When are National Trust properties reopening and what has happened at Castle Ward during lockdown?

While Castle Ward may look the same from a distance, visitors may notice that the interior of the National Trust property has had a major overhaul during lockdown.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 6:30 am
Volunteer Paul McConnell pictured with Neil Watt, collections and house manager at Castle Ward

National Trust properties will reopen to the public on Friday (May 28) and staff at the 18th century estate in Co Down are counting down the hours until they can reopen, when they believe guests will get a special treat as they discover the reimagined and revitalised interiors.

Another addition is a new path that links the house and its treasured collection, to the landscape, providing direct access to the house from the accessibility car park for anyone with accessibility needs.

Following the recommendations of an audit, which took place in 2020, the accessible parking area has been upgraded and accessibility to the house, collection and exterior has been improved.

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Neil Watt, Collections and House Manager at Castle Ward said: “As an accredited museum it is incredibly important to us that Castle Ward house and its collection are accessible to everyone.

“Funding from Department of Communities & NI Museum Council Access and Inclusion programme meant we were able to carry out works to resurface the accessible car park and reinstate a historic path from this car park area to the house.”

The design of the new path was inspired by historic maps and water colour illustrations by Mary Ward (circa 1860) and improvements were delivered collaboratively by house and curatorial staff, the head gardener and a team of garden volunteers to ensure a holistic and sustainable approach.

The project took five months to complete and will be further refined by additional edging, planting and grass seeding over the coming months.

Neil commented: “We looked to Castle Ward’s past to find a solution to our access challenges.

“Nineteenth century maps and drawings of Castle Ward show that a gently sloping pathway once existed which had disappeared.

“Inspired by this archival evidence we partially recreated the historic path and resurfaced the car park and areas surrounding the house using sustainable material and traditional methods.

“It was wonderful to see how history can be used to shape solutions for the present.

“The path sits naturally within the landscape, revealing majestic views of the Gothic front of the house, and from the house across the parkland towards Strangford Lough. The house, collection and exhibitions now sit at the very centre of the visitor journey with the gardens providing a welcome element of theatre and entertainment.”

For opening times and additional visitor information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-ward

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