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In the Beginning
In the beginning, the walls of the Castle dropped sheer to the surrounding levels to the South.
Quite early in its history, the water from the River Severn (nearer the Castle in those days) was channelled and managed to create defensive stretches of water on this side of the Castle, and later a ditch was dug to the North side, between the Castle and the church.
The approach to the Castle was via a slope to the West, leading to what is now the Gatehouse, all that remains of the double-drawbridge and huge octagonal towers through which men had to pass to enter the Outer Bailey and approach the present Great Doors.
Over time, successive generations have softened the stern aspect of the Castle walls with flowers, until finally the present planting of the terraces was carried out with the help of Gertrude Jekyll at the turn of the last century.
The gardens specialise in scent and the roses in particular are a delight in June. Rare plants, shrubs and trees are to be enjoyed.
The grounds also include a Butterfly House with hundreds of butterflies flying freely in a tranquil indoor garden -
"a calm oasis in a busy world,"
as one recent visitor wrote in our visitor's book, where the whole life cycle of the butterfly is represented from chrysalis to caterpillar and fully fledged adult.
Evidence of earlier times can still be seen: below the sloping approach to the present gatehouse is a long "bowling green," thought to be where Queen Elizabeth I played bowls during her stay at the Castle.
The Lily Pond
The Lily Pond was first built as a swimming pool during the time of the last Earl and his American Countess.
From here sweeping curved steps lead down to the Great Lawn on which the two remaining Culloden Pines stand. These are said to have been brought back as pine cones from the Battle of Culloden by the 4th Earl of Berkeley. The greater of the two trees is in its own sunken circle: this was because the level of the Great Lawn was raised in the 1920s to prevent flooding.
The gardens are ringed on the South and East with rhines (pronounced "reens"), or drainage ditches.
These are fed from the River Severn and can vary in depth from a few inches to 8 or 9 feet during the winter. These rhines are still actively managed in this area of the county for agricultural purposes and to prevent flooding.
In the far south-western corner of the gardens is a small bridge with old sluice gates beneath. In earlier days, barges used to draw up here bearing deliveries to the Castle. (Berkeley Town was a thriving port with its own quay in mediaeval and Tudor times).
The Walled Garden
The Walled Garden is now home to the Yurt Restaurant, Gift Shop and Butterfly House. This would have been a fully productive area used to provide fruit and vegetables for the Castle. A large area of the garden is worked by volunteers and is still productive with a range of produce and flowers being grown there.
"A pure magical experience."
Within the old walled kitchen garden at Berkeley Castle are the Butterfly House and the Plant Centre.
Come and see 42 exotic species from as far afield as Japan and Indonesia fly freely in a tranquil tropical osais. This is a great chance to see rare species in beautiful surroundings.
You can observe their life cycle up-close through the display of caterpillars and chrysalises.
The house is also home to the worlds largest moth!
Above all, the gardens are a beautiful complement to a delightful and unique building, the terraces climbing nearly 30 feet from lawn to Gun Terrace and softening the mellow stone face of the Castle with the colour and texture of flowers.