Homeowner furious after National Trust castle opens garden which allows visitors to peer into her bedroom window
A homeowner is locked in a battle with the National Trust after a castle garden was opened – which allows visitors within 18 inches of her bedroom window.
Anne Parham, 62, says tourists are able to peer into the bedroom and bathroom of her five-bedroomed medieval house, which she has lovingly restored over three decades.
When she first purchased the property at auction in 1981 the National Trust reassured her that gardens backing onto her property would never be opened to the public.
But without her knowledge, guests at Dunster Castle in Dunster, Somerset, were granted access to the walled Dream Garden.
As a result, visitors are able to stand less than a metre away from her home.
Anne, who lives alone, says the move has ruined her privacy and knocked around #50,000 off the value of her house.
She said: “I opened my curtains one morning and there were people’s faces looking at me from about 18 inches away – that was the first I knew about it.
“I’m on show now, both in my garden and in my home, to the general public.
“If I need to use the bathroom or my bedroom then I have to draw my curtains just to get a bit of privacy.
“The estate agent considers the value of my property has been reduced by an estimated £50,000, if indeed it is saleable as things stand.”
Anne brought the house, worth more than £400,000, at auction and set about restoring the property – which had initially been a number of outhouses.
She briefly moved out of the property in 2009, renting it out to tenants while she cared for her sick mother, but returned in 2013.
It was then that she discovered the gardens had been opened to members of the public without notifying her or the tenant.
Mrs Parham has been locked in a dispute with the National Trust ever since and has rejected a number of solutions proposed by the charity.
She says differing ground levels make her first-floor rooms vulnerable and she fears visitors can see her getting changed.
She also claimed the peace of her own garden has been destroyed by hearing other people’s conversations and fearing that her own can also be overheard.
Though hurdle barriers have been put up by the trust, less than 4ft from her window, Anne claims they are not sufficient safeguard and she feels “under siege”.
She added: “On the day I brought it, the National Trust told me that the garden next door would never be open to the public.
“Had they not said that, we would have approached the conversion from a very different angle.”
Dunster Castle is a former motte and bailey castle, now a country house, sited on a picturesque wooded hill.
It became a lavish country home during the 19th century for the Luttrell family, who lived there for 600 years.
The Dream Garden forms a link between the castle and Dunster village and was originally used by the Luttrell family.
Seamus Rogers, National Trust general manager at Dunster Castle said they had tried to negotiate with Mrs Parham.
He said: “We have been talking to our neighbour alongside the Dream Garden for some time about her claims of loss of privacy and have made a number of offers to help her.
“We have met on several occasions and offered a number of things to mitigate her concerns, such as increasing planting along the boundary with her property, increasing security on her windows at our expense and other ways to screen her property from visitors in the garden – all of which she has rejected.
“We don’t charge for entry to the garden and we don’t count the visitors, but we do receive much praise for it from people who have discovered it and enjoyed wandering through the garden.
“We have no evidence that any statements were made back in 1981 that the garden would never be open to the public.
“Indeed any such statement would go against the trust’s aims to open up our places for everybody to enjoy.”