In a wooded valley, flanking the Sangamon River just west of Monticello sits Robert Allerton Park. Donated to the state and under the guidance of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this over 1,000 acres of woodlands and meadows has at its heart a 10 acre complex of manicured gardens, reflecting pools and wonderful sculptures, in various mediums.
There is no admission charge (of course donations are welcome), and maps of the various trails can be found in the visitors center. The centerpiece of the gardens area is a beautiful manor house which was constructed in 1900 (which can be rented for special occasions by the way…). Several major pieces of sculpture adjoin the manor house, as well as a large reflecting pond and coy pond.
East of the manor house is the Foo Dog Garden and Buddha Gazebo. These purple ceramic ‘guard dogs’ are arranged atop columns along a grassy courtyard. A stroll through the formal gardens reveals wonderfully trained hedges and shrubs, ornamental and maze like all at once. The trail through the gardens leads all the way to the edge of the forest where the ambitious can hike miles of forested trails, broken now and again by large statuary. The trail ends at ‘The Sun Singer’, a 16 foot bronze monument to the sun, with a beautiful green patina.
Allerton Park is a wonderful place to visit in the spring or summer and whether it be for quiet meditation in the gardens, or a nice walking workout in the deep forest.