Feature by Marthe Hensmann
Walk through historic parkland, watch young herons practice their fishing skills or simply have a picnic next to trees planted in Victorian times - Coombe Abbey Country Park is a tranquil retreat from all the hustle and bustle of city life.
Have a look at the Country Park
Follow the images button below to see some more pictures of Coombe Abbey Park.
Woodland, lakes and gardens
Located within a short reach of Coventry the park offers 450 acres of woodland, lakes, beautiful gardens and open grassland. An outdoor gem for the whole family it is also the perfect haven for sparrowhawks, bats, migrating Muntjac deer and other members of the animal kingdom.
Once you leave behind the children’s playground and visitor centre, which apart from the usual shop and restaurant hosts a video about the history of the abbey and a discovery centre where kids can learn about the different habitats of the park, a good 15 minutes lakeside stroll will take you to the heron colony.
We have Warwickshire’s largest heronry.
Jason Ingamells, visitor centre manager
"With over 60 breeding pairs we have Warwickshire’s largest heronry," explained visitor centre manager Jason Ingamells. "Herons are seasonal birds, they arrive on site in January and will have left by the end of July for Africa. But at the moment many birds are still here."
In the woods
The colony is overlooked by a wooden bird hide from where you can spot the birds on their island - if you are lucky and have your binoculars with you.
Walking back through the woods you come to Wrautums Field, an open grass area, where people enjoy picnics and kids play football or fly kites.
Formal gardens and Victorian trees
Close to the Duck Decoy Spinney a boardwalk takes you through wet woodland and willow coppice.
Flying kites is a popular activity in the park
On the way back to the abbey the formal gardens impress with their bedding displays.
The adjoining arboretum features a collection of 100 year-old trees and wandering around it you really feel like you’re stepped back in time with a slight magical touch included. History is indeed alive in the park which took centuries to reach its present form.
Wooden sculptures out of tree trunks
The Cistercian abbey adjacent to the park dates back to 1150. In the early 17th century the abbey and its surrounding lands were purchased by the Craven family who owned it for the next 300 years. In the 1960s the park was opened to the general public and now the old abbey has been transformed into a hotel.
The heron island
If you look closely you will find a monk and several other sculptures carved out of tree trunks. Artist John Wakefield was commisioned to create the pieces in 1996. To turn a dead historically important tree into public art is a remarkable way to conserve it. Sadly, one display that showed the children of the Craven family and their pet monkey "Jacko" has been vandalized with a chainsaw - only the little girl remains.
Ranger-led walks and lectures
Volunteers for practical conservation work are always welcome.
The park offers also a variety of events, such as ranger-led walks and lectures which have to be pre-booked. The bat-walks at dusk are especially popular.
The park attracts 450,000 visitors a year and there are plenty of summer actvities for kiddies such as woodland minibeasting or shelterbuilding.
Public art in the park
"We have three full-time and three assistant rangers who maintain the grounds," said Jason. "Volunteers for practical conservation work are always welcome. You can work for example in estate maintenance, habitat management or fishery developement. The range of volunteers is very broad - from the 60 year old retired person to environmental science students looking to improve their CVs."
For opening times see the fact box on the left. For more information and bookings please call Coombe’s information centre on 02476453720.