CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

Castle Park - transforming historic Bishop’s Stortford site

PUBLISHED: 11:24 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:22 07 March 2017

Flowering rush - a native of slow-flowering water. The project will allow light to reach the Stort and its banks, encouraging plants and wildlife to return (Thinkstock)

Flowering rush - a native of slow-flowering water. The project will allow light to reach the Stort and its banks, encouraging plants and wildlife to return (Thinkstock)

igorbondarenko

National Lottery funding will help transform an historic park in the centre of Bishop’s Stortford, writes Countryside Management Service projects officer Gregory Ault

In the heart of Bishop’s Stortford, a historic market town in east Hertfordshire, are Castle Gardens and Sworder’s Field – both testaments to the town’s rich historical and natural heritage, but currently under-utilised and somewhat neglected.

In partnership with the landowners, East Herts Council and Bishop’s Stortford Town Council respectively, Countryside Management Service has developed plans to combine these adjacent green spaces into one vibrant area called Castle Park. The project aims to protect and showcase the site’s heritage, enhance wildlife habitats and improve public access and enjoyment. The project was given a major boost at the start of this year thanks to an initial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and BIG Lottery Fund’s Parks for People programme. This will allow CMS to develop its initial ideas into detailed plans.

History

At the centre of Castle Park are the remnants of Waytemore Castle, a Scheduled Monument. It’s origins are thought to date back to around 950, when it was a Saxon fort on the frontier of Viking Danelaw and the Kingdom of Wessex, perhaps controlling the fording point across the river Stort. It was later appropriated by the Normans and converted into a motte and bailey structure. Set 12m high on a defensive earth mound, ruins of that castle are still evident today.

The condition of the structure has deteriorated over the years, with public access currently restricted. Specialist conservation work as part of the Castle Park project will protect the masonry and allow the mound to be reopened for visitors to discover and explore.

The castle would have once been surrounded by buildings such as stables, barracks, a chapel and a workshop. Archaeological surveys will be carried out across the park to find out if there are any remnants of these hidden beneath the surface.

More recent history is evident nearby, where a war memorial commemorates the 314 soldiers from Bishop’s Stortford who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. These remain a major focus of the annual Remembrance Day parade held in the town.

A redesigned park layout will make the castle and war memorial prominent features of the landscape, while the medieval history of the site will be brought to life through a series of events.

Wildlife

Running through the middle of Castle Park is the river Stort, one of the defining natural features of this part of the county. The river had a major impact on the growth of Bishop’s Stortford in the 18th century as a trading route for the town’s thriving malt industry.

A renewed effort to enhance habitats along the Stort catchment has seen the reintroduction of water voles and improved habitat for otters. Through Castle Park, however, the river remains in a poor condition, where a dark channel shades out life and hides it from public view. As part of the project, major habitat improvements will draw in wildlife from surrounding areas, bringing nature into the heart of the town, while a new river crossing will be installed to provide greater interaction with the river, allowing people to see the wildlife.

Castle Park will act as a gateway from the town centre to the wider countryside. Following the Stort north takes you along a corridor of green spaces to the edge of the town, offering a scenic and enjoyable route to discover the great outdoors.

Health & community

The reinvigorated area will be an excellent place to get active and healthy. One of the first things CMS wants to establish is an expanded programme of Hertfordshire Health Walks. An improved path network will make the park accessible to elderly and disabled people and a new social space will be created for young people to call their own. Alongside this, changes to the existing buildings will provide an improved community space alongside a new café and toilets.

Over the next 18 months the partnership will be holding a number of events as the project is developed. We will also be establishing a new friends group that will help shape the legacy of the park. If you are interested in participating in the project please do get in contact.

The Countryside Management Service works with communities in Hertfordshire to help them care for and enjoy the environment. For more information, and to join the Castle Park friends group, visit hertfordshire.gov.uk/cms, email northeast.cms@hertfordshire.gov.uk or call 01992 588433.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hertfordshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hertfordshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hertfordshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Friday, November 16, 2018

Christmas isn’t complete without a trip to a festive fair. From German-style food stalls to vintage fetes, Hertfordshire’s Christmas markets have it all

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We quiz author Kevin Exley about his new book that takes the reader on the trail of fascinating stories, new and old, around Berkhamsted

Read more
October 2018
Monday, October 29, 2018

Hertfordshire is a county with a vast, fascinating and sometimes dark and bloody history that has reportedly lead to more than a few angry ghosts sticking around to wreak havoc and take revenge on the living. We have gathered 10 of the most haunted places in the county

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Make the most out of autumn with these eight walking routes that take in a variety of Hertfordshire’s terrains and - most importantly – have a cosy pub along the way

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We've selected a variety of spooky activities in the county that are sure to delight the kids

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s Charlotte Hussey explores the fascinating world of bats and new projects in the county to help conserve these remarkable creatures

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species is asking the public to look out for mammals on Hertfordshire’s roads as part of a citizen science project

Read more
September 2018
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

From stately homes to skateparks, we have selected some of the best ideas for things to do in Hertfordshire

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The diverse parkland of Pishiobury Park in Sawbridgeworth is undergoing a five-year plan to promote its heritage and enhance its habitats. It makes for a royal day out

Read more
September 2018
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

From Aldbury to Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire has a plethora of pretty villages. We have picked just 10 that you should visit

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search