Well it’s that time of year again where the days are short and the mornings are cold. Even though the Gardens and Grounds of Herstmonceux Castle are closed until March 2013, our Garden and Estate team thought it would be nice to fill you all in on what goes on during this cold time of year and what changes we look to make for 2013.

The main change visitors will notice in 2013 is the new views of the castle. We are concentrating on the Moat banks, clearing trees and shrubs to improve the view as you drive down the hill towards the Castle. We are also adding various ‘vistas’ and openings in the woodland to give visitors different views of the Castle as you walk along our trails.

In the Elizabethan Gardens we are re-planting the East border due to root systems being contaminated with Ground Elder and Bindweed. The hand digging and weeding process will take the entire gardening team approximately 5 weeks to accomplish, after which they will have incorporated 20 cubic yards of organic matter to re-condition and help improve the soil structure.

Planting plans for the new border are going to be very different to the previous one and will be incorporating some grasses and Clematis as well as traditional favourites like Hollyhocks, Penstemons and Lupins through to more structural plants such as Acanthus, Cynara and in time 8ft Rhubarb!

This winter the Estate Team have started a 10 year Higher Level Stewardship scheme. HLS aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high-priority areas. HLS concentrates on the higher level of management where land managers need advice and support and where agreements can be tailored to local environments. Some of the key areas we want to concentrate on, over the next 10 years, are waterways, improving the woodlands and the ponds.

Surveys will be carried out ready for a pond improvement project. We will be testing water quality, silt levels and plant surveys will also be done. The amphibian and vertebrates survey will be carried out in spring 2013 so look out for that in our next update.

When we next get a dry spell the estate team will be working on the woodland paths and trails getting them fully prepared and safe for our customers to enjoy our 600 acres in 2013.

We would also like to announce that we have teamed up with East Sussex Falconry who with our help will be renovating the old Cricket Pavilion so it will be our Bird of Prey HQ.

Both the Garden and the Estate team would like to take the time to thank all visitors who bought plants from our stall. You have helped us to purchase a new wrought iron gazebo to add some height to the Butterfly Garden and some rustic benches for the Cottage Garden.

Have a fantastic New Year and we look forward to seeing you after we re-open again on 30th March 2013.

Tim, Martin, Steve, Fiona, Tom and Joe – The Gardens & Grounds Team at Herstmonceux Castle