Exploring the parkland at Croft Castle
Croft has 1,500 acres of woodland, farmland and parkland and is home to a wealth of ancient trees, 'Picturesque' Fishpool Valley, archaeology and an Iron Age hillfort, all just waiting to be discovered.
Autumn in the parkland
From the changing colours of the trees to the herds of fallow deer running beneath, autumn it’s a feast for the senses at Croft Castle. At the bottom of the fort, in Fishpool Valley, the critically endangered white clawed crayfish begin their breeding season. Croft is also home to all sorts of fascinating fungi and nine species of bat, including Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle. In the gardens, our team have created wildflower areas, ponds, high rise bug hotels and put up countless nest boxes for a wide range of species.
Stroll up to Croft Ambrey, the Iron Age hillfort
Set on a 300-metre high ridge to the north of the castle, Croft Ambrey, the Iron Age hillfort, is one of the most elaborate hillforts in the Welsh Marches. Excavations have uncovered decorative bronze work and a piece of gold chain, which hint at the wealth of the Celtic grain farmers who built this fortress around 500 BC and farmed the landscape below.
By the time of the Roman invasion in the 1st century AD, the fort had probably already been abandoned, although legend has it that the site was used by supporters of the rebel Celtic leader Caractacus. Much of the ramparts are still intact today and the ranger and volunteer team are working to gently restore them, clearing unwanted growth and restoring the original views over the coming years.
Explore the restoration of the historic wood pasture
On your way up to the hillfort you'll walk through a historic wood pasture which is surrounded by fast-growing conifers. In autumn 2014, a large-scale conservation partnership project with the Forestry Commission began, to restore this area back to how it looked 100 years ago, improving the benefits for native wildlife and trees.
The Forestry Commission extracted the conifers and the ranger team have been busy planting native trees and have encouraged the regrowth of natural woodland and grassland plants. Low-level grazing has also been introduced. You can find out more about this project by visiting the wood pasture barn on the Croft Ambrey walk, or ask visitor reception for a leaflet on arrival.
Go birdwatching in the ‘Picturesque’ Fishpool Valley
The recently restored Fishpool Valley, landscaped in the 'Picturesque' style, is a very tranquil spot for birdwatching. See if you can spot herons, moorhens, great spotted woodpeckers, sparrowhawks and other native woodland birds.
Watch the wildlife in the parkland
Croft’s parkland is teeming with wildlife all year round. Fallow deer, first introduced by the Normans in the 11th century, still call Croft their home with the original deer-park boundary running along the northern edge of the car park.
Although in drastic decline as a species, the British native white-clawed crayfish can be found in the water, among fallen leaves and submerged logs in Fishpool Valley. Dormice, otters and bats are also sighted in the valley.
Fallen deadwood is a valuable habitat, a home to woodlice, beetles and countless other creatures. Standing deadwood is even better. Even after death trees survive as monoliths, a host to myriad plants and animals, and a roost for birds and bats.
Croft is also a busy place for bird life where you might see tawny owls, robins, finches, chaffinches, woodpeckers, nuthatches and siskins at different times of year.
Discover over 300 veteran trees
Croft has an impressive collection of ancient trees. There's the Quarry Oak at around 1,000 years old, the newly discovered Candelabra Oak at around 750 years old and the Herefordshire county champion Douglas Fir in Fishpool Valley which stands at 57.6 metres in height.
One particularly special tree is the Quarry Oak which was just starting its life when William the Conqueror invaded Britain. It’s remarkable to think of all that has happened in the world during the life of this tree, and that for centuries it provided the estate with valuable firewood and building material from its crown.
The Candelabra Oak is so named because of its outline. With a nine-metre girth, the Candelabra Oak is thought to be around 900 years old which means this tree would’ve been a youngster when the Magna Carta was signed in 1215.
Its shape is as a result of its being pollarded for many years until relatively recently, to provide firewood for the estate. Pollarding and coppicing are ways in which trees can be made to live longer than when allowed to grow freely.
Near the Castle is the Spanish chestnut avenue which was the original formal approach to the Castle. Aerial views of the avenue show lines and clumps of these trees which could represent a battle. It is said that chestnuts were gathered from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon and were planted in the formation of the Spanish fleet.
In the neighbouring meadow there’s a fine collection of ancient English oaks which were reputedly planted in the formation of the British fleet, all done to commemorate the victory over the Spanish.
Walking at Croft Castle
There are five waymarked walks to chose from at Croft Castle where you can fully immerse yourself in the majesty of the ancient trees and the breath-taking views across the Herefordshire countryside. Throughout the parkland you'll find ancient trees, an Iron Age hillfort, woodland, orchard, a SSSI river and much more.
Click here for a PDF version of the Croft Castle walks map. All walks and trail routes can be found in the 'Things to see and do' section of our website.
Croft Castle is a two pawprint rated place. You and your dog can explore 1,500 acres of parkland and beautiful gardens at Croft Castle.
Find out how the Croft family played their part in major historical events, and how Croft Castle eventually passed to the National Trust.
Croft Castle was noted in the Domesday book in 1086 and the Croft family have played a part influencing British political and military history ever since. Uncover their stories in the castle.
Discover the garden at Croft Castle, taking in the historic orchard within the walled garden, or listen to the birds in the church garden.
Tuck into some lunch and light bites in the Carpenter’s tea-room at Croft Castle, or visit the second-hand bookshop to find yourself a pre-loved classic.
Plan a visit to one of the special countryside places in our care and discover the benefits of being in the great outdoors. Pack your walking boots and get ready to explore woodlands, valleys and rivers.
Take a walk through the stunning countryside in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, past lakes and rivers, or enjoy the views across the county and beyond this winter season.