Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, is a 14th Century quadrangular castle in landscaped grounds, with a millpond, medieval crofts and cultivation earthworks, and a World War II pillbox. It is a Scheduled Monument¹ owned by the National Trust, and the Castle is Grade 1 listed.
BSG Ecology was commissioned through LDA Design as part of a team of historic environment specialists to provide ecological input to the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for Bodiam Castle. The aim of the plan is to help retain the significance of the heritage asset in any management, repair, alteration or new development projects. The plan will also be used to help inform consideration of alternative future uses for the Castle, associated buildings and surrounding landscape. The CMP followed the 2012 HLF Conservation Plan Guidance, which includes four sections: Understanding, Significance, Risks and Opportunities (i.e. Issues and Vulnerability) and Policies.
BSG Ecology’s role in the project
Understanding and enhancement of the site’s ecology was important to identify ecological constraints and opportunities for the future management of the Castle and its landscape. The CMP considered ecological assets of the site to be a key part of its cultural heritage and a means to increase people’s enjoyment of their visit.
BSG Ecology liaised with a wide number of individuals both within the CMP team and those connected to the National Trust, in order to gain a detailed understanding and appreciation of the Castle and its grounds. We undertook a review of ecological data from local biological records centres, and of reports held by the National Trust. We also consulted with stakeholders to understand how the Castle’s ecological interest is valued by the public, and to identify additional sources of data. An ecological walkover survey of the site was completed to further identify and locate assets of ecological significance.
The Castle grounds include grassland, waterbodies and mature trees, with the River Rother flowing through the grounds. The Castle itself supports large maternity colonies of Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats as well as a unique assemblage of lichen species. Habitats of Principal Importance present in the grounds include species-rich hedgerows and floodplain grazing marsh: these have potential for dormouse and support wintering birds respectively.
Ecological assets were graded according to the standard significance criteria used in the CMP. The ecological interest of the Castle was graded as of considerable significance, defined as including elements that contribute to the Castle’s status as a nationally important place (in this case the bat colonies and mosses and lichens). The grounds were graded as of moderate significance whose ecological value makes a positive contribution to the way the Castle is understood and perceived, primarily in a local context.
Policies in the CMP have been devised to be sensitive to the ecological assets of the Castle and grounds, and include those to protect and enhance the site for habitats and species. Future actions to maximise ecological assets were identified including habitat management and enhancement, which can be done by volunteer working parties; and further surveys which require more specialist volunteer or professional input. Actions were assigned levels of priority to aid in effective and efficient implementation of the plan.
BSG Ecology’s involvement allowed a wide range of data and interests relevant to ecology to be brought together to ensure that the CMP policies were complementary to protecting and enhancing the nature conservation interest of the site. We also identified ecology-specific actions to improve the ecological value and understanding of the Scheduled Monument. There is no set programme for the implementation of actions, but the strategy enables the Trust to take advantage of opportunities to enhance the site as they arise.
¹under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979