Originally published Autumn 2020
Covid 19 is posing particular challenges for the Estate as we hear in our regular news feature.
The weather is always dominant and we have moved from now an extremely wet winter into the complete opposite with underground water supplies to Swanbourne Lake and Whiteways borehole beginning to reduce significantly.
Along with other town facilities, Swanbourne Kiosk, Waterside Tearooms and the Putting Green are opening up albeit with the required restrictions. Whiteways Café and car parking are proving to be challenging during the current Covid-19 crisis, particularly with social distancing due to the number of motorcyclists gathering at the site. However, trading as a mini store rather than a café is working well and seems to be well supported. Unfortunately, the toilet facilities will have to remain closed for the time being as the cost involved in providing the necessary Covid-19 precautions is too great.
The Castle was delighted to be able to open its magnificent gardens from the 8th July with Visit Britain’s ‘Good to Go’ certificate of compliance with Covid-19 safe working procedures. The hard work put in by the team over the preceding months was to be seen and enjoyed by the public. Never has so much interest been shown by us in the first people to cross our threshold. An emotional wave of relief and pleasure swept through my colleagues as we then witnessed a steady flow of families, individuals and couples making their leisurely way through the grounds and gardens and the recently completed water gardens which feature the castle’s original fish ponds.
In these unusual times, the visits have to be pre-booked online with arrival time slots to manage numbers and enable safe social distancing.
One action we were able to put in place was opening the High Street gate as an exit, encouraging people to visit the town.
On 5th August we re-opened the castle with a modified visit. Social distancing is a major challenge when you have confined corridors and long flights of narrow steps, both of which meant the Keep has to remain closed. Readers will recall that over winter, a lot of hard work and a helicopter enabled the resurfacing of the Keep’s floor – hopefully next year it will be appreciated by visitors.
One other constraint imposed by Covd-19 measures is that we are unable to provide catering and retail within the castle. However, we have the advantage of being an integral part of the town centre, with visitors being directed to buy gifts in the many shops or galleries and eat in the diverse range of the pubs, restaurants and cafes of Arundel.
By the time of you are reading this article we will have a good idea as to how the castle has fared over the key summer holiday weeks and as to the future, who knows?