History of the Gardens
Sir Dudley Digges completed the building of Chilham Castle in 1616, on the site of a ruined castle of which only the Keep remains. Out riding, he would have been attracted to the prominent bluff overlooking the Stour Valley and appreciated the sweeping views, as we do today. He terraced the land that fell steeply towards the west and it’s likely he planted the sweet chestnut avenue in the park. About 150 years later, owner Thomas Heron enlarged the park and redesigned the grounds with the help of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The ‘haha’, which kept livestock contained without interrupting the view with fencing, is one of the best of Capability’s Brown’s innovations. Charles Stewart Hardy, the castle’s owner from 1867 to 1914, dug the lake and planted hundreds of trees. Today, a team of gardeners manages the twenty-acre garden. In summer, it takes two full days a week just to mow the lawns and in September two weeks to reshape the topiaries.
The Quiet Garden
A secluded woodland oasis surrounded by yew hedges, is an unusual feature. Early 18th Century records show a wilderness garden, planted with hornbeam.
The Kitchen Garden
Was restored from a 1960’s rose garden, this is now a functional part of the estate, supplying fruit, vegetables and flowers for the house. We’re blessed with two ancient mulberry trees that still produce abundant fruit in September.
Is under constant development, we’re growing wild plants in the water, woodland and wildflower meadows. In 2007 we cleared trees and shrubs on the north side creating a better view of the lake from the house and restored the iron park fence. New specimen tress are being introduced annually.
At the front of the castle, there;’s a notable cedar. Once, an avenue of limes ran from the front door to the entrance gates. Many were lost in the 1987 hurricane and unfortunately replanted with the wrong variety of lime, which is why we decided to restore the front lawn as a wild flower meadow. The holm oak at the back of the house is about 250 years old. The Victorians made efforts to prevent the tree splitting with chain anchors and then in the 1960’s steel anchors were added.