The Elizabethan Gardens at Kenilworth Castle have been rejuvenated in a £70,000 project to mark the anniversary of the 19-day visit to the castle by Queen Elizabeth 1 in July 1575, and can now be enjoyed by groups visiting this popular Warwickshire attraction.
The one-acre walled garden forms part of the greatest love story that never was in English history, according to English Heritage. Created by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester as a love letter to Queen Elizabeth 1, no expense was spared on the gardens. In today’s money Robert Dudley would have spent millions on his attempt to tempt the Queen into marriage. The private pleasure garden which drew inspiration from the latest gardens in Italy and France, was a delight for all the senses. Beautiful birdsong sang out from the aviary, the scent of vibrant roses lingered in the air and juicy plump strawberries could be picked and savoured.
The gardens were completely lost during and after the Civil War, but in 2009, English Heritage recreated them using archaeological investigations and a detailed description left by the then courtier Robert Langham who was let into the garden whilst the queen was out hunting.
The six-month project included re-laying paths and replanting and additions such as a Tudor bowling green outside the garden, and a re-constructed oak garden gate, possibly where Robert Langham entered the garden 400 years ago.
John Watkins, head of gardens and landscapes, English Heritage, says: “Visitors today, as described in 1575, during Elizabeth I’s visit, can enjoy the architecture and geometry of the garden, the diversity of form and colour in the planting, the sweet scent of roses, strawberries, carnations and stocks, the sound of water and singing birds.”
Groups can visit the refreshed garden as part of a day out at Kenilworth Castle and pre-booked guided tours of the castle ruin or the Elizabethan Garden are available.
English Heritage has also been busy on a £620,000 three-year project at Stokesay Castle in Shropshire. Groups visiting the pretty ‘chocolate box’ castle can now benefit from the addition of a 44-seat tea room, better interpretation within the castle and a refresh of the delightful gardens.
In 2017, the nearby Stokesay Cottage was converted into a tea room, selling tray-bakes and light lunches using locally sourced, fresh and seasonal food. Outside saw the addition of outdoor seating with breathtaking views across rolling fields to Long Mynd and the Shropshire Hills and inside, a log burner giving the tea room a cosy cottage feeling in winter.
An interpretation project installed in 2018 now provides further insight into the story of the castle, revealing what each room was used for, the stories behind the people who lived there and the fascinating history of the site.
The final stage is the refreshing of the cottage style garden, which is now back to its colourful best after being completely replanted with a mixture of herbaceous perennials and shrubs.
Coach drivers and tour leaders (one each per group) can enjoy a free lunch and group members within the party will receive a 10 per cent discount to take advantage of the local specialities and English Heritage favourites on the menu. This offer is only available for pre-booked visits of groups of 11 or more and must be used on the day of the visit.