Fishpool Valley restoration project at Croft Castle

Project
The purpose built bird hide at Fishpool Valley, Herefordshire

What is Fishpool Valley?

“How best to bid the verdant Landscape rise,
To please the fancy, and delight the eyes…”

Fishpool Valley was landscaped in the late eighteenth-century in the ‘Picturesque’ style. This was the movement to create a more natural landscape, using the principles of intricacy, roughness, variety and surprise. It features a chain of dams and pools, as well as architectural features such as an icehouse, grotto, pumphouse and limekiln. The careful planting of Oak, Ash, Willow, Poplar and evergreen species suggested the ‘bold roughness of nature’. Carriage rides and other walks were designed to follow the contours of the landscape, providing dramatic views across a wild, but beautiful, contrived scene.

You can see below a map extract showing the location of Fishpool Valley in relation to the Croft estate: all hidden between the medieval castle, ancient parkland and historic avenues, an Iron Age hillfort and the neighbouring common land.

A map extract showing the location of Fishpool Valley in relation to the Croft Estate
A map extract showing the location of Fishpool Valley in relation to the Croft Estate
A map extract showing the location of Fishpool Valley in relation to the Croft Estate

What is the Fishpool Valley project?

“That grace which springs from an unfetter’d mind,
Which rules the body, free and unconfined…”

A decline in landscape management has meant that the dams and features within the valley are now in a poor state of repair. Part of the grotto has been lost, machinery in the listed pumphouse requires conservation, the remaining pools are leaking and their banks are eroding and key vistas within the valley are completely obscured by tree growth.

One of the carriage-ways as it looks today.
One of the carriage-ways in Fishpool Valley as it looks today, at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
One of the carriage-ways as it looks today.

Thanks to funds raised by our supporters, we’re able to restore this almost forgotten valley. The aim of the project is to revive and enhance its Picturesque features, including the rescue of the ‘Gothick’ and other built structures from further degeneration. Discover our new film about the project and see how you can get involved.

We also aim to:

  • Repair the dams and spillways
  • Re-instate pools which have drained
  • Enhance access for visitors, including the re-instatement of walks
  • Improve habitats
  • Clear invasive tree and shrub growth in order to open up those lost key vistas.

The tree clearance will also improve the diversity of the woodland structure and help other species to thrive by increasing light levels in the valley.  

A view from inside the grotto in Fishpool Valley
A view from inside the grotto looking out at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
A view from inside the grotto in Fishpool Valley

Why is the valley being restored?

“Delights to shew the curling waters glide,
Beneath reflected rocks, or antique towers,
Amidst o’ershadowing trees, or lightly tufted flowers…”

Fishpool Valley is a historically significant landscape, with built structures that have sadly fallen into disrepair. A large proportion of the valley is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with diverse bird life and aquatic plants and lichens. Importantly, it is home to protected species which include several species of bat and the endangered white-clawed crayfish. It is therefore fundamentally important that the valley is restored and revived so that the historical features and wildlife are protected and conserved for future generations.

Fishpool Valley as it looks today
A wooded walk in Fishpool Valley at Croft Castle
Fishpool Valley as it looks today

Why do we need to manage the trees?

Good woodland management is about creating a diverse species range and age-structure of trees. At present, the valley is choked by secondary growth where trees have prevented light reaching the valley floor. Early Ordnance Survey maps for the valley show considerably more sparse populations of trees in the different valley areas and it is this level of cover we will be working towards over the next five years. As part of the project we will be continuing our wildlife monitoring and updating conservation methods throughout the project’s development and implementation.

An artist's impression of how the valley could look post-restoration. The 'Picturesque' view has been revealed; the perfect spot for contemplation.
An artist's impression of Fishpool Valley, post-restoration
An artist's impression of how the valley could look post-restoration. The 'Picturesque' view has been revealed; the perfect spot for contemplation.

How and when are we restoring Fishpool Valley?

“Pure abstract beauty’s fleeting shades to trace,
And fix the image of ideal grace;
Combining what he felt with what he saw;
And penetrating nature’s inmost law…”

It is likely that this project will take years to complete, due to its complexity and significance. Research and planning has already begun and we will keep updating this article with news surrounding the project, including any clearance work and repairs to the structures within the valley.

Volunteers carrying out scrub clearance in the valley
Croft Castle volunteers undertaking clearance work in Fishpool Valley
Volunteers carrying out scrub clearance in the valley

The National Trust will continue to rely on funds raised by its supporters to see the project through to fruition, including the vision of a restored, Picturesque valley in the midst of Croft’s ancient parkland. This is an ambitious project and we are in need of donations to target specific aspects of the work, including re-instating walks, reviving built structures and restoring the pools, which will eventually bring to life the ‘Picturesque’ experience.


Check out the remarkable drone footage below, which was filmed in the valley during December 2017. This showcases the landscape in the early stages of the project, with slightly reduced tree cover, but there is still a huge amount of work to be done to restore this largely forgotten valley.

Latest posts

24 Sep 18

Woodland management

Contractors will return at the end of September to continue with our woodland management plan. Areas of secondary tree growth are being sensitively thinned and Picturesque views gradually revealed. This is also improving the diversity of the woodland structure and enabling other species to thrive by increasing light levels in the valley. Gradual clearance of invasive tree and shrub growth will ensure minimal trauma to the ecology and wildlife, as sudden changes to light levels could be detrimental. Thinning will therefore continue in stages over the next four years, avoiding the bat hibernation and bird nesting seasons.

An artist's impression of Fishpool Valley, post-restoration

03 Jul 18

Dam and spillway repairs

Our contractors will be starting repair work on dam 1 on Tuesday 3 July. This work is critical to the success of the project and will safeguard against future breaches, protect the habitat for endangered species and conserve these medieval earthworks for future generations. Fishpool Valley will feel busier than normal while work takes place and the footpath which normally leads straight to dam 1 will be closed off until the beginning of October. Please follow the next path along which leads straight down to dam 2; more information about path closures can be found at Visitor Reception on arrival.

A view of one of the dams in Fishpool Valley as it looks today

02 Jul 18

Archaeological investigations

Polyolbion Archaeology will be returning to Croft at the beginning of July to undertake further archaeological investigations in Fishpool Valley. The team, together with our ranger volunteers, will start on the area around the rusticated grotto and will then move on to the promontory and the remains of the summerhouse, which has only recently been uncovered. Come and see the work in action and discover what the team have unearthed.

Volunteers and contractors doing archaeology in Fishpool Valley