Much-loved monument cleared of damaging vegetation thanks to a dedicated local group.
Stowey Green Spaces – Can you give your time to an annual community weekend work day to maintain the appearance of The Mount, described in this Historic England Media Release of 10 November 2022?
Video clip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Vb5Xq24NJ6KwsXnk9 – see Stowey Castle as you’ve never seen it before. Credit: Heritage England
Stowey Castle in Somerset, nestled between the village and the foot of the Quantock Hills, represents the impressive remains of a medieval motte and bailey fortification with spectacular views across the Bristol Channel.
Motte and bailey castles were introduced into Britain by the Normans and consisted of a motte; a large mound of earth on which would have stood a defensive keep built from stone or timber, and one or more baileys; an enclosed area overlooked by the keep and usually surrounded by an earthen rampart and timber palisade. Not only are motte and baileys particularly important to the story of Norman Britain, they add character and distinctiveness to a place, and can be important community resources, often bringing a wide range of benefits to the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of individuals and communities.
In 2018 Stowey Castle, known locally as ‘The Mount’, was added to the Heritage at Risk Register due to invasive bracken and gorse which had almost completely taken over the whole site. Bracken and scrub growth can not only cause harm to sensitive archaeological deposits, but they also obscure features from view, making places difficult to see and understand as historic monuments.
Together with help from the landowner, the Quantocks Landscape Partnership Scheme, the Stowey Green Spaces volunteers, and funding from Historic England, the bracken and gorse has been cleared, and the site has been re-fenced to allow a flock of Herdwick sheep to graze the site. The condition of the castle is now much improved, and it is well cared for by the local community and the Stowey Green Spaces Group, allowing it to be removed from the 2022 Heritage at Risk register.
Landowner Sue Aubrey said: “I had struggled over the years to control the spread of bracken and gorse. As a member of Stowey Green Spaces Group I suggested The Mount might be a worthwhile project. Group members, familiar with The Mount as a popular walk and a place where children sledged over the years, were in full agreement.”
Chairman of the Stowey Green Spaces Group, Roy Osborne, said: “Clearing the bracken and gorse gave a greater appreciation of the sheer steepness of the motte and the difficulty those attacking would have had in even approaching the bailey. This led, in turn, to a better understanding of the importance of the castle to the village for defence and control in Norman times, and giving the village its identity today.”
Dan Broadbent, Historic Heritage Officer at the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme said: “We are delighted to have been able to support the conservation work at Stowey Castle. The provision of new stock-proof fencing has enabled grazing of the motte and bailey site, which, together with the sterling work of volunteers from Stowey Green Spaces, will help to keep the site in good condition for future generations.”
Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme website: https://qlps.org.
Text credit: Heritage England