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Arundel Castle wins 2020 Sussex Heritage Trust Award

Arundel Castle's 'stew ponds' project has won a 2020 Sussex Heritage Trust Award. The two-year project won the Landscape and Gardens category, receiving praise from the judges for its "imaginative restoration in keeping with the naturalistic character of the stew ponds" and "sensitive and creative use of local materials."

The historic 'stew ponds' would have provided fish for the Castle kitchens and local friary for making fish stews, hence the name. Arundel Castle wanted to create a conservation area for wildlife and to provide a tranquil water garden for visitors and education groups to learn about its history and ecology in this unique setting.

When the project began, the ponds water levels were low from centuries of silt that had gathered on the bottom of the ponds. The team ensured the pond's original shapes were kept intact during the desilting, conducted by a specialist aquatic ecological specialist. This has now allowed natural spring water from the South Downs to flow through to each pond again, correcting the water levels and giving a new area for wildlife and visiting waterfowl.

The design incorporates new pathways, a boardwalk between two ponds, a rustic bridge, an educational thatched roundhouse and a boathouse for visitors to enjoy. Sustainably sourced timber has been used from the Norfolk estate and traditional building methods were used to construct the buildings, while the reed thatching was completed by a local Master Thatcher.

More than 1,500 water plants were planted around the site by the Castle garden team, including water lilies, irises and reeds, which have already given sanctuary to nesting waterfowl including swans with five cygnets, as well as coots and ducks. New swathes of wildflowers were planted to attract beneficial insects, helping visitors learn about the ecology of the conservation area.

Head Gardener and Landscape Designer Martin Duncan, who led the project, said: "It was a great honour to project manage and design a conservation and education area incorporating the historic stew ponds here at Arundel Castle, and to have had such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic team to work with. Everyone involved is delighted that we have received this prestigious award."

Local contractors and craftspeople involved included architect David Bennett KC Property Services, Love Building & Carpentry Ltd, G A MacDonald Master Thatcher and Beaver Plants.

The Sussex Heritage Trust Trustees recently presented the award in-person at Arundel Castle. The project was granted planning permission by the South Downs National Park Authority and a full Heritage Statement was also submitted.

For more information about Arundel Castle, please visit arundelcastle.org.

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This story was published on: 26/12/2020

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