Demetra Lindsay, owner of Hedingham Castle, on the work that goes into preserving the pride and joy of Essex, and why there’s plenty to see and do every month
Hedingham Castle is such an iconic landmark, but do you feel people really know the history behind the estate too?
It’s impossible to visit the estate and not be drawn in by its heritage. We really try to encourage guests to absorb as much of its history as possible during their visit, with information inside the Keep and guidebooks available in the café. Our interactive medieval events, such as Jousts, are also a brilliant, fun way to tell people the story of Hedingham and show visitors how the estate may have looked all those years ago.
How has the medieval park evolved into the landscaped gardens over the years?
In 2008, a 12-month restoration of the gardens started, to include a formal pond, planting of the Rhododendron Walks, the re-planting of the front terraces and the restoration of the Dovecote. Today, the gardens are a beautiful calming place to wander and enjoy.
What part of the estate do people often talk about when visiting?
Of course everyone loves the Keep, which is almost 900-years-old and one of the best kept examples of Norman architecture in the country, but the lake is also a popular spot for picnics and wildlife watching, and the view from the bottom of the lake back up to the House is just spectacular.
Do you have a favourite element of the estate?
The bluebell woods are magical. When the carpet of purple takes over the woodland in April/May each year, it’s just breathtaking.
Are there many hidden secrets that you implore people to seek out?
So many! Wander through the woodland and pick out a tranquil picnic spot in the dappled sunlight, or cross the little bridge to the Dovecote and see if you can spot the initials of its creator, Sir Robert Ashhurst, in its brickwork. Built in 1720, the Dovecote housed the estate’s doves, which supplied both meat and eggs for the household. The 460 original nest boxes are still visible today.
As we head into autumn, what truly stands out in the gardens during this season?
The colours are just magnificent. Golds, reds and oranges take over the estate and the gardens take on a completely different atmosphere.
Do you love hosting events in the grounds?
Absolutely! It’s been so quiet these past 18 months due to the pandemic, so being able to welcome visitors again for our Summer of Events has been just wonderful. The estate thrives on having people here and it’s our job, and privilege, as custodians, to share its history with others and to keep it relevant today.
Are you keen on encouraging children to explore and learn more about nature at Hedingham Castle as well as its history?
Education is a huge passion of ours at Hedingham and it is essential to make historic places current and interesting to people today. We regularly hold nature trails around the estate for families to enjoy throughout the seasons; the Easter trail is always popular, and we were recently lucky enough to become home to a pair of nesting Peregrine Falcons and were able to livestream from their nest, which was very exciting.
We’ve also installed an Escape Room at the very top of the Keep this year, which is immersive fun for children and adults alike, and a fantastic way of getting families and the younger generation involved.
How much work goes into preserving and nurturing the estate?
Safe to say it is a full-time job of many. The Keep is like living with a rather demanding great aunt who always wants something else. We may make various plans for the year and then it gets to December and we’ve completed a whole other list of tasks instead! Most recently, we have replaced the entire first floor in the Keep (using old sleepers from Southend Pier) and we are currently renovating the top floor to become a luxurious bedroom suite, complete with hidden bath and four poster bed.
How can people help with its upkeep?
Spreading the word of Hedingham Castle is so invaluable to us. Our wonderful visitors literally fund our ongoing (and never-ending!) restoration of the estate and without whom we wouldn’t be here, so we are hugely grateful to all those who come and enjoy the estate, our events and weddings throughout the year.