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Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle
Address: Berkeley Castle
Gloucestershire
Postcode: GL13 9BQ
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Telephone: 01453 810332
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Description
In the beginning, the walls of the Castle dropped sheer to the surrounding
levels to the South. Quite early in its history, the water from the Severn
(nearer the Castle in those days) was channelled and managed to create
defensive stretches of water on this side of the Castle, and a ditch was dug
to the North side, between the Castle and the church, at a later date. The
approach to the Castle was via a slope to the West, leading to what is now
the Gatehouse: all that stands remaining of the double-drawbridge and huge
octagonal towers through which men had to pass to enter the outer bailey and
approach the present Great Doors.

Over time, successive generations have softened the stern aspect of the
Castle walls with flowers, until finally the present planting of the
terraces was carried out with the help of Gertrude Jekyll at the turn of the
last century. The gardens specialise in scent and the roses in particular
are a delight in June. Rare plants, shrubs and trees are to be enjoyed and
the grounds also include a tropical butterfly house with hundreds of
butterflies flying freely in a tranquil indoor garden - "a calm oasis in a
busy world, as one recent visitor wrote in our visitor's book, where the
whole life cycle of the butterfly is represented from chrysalis to
caterpillar and fully fledged adult.

Evidence of earlier times can still be seen: below the sloping approach to
the present gatehouse is a long "bowling green," thought to be where Queen
Elizabeth I played bowls during her stay at the Castle. A 19th Century
venison larder nestles in the trees behind the present shop, which in its
turn used to be the place where beer was brewed for the Castle household
before being pumped down to the cellars.

The Lily Pond was first built as a swimming pool during the time of the last
Earl and his American Countess. From here sweeping curved steps lead down to
the Great Lawn on which the two remaining Culloden pines stand. These are
said to have been brought back as pine cones from the Battle of Culloden by
the 4th Earl of Berkeley. The greater of the two trees is in its own sunken
circle: this was because the level of the Great Lawn was raised in the 1920s
to prevent flooding.

The gardens are ringed on the South and East with rhines, or drainage
ditches. These are fed from the River Severn and can vary in depth from a
few inches to 8 or 9 feet during the winter. These rhines are still actively
managed in this area of the county for agricultural purposes and to avoid
flooding. In the far south-western corner of the gardens is a small bridge
with old sluice gates beneath. In earlier days, barges used to draw up here
bearing deliveries to the Castle. (Berkeley Town itself was a thriving port
with its own quay in mediaeval and Tudor times).

The car park is on the site of old orchards: under one corner are the hidden
remains of an ice house, which stored ice gathered in winter from the
flooded field immediately below the roadway.  And beyond the car park are
the butterfly house and plant sales in what used to be the old Victorian
kitchen garden.

Above all, the gardens are a beautiful complement to a beautiful and unique
building, the terraces climbing nearly 30 feet from lawn to gun terrace and
softening the mellow stone face of the Castle with the colour and texture of
flowers.
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