Hartlebury Castle

Decking

Marley anti-slip decking creates a safe and accessible walkway around Hartlebury Castle

All in the detail

As part of a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore Hartlebury Castle and open it up to the public, Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust wanted to establish a route through the historic parkland. The path, which follows the moat, past the lost gardens and through a wetland area, needed to provide a safe and inclusive route that fit in well with the picturesque surroundings. So, a raised section through the wetlands was constructed using Marley Antislip Plus decking.

The former home of the Bishop of Worcester, Hartlebury Castle served as a See House of the Worcestershire Diocese for more than 800 years. When the church commissioners decided to sell the castle and parkland, a group of dedicated volunteers formed the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust. The Hartlebury Castle project is run through the hard work of the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust, and supported by £5 million from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The group purchased the Grade I listed castle in March 2015 along with its Grade II Listed Registered Historic Park and Gardens. 

Once the castle and grounds had been acquired, the remaining funds needed to be carefully spent to do as a much as possible to restore the site and create a sustainable business. Various rooms of the palace were restored, and significant work was undertaken to transform the outdoor area into a usable space. 

Stuart Ryder, director at Ryder Landscape Consultants, explains that one of the project challenges was opening up the lost gardens and the circular path around the moat, which hadn’t been used in around 100 years. “Previously, you could have beat your way around the grounds wearing wellies and wielding a machete, but we needed to establish a route that allowed better access for visitors.

The purpose of the walkway was to enable people to enjoy the view back to the castle, which hadn’t been possible for a very long time due to the overgrown vegetation. The path was cleared, some trees were removed, a small bridge was erected and the decking was installed.

“The decking forms a route through an area of wet woodland, elevating people from the ground so they can walk around in the dry,” Stuart explains. 

Specifics

Product

  • Antislip Plus Smooth 

Sector

  • Leisure and Tourism

 

Architect

  • Stuart Ryder

 

Location

  • Midlands

As is often the case with projects like this, the Preservation Trust’s budget was tight, but the group also wanted to get the best value possible. Stuart says the direction from the project manager was clear: they wanted a good-looking, high-quality walkway. This was especially important since it was hoped the natural beauty of the location would help to attract wedding bookings and the associated photography packages. 

“They wanted an attractive finish that people could enjoy walking along, and which would provide a quality mark to the project,” he says.

To achieve this, Marley Antislip Plus Smooth boards were chosen and supplied by EH Smith Builders Merchants in Solihull.  “The deciding factors were that the boards have antislip properties, “ Stuart says.  He adds that the manufacturer was able to supply the boards precision cut to 1.6m lengths; this helped to speed up construction and make installation easier, while also helping to reduce the wastage on site.

Stuart notes that another factor in choosing Antislip Plus Smooth was that he had positive experiences with Marley.  “The national technical manager visited our office and presented a good CPD session on timber decking, so we were aware of the product from that,” he explains.

Antislip Plus timber decking boards have been designed to provide a durable and effective antislip surface to minimise the risk of slipping, even in wet conditions. Since the wetland area where the decking was to be installed was also heavily wooded, Stuart explains that the risk of slip was increased due to leaves falling on the decking and the chance of overgrowth. “So having the good antislip properties was critical for both the Trust and us,” he says. The smooth profile of the Antislip Plus ensures the surface is easier to maintain and keep clean as dirt and debris cannot accumulate - which can sometimes happen with a traditional castellated board.

The walkway project was completed in spring 2018 and construction of the 150m section of decking took about three weeks. The project also included a bridge over a stream that was also decked with Antislip Plus. 

Commenting on the finished result, Stuart said: “It’s simple, and not the most complicated of designs, but it really seems to suit the site.”

He explains: “A fair bit was able to be done with a rather modest budget. It looks like a high-quality scheme and provides a good mark of quality for the castle.”

He adds that the client was also happy with the result, and they’re looking forward to the next phase of work: “The strategy for the Trust is now to attract more visitors to make the castle sustainable and preserve its beauty for the enjoyment of future generations. Now they’ve invested in making the building more accessible, it’s a great day out and a family friendly visitor attraction.”

Over the next five to 15 years, it’s hoped that they’ll be able to bring back the lost gardens, including the orangery and pineapple growing area, as well as the old kitchen garden - and visitors can return year after year to see how things are progressing.