Usk Castle Chase

The woods and fields to the east of Usk Castle are all part of the old hunting chase belonging to the castle in medieval times. The boundary of the Usk Castle medieval park is not really visible any more, but a community of the size of Usk and its castle would have needed fairly large hunting grounds (‘Chase’ or ‘Forest’) to feed itself, so it probably stretched from the river Usk east towards Gwehelog and Raglan, south to the River Olway and perhaps up to Wentwood, and north to Bettws.

The woods are laid out in blocks of many varieties of trees with avenues and tracks throughout, giving good access for activities. There is a way-marked footpath at the western end. Visitors are requested to keep to the footpath and keep dogs on leads at all times, as there are many things going on in the woods which could be dangerous, but also it is a superb habitat for many kinds of ground-nesting birds, and woodland animals, which must not be disturbed.

St. Barbe Baker – a pioneering conservationist

This is an extract from the chapter on Usk Castle garden in the book on the history of Usk, published by Logaston Press 2008.

‘St.Barbe baker was born in 1889 and founded “The Men of the Trees” society in 1924. It is now the International Tree Foundation. He foresaw the devastation to the world climate that would ensue if the de-forestation that he had witnessed in the African Sahara and America were to continue. He started the campaign to save the giant Californian Redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) from logging in the 1930’s. His work in conservation helped lead to the establishment of the American National Parks, and his books (such as “I planted trees”) earned him a world-wide reputation. St.Barbe’s far-sighted work made him a genuine fore-runner of the ‘Eco’ movement of the C21. Henry Humphreys remembers as a child the charismatic figure leading tree-dances on the lawn at Usk Castle - and St.Barbe’s conversations were spell-binding even to the next generation. As a legacy of his friendship with Rudge Humphreys, he gave him a grove of Redwoods for the Castle Chase woods as a wedding present.

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