Guided walks and Charcoal

The Scotney Castle ranger team have been ever busy through the summer months. From making BBQ charcoal to sell in the shop to taking scores of visitors around on guided walks has made the summer eventful…

Senior Ranger Ross Wingfield leading a guided walk

Senior Ranger Ross Wingfield leading a guided walk

Long term volunteer hero Martin, with charcoal bags...

Long term volunteer Martin, with charcoal bags…

The cycle of Scotney’s work plan fits into shape through a virtuous circle. We spend a lot of the winter months clearing back overgrown paths, ride and woodlands which makes a great habitat for various species, such as butterflies and dormice, the wood that is cut is harvested to make charcoal and volunteer estate guides lead visitors to the best places to spot this diversity. It all fits into place.

So, where to start…

Guided Walks  Every day of the week a volunteer estate guides leads a guided walk across the estate. The theme of the walk may reflect the season. Earlier in the year the theme was ‘first signs of Spring’, the walk over the last week has been ‘summer butterfly ID’ and the next one will be on Hops.

Harvested hops...

Harvested hops… Come on a Hop tour this August and September and learn more about the process

Hop gardens at Scotney....

Hops grown in traditional gardens on the estate by tenant farmer, Ian Strang.

Estate Guides 2014. Ready and willing to give a great tour...

Estate Guides 2014. Ready and willing to give a great tour…


Charcoal making is a really old traditional skill. Hornbeam or Alder is said to make the best charcoal, but at Scotney we use mainly sweet chestnut, as that is what we inherited from the plantings of the hop industry. Many say it is more of an art than a science to making it but there are a few things that need to be correct. Firstly the Kiln needs to be packed correctly with the right size logs. It also needs to be burn at the right heat and for the right amount of time. I haven’t cracked it yet, but Martin, shown in the photos below has come quite good at it:

Split the logs and transport to the kiln...

Split the logs and transport to the kiln…

Stack the kiln and light it waiting for the correct temperature before putting the lid on...

Stack the kiln and light it waiting for the correct temperature before putting the lid on…

Put up the chimneys and seal the air holes and leave until smoke turns blue/grey

Put up the chimneys and seal the air holes and leave until smoke turns blue/grey

Shut the kiln right down and leave to cool...

Shut the kiln right down and leave to cool…

Next morning, see what you have got!

Next morning, see what you have got!

Thanks for reading. look out for the next blog soon…

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Once upon a time at Scotney

On Tuesday, the 1st July, exactly 10 years after their first kiss and a year before their wedding, Omid dropped onto one knee in the stunning surroundings of the Old Castle and asked his partner Mary to marry him. Although Omid and Mary had already booked their wedding at Scotney for the summer of 2015, Omid had never actually proposed. Under the ruse of getting a feel for the gardens on the exact date that their wedding will take place next year, he surprised his fiancée Mary with this beautiful and thoughtful romantic gesture on a day that he knew meant so much to both of them. Andrew Wickens of ARW photography, a Friend of Scotney who loves to capture our beautiful property, had been contacted in advance and set up in a disguise as an amateur photographer of the grounds. He was in prime place to capture the special moment in a series of photographs that we think are stunning, as is the rest of his fabulous work which can be seen on his website Like many before them, Omid and Mary have fallen in love with the captivating beauty and tranquillity of Scotney and believe that its atmosphere matches them as a couple perfectly. Congratulations to Omid and Mary upon your engagement and look forward to sharing another special 1st of July with you next year!


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Old Carriage Way Restoration

Who is interested in the old carriage way?

These inquisitive cows came over to see what was going on...

These inquisitive cows came over to see what was going on…

If you are a regular to Scotney Castle estate, or a visitor, you would certainly have noticed the work taking place on the Parkland Trail, more commonly known as the blue route. So what is going on? Basically we have got machines in to restore the carriage way across the estate up to the mansion house.


 A bit of History

 The ‘Old Carriage way’ runs right through the estate from Kilndown to the mansion and would have served as a means of showing of the picturesque parkland and woodlands to guests coming to stay with the family. At certain points along the way specially contrived vistas (or viewpoints) enabled the visitors to get snap shots of the ruined castle and mansion on their way in. However in 1842, Edward Hussey III, whose portrait remains in the dining room as I learnt recently, changed the main carriage way to approach from West Lodge, still its current location. One of the reasons, as I have always been told, was that it is a flatter approach to the mansion, meaning less sweaty horses on arrival… Nonetheless, this meant that the ‘Old Carriage Way’ went into disuse and therefore disrepair. Over the years it has silted and grassed over and the harder standing hogging pathway, a mixture of sand stone, clay and brick, was lost… in 2014, out comes the digger and dumper.

 Work today…


Scotney Castle is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), this status is due mainly to the landscape value. Therefore careful consideration had to be taken and permission granted by Natural England before work started. We are using trusted and experienced contractors. Only a slim layer has been taken off the top of the carriage way in order to get down to the hoggin baselayer. The spoil has been removed and may well be used elsewhere in the future. The contractors have been sensitive to walkers and engaging to questions.


Why the need to do the work? 

I have only been at Scotney for three years but in that short time I have seen each winter how wet, muddy and generally unpassable the old carriage way gets. Water runs down the path and the mud can get up over ones boots. With 130,000 visitors to Scotney Castle each year, and at least 20,000 using the blue route, we needed to make improvements to the old carriage way.  Moreover, scrapping it to its original surface has enabled the restoration of an historic pathway that now, I think, looks impressive swinging down the hill to the Sweetbourne bridge…


 Thanks for reading.

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Calling all Fathers with a Spring in their step!

Today is Father’s Day, and in an effort to help them walk off the Hog Roast that is available (which they’ve no doubt washed down with a pint of Scotney Ale), we’ve opened up the new and improved Spring Walk.


In the past the Spring Walk was a  narrow pathway running between the Bewl River and the park fence ending at a Chalybeate Spring sheltered under two large Western Red Cedars (Thuja plicata). In the Autumn the fence was moved to follow the line of a footpath which is marked on a 19th Century map of the estate. This has enclosed a large additional area of grassland into the garden, and provides a lovely circular walk and stunning views back towards the garden and up to the Mansion.



Already this year, with no grazing by sheep and cattle, wild flowers have been able to flourish. Existing Red and Scarlet Oak provide autumn colour when the time comes (although that seems a long way away as we approach Midsummer), and we will be planting additional trees in the coming year.

As far as the rest of the garden goes, the Rhododendrons are largely over but there is still lots to look at. The Kalmias are out in full, and in the last week our two Stewartia pseudocamellias have been in flower. The specimen at the bottom of the main path is already dropping many of its blooms.



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Highs and Lows

This is my first post on our improved property blog and so I thought I would give you an update as to what’s been going on in the garden this year.  Despite what you might think, we don’t always work in the glorious surroundings of colorful rhododendrons and kalmias, sometimes we have to get down and dirty as in this picture of Richard our senior gardener collecting coins from the ice well and giving it a quick spring clean.  You’ll be pleased to know that your coins along with your secret wishes are well looked after and that they are reinvested in the property and help with its upkeep.


From the depths of the ice well we go to the tops of the trees.  Here’s Ollie from our arboricutural contractors The Living Forest ( carefully removing an uprooted Rowan tree earlier this year.  We had a real battering over the winter with high winds and heavy rain and inevitably we lost a few trees.  Luckily none of our really big significant trees were damaged and we can replant the smaller ones that were lost quite easily.


We’ve been carrying out a lot of clearance work on the far side of the quarry and this has opened up some spectacular views across the garden as well as a new path by the quarry top.  It looks a little stark at the moment but the Rhody will soon regenerate and green the area up again.  It was all hands to the pump on this job and Charlotte took a few days out of the walled garden to give us a hand with some felling.


 As you may have gathered we have also been unfortunate enough to have two confirmed outbreaks of Phytophtora ramorum.  This is a notifiable disease of plants and is linked to the decline and death of a large variety of trees.  It is also known as ‘Sudden Oak Death’ but this is mainly due to the effect that it has on American trees such as the red and black oaks.  Thankfully our native oaks seem to be more resilient to the disease.  However, many of our other trees are at risk including Beech, Horse Chestnut and Sweet Chestnut.  With the help of our colleagues at FERA ( we have been able to eradicate the infected plants and to contain the disease.  So, for the time being part of the western side of the garden is closed and we are asking our visitors to observe a few simple rules to help prevent any cross infection:

  • Please keep to paths where possible.
  • Please do not enter the cordoned off area.
  • Please refrain from touching plants and do not remove any plant material from the garden.
  • Please ensure that you walk through the disinfectant footpath and that wheels of buggies, wheelchairs and mobility scooters are also immersed.

We would like to thank Claire one of our long-term French students for her hard work during this busy time and we hope the daily bonfires and disinfectant showers won’t stop her coming back to see us again soon.  Here’s Claire along with Duncan and Richard in a scene somewhere between CSI Scotney and Ghostbusters.


One of my objectives this year was to try to propagate from some of our veteran trees.  We need to ensure that the good genes found in some of our older trees is allowed to continue here at Scotney.  Using seed sourced here ensures that new plants should be free of disease and be more likely to flourish in the environment in which they were formed.  So far I have been successful in raising seedlings from the Oak on the Bowling Green, our magnificent Beech pollard by the Ice House and the Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ by the first bridge to the castle.  I’ve had less success with the Lime at the top of the garden and the old Sweet Chestnut coppice down by the moat.  I think this might be because we had such a mild winter – could be the freezer for them this winter!  Here’s one of my babies being transplanted into a larger pot – isn’t he beautiful?


Before I finish I would like to say a very big thank you to our three long-term garden volunteers from France – Claire, Tanguy and Bruno.   They have been with us for four weeks and have worked very hard in all areas of the garden.  I know that Anthony is especially grateful for all the help they’ve given him in the Walled Garden as production in there really starts to heat up.  Although they worked very hard, there was always the odd opportunity to take a short break and enjoy the surroundings of Scotney as in these pictures of them enjoying a swing in a tree.  We wish them a safe return to France and success in thier impending exams and future studies.  Bon Yovage.

IMAG1003 IMAG1005

So, as you can see its been a varied year so far and the highs are certainly outweighing the lows.  We’ll keep you updated on developments in the garden as often as we can and in the meantime if you have any questions about what we are doing or something you may have seen in the garden please don’t hesitate to drop us a line or speak to us when you see us out and about.


P.S.  During the winter Duncan grew an exquisite Salvador Daliesque moustache and here he is modelling it under the wisteraia at the old castle.


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Dawn Chrous Review

On Sunday 4th May 2014 the ranger team held a Dawn Chorus Walk with 15 of us braving the 6am start.

Pied Wagtail - Alison Playle

Pied Wagtail – Alison Playle

The morning was absolutely perfect with clear skies and great visibility. The birds matched the weather conditions with a fine array of songs and calls throughout the walk.

In total 34 different species were recorded on the walk. This is tribute to Geoff Orton our expert for the day for recognising all of those calls, especially as the trees were pretty much in full leaf making clear visual ID difficult at times. One participant commented “The bird experts were very helpful with spotting and identifying the birds” and that “We would thoroughly recommend this event if it is run again.”

Here is the complete list of birds followed by some photographs of a few.

Listed in order of seen or heard: Starling, Swallow, Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail, Jackdaw, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Bluetit, Mistle Thrush, Black Cap, Wren, Robin, Mallard, Mandarin, Pheasant, Cuckoo, Whitethroat, Rook, Stock Dove, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Marsh Tit, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Heron, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Goldfinch - Alison Playle

Goldfinch – Alison Playle

Wren - Alison Playle

Wren – Alison Playle

Swallow - Fraser Musson

Swallow – Fraser Musson

Whitethroat - Alison Playle

Whitethroat – Alison Playle

Great Tit - Alison Playle

Great Tit – Alison Playle

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Alison Playle

Great Spotted Woodpecker – Alison Playle

Green Woodpecker - Alison Playle

Green Woodpecker – Alison Playle


Canada Goose - Fraser Musson
Canada Goose – Fraser Musson
Cockerel - not counted as a bird on the walk - but hansome enough to finish off with!

Cockerel – not counted as a bird on our final count – but hansome enough to finish off with! – Fraser Musson

Thank you to those who attended the walk, look forward to seeing you at Scotney again.

If you are interested in participating in another walk at Scotney Castle then we are running a special summer walk each day from 14th to 20th June, 1pm-3pm. Maybe see you then!

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Dawn Chorus Walk

Chiffchaff Alison Playle

Alison Playle

Ever wanted to walk across the Scotney Castle estate early morning and be shown the best place for bird song?

If you want to improve your bird song recognition and be guided across the estate woodland and farm, then this sunday is your chance…



6am to 9am

£10 for adults & £5 for children, including a guided walk followed by hot drinks and a breakfast roll.

Booking essential. Contact 01892 893 860 or

Robin Alison Playle

Alison Playle

Blackcap Alison Playle

Alison Playle

Song Thrush Alison Playle

Song Thrush
Alison Playle

Hope to see you there.


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