Enthusiasm is growing over the potential of garden developments and regeneration work within the Lews Castle Castle Grounds, as gardeners engage with regular grounds users to see what they would like.

The gardening team working on the regeneration says that a new events coordinator post, applications for which closed yesterday (Monday 14 December) will be the missing link that allows public engagement to blossom.

In November the team asked for ideas from grounds users on what they would like to see in the grounds, with ideas put forward such as orchard trees, a maze and a remembrance garden.

Now the gardeners have given a hearty thanks for the ‘overwhelming’ number of well-intentioned and constructive suggestions offered, and in return are reporting on what work is already in hand in a core area of the regeneration project, outlined on a map (pictured).

In a report via the Stornoway Trust to the Facebook members group Our Castle Grounds, the gardening team said: “Lews Castle Grounds is currently undergoing several improvements under the 'parks for people' project.

“This includes the creation of a garden team and a number of horticultural undertakings.

“Our aims are to eradicate and control the regrowth of invasive non-native species (INNS), to restore plantings in the woodland garden and sunken garden plantings and to restock the arboretum.”

The gardeners also want to replant and manage a shelterbelt of hardy trees, to manage and restore key views and to engage with the community – a process which has already begun.

It’s hoped that the soon-to-be-appointed events coordinator will enable groups like schools and charities to take part in activities. Galvanising volunteer groups will help in the ambition of reaching green flag status.

Eradication is well in hand for non-native species like gunnera, rhododendron and salmonberry, using a variety of methods including herbicide, heavy mulching and clearance by hand. Around 60 percent of the manually cleared sites have had follow-up treatment and been replanted with a diverse mixture of woodland plantings.

In their report, the gardeners said: “It is also worth noting we plan on keeping a particularly striking and large specimen (of gunnera) in an area adjacent to the castle car park. Of course, it has systematically had all its flower spikes removed when they appear.”

The woodland garden is to have tender species planted into the natural layers and shelter of the woodland – 25,000 bulbs including wild garlic, wild tulips and wood anemone have already been planted.

Also planted have been shrubs including hazels, blackcurrants, forsythia, azalea, hydrangea, roses and camelias. Herbaceous plantings such as hostas, ferns, ivy and geraniums are added to native medicinal herbs like feverfew, great mullein, calendula, valerian, lunaria, foxgloves and yarrow.

The sunken garden is to be relatively formal, with work already carried out on the lawns, perennial borders and shelterbelt, including species such as beech, sycamore and ash.

The gardeners said: “They provide much-needed shelter from winds, especially important in areas near the coast and areas open to the easterly winds, which can be particularly damaging.

“Specimen trees have been lost over the years and our aim is to plant new ones for future generations to enjoy. Newly-planted trees include laburnum vossii, weeping katsura, holm oak, Bhutan pine and monkey puzzle trees.

“This is a brief overview and please do not hesitate to contact the garden team for more detailed plant lists. We would particularly like to hear or see how certain areas were planted and maintained historically. Contact head gardener This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We have also created an Instagram page at lews­_castle_grounds.

“Thank you again for everyone’s time and we hope that we will together as a community see some lasting change and a renewed love and appreciation for the unique asset that is Lews Castle Grounds.”

Pictures show landscaping work in the formal area of the gardens and a map of the core area which is under development (Stornoway Trust) and an 1850 map of the former Lews Castle kitchen garden, latterly known as ‘Walter’s garden’, provided by Ken Galloway of Stornoway Historical Society.