Kenilworth Castle is a picturesque ruin. Once it was home to Robert, Lord Dudley, Elizabeth I's favourite. In 1575 he built a garden for a 19-day visit by his Queen that has gone down in legend. English Heritage director Anna Keay is given the task of recreating Dudley's garden by her husband, English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley. Anna has just one piece of written evidence to work from, a letter by a lowly courtier, describing a garden split into quarters, each containing an obelisk. The letter also indicates the existence of two arbours, an aviary, and a huge marble fountain. The problems of relying on just one piece of evidence slowly become apparent. Archaeological searches find the fountain base, but no trace of arbour, aviary, obelisks or statue. The budget climbs, as English Heritage have to guess what the buildings might have looked like. They're now committed to spending two million pounds. After problems finding a suitable builder, they finally get on site a year later than originally planned. On site, the problems multiply. They build a large earth bank, hard by the castle, in accordance with the dimensions laid out in the courtier's letter. Unfortunately it proves too steep for any grass to grow. They have to insert a plastic retaining mesh, to Simon Thurley's evident irritation. The carpenters start to build the aviary and arbours, only to discover that they are structurally unsound. They too have to be redesigned, with steel inserted, raising questions about the historical validity of the entire exercise. Worse still, nobody wants to pay for the vastly expensive structural steel.
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