From English Heritage outreach programmes to the restoration of the parkland and a paranormal experiment, Bruce Hedge has never been far from the action. Describing his long association with Lydiard Park he recalls,
‘I have to confess that until early January 2000 I had never heard of Lydiard Park, living as I do in darkest Oxfordshire, and it is thanks to English Heritage, as it then was, that I came to get to know it. It was all due to a course its Outreach Department ran on Understanding Past Landscapes where the practical work was carried out at Lydiard. The following year I met Keeper of Lydiard House, Sarah Finch-Crisp.
The early 2000’s was the start of a significant period in the history of the park, a plan was taking shape for its badly needed restoration. Being handy with a camera I was able to supply a number of photographs to support the later Heritage Lottery Fund bid. Also, Sarah needed slides for the numerous presentations she made to the local community, hopeful sponsors, and all who needed persuading to support the bid.
Later I was able to help with the English Heritage survey, record the progress of the subsequent Wessex Archaeology excavations, and later the restoration work itself.
It was after all work was finished and the formal opening had taken place that I was asked to sort the comprehensive photographic collection relating to the restoration and computerize it. Thus began a five year spell in the house and on its archive. I finally finished volunteering in September 2013, with regret. But, of course, that has not been a complete end to my relationship with the house and park.
Two photographs I would like to share in case any of you have forgotten the state of things before restoration, or didn’t know the park then, showing the dramatic difference it made. They were both taken from same spot on the dam, looking South over the lower lake.
Some years later, one of my choicest recollections was shared with Lydiard Curator Sophie Cummings and three others sitting on the floor of the dining-room holding hands late one evening. This was during one of the paranormal events held at the house, and the hope was to make contact with one of the permanent inhabitants. Indeed contact was made with a young person who would only answer questions from ‘the grandfather figure ’present, that was me. He described himself as neither a boy nor yet a man, and when questioned as to his status, his answer was he was not a member of the family, but neither was he a servant. At that point, just like rural broadband, the connection failed and could not be re-established!’