Springwood is the perfect location for visiting a variety of interesting and iconic places in the south of England. Hever Castle is one such place, and at just 16 miles away (a 30 minute drive) is situated on the Kent/Surrey/Sussex border within 125 acres of private grounds.
The original medieval defensive Hever Castle with its gatehouse and walled bailey was built in 1270. It was the childhood of Anne Boleyn (born 1501) who was Henry VIII’s second wife and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I (born 1533).
“It was Henry’s love for Anne and her insistence that she became his wife rather than his mistress that led to the King renouncing Catholicism and creating the Church of England”.
However, Anne was beheaded on 19 May 1536 in order for King Henry VIII to marry Jane Seymour – just eleven days after the death of his second wife!
The double-moated castle was then owned by a number of well-connected families but eventually fell into decline until the wealthy American, William Waldorf Astor, restored and extended the Castle in the early 20th century.
It is recommended that visitors allow an hour to tour the Castle; many of the rooms contain fine furniture, tapestries, antiques, and an important collection of Tudor paintings. Two beautifully illuminated prayer books can be seen in the Book of Hours Room which belonged to Anne Boleyn and bear her inscriptions and signature. One is believed to be the prayer book Anne took with her to her execution at the Tower. Another section of the Castle is dedicated to its more recent history, containing pictures and memorabilia relating to the Astor family and the Edwardian period.
It is recommended that visitors allow at least an hour-and-a-half to visit Hever Gardens as seasonal changes guarantee a breath-taking display whatever the weather! There are different themes throughout the grounds:
- Explore four acres of Italian Gardens with the long sweeping lawns and tall clipped yew hedges, bordered by two twelve foot high walls made from local stone. The Pompeiian Wall contains small bays showcasing antiquities in stone and marble enveloped with shrubs and climbing plants. The Pergola Walk has shaded grottoes planted with ferns and moisture loving plants. The Italian Gardens also boast a Sunken Garden, a Loggia flanked by pillared colonnades and overlooking the 38-acre lake, as well as a piazza with its classical sculpture inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
- The Rose Garden contains 4000 rose bushes and was featured on BBC2 Gardeners’ World in 2013. Among the garden’s many admirers is Dame Judi Dench, who launched Hever Castle’s very own floribunda rose – Horquinsey – in 2011.
- The Tudor Garden was laid out as it may have been in the time of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, with a variety of English Herbs.
- The Chess Garden is so named for the topiary chess pieces cut from golden yew.
- The Blue Corner is a rockery garden which includes blue hydrangeas, ceanothus and blue seasonal perennials such as blue bulbs, scilla, grape hyacinth and the ‘King of the Blues’ hyacinth with its intoxicating scent. Annuals and biennials include heliotrope, ageratum and forget-me-not.
- Two Sisters’ Lawn is also the site for the Hever Festival Theatre.
- Hever Lake is 38 acres in size and was excavated and constructed between December 1904 and July 1906 under the instruction of William Waldorf Astor. A peaceful one hour’s walk around the lake is the perfect opportunity to spot owls, blue tits, robins, woodpeckers and kingfishers. Swans, ducks, herons and crested grebes can also be seen on the moat or the lake.
- Other walks include the Sunday Walk and Church Gill Walk and were created by Astor in a very different style to the formal areas of the Gardens as they follow the meandering stream in a circular walk that leads to Hever Church and would have been the route the family took to church each Sunday.