News Letter 2001

No. 2 December 2001

A Year to Remember
All good plans for the year came to an abrupt end on 1st March when concern for the rural community led the National Trust to close all out of town properties as a precaution against foot and mouth. With public rights of way criss-crossing the property, as well as grazing livestock near all public areas, this preventative measure remained in place until 26th May, nearly three months after being enforced.

While this gave us the opportunity to undertake a considerable amount of work ‘undisturbed’, it also meant that we received no income for almost a quarter of the year.

However, with considerable effort, the property has re-gained its losses, and with the support of our volunteers, we are on course for a record number of visitors this year. A big thank you goes to all those who helped achieve this remarkable result, including all those who have visited.

Spreading the Word
While visitors were unable to visit Lyveden, I took the opportunity to visit as many groups and organizations as possible giving an illustrated talk on our on-going conservation projects. Groups ranged from the local National Trust Association to the Clinical Society at Peterborough District Hospital! If you belong to a group, I would be delighted come and provide a talk, or why not book a guided tour of Lyveden in the New Year?

BBC Hidden Gardens
However, book soon, because towards the end of next year the BBC are broadcasting a new series entitled Hidden Gardens in which Lyveden has been selected as one of only six sites nation-wide.

Presented by Chris Beardshaw, from Gardener’s World, the programme will study the on-going work to uncover and preserve this fascinating site, using some of the BBC’s latest technology!

We are recording over the winter months, with the programme broadcast in the autumn, which will help even out the visitor response during the following months. A book will also be accompanying the series, so keep a look out!

Orchard Planting
Our current major project is the re-planting and landscaping of the lower garden. Around 1620, Sir Thomas Tresham’s wife, instructed that the orchard was removed and sold to pay debts left by her husband when he died in 1605. In 1597 Tresham wrote letters describing the fruit tree varieties, planting method and layout of the orchard. With the help of Brogdale Horticultural Trust, which holds the national collection of fruit trees, we have identified many of these original varieties.

The first trees, including an avenue of walnuts and cherries, will be planted this winter, with further planting later in the year. A total of 306 trees will be planted in total over an area which was established with wildflowers last year. The project will not only re-create part of the original garden, but equally, it will protect some of our oldest fruit tree varieties, and create a fantastic habitat for wildlife.

The project is being supported by Shanks.first, Norwich Union, Philips Charitable Trust, Northamptonshire Gardens Trust, The National Gardens Scheme and our local National Trust Association.

View from the Terrace
The long terrace at Lyveden, with pyramid mounts at either end, provided the Elizabethan gentry with a viewing platform. Looking northwards over the orchard planting towards to old manor house, southwards over the moated garden and on either side the impressive estate of Sir Thomas Tresham. After years of neglect, trees covered the terrace, distorting or hiding the views completely. Moreover, leaning trees were beginning to uproot and destroy the original archaeological features.

With the support of Cory Environmental Trust, we have undertaken a programme of clearance along the moat banks and over the terrace. Now re-established with grass to protect the earthworks, visitors can once again enjoy almost the same views as intended by Tresham four hundred years earlier.

Young Guardians
William Law Primary School, from Peterborough, have enjoyed an active year learning more about Lyveden and helping in a range of countryside tasks including making bird boxes, bluebell planting, and pond dipping.

The children also became young archaeologists when they had the opportunity to search through the silt tipped onto the field after dredging the moats last year. Finds included bottles, pots, old shoes and even bones.

In fact the school arranged a visit from their partner school in the Ukraine, when the children had the opportunity to explain the history of Lyveden to their Ukrainian colleagues!

Other schools also enjoyed visits to Lyveden this year, including our parish school of Aldwincle, who took part in the Paint the Garden Competition where the winning picture will form part of a new National Trust calendar.

New Bield Challenge
With the support of local volunteers, Lyveden staged the first New Bield Challenge to raise funds toward the orchard planting project. Local teams competed in a range of countryside pursuits including clay pigeon shooting and archery, as well as trivia and team building challenges. The Countryside Alliance team was overall winner but a fun day was had by all. Evening entertainment and a hog roast followed the competition, with disco lights floodlighting the New Bield!

With generous sponsorship from local businesses and the commitment of volunteers, the event raised £3000 and was considered a huge success and hopefully to be repeated in the future!

Discovering the Past
Lyveden is considered as the Trust’s most important archaeological site in the Region, with evidence of the remains of one our country’s oldest gardens, covering an area of earlier medieval settlements.

Not all archaeology involves digging deep holes and sifting through layers of soil with hand trowels. Earlier this year, silt samples from the moats were analysed by the Department of Geographical Science at Huddersfield University. From pollen analysis a detailed history of landscape change in and around Lyveden emerged. For the first time, evidence suggests that the site contained willows, fruit trees and possibly flowers and herbs indicating that when the site was abandoned 400 years ago, some planting had taken place. This may give reason to the presence of four different varieties of plum trees still growing at Lyveden.

In addition, pollen analysis shows the species which invaded the site after 1605, including trees, grasses and much later, arable crops.

This winter we are undertaking a new programme of exciting archaeology, involving geophysics. The central area of the moats, and an area directly to the north of the New Bield, will be surveyed using methods which detect the electrical resistance of the soil. Entered into a computer, a picture emerges of what may be up to 3m below the surface. This may include paths, walls or even planting holes. Hopefully our next newsletter will report the findings!

A Passion for Easter Eggs!
Four hundred years ago, Lyveden was built to celebrate the Passion or crucifixion of Christ. So why not visit Lyveden this Easter and enjoy a family Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 March between 11am and 4pm. Sponsored by Green & Black organic chocolate, the event gives everyone a chance to discover Lyveden. £1.00 per entrant and all receive an Easter egg!
For further information on this or any other topics covered, please contact Mark Bradshaw on 01832 205358.