Plenty to discover at medieval ruins

Trust members strim foliage from the south court grounds.
Trust members strim foliage from the south court grounds.

A team of dedicated trustees are on a mission to reveal the true identity of one of Derbyshire’s finest standing castles.

This year the Codnor Castle Heritage Trust has been busy clear the undergrowth in the south court of the medieval ruins - getting rid of all thorn, scrub and ivy that has built up there after over the past decade.

And the back breaking work is all aimed at being able to open previously fenced off areas of Codnor Castle up to the public once a month.

Trust chairman Rokia Brown said: “It is starting to look like someone cares about the medieval castle now and we would like to invite everyone to come and have a look at what we are doing and how fantastic the site is starting to look.”

Rokia added: “It’s been a massive task really because the south court is really big.

“But we’ve been really lucky as we’ve had lots of volunteers come along and help us out.

“It’s an ongoing project and this year is going to be the hardest as we have had to tackle all that growth from the last four to five years.

“But once it’s down it will be more a case of maintaining it.”

The site clearing of the south court is just one part of a wider scheme to make the castle more accessible to the public.

A new website is attracting visitors and a book about the history of the Norman castle, home to the De Grey family from the 13th to he 15th Century, is due to be published in June.

But in clearing the site, the trust is beginning to dig deeper into the history of the south court, half the size of a football pitch in size, and an area which would have once formed a courtyard at the original entrance to the Norman castle.

“We’ve been clearing the court and already we have found some surface archeology lying underneath the growth.” Rokia said.

“We’ve found bits of pottery and what could be medieval glass . We are getting lessons from archeologists now on how to record these things.”

It is not the first time the south court has yielded treasures.

When the crew from Channel Four’s Time Team mapped the area in 2007 they found the original drawbridge to the site buried beneath it.

The beautifully preserved Henry V Noble Gold Coin minted at the time of the Battle of Agincourt, was also discovered in what would have been the moat around the court.

When the News spoke to the trust back in 2011, grand plans to turn the site into a heritage site, opening it up as a tourist destination, were afoot.

But these have been somewhat scaled back over the past two years.

“Somewhere along the line we might be able to do that,” Rokia said.

“The trust has refocused its aims and objectives now – we realise this vision of a heritage centre up there was a bit too grandiose for us as a trust.”

“The issue has always been access. It sits in a working farm and we always have to be conscious of that. But what we can really focus on is getting people up there.

“Next year it’s about focusing on the archeology, there is still so much to find up there.”

With the trust further planning to film a documentary on the castle soon, the site continues to intrigue and enthral.

“It’s just got such an amazing history, Rokia said. “It’s got presence, it’s got atmosphere, there’s a special ambience up there.

“Everyone that goes there finds something magical in the place.”

For more information visit www.codnorcastle.com. The next open days will be on September 7 and 8.