Day out: Hever Castle, Kent

Hever Castle’s jewel-coloured lakeside meadows are an inspiring addition, bringing joy to pollinators and gardeners alike

Castle and gardens

When the young Anne Boleyn lived at Hever Castle, nestled within Kent Weald countryside in the River Eden valley, the landscape would have been mainly marshland and meadows. 

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When American millionaire William Waldorf Astor bought the property in July 1903, he reimagined the grounds of his ‘Tudor village’ as a series of beautiful gardens and walks, including a 38-acre lake that took 800 men to excavate.

Castle and gardens
Hever Castle was the home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII/Credit: Getty

Walk or golf by these tranquil waters in late spring and summer and the native grasses and wildflowers are still there, now further enhanced by a series of kaleidoscopic micro-meadows inspired by Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough’s show-stopping wildflower designs for the 2012 Olympic Games. Created to bring joy to visitors and boost biodiversity at the same time, Hever’s meadows are similarly polychromatic, focusing on pollinator-friendly species that bring long-lasting colour. 

Wildflowers at Hever Castle

Follow ‘Lake Walk’ (around one hour) to stumble upon a swaying waterside rainbow of wildflowers and herbs, such as calendula, cornflower, cosmos and corn poppy. Pause at the grotto-like Anne of Cleves Bower House. Its formerly bramble-covered ruins were revealed by Hever Castle Golf Club’s head greenkeeper Rob Peers when he began leading the meadow project in 2018. Picnic beside pockets of crown daisy, larkspur, sweet William, mallow and perennial flax.

Many of these meadows can also be seen from the adjacent golf course, where Rob and his team are also upgrading areas of rough, using plants such as yellow rattle and ‘finer grass’.

Rose garden
The rose garden at Hever Castle/Credit: Geograph

There are also annual and perennial wildflowers up at the Top Gate and around the Hever Shop, where you can buy a selection of Hever’s seed mixes, seed shakers and a special mini meadow-growing mat, known as ‘Flora Fleece’, to help you grow your own. Visit in May to catch early summer colour and a glimpse of meadows being sown. 

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Words: Sonya Patel Ellis