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Disaster at the Weir!

The weir at Lickleyhead Castle has been a feature at the castle for a very long time. It marks the confluence of the fore and back burns (streams) which run on either side of the castle. Earlier this year (2024) disaster struck however when, during a storm, the burn burst its banks and undermined the wall which adjoins the top of the weir.

Water running under the garden wall

A constant flow of water started to run through the hole. This was damaging the stability of the wall and the earthen bank. As well as causing damage to this historic feature in the castle grounds it was also potentially very dangerous. The path that runs through the Lickleyhead Castle woods could have been washed away and if the wall had suddenly collapsed while someone was close by they might have been badly injured. We put up traffic cones and constructed a barrier to warn others not to get close, as well as posting warnings on social media to locals about the issue.

Damage as seen from the castle side, on top of the weir.

We initially attempted to repair the damage ourselves but it quickly became apparent that this would be futile. A digger and builders were brought in to try and redirect the flow of the burn and repair the stone wall. The wall was repaired using the same granite blocks that had fallen into the stream. As part of our commitment to maintain the historic character of the grounds, wherever possible we use the same or similar materials that were used in original constructions.

Left to right: Dog and digger, current view from the castle side, current view from down stream

In truth it seems that the weir had not been functioning as it was intended for a very long time. The culvert that runs through the bottom of the wall (seen in the 3rd photo above) has always been there, but at some point it got blocked with a large tree stump. Once this stump had been cut and pulled out the burn began to happily flow through the culvert once again. While water was running over the top of the weir it made for some pretty photos (see below) but water was slowly and secretly cutting through at the sides. Meanwhile silt was building up in the centre, meaning we couldn't see the blockage in the culvert. The 'step' with the gate is actually intended for overflow only. The cable hanging across the front of the weir is an unfortunate presence that has been there since before we arrived at Lickleyhead Castle. While we hope to hide it at some point in the future it was not felt to be practical to do so at this point.

A time lapse photo of water going over the top of the weir (thanks to Premnay Matt). Pretty but this action was damaging the wall.

One happy outcome from this episode is that we are now able to fill the pool at the top of the weir by temporarily blocking the culvert using a sheet of metal. It looks as though the designers of the weir always intended this to be possible as there are runners on the sides of the inflow end. Provided we don't leave the sheet of metal in too long, we can use it as a plug to dam the burn and fill up the pool at the top. At the moment as it's too cold to use for anything, but once the weather improves (markedly), this may change. Guests should not attempt to block the culvert themselves. Anyone going in the water does so at their own risk. Don't drink the stream water!

The top of the weir is part of the castle gardens and we ask that locals respect our privacy and that of our guests by not entering this space. It can be viewed safely now as you walk along the woodland path.

Repairing the weir and other works we have done recently, such as having the gatepost rebuilt, demonstrates our commitment to maintaining this beautiful and historic site. Storms, floods and other natural disasters aren't generally a threat to the castle building itself but can cause extensive damage to other interesting or necessary features in the grounds. Unfortunately with climate change we seem to be experiencing more of these extreme weather events.

James Davies


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