CD#31 – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Castle Drum would like to welcome two rather unusual new members of staff to the ranks. Neither has an official given name (yet), but the first hails from Sweden and goes by the designation Husqvarna 430X.

The Husqvarna 430X – complete with headlights so it can continue cutting grass while all the humans are safely a-bed.

You may have already spotted this automated electric lawnmower in the Courtyard recently while the Gardens and Grounds Team used a trial period to put it through its paces. The Castle Drum is pleased to report that the Husqvarna 430X will now join the team on a permanent basis, covering the Courtyard in the first instance, before adding the lawns of the Elizabethan Gardens to its regular duties.

Computation leads to circumnavigation. A metal grate is no match for the 430X.

Sadly, the 430X is incapable of the sort of lawn stripes that would shame Wembley Stadium, but this is not to say that it is not an utterly ingenious machine. Thanks to built-in GPS, it is capable of learning its terrain and even remembering the exact positions of obstacles and particularly tufty areas of grass. While the path it chooses may appear rather erratic to the casual bystander, by cutting the grass a small bit at a time, its three razor-sharp blades should deliver a lawn quality that conventional blades could never achieve. As it rolls along, it will also create miniscule clippings that will provide a constant source of fertilization for our lawns, and help to keep them healthy, lush and green. Best of all, this electric mower is silent, so it is good for both the environment and anyone trying to work in peace.

The Mavic Pro Platinum takes off on its maiden flight – 13th December 2018
Straight to work. A bird’s-eye view of Herstmonceux Castle on a bright December morning.

Our second new addition is the Mavic Pro Platinum. This camera drone has a range of around 4 miles and can shoot photographs and videos in exceptional 4K quality. While the rather exciting potential for use in our marketing and promotional activities immediately springs to mind, it will also carry out important duties for the Maintenance Team. The clarity of the images it records are such that the drone can be used for high-risk surveys of the Castle’s exterior brickwork, roof and battlements. It should practically remove the need for sending brave folk up ladders and allow the team to maintain a photographic record of the Castle’s general state of repair. It represents a truly 21st century way of ensuring that our 15th century castle complies with Health and Safety regulations.

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While The Castle Drum recognizes the very real threat of instigating another Boaty McBoatface-style debacle, we figure we can’t go around referring to our new additions as Husqvarna 430X and Mavic Pro Platinum forever. If anyone in the Castle community has any inspired ideas about what to christen a fully automated Swedish lawnmower, or a sophisticated quad-copter camera drone, please drop us a line. We could always put the question to the students next term of course, but then why should they have all the fun?

»’I think I’ll just take another walk,’ he said.
‘Don’t blame you,’ said Marvin and counted five hundred and ninety-seven thousand million sheep before falling asleep again a second later.«

CD#30 – A memorable journey of remembrance

A group of 110 students, faculty and staff from the Bader International Study Centre  travelled to the French town of Vimy on a cold, wet, and windy Nov. 11, as the world marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Today, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Canada’s largest overseas war memorial, sits at the highest point of Vimy Ridge and commemorates not only the Battle of Vimy Ridge, (April 9-12, 1917) but all Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War, including those with no known resting place.

While students from the BISC have been travelling to the memorial on or around Remembrance Day for the past several years, this is the first year that the BISC Chamber and Open Choir has been invited to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremony itself.

Members of the BISC Chamber and Open Choir lead a procession of pipers and local dignitaries to the memorial site. (Photo by Pascal Brunet)

The BISC’s 40-member choir, robed and sporting their BISC scarves, was afforded the honour of leading a procession of pipers and local dignitaries to the memorial site. The choir sang two moving excerpts from Requiem by Eleanor Daly, a Canadian composer and Queen’s University graduate. As the rain came down in earnest, soloist soprano and BISC Musician-in-Residence, Diana Gilchrist also sang Mozart’s Laudate Dominum from his Solemn Vespers.

BISC students Harriet Wright, Wyatt Mann, and Sarah Dulmage lay a wreath on behalf of Queen’s University at the Vimy Memorial. (Photo by Samantha Brown)

Three first-year BISC students, Wyatt Mann, Harriet Wright, and Sarah Dulmage, laid a wreath during the ceremony on behalf of the BISC and Queen’s University. They were chosen from dozens of applicants for their outstanding submissions on the subject of what laying a wreath at the Vimy Memorial would mean to them and their families.

Wyatt says, “I just recently got my first voter card, and to me, it symbolized the freedoms that I have today because of the sacrifice of our soldiers one hundred years ago, and every year since, that so many people take for granted.”

Harriet agrees, “It is not just about wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day, it is about understanding the sacrifice of our veterans and those currently serving. I am so proud to have worn the Royal Canadian Air Cadet uniform as a Drum Major, saluted the veterans, and worn the poppy over my heart and for these reasons, laying the wreath at the Vimy Ridge Ceremony was an absolute honour.”

“With this opportunity, I take great pride in being able to represent those who have come before me. My great-great grandfather Charlie Wright fought in World War One and took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge,” says Sarah. “My family is composed of many military personnel, so to me, laying the wreath meant giving the ultimate thanks to my family who have served and allowed me to be who I am and where I am today.”

Members of the BISC Chamber and Open Choir perform during the Remembrance Day Ceremony (Photo by Samantha Brown)

Choir member and BISC 100 lecturer Beth Richan says she was proud seeing such a mix of generations and a sea of Canadian red in the assembled crowd as the bugler played The Last Post.

“What struck me from speaking to the students afterwards was just how many of them expressed that being present was not only very important to them personally, but would be hugely significant for their parents and grandparents too,” she says.

BISC student Jake Kidd takes a photo of his great uncle’s inscription after locating it on the Vimy Memorial. (Photo by Diana Gilchrist)

Student Jake Kidd was one of many who searched the thousands of names etched into the Vimy Memorial on behalf of their families and found a relative, his great uncle. Diana Gilchrist, who took the photo of Jake says, “That was an unexpectedly touching moment. We were just walking up the monument after the ceremony to the official photo shoot when Jake suddenly discovered his great uncle’s name and was so moved.”

Following the ceremony, each student was presented with a commemorative Vimy pin and poppy. The students then had the opportunity to visit Ypres and the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, before returning to Herstmonceux Castle.

Members of the BISC Choir pose with Johanne Gagne, Program Manager, Canadian Vimy Memorial (Photo by Pascal Brunet)

The trip to Vimy was the culmination of an entire term’s worth of opportunities to learn more about the history and experience of war. On Nov. 7 and 8, approximately 125 students attended performances of Lest We Forget at Hastings’ Stable Theatre. This contemporary production is based on stories from survivors of the Great War from East Sussex and weaves readings, poems, and songs from the era into the narrative. In addition, the Castle Reads group, which encourages members of the Castle community to come together through a shared love of literature, has chosen the First World War novel Strange Meeting by Susan Hill as their book for the fall term.

Back in the UK, the students will have the opportunity to reflect further on their experiences with a concert at the Castle on Sunday, Nov. 25 in honour of the 80th anniversary of Alfred Bader’s participation in the Kindertransport of 1938. Dr. Bader, along with some 10,000 other Jewish children, was evacuated to the safety of the UK from Nazi-occupied Austria.

 

»Lest We Forget«

 

CD#28 – A progressive Castle community

“Excellence at Queen’s involves intellectual diversity of perspectives which, in turn, requires cultural diversity, socio-economic diversity, and racial diversity.” – Daniel Woolf

In April of 2017, the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) published a report, identifying key priorities and suggesting measures that would ensure that lasting change could be effected at Queen’s regarding the issues of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion. This small group, established by Daniel Woolf, included representatives from the student body, staff, and faculty. It was tasked with reviewing past reports on these issues, and examining how and why implementation of their recommendations may have fallen short.

Principal Daniel Woolf said, “We must view this as a process which requires constant re-evaluation. Our ability to remain a top-tier university will depend on our ability to embrace change – not because we are under intense pressure and scrutiny, but because it is the right thing to do.”

The BISC, in turn, must also constantly re-evaluate its own policies and guidelines, to ensure that we live and work in a progressive campus community. To that end, the VP’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity was established, to build upon the recommendations of the University (BISC) Inclusion Committee Report issued in August of 2017. The Committee is responsible for coordinating, reviewing and reporting on the progress of the promotion of access, equality, diversity and inclusion on the BISC campus.

The 2018 VP’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity comprises:

  • Roxy Denniston-Stewart (Chair) & Melissa Burke – Student Services
  • Ben Martin & Diana Gilchrist – Faculty
  • Caroline Harber & Jackie Argyrou – Staff
  • Sara-Maya Kaba & Chloe Smith – Students

The committee, which will complete their work over a three year period, has been asked to submit an annual report by the beginning of May with recommendations on priorities, ways to promote the streaming of relevant policies, protocols and processes, identification of opportunities for collaboration, and ways to foster potential synergies, both internal and external to the university.

The purpose of this article is to make everyone in the Castle community aware that you may be approached by the committee members in the coming weeks as they compile their report, but the Castle Drum would also actively encourage readers to seek out your department’s representatives if you have any pertinent feedback on your experiences of these issues, or suggestions for further study.

Ben Martin told the Castle Drum, “The committee provides recommendations to SMT, which in turn will allow them to make informed decisions on issues of equity, inclusion and diversity. Equity is not a word commonly used in the UK however. Perhaps a better way to think of the committee’s focus, is that it is concerned with the concept of equality – ensuring equality of opportunity for all. A prime example would be making sure we are communicating our scholarship opportunities and financial support packages effectively and offering the BISC as an opportunity to all students, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.”

Diana Gilchrist added, “I’m pleased to be involved in the process for a second year. I’m confident the report will celebrate our successes, as well as provide the necessary recommendations to ensure that the BISC is inclusive and diverse as a community. On the back of our last report, we introduced a robust policy on issues of personal harassment. This time around, I think our next steps will be to establish our initial priorities, draw up policies to address them and then most importantly of all, communicate them properly to staff so that everyone understands exactly why they are in place.”

You can download the full PICRDI report here and a copy of the 2017 BISC University Inclusion Committee Report  here.

»A cymbal of equality since January 2017«

CD#26 – The CD gives you the full S.P on ‘Me to We’

The Castle Drum is proud to announce a series of leadership and educational activities for students in the run up to We Day in London on March 7th, 2018. A familiar organization to many Canadians, for the uninitiated, the Me to We Foundation is an innovative social enterprise that aims to create sustainable change in disadvantaged areas of the world by shifting from “me” thinking to “we” acting. It is part of a family of organizations, that along with WE Charity hopes to empower each of us to make the world a better place.

In 2016, charismatic Me to We ambassador Spencer West visited the Castle and spoke to the student body about climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro using a wheelchair and his bare hands. It was a truly inspirational address, although the Castle had admired the work of the Me to We Foundation for many years before, as many of our students are involved with its voluntary projects prior to joining us.

Me to We organizes unique volunteer trips that allow young people and adults to participate in health, education and economic development projects abroad. The vision of the organization is to empower youth to contribute to change in a positive way, and there is obvious synergy between the organization’s values and the BISC’s own ethos of providing students with creditable community engagement projects that will enhance their learning experience while they are in the UK.

Volunteering in the local community empowers BISC students to be proactive, taking responsibility for their own learning, whilst seeking activities that will provide them with transferable skills such a critical thinking, team-work and a sense of social justice. This term, BISC students have organized volunteer placements at Herstmonceux Primary School, The 1st Herstmonceux Scout Troop and Eastbourne Cats’ Protection & Adoption Centre, to name but a few.

Jamila Skinner, the BISC’s Community Engagement SLC, successfully applied for 16 tickets to We Day in London by outlining her proposal to ask students to ‘earn’ their ticket for the event through community engagement activities. To apply, students have been asked to demonstrate community spirit in any capacity including, but not limited to student government, peer health educating, or volunteering. All applicants must have committed a minimum of 10 hours of service in their chosen field to be considered by the BISC’s Me to We Committee.

The BISC’s 2018 Me to We Committee

(From left to right: Natalie Vukusic- Global Events Rep, Danielle Lee – Communications Rep, Jamila Skinner – SLC Community Engagement Rep, Emily Duncan- Educational Awareness Rep, Sara-Maya Kaba- Local Events Rep).

A series of events at the Castle  has been planned to raise awareness of We Day and the work of the Me to We Foundation. On February 6th for example, students will highlight the struggles of obtaining clean water in the developing world and relief countries by filling a 40lb Jerrycan and asking fellow students to walk just a few yards whilst carrying it. This ‘Water Walk’ will give students a mere inkling of the physical effort required to fetch water from wells and watering holes from several miles away in a standard 5-gallon container.

The walking theme will continue in the lead up to International Women’s Week, which begins on March 9th. Students of all genders will be invited to walk the 5 minutes from their accommodation at Bader Hall, to the Dining Hall at the Castle, in a pair of high heels!

The BISC is keen that students’ commitment to volunteering and community engagement on and off campus will continue long after the We Day celebrations. Volunteering remains a key component of the BISC’s experiential learning program. Jamila Skinner, the SLC lead on student community engagement said,

“After the students’ experience with We Day, we will expect them to reflect on their experience in a critical manner by completing a journal entry for Student Services. This will allow students to think about their involvement with the organization and how they can extend their learning beyond a few events. We want them to be able to apply their learning outside of the classroom and in everyday life.”

For more on We Day, click here

»Championing the extra-curricular since January 2017«

CD#24 – New Scholar in Residence

A familiar face around the Castle, Christopher Bennett joins us this term as our Scholar in Residence.

“Building on my strong experience of eating in the Dining Hall, I’m hoping to contribute to Castle life by providing some perspective on current political events. Thanks to a series of dramatic electoral results – Brexit and Trump are obvious examples; less well-known examples, at least in the English-speaking world, might include Syriza in Greece or the ÖVP in Austria – there is a glut of material. I’ll try to be as accessible as possible, holding office hours and parking myself at a cafeteria table every so often for some informal chats.

The contribution to Castle life that I am most excited to make is undoubtedly my Bullshit lecture (keep an eye out for the quality posters). There is plenty of hand-wringing on both sides of the Atlantic about the tone of political debate and the sorts of reasons to which politicians of all stripes appeal. Thankfully, significant philosophical attention has been paid to the concept of bullshit. This term, I’ll be giving a talk on the subject that hopefully will give staff and students some food for thought!

Scholar in Residence – Dr. Christopher Bennett

On a more mundane note, I am a Queen’s alumnus myself, having finished a BA and MA there, so I remember quite a bit about the various departments across the social sciences and humanities and in fact took many of the classes that are still offered today. If anyone would like to discuss some of the options available to them, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line, or come by my office.”

Having just finished his PhD at Warwick University, Christopher will be splitting his time between his teaching commitments at Warwick and a series of events planned here at the Castle. If you find your interest piqued by any of his talks, are thinking of applying to graduate schools here in the UK, or would simply like to discuss political issues from Palestinian-Israeli relations, to supply-sided interventions in renewable energy markets, please feel free to drop by Office 209, or email him at c_bennett@bisc.queensu.ac.uk. He’ll be happy to talk!

»Excusing political debate at the dinner table since January 2017«

CD#20 – Honouring the Fallen

On Remembrance Sunday, students from the BISC took a trip across the English Channel to Calais, to visit the nearby town of Arras and the surrounding Douai Plains. The Battle of Vimy Ridge, the bloody military engagement that came to define the Battle of Arras, took place there between Easter Monday 9th and 12th of April 1917.

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial – Vimy Ridge

It is a battle of considerable significance for Canadians as it was the first occasion that all four Canadian divisions, made up of troops drawn from all parts of their country, had fought as one.

The unified Canadian forces stormed a steep escarpment that had been under the control of the German 6th Army since 1914. It was a literal uphill battle against well dug-in defences and by the time the Canadian Corps had wrested control of the ridge, they had suffered some 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed in action and 7,004 wounded.

Today, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Canada’s largest overseas war memorial, sits at the highest point of the Vimy Ridge and commemorates not only the Battle of Vimy Ridge, but all Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War, including those with no known grave.

‘To the valour of their countrymen in The Great War and in memory of the 60,000 dead, this monument is raised by the people of Canada.’

The Castle Drum asked two students on the trip to share some of their thoughts and memories of the day:

Joshua Lu

‘I had heard of Vimy before, because we learn about it at school, so I was keen to go on the trip and see it for myself. The memorial was about a ten-minute walk from the Visitor Centre, but it can be seen from a great distance away – it really dominates the landscape! We all walked around it and took our own route, to explore and read the names inscribed there. It wasn’t until I received the pictures from my drone that I appreciated the scale of the battlefield. As it took off, I had a birds-eye view of the craters that the mortars had created. The sheer size of them cannot be appreciated from ground level. I got a real sense of the scale of destruction, and I think that will be my abiding memory of the trip.’

At the summit, the inscription reads, ‘The Canadian Corps on 9th April 1917 with four divisions in line on a front of 4 miles attacked and captured this ridge.’

Cheyenne Bates

‘I went on the trip to honour my Great Great Uncle, Lance Corporal Samuel Lyons, who died at the battle. He was 24. I went to Eastbourne the day before to buy flowers to take with me. The Visitor’s Centre was interesting and many of the staff there were Canadian students like us, on a Gap Year. It was a chilly, windy day, so as we walked along the lines of the trenches toward the top of the ridge it made me think of how miserable conditions must have been. At the memorial, I found my Great Great Uncle’s inscription and took photos for my family. In class, casualties are sometimes just a number in your mind, but seeing the long list of the names of the Fallen brought home a real sense of the human cost. Later, as I stood at the top of the ridge and looked back down the slope I thought of the Canadian troops. They must have felt so relieved to finally make it to the top and take the ridge, and yet it would have been a bitter-sweet victory given the losses they had suffered.’

The Vimy memorial dominates the landscape

The Castle Drum would like to thank Cheyenne and Joshua for allowing us to use their photos of the day. For more of Joshua’s drone footage, which also features many images of Herstmonceux Castle, please visit his Instagram page @joshualu98.

 

»The Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour, was awarded to no less than four members of the Canadian Corps for their actions at The Battle of Vimy Ridge.«

CD#19 – The BISC Remembers

On Saturday 11th November, the BISC hosted a Remembrance themed concert in aid of The Friends of East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People. The Castle Choir, together with BISC Musicians in Residence, Diana Gilchrist (Soprano) and Shelley Katz (Piano) performed a range of popular music from World Wars 1 and 2.

The BISC Musicians in Residence – Shelley Katz and Diana Gilchrist

Diana Gilchrist said, ‘When planning any programme for the students, both Shelley and I feel that it is incredibly important that the music has a strong pedagogical aspect as well. In the weeks leading up to this concert we challenged the students to think hard about the words they were singing and ask themselves, with hindsight, how should these songs be sung? The students accepted the challenge with a genuine sense of empathy, for those going off to war and for those that they left behind, that I think certainly shone for all to see in their performances.’

The choir began in an upbeat way with a stomping rendition of Pack up your troubles. The energy and confidence of the piece channelled the sense of fanfare, camaraderie and patriotism that would have been used to send young men and women off to war. By contrast, the Chamber Choir’s beautiful rendition of Keep the Home Fire Burning moved some audience members to tears. Sadness was just as quickly replaced by laughter however, after the Men’s Choir’s hilarious showstopper, The Quartermaster’s Store.

Diana and students from the BISC Ladies’ Choir

The connection between the Castle Choir and audience was something that brought Diana great pleasure. Speaking afterwards she said, ‘The evening reiterated that great performance is a combination of three factors – the music, the performers and the audience. What we experienced on Saturday was truly a two-way communication, with the choir connecting with the audience in a very personal way.’

Diana believes the somewhat bizarre architecture of the performance space was an important factor. Those in attendance were seated in long rows in the castle’s Ballroom, meaning every member of the choir could make eye-contact with at least one member of the audience. For students from a generation where perhaps the world wars only exist in the movies, it was a chance to perform for an audience made up of people with personal memories of World War 2 – of being evacuated, and of saying goodbye to loved ones.

The evening begins with a rousing rendition of ‘Pack up your troubles’

The special atmosphere in the room was not lost on the students. First Year student Sara-Maya Kaba says, ‘After the performance, I was absent-mindedly looking around the room when an older gentleman’s gaze met with my own, and he came over to talk to me. He said, “These songs have no meaning to you – you weren’t alive during the war. But the way you all sang tonight, you wouldn’t be able to tell. It really brought me back, it was brilliant. Thank you.” The gratitude and happiness – if not awe in his voice is something that will stick with me forever.’

Mrs Shirley Price, Vice Patron of ESAB said afterwards, ‘I’m 85 and until I heard the Ladies’ Choir sing Johnny Canuck it had never occurred to me that Canadians have war songs too! Thank you for a most magnificent evening. You could not have put together a better, well balanced and more memorable concert if you had tried!’

___

The ESAB is dedicated to making the lives of blind and partially sighted people in East Sussex richer and more independent. For more information, visit www.eastsussexblind.org

»There is music in the midst of desolation. And a glory that shines upon our tears. (For the Fallen – Robert L. Binyon)«

CD#6 – Gambol through the Grounds

Sarah McKenzie will lead the walk

This Friday lunchtime (17th March) Biology professor Sarah McKenzie will be leading a nature walk through the Castle’s grounds – and she would very much like you to join her. The walk will wend its way via the Orchard up to the Ponds, where Sarah will talk to you about the wildlife lurking there and the ways in which the habitat is being managed. You will then follow the path to Birch Walk and then on to Chestnut Walk.

A nimble visitor at rest

En route, with some luck (and a bit of stealth for the benefit of the more nimble inhabitants of our grounds) you will see butterflies, birds, evidence of the odd mammal (if you are really lucky, maybe even the odd mammal itself!), plus an assortment of fungi and flora. Sarah will help you identify the various species around you, and will explain how all you see before you lives harmoniously (or not so harmoniously) in their shared environment.

So, if you fancy a ramble in the sunshine (the weather forecast is currently sunshine, but, hey, who knows at this time year!), meet Sarah this Friday at 1.00pm outside Castle Reception. Wear some stout shoes (or wellies if the forecast is wrong and it tips it down!) and some sensible clothing, and you’ll be ready for anything.

Ducking out…

The walk is scheduled to last 90 minutes, but if you can’t spare that amount of time, join Sarah for whatever time you do have and you can always ‘duck’ out when it suits you!

 

 

»Ducking and diving since January 2017«

CD#5 – Which Antiques?…Witch Antics

Some of you may remember the queue of people stretching across the South Gate bridge and encircling the Castle on a sunny day last March when keen individuals patiently waited to share their prized possessions with Paul Martin and his Flog It! team. We’re delighted to say that the episode recorded that day is about to make it to the small screen – and not just the one episode, but two!

Paul Martin and his team reveal the treasures of Herstmonceux

Both episodes will be aired next week on Tuesday, 14th March at 4.30pm on BBC1 and on Friday, 17th March at 4.30pm, also on BBC1. If you are around, why not join us in the Conference Room at 4.30pm on Tuesday, when we will be celebrating the screening. Refreshments will be provided. All being well, the Castle’s performance on Flog It! twice in one week will tempt many more keen individuals to experience this spectacular location for themselves.

It was almost certainly the spellbinding nature of our location and the oft-heard comparison of the Castle to a famous fictional school for wizards that resulted in us hosting the Bothwell School of Witchcraft this August. For 3 days (11th to 13th August) budding witches and wizards will have the chance to role-play a character specially created for them based on their answers to a questionnaire when they register for the event.

Witches and wizards in August

With unique settings and story lines, the participants will be able to interact with other characters to contribute to an exciting adventure, as in popular murder-mystery weekends, (but this time with magic, and perhaps without the murder…) There has been quite a buzz on social media about this event and a number of news articles but, to find out what all the excitement is about, visit the School’s website. All we will say is, be prepared to see black gowns and wands aplenty for a brief ‘spell’ in summer!

»Working its magic everywhere since January 2017«

CD#4 – Reinvigorating and rejuvenating for the reopening

On Saturday 4th March the Castle reopens to the public – considerably earlier than in previous years. In celebration of this event we thought you might like to learn a little about what has been going on in the Gardens and Grounds over the Winter months while the rest of us have been desperately trying to keep out of the wind and rain (and avoiding the chaos caused by Doris), although Gardener Supervisor Jackie does assure us that we had a mild, dry Fall – too long ago to remember!

Gardens and Grounds Team February 2017
The Gardens and Grounds Team proving that for at least one day we had sunshine!!

You may have noticed that, despite this latest spell of rain, things in the borders have definitely shifted into Spring mode, with many of the herbaceous perennials already daring to show their green. This bravery is in part spurred on by the two truck-loads (18 tonnes) of compost that Jackie and her team have spread over the borders during the Winter.

Jackie, Tom, Fiona and George have also between them planted 3,000 bulbs, which should put on a fantastic display of colour soon. You probably will have also seen the Gardening team hard at work scarifying, pruning, dividing and generally renovating all round. This will have a huge visual impact as the plants are rejuvenated and reinvigorated, plus will provide sale items for the plant stall. No garden has been left untouched, with the Azalea, Elizabethan, Shakespeare, Butterfly and Folly gardens all undergoing some form of renovation. The Herb garden is next on the team’s hit list.

Gardens and Grounds Daffodils and Castle February 2017
Early signs that Spring has sprung

In the Grounds, Guy, Adam and Kallum have been keeping warm by renewing the chestnut fencing, using in part chestnut coppiced from the estate. Over the coming year they will be tackling the invasive and potentially disease-spreading Rhododendron ponticum, eradicating it from the estate. So much of the clearing work that the team has undertaken has opened up new vistas not seen for many years. For our younger visitors (and maybe the not so young too!) the Estate team will be devising a tree trail and an ‘I spy’ trail. We are sure they would welcome all who wish to trial the trails!

So, if you enjoy fresh air, tranquillity and a chance to escape your office once in a while, the fantastic gardens and grounds are there for you. And if you enjoy them, do spread the word – encourage your family and friends to visit too!   As a member of staff or faculty you can bring up to four family members or friends into the gardens free of charge. You will also be able to take advantage of our complimentary tickets for friends and family, which means they can enjoy the Gardens and Grounds even when you are unable to be with them.  And all we ask in return, is that you take with you on your travels a handful of our leaflets and leave them wherever they are likely to encourage others to visit the Castle!

Do you have a question, comment or suggestion for an article to feature in the next Castle Drum? Email: castledrum@bisc.queensu.ac.uk 

»Storming ahead with a Spring in our step«