A rough guide to Lydiard House and Park, Wiltshire, UK from a wildlife and nature photographer's perspective
Lydiard House and Park is located on the western edge of Swindon. While the historical house is an attraction in its own right, the expansive park area will be the main focus of this document. All photos within were taken by me in the park.
The grounds overview
The lawn lies in front of the house. This is an area of open grassland with the occasional tree, bordered by trees and the lake. Adjacent to the lake is also a smaller pond, which has a small platform and is commonly used by people to feed the ducks. These lakes are home to waterfowl, which almost always include a nesting pair of mute swans, multiple mallards, coots and moorhens. Other species also visit.
Paths run around the lakes with various plants and plenty of trees. In the area to the west of the house are large open fields.
Facilities are available include a cafe, toilets, childrens play area and plenty of free parking (overflow spaces in busy periods).
Although not a part of the park itself, it is adjacent to fields which are occasionally used to keep farm animals such as cows and horses.
The large lake is always popular with the waterfowl. Three sides are easily accessible by foot. One length is reedy and as such provides shelter for the wildlife.
The smaller pond is also surrounded by pathways, but visibility of some areas are limited due to plant growth.
The two lakes are separated by a pathway. The mallards and swans sometimes cross between them by foot providing a chance to see them out of water.
In general, most waterfowl prefer to stay in the large lake, but when conditions get cold they concentrate more into the smaller one. Presumably due to its location it is more sheltered from the worst of the weather.
Water based birds
Mute swans - there is a resident mating pair which is present in the park for most of the year. They had 10 cygnets in 2008 and 5 cygnets in 2009. They can usually be found in or around the lake areas. The 2009 nest was built on the island in the small pond. Visiting swans are rare and are quickly driven away by the resident pair.
Canada geese - these visit from time to time, most often and in greater numbers in winter. The resident swans often try to drive off smaller numbers. As such, none are resident and I have not seen goslings in the park.
Mallards - there are some around all year. They are most plentiful over winter where they tend to hang out in the small pond. That lasts up to breeding season, when the ducklings have grown up the numbers drop significantly again.
Coots - these are present all year round and may be found in either lake.
Moorhens - these are present all year round and may be found in either lake.
Pochard - a rare visitor. I have only seen them once here and I didn't get a good shot of it.
Grebes - these are uncommon, and visitors include at least the Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe. They may be found in either lake, but more likely the bigger one.
Gulls - these visit regularly. I'm not familiar on the specific species but smaller ones are quite common. In winter a more distinctive black headed gull and black backed gulls may visit.
Grey Heron - a rare visitor. I've seen one fly overhead once, and another time one landed for a short while. There is a heronry on the other side of Swindon so they may be passing when travelling from there.
Tufted duck - an uncommon visitor. They tend to hang out in the large lake.
Redwing thrush - seen once on the small hill by the duck feeding area.
Pied wagtail - occasionally seen around the duck feeding area.
Robin - occasionally seen around the duck feeding area, and also around the cafe.
Crow - resident. They often hang around the water side and take bread with the ducks.
Magpie - occasionally seen in and around trees.
Pigeon - resident. Often seen particularly in the trees around the lakes.
Blackbird - occasionally seen in and around trees.
Rabbits - these can be found in spring in the grass areas on the duck side of the small pond and the growth near the trees between the lawn and cafe. They are very twitchy and easily spooked. Approaching very slowly can get you a bit closer.
Grey Squirrels - these can sometimes be found in the trees between the cafe area and lawn.
Rat - these have been seen on the water edge near the duck feeding area of the small pond during freezing weather, where they attempt to take the bread from the ducks.
Frogs and tadpoles - at the right time of year, you can see tadpoles by the water's edge of the small pond, and the mass exodus when they turn into tiny frogs and set out to the big wide world. I haven't seen older frogs there.
Damselflies - the common blue type is very common in spring/summer around the lakes.
Dragonflies - various types exist. I'm not familiar with subspecies but most common are the orange ones, and also blue and green ones to a lesser extent. These are all much less common than the damselflies. Check out the plants around the lakes during summer.
Bees - may be found around open flowers around the house
Wasp - may be found around open flowers around the house, also around the cafe area.
Flies - for some reason they seem to like hanging around the wooden benches in summer. Less surprisingly around anything dead.
Butterflies - may be found around any flowers during summer
There are many other types of bugs but I'm not familiar enough to identify them.
Here's a quick map I knocked up showing the main area of interest. North is up. To the east is Swindon, to the west are the more open areas of the park. For scale indication, the length of the large lake is approximately 300m.
Black lines - roads and parking
Brown lines - main paths
Green dots - trees (representation)
Entry to the park grounds and parking is free. There is a fee to enter the house and/or walled garden.
The park is on the edge of a housing estate so it a very popular location for dog walkers. A significant minority fail to clean up after their dogs or control them. The smaller dogs are quite prone to approach and leave muddy paw marks on your legs if you're not careful.
The main paths have a reasonable surface, but if you want to get to the action you will have to leave them. Be aware the smaller paths can be muddy, particularly after any recent rainfall. Due to the shading effect of the trees this can linger for days.
The park may occasionally be used for special events and be restricted or closed. Do check their web site in advance of travel.
The church behind the house.