Exciting plans in bud for Lews Castle Grounds

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A master plan to reshape Stornoway’s Lews Castle Grounds encouraging play, activity and leisure, is currently being drawn up.

From grand designs such as a possible pedestrian bridge linking more directly to town, an adventure play area and the restoration of the sunken garden to smaller projects such as a spring clean, and an ecology survey it is hoped the public will get on board to support and grow the ideas.

Project Manager, Brenda Jones, explains: “The grounds are an amazing and unique landscape equivalent to a listed building, due to its flora, fauna and history.

“We want it to become a well used place with a sustainable future, which generates economic activity by bringing visitors to the area.”

A drop in day at the Woodlands Centre recently highlighted the plans. Certainly made clear is what may have been suitable for a private house in the 1880s is not suitable for modern day users, as the vision for the sunken garden area underlines.

Once it was the backdrop for eye-catching architectural type plants created for the pleasure of its owners, but after restoration the garden will have more of a public use.

Brenda said: “A recent archaeological dig at the garden revealed that once the site held a structure. There is no record of the design, just the outline of the foundations showing its size. We are looking to rebuild the shelter and with electricity going in talks could be held there, or it could become a place for music.”

The hunt is on via a public appeal for photographs to reveal what the structure might have looked like.

The public will also be asked about the plans for Cuddy Point, originally grassed with pathways, on how it should be updated.

However feedback about the boathouse at Cuddy Point is already available, with groups keen to use this facility more, and the project team are aiming to fit out the building with toilets and showers to improve its appeal.

Surveys of buildings such as Porter’s Lodge and the Boatman Tower are planned, and with the aspiration of creating something for all ages in the grounds, two play areas are being considered - a toddlers area at the Woodlands Centre and an adventure-type play area in the woods leading up to the college.

However one aspect - perhaps the most eye-catching could be a lot trickier to take forward - that is the proposal to create more direct access to the town centre via a new pedestrian bridge.

But with aspirations moving forward to improve the town’s harbour and talks still to be held with Stornoway Port Authority this aspect is still at a very early stage.

The wish-list of projects feeds into the Heritage Lottery Fund’s criteria to encourage an increase of users, improve the heritage and get more people volunteering.

And it is the volunteering message which is the focus in the next few weeks with an ecological study on invasive species, a spring clean campaign and visitor survey planned.

If you would like to volunteer or have photographs of the sunken garden contact: Tina MacLean:tina.maclean@cne-siar.gov.uk