Duke of Kent visits Denbies Wine Estate and Betchworth Castle
MOLE Valley welcomed royalty this week as the Duke of Kent visited Betchworth Castle and Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking on Tuesday.
His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent viewed the ruins of the medieval fortified manor house accompanied by Dame Sarah Goad, Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, before travelling to the vineyard.
A major conservation project for the castle is currently being managed by its owner, Martin Higgins, with support from a £186,000 English Heritage grant.
Mr Higgins said: "The project has been onerous at times but always tremendously rewarding, and today has been a good opportunity to thank some of the many volunteers who have helped with all kinds of tasks."
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The Duke was shown how the challenges of conserving the isolated and formerly neglected ruin are being overcome.
He met with representatives of the Friends of Deepdene, a voluntary organisation which carried out work on the castle, including removing rubble from the vaulted cellars.
Group member Sue Tombs said: "The conservation work is great fun and we feel privileged to be able to leave a legacy that all residents and visitors can enjoy."
The Friends meet two days a week to undertake a wide range of tasks in support of a project known as The Deepdene Trail.
The trail tells the story of the Deepdene Estate, of which Betchworth Castle was once a part.
His Royal Highness – the Queen's first cousin – also met with officers from Mole Valley District Council, who have made a Heritage Lottery Fund application to further support the project.
"The selective removal of trees and vegetation which were damaging the structure of the walls has once more revealed the remains of Betchworth Castle to public view," said English Heritage architect Robert Williams.
"We are very pleased that we have been able to contribute a substantial grant towards the conservation of these significant ruins."
The Duke additionally visited other sites in Surrey on the day, including Esher Church of England High School and the GASP Motor Project Workshop in Albury.