Vivary Park


The Garden

In the centre of Taunton, one of the fastest growing towns in the southwest region, stands Vivary Park, as lively and full of activity today as it was when it opened in 1895. Visitors can enjoy walking through the extensive lawns and formal flowerbeds or rest in the shade of mature specimen trees. Children love the park because of its boating ponds and play areas – one of which is surrounded by a model railway. There are lots of activities available if you are feeling energetic; Vivary Park has excellent sporting facilities including a bowling green, tennis courts, and 18-hole putting green and a full 18-hole golf course. All this is only a short walk from the town centre.

Vivary Park

The idea of having a park which everyone could enjoy in the middle of Taunton became possible after the government became concerned about the general well-being of people living in towns and passed the Public Health Act of 1875. This Act meant that the council was able to buy land from the Kinglake family and start planning the design. The name “Vivary” comes from the time when the land was used as a fish farm or ‘vivarium’ for the local priory although nothing remains of this medieval past today except for the name itself.

After its Victorian heyday, Vivary Park became very run down and neglected but at the end of the twentieth century Taunton Deane Borough Council, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, undertook a major restoration project costing three quarters of a million pounds to restore the gardens and ironwork to their former glory. The newly-restored park was formally re-opened by the Queen on 2nd May 2002.

The park was laid out in 1895 much as it appears today. The Victorians had a passion for finding exotic plants overseas and then displaying them as dramatically as possible. Vivary Park, full of vibrant and interesting plants, is a testament to this passion. Formal flowerbeds, which can still be seen here, were most popular before the First World War; it was hard to keep them going later when times were hard and there was less manpower available. There are more modern perennial borders, shrubs and herbaceous plants at the borders of the park and in places around the wildlife pond. Each year, 56,000 bulbs are planted by hand which make a stunning display in spring.

Vivary Park

The most striking aspect of Vivary Park are the magnificent white gates that date from the park’s original design in 1895. The recent restoration of the gates has left them looking as impressive as they did when they were first installed. On coming through the gates, there is a war memorial dating from 1922 in the middle of a formal garden which has a border of posts and chains which have ivy trained over them. If you choose the right time of year, you will then catch the powerful scent of roses from the National Rose Society Provincial Rose Ground, which was planted in the 1960’s. To the right of this is a picnic area set around a small aviary, from where you can see the wildlife lake. This was originally built for practical reasons to cope with storm water but is now home to a variety of water birds including mallards, Chinese geese, laysan teal, moorhens and North American ruddy ducks. If you are lucky, you may spot the pond’s resident kingfisher.

Further into the park there is an ornamental fountain in honour of Queen Victoria which was built in 1907. It has recently been restored to its original bright colours and is fully functional. Beyond this are two huge oaks that were planted in 1902 when Edward VII was crowned; they overlook a bandstand that has been there since the opening of the park.

Vivary Park

Beyond the bandstand is Vivary Park’s widest open lawn, which is home to a huge variety of public events. These range from the well-loved Taunton Flower Show, which has been held every year since 1851 and has an average of 24,000 visitors over two days, to a variety of different musical events – from classical to rock concerts - in the summer. There are more than thirty organized events each year – many of which are free.

Sport has always been a very important part of Vivary Park. Outdoor tennis courts were included with the original purchase of the land, and the golf course, which was opened in 1928, is extremely popular with its tall trees, water hazards and exceptionally well-kept greens. The Bowling Club has both indoor and outdoor facilities and a putting green is available for those who do not fancy a full round of golf. Vivary Park really is a park for everyone; there is something for you here whether you are interested in exploring gardens, watching wild birds, listening to concerts or just messing around with boats.