Q&A with Estate Manager Guy Lucas
How long have you worked at Herstmonceux Castle?
I’ve worked here for 5 years. I started as the Woodland Supervisor looking after the wider estate, now my role as Gardens and Grounds manager means that I oversee a team of estate workers and the 600-acre estate as well as managing the team of Gardeners and our array of formal and themed gardens.
What initially attracted you to the role?
My initial attraction to the role was the opportunity to manage and care for such a diverse, large and special place. Taking aspects of the estate which had become neglected and through hard work and creativity breathing new life back into them, being able to look back at the work which me and the team had done and know that we are leaving a little corner of the countryside in a better state than how we had found it.
Since being here what would you say has been your proudest moment?
I couldn’t pick a single proudest moment. Every project or plan we have undertaken here has filled me with pride in some way, from seeing a plain grassy field turn into flourishing wildflower meadow, developing new herbaceous borders, becoming self-sustainable in our own compost, creating a maze, restoring the ancient chestnut avenue, seeing our population of bees, birds, butterflies and mammals grow year on year, planting 12,500 bulbs and bedding plants for spring 2020 Or just whenever anyone says “it’s looking nice!”. But writing this confirms the thing which makes me the proudest and makes all these things possible is having a team around me who support and believe in my sometimes-ambitious ideas and work so hard to make them happen.
What’s the biggest challenge with your job?
The weather! Once we close for the winter that is our biggest opportunity to get on with work to prepare for opening the following year, despite how wet, cold and slippery the weather conditions get to try and thwart our progress. But in terms of actual challenges which we can control I suppose trying to choose and prioritise all of the projects and plans which we want to undertake each year sometimes we just don’t have the resources or time to do all the things we would like to do.
What would you say is a must see for visitors when they come and enjoy the grounds?
Each garden and area on the estate has something special to see at different times of the year
For spring 2020 we have planted a fantastic array of 7500 spring bulbs these will mainly be seen in the rose garden and the castle courtyard garden accompanied by 5000 bedding plants best seen in March and April.
During Feb and March Daffodils over the whole estate erupt into life planted in the naturalistic style of William Robinson
During April walks throughout our 300 acres of woodland and parkland are carpeted with bluebells
From May the Stunning wisteria draped over the castle cloisters is a real spectacle but can only be seen from castle tours.
The wildflower meadow from June through to august is the most beautiful tranquil place to be, where you can release your inner naturalist whilst strolling through the mown paths watching each butterfly and bee going about its business.
Not forgetting our 300-year-old veteran chestnut avenue starting on the west of the castle moat leading into the woodland where the largest and gnarliest trees are.
Stumbling across the folly is always an exciting experience where you can sit in the small faux cottage and garden. It’s quintessentially British and feels as though it is a place which time has forgotten, from here a series of lily ponds meander down to the moat.
From May right through to September the gardens have something to offer everyone whether the formality of the rose garden with a myriad of colours and scents, or the busy bold pollinator planting dedicated to wildlife in the Lower garden.
Have you got a personal favourite spot?
For me my favourite (secret) spot has to be a large arching Japanese cedar Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’ hidden in the woodland to the East, not many people know it’s there. It forms a perfect arch over the pathway some of its branches bolt straight up like steeples of a church and it has sent down a few supporting limbs into the ground to steady itself like feet. Some of the bark is bright orange and fluffy where animals scratch at it for nesting material where the untouched bark reflects a rainbow of reds, blues and greens after rain.