Hever Castle & Gardens welcomed further easements of the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions that now allow indoor attractions, such as the Castle, and outdoor play areas to reopen from Saturday 4th July. This is a pleasing addition to the 125 acres of grounds and gardens and boating that are already open to visitors.
Of course, the Castle and Play Areas will all be operating under social distancing guidelines and there will be new safety measures in place to protect visitors and staff. Visitors (including Annual Members) will need to continue to book garden tickets online with their chosen arrival time, this is to limit visitor numbers to help maintain social distancing. They warn that those without tickets will be turned away.
Visitors can upgrade to a Castle ticket at the Castle Entrance. This is because they are limiting numbers in rooms and cannot guarantee Castle entry for everyone. All payments will need to be contactless. Audio Guides will be available to all Castle visitors, they encourage visitors to bring their own headphones (standard 3.5mm jack required).
Before booking, Head of Visitor Services, Faye Kelly advises that you “read the important information provided on our website and the reopening FAQs. There is a map of the grounds that includes the new one-way system that is in place and a short video to explain our safety and hygiene promises – to help you feel reassured before visiting”.
She added that “Our Castle team are excited to be welcoming you, our visitors, back into the rooms of the Castle. Our staff are here to help you at any stage of your visit, so please do ask if you have any questions.”
Once inside the Castle and grounds, visitors not in the same household will be asked to stay two metres apart from each other where possible, otherwise one plus metres should be observed. There will be floor markings at the till points to help customers queue safely, screens at tills, different entry and exit points where necessary, hand sanitiser dispensers, and card transactions only. Interactive technology will not be in operation.
Toilet facilities will be available with additional measures in place for hygiene and social distancing.
The water maze and a more extensive food and drink offering will follow as soon as possible. Meanwhile, other indoor areas like the miniature model houses collection, military museum and garden exhibition will remain closed.
The Castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII and Mother of Elizabeth I. Its panelled rooms house fine furniture, tapestries, antiques and what is regarded as ‘one of the best collections of Tudor portraits after the National Portrait Gallery’ by David Starkey. The Book of Hours Room beautifully illuminates two prayer books which belonged to Anne Boleyn and bear her inscriptions and signature.
Shaded by mature trees, children up to the age of 14 years can let off steam in one of three play areas. Play in Tudor Towers a nine-metre tall castle with its own moat, drawbridge, dining hall and three turrets. Explore Acorn Dell a natural play area for the under 7s with a giant sandpit, tunnels, stepping stones, lookout platforms and slide. Discover climbing frames, swings, an aerial runway and slides.
The gardens at Hever Castle are home to an ever-changing display of wonderful plants and shrubs throughout the seasons. At present the roses at Hever which are always particularly admired are already providing a kaleidoscope of colour and wonderfully perfumed aromas. As the days lengthen, the Mediterranean-style planting within the Pompeian Wall bursts into life and the herbaceous border displays hundreds of different perennials, each vying for attention.
Hever Castle’s CEO Duncan Leslie said: “We are delighted that we can welcome visitors back to the castle and our popular play areas. Since the 1st June, it has been delightful to see so many visitors returning to the gardens and exploring areas of the grounds that they had not discovered before. Many are trying out the new picnic spots created on 16 acre Island and around the lake. Spots in the sun, in the shade, looking over the river or the lake, all beside beautiful mixed grass and flower meadows – bird song has never sounded clearer.”
For more information visit www.hevercastle.co.uk