The fragile snowdrops scattered around West Wycombe Park were the first signs of spring even though the weather was cold and damp. We followed the map given at the entrance, passing the Manor House of the famous Dashwood family. The house, in a distinctive yellow colour, stands graciously on the top of a slope dominated by the whole landscape. Built between 1740 and 1800 by Sir Francis Dashwood the house is set within a landscaped park containing many temples and follies. The first temple, hidden behind the house and very easy to miss is the Temple of Apollo or Cockpit Arch where cock fights took place. Following the map, we passed a big ditch, a Ha Ha, a ditch to stop livestock straying onto the estate. At the end of the ha ha route there was the first folly, something we hadn’t seen on our previous visit, an octagonal tower built in the local stone, painted in the distinctive yellow and called the Temple of the Winds. The design of the temple resembles the Tower of the Winds in Athens.
From the temple we turned left towards the lake, created from the River Wye in the form of a Swan. In the middle of the lake, surrounded by calm waters and relaxing swans, lies the Temple of Music inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Sir Francis Dashwood , 2nd Baronet, embarked on an Italian Grand tour visiting villas of the Italian Renaissance which he wished to reproduce on his own estate.
After a short walk along the lake we came across another temple – the Temple of Daphne, modelled on a small temple on the Acropolis. It was surrounded by snowdrops in full bloom. I am sure there were more follies and temples scattered around the estate as we keep discovering them on each visit.
West Wycombe Park is an excellent place to get immersed into English history, learning about the past and how it shaped the present of West Wycombe. The Dashwood family still lives on the estate and you can see them occasionally. Entry to West Wycombe Park is £10 for adult and the price includes a visit to the Manor House which is open from 1 st April – 31 st August. During the winter time there are snow drop walks and the entry is £2.50 without a visit to the House. Dogs and picnics are not allowed.