Leeds Castle recently led a community project to help conserve the Bell Tower of St Nicholas Church in nearby Leeds Village.
The parish church had contacted the Castle maintenance team to help eradicate an unwanted ‘valerian’ plant after it spread out of control over the Bell Tower’s exterior. The weeds had grown up over time and although some might say looked quite pretty at the top of the tower, were in fact eating away at the stonework and potentially causing significant damage.
Leeds Castle’s Head Gardener Andrew McCoryn worked with Taskmasters, an abseiling maintenance company hired by the Castle and they collaborated on this mission to keep the local village church’s ancient crevices free of these unwanted weeds. With full protective harnesses and working from ropes to descend the walls, the abseilers employed a special weed killer mix which is safe to other environment and wildlife, specially crafted by Andrew McCoryn to remove the valerian.
“Valerian isn’t unsightly, but it’s very destructive. It has a strong root system that can strip away lime mortar, which consequently damages the building’s entire exterior,” says Andrew.
“The team used rope and weights to abseil down the tower, working gradually to ensure the weeds were cut right back to the masonry. I had created a strong weed killer mix of Glyphosate, wallpaper paste and water, which was then carried in an eight-litre knapsack and applied to the weed’s freshly-cut roots with a paintbrush to ensure a direct and safe application."
This extreme weeding task took the abseilers almost two days to complete, and we’re delighted to announce that the exterior’s condition has now much improved.
St Nicholas’s parish church in Leeds, Kent, is at the heart of the village community and is a Grade I Listed Building. The tower contains bells dating from the 1700s which are housed in an ancient oak frame; one of the earliest surviving bell frames in the UK. Its churchyard also contains a number of memorials and monuments; including one for the first ever Leeds Castle Chairman, Geoffrey Lloyd.