Castles under siege from new threat

Dunstanburgh Castle.
Dunstanburgh Castle.

The castles of England have survived sieges and bombardments, attacking armies and wars but today according to the conservation charity English Heritage, castles like Dunstanburgh Castle, Warkworth Castle, Tynemouth Castle and Etal Castle are facing a new threat – invasive weeds, penetrating damp and severe weather.

English Heritage looks after 66 castles across England – more than any other organisation in the UK – and this year will spend approx. £1.9million on wall repairs including removing deep-rooted harmful weeds like ivy and valerian.

Etal Castle

Etal Castle

As part of its #LoveCastles summer season, the charity is running a crowd-funding appeal in support of its castles and calling on the public to help protect these stone landmarks for future generations to enjoy. From Cornwall to Cumbria, more people are visiting castles than ever before – since the start of May, a record 1.2million visitors have enjoyed a day-out at an English Heritage castle (a 10% growth on last year).

English Heritage is aiming to raise £50,000 via its castles crowd-funding appeal. To donate, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/defend-our-castles.

Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s chief executive, said: “So far this summer we’ve seen more people than ever visit the castles in our care. But if these fortresses are to survive for future generations to enjoy, we need people’s help to defend them today – not from sieges or cannon balls but from weeds and damp, the wind and the rain.”

Throughout the year, experts are undertaking urgent conservation work at English Heritage castles across the country. At some castles, this involves removing extensive ivy, shrubs and sometimes even trees whose roots are growing deep into the castle walls. Once that work has been done, the castle walls need to be repaired and this can involve re-bedding the loose masonry before using bespoke lime mortars to repoint the joints that have been forced open by strong roots. In some cases they will have to replace eroded stones to strengthen weakened walls.

Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle

This highly-skilled conservation comes at a high cost. Since English Heritage became a charity in 2015, we’ve had to rely more and more on the generosity of our members, visitors, and each castle’s local community to support our work.

Please help to protect England’s castles for future generations by supporting English Heritage’s castle crowd-funding appeal atwww.crowdfunder.co.uk/defend-our-castles.

· £25 can pay for one square metre of invasive vegetation to be expertly removed

· £50 can pay for three hours of the skilled stonemasonry needed to conserve the walls

Tynemouth Castle

Tynemouth Castle

· £75 can pay for half a square metre of stonework to be repointed with bespoke lime mortars

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In return, supporters of English Heritage’s castles crowd-funding appeal will receive rewards for their generosity including private tours of Warkworth, Tynemouth, Etal and Dunstanburgh Castles’.