lilleshall was the main Sutherland country residence, whilst Trentham Hall was being extended), and again between 1900 and 1910 (when the decision to sell Trentham Hall had been made making Lilleshall the focus for development).

At the end of the path (with Sutherland Hall on the right), head across the lawn at about 11 o’clock to reach the stone arches of the temple loggia. This structure sits some 290m from the hall itself and was brought from Trentham Hall (another of the Sutherlands’ country estates) and re-built at Lilleshall in 1912.

Temple to Pet Cemetery
Temple to Pet Cemetery

Start point: 52.7277 lat, -2.3785 long
End point: 52.7266 lat, -2.3784 long

Having passed under the temple arches, follow the grass path through this wilder section of the grounds (passing to the left of the first oak tree and to the right of the second). Immediately after the second oak tree the path swings sharp left then right and leads you between the rhododendron bushes. You will emerge to a crossroads with a tarmac access track.

Go straight ahead (passing another large oak tree) and continue across the grass to reach a pair of old oaks. A few paces later, where the rhododendrons on the right end, swing right to reach the pet cemetery which sits alongside the tarmac access lane.

The main plinth is to Csar, a Russian wolfhound acquired by the Sutherlands in Moscow in the 19th century, whilst other pet graves, including those of Zozo, Meg, Simon, Puff, have more simple headstones.

Pet Cemetery to Italian Water Gardens
Pet Cemetery  to Italian Water Gardens

Start point: 52.7266 lat, -2.3784 long
End point: 52.7272 lat, -2.3754 long

Standing facing the cemetery, turn left along the tarmac access drive (Duchess Walk) to continue your journey around the estate. The driveway swings steadily left, leading between many more impressive tree specimens.

The parkland contains a wealth of trees including some veteran trees. Work first began on these gardens in 1827, including the design of garden walks in keeping with the style of the new house, influenced by Duchess Harriet’s travels in Italy. Throughout the 1830s mature tree planting continued, with the aim of providing an appropriate backdrop to the house. Tens of thousands of trees were planted with records showing 26,000 trees purchased from one Liverpool nursery alone. Tree species included Spanish chestnut, beech, lime, sycamore, laurel, holly, oak, elm, ash, birch, mountain ash, hazel, larch and spruce.

Take the first tarmac driveway on the left, which leads you towards the walled gardens. Turn right through the opening in the wall to enter the Italian water garden. Completed in 1914, the water garden consists of a series of five lily ponds laid out as an octagon centre with four lozenge shaped surrounds. The ponds are intersected by stone flagged walks, originally inset with antique marble panels inlaid with figures representing scenes from Aesop’s Fables. The lily ponds are bounded by flower borders and the whole garden is enclosed by a balustrade dwarf wall.

Italian Water Gardens to Sports Grounds
Italian Water Gardens to Sports Grounds

Start point: 52.7272 lat, -2.3754 long
End point: 52.7247 lat, -2.3726 long

Make your way along the stone walkway which leads you between the pools (taking particular care with children) and head up the steps at the far side. Keep ahead to enter the dial garden, a formal circular flower garden, enclosed by yew hedges and dating from 1832.

Continue directly ahead, towards the main house, climbing the next set of steps to reach the terraced lawn. Directly ahead you’ll see the twelve bay arched loggia which runs across the head of the garden (today home to one of the original stone lions from the gatehouse). Go up the next flight of steps (just to your right) to reach the gravel driveway.

Turn right along the driveway and keep straight ahead through the wrought iron gates. Follow the path through this next section of grounds which is under restoration to bring it back to its former glory. The path swings left and you will come to the opening into the Dutch garden on the left. The Dutch garden was originally constructed during the Edwardian period as an old-world romantic rose garden interspersed with flower borders, tessellated stone work and rock gardens all surrounded with climbing roses and a dwarf yew hedge. The restoration plan for the Dutch garden is to create a flower meadow with a central bench, an ideal spot to pause and admire the grounds.

Leave the Dutch garden the way you came and turn left to continue along the path. At the T-junction turn right and follow the gravel path to reach the mini temple, brought from Trentham Hall in 1912 to act as an eyecatcher for visitors on the terrace. Pass through the centre of this, noting the beautiful mosaic floor. Continue between the trees and through a gateway and you will emerge to the corner of the Lilleshall Sports Grounds.

Sports Grounds to Clump of Trees
Sports Grounds to Clump of Trees

Start point: 52.7247 lat, -2.3726 long
End point: 52.7203 lat, -2.3738 long

It is at this point that you can appreciate the scale of the sporting facilities here at the UK’s flagship National Sports Centre. Having been sold by Herbert Ford in 1949, Lilleshall was officially opened as a National Recreation Centre in 1951. By 1954 the centre was extended to become home for a number of sports including cricket, rugby league, rugby union, lawn tennis, badminton, hockey, lacrosse, netball and association football. Famously the England World Cup squad stayed at Lilleshall before their World Cup victory in 1966. Today, several national governing bodies of sport and other professional organisations are based at the centre, including the Olympic sports of gymnastics and archery, together with the English Institute of Sport. The centre has helped many medal winning gymnasts and archers achieve Olympic and Paralympic glory.

Walk directly ahead, passing the archery field on the left, which in the 1800s would have hosted the Duke of Sutherland’s polo matches. Note the particularly impressive veteran oak tree sitting at the edge of the archery field, with its enormous bulbous trunk. Immediately before the artificial turf hockey pitches on the right, turn right onto the tarmac path. Follow this path which leads you between the world-class artificial turf pitches on the left and the pavilion on the right.

Beyond the pavilion, keep straight ahead across the grass and join the mown grass path through the wild meadow. Take time to enjoy the views of the Shropshire rolling hills ahead. On a clear day you will be able to see The Wrekin hill topped with the radio tower as well as Telford towards the west. The path swings left along the bottom of the meadow and then left again, heading back uphill towards the pitches, with a tree line on the right.

As you reach the corner of the pitches, fork right through the field opening to reach the corner of a second large meadow (with a clump of trees at its centre). Walk across the meadow on the path, heading for the right-hand edge of the clump of trees. NOTE: there are deep pools of water within the clump of trees so take particular care with children.

Clump of Trees to End
Clump of Trees to End

Start point: 52.7203 lat, -2.3738 long
End point: 52.7277 lat, -2.3726 long

Follow the path swinging left, following the edge of the clump of trees on the left. When you see the artificial turf pitches ahead, walk back towards these and, as you reach a smaller copse of trees, turn right to exit the meadow. After just a few paces you will emerge to a T-junction at the edge of the grass sports grounds.

Turn left and follow the stone drive, passing the rugby and football pitches on the right. Continue past the artificial turf pitches on the left and the archery field on the right. At the top corner, with the small property (Gainham’s Lodge) on the left, go ahead through the gateway and pass through the trees to return back through the mini temple.

Keep straight ahead along the gravel drive and the path will lead you past the bowls club on the left, heading for the clock tower on the main house. As you reach the T-junction with the raised terrace (with the fountain and fish pond ahead), turn right and follow this drive through the gateway. You will reach the Queens Bar on the right for some well-earned hospitality.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by iFootpath and the author NSC and may not be reproduced without permission.

2 Comments for: "Lilleshall Discovery Trail"

I completed this walk recently. The postcode provided for the start point is incorrect. we ended up walking the best part of a mile to the start point. As per the comment above the land marks have changed and we could not have completed it without the online map. We did enjoy the walk though 😁

ADMIN RESPONSE: Glad you enjoyed the walk. We are awaiting details from the Lilleshall Grounds Team to update the walking guide, but in the meantime the GPS map is your best guide. Not all walking start points and car parks have exact post codes - indeed Lilleshall own's post code leads drivers to the nearby Golf Club - not to the hall as needed. Approximate post codes (like the one given here, which is the one recommended by Lilleshall for Sat Nav users) are useful for getting you to the right general area, then you should use the written guidance in the Getting There section and the App's live GPS file to guide you to the exact starting point.

By Melt16 on 07 Mar 2018

I enjoyed this walk but it really needs updating as paving, paths & landmarks have changed/moved plus fences, stiles & sheep have been added so detours were necessary. Thank goodness for the online map!

ADMIN RESPONSE: Thanks for letting us know that the landmarks have changed, we will contact Lilleshall to ask for details so that the walking guide can be updated.

By Huggermugger on 09 Jul 2017

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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