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Royal Fort Garden named as one of the best in Britain

Alan Stealey, second right, with the Grounds and Gardens Team in Royal Fort Garden

28 July 2016

Public gardens in the centre of Bristol have been awarded a Green Flag Award – an accolade which officially makes it one of the best green spaces in the country.

The University of Bristol's Royal Fort Garden, tucked away between Tyndall Avenue and University Walk, is among a record-breaking 1,686 parks and green spaces to receive the accolade from Keep Britain Tidy.

The award, now celebrating its 20th year, recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. A Green Flag flying overhead is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent facilities.

Royal Fort Garden began life as a Civil War fortification created to defend the city in the 17th century. It's now a popular relaxation spot, with the grand Royal Fort House providing a backdrop to the gardens which feature two popular pieces of public art alongside a pond, trees and biodiverse habitats.

Alan Stealey Head of External Estates said: "We are absolutely delighted to receive a Green Flag Award for first time from Keep Britain Tidy.

"This award recognises and highlights that students, staff and visitors - and Bristol in general - benefit from a green space of the very highest quality.

"The flag also signifies the benefit for University students and staff in having a nationally recognised 'Repton parkland', which has existed for over 200 years."

In addition to the flora and fauna, the mirror maze called 'Follow Me' is a popular attraction. It was designed by internationally recognised artist Jeppe Hein to mark the University's centenary in 2009.

A more recent addition is 'Hollow' – an intricate structure, described as a 'modernist grotto', made from 10,000 wood samples collected from across the world. It was created by Katie Paterson, made in collaboration with architects Zeller & Moye, and unveiled earlier this year.

Professor Judith Squires, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol and Chair of its Public Arts Committee, said: "This award is testament to the hard work of our External Estates team and their ongoing efforts to make Royal Fort Garden an inviting and relaxing place for staff, students and the public to enjoy.

"It's looking especially beautiful at this time of the year and we hope people from across the city will come along and see for themselves why it's been awarded a Green Flag."

The history of Royal Fort Garden

It was originally known as Windmill Fort, located at the top of St Michael's Hill, before the Royalists captured Bristol and Dutch military engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme redesigned it.

It was the strongest defence in Bristol and acted as the Western headquarters for the Royalist army under Prince Rupert of Rhine, the 23-year-old commander of the Royalist cavalry.

Prince Rupert surrendered to Oliver Cromwell and Lord Fairfax in 1645, with the fort being demolished in 1655.

The wealthy Tyndall family, who established Bristol's first bank, acquired the land to build a sizeable new house with generous gardens.

The current three-storey villa was built between 1758 and 62 for Thomas Tyndall, a wealthy Bristol merchant, and his young wife Alicia. Its three facades in three different classical styles - Baroque, Palladian and Rococo - were a compromise after three separate architects submitted designs.

A later Tyndall generation called in the landscape designer, Humphry Repton, to screen their 'pleasure grounds' from urban sprawl after a disastrous housing scheme fell through. Repton's original drive and planting around the house have recently been reinstated.

The Tyndall family lived there until 1916, when the house and grounds were bought by Henry Herbert Wills, who later donated it to the University of Bristol.