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Project name: Richmond Castle Cockpit Garden

Client: English Heritage

Completed: 2001

Budget: £167,000

Landscape Projects were one of five designers selected to design a contemporary garden for English Heritage as part of the Contemporary Heritage Garden Competition. The garden awarded to the practice was the Cockpit at Richmond Castle.

The historical role of the 11th century castle as a symbol of dominance and control provided a rich context in which to develop a contemporary garden.

The proposal developed a walk from the famous market square, through the castle yard, into the Cockpit garden. The walk, contained by yew hedges which echo the walls of the castle itself, involves the visitor in a series of unfolding views, connecting with the dramatic landscape of Swaledale; the hedges themselves enclose a series of garden spaces.

The upper terrace, visible from the Gold Hole Tower behind, is a modern parterre; using the pre-existing terrace, a pattern of circular topiary forms have been established, which will grow out into sculptural shapes in the next 400 years. The middle garden has been reshaped to form a circular performance space, suitable for plays and orations. The third garden exploits the south facing wall to provide a sudden burst of colour, using prairie planting of grasses and herbaceous plants to create a sensory, fragrant delight in the austere castle grounds.

The project involved considerable negotiation to seek and achieve approval for the implementation of excavations within the archaeological context of the castle. It is being managed by a new Friends Group of enthusiastic local gardeners.

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