Christmas trail 2022: Discover the Festive Forest

October 03 2022 | Garden What's on

Visitors can discover the true meaning of the season as part of this year’s Christmas trail.

The annual trail is part of Christmas at Hever Castle which also includes a lights experience and beautifully decorated rooms in the Castle.

The original theme and storyline has been created by Hever Castle’s Design Manager Caz Pagden.

The story features Red the squirrel and his joyful woodland friends – the magpies, an owl, a beaver, a bat, a badger, a rat, foxes and hares.

Visitors can see the animals in their habitats and houses along the charming Christmas trail where Red receives thoughtful seasonal gifts.

The captivating handcrafted bespoke displays on the Christmas Trail include a visit to beaver in the woods to cut down a tree while the magpies and bat help decorate it.

Explore Hare’s house and watch the foxes eating their roast dinner.

On selected dates visitors can meet characters from the Festive Forest in the grounds of Hever Castle.

All the animals and props on the trail have been made specifically for the trail and Caz spends weeks creating each piece.

She says: “Each animal is unique, and I work hard to make sure they all have a personality and a character of their own. I start with an initial sketch and then redraw it a few times from different angles and then I sculpt it out of clay. I spend a long time making sure that the habitats look convincing and fit right in with the gardens, like they’ve always been there.

“I spend all year working on Christmas as an ongoing project in between designing signage, illustrations for different handouts, different themed trails for throughout the year (Halloween, Easter, Nature trails etc) and lots of other creative inputs on projects here at Hever.”

A variety of materials is used to create the different elements of the festive trail.

Caz adds: “I really like to upcycle so some of the cladding on the little houses is from old fence panels we lost during the storm earlier this year and the Owl’s nest shape was started as old pipe insulation. For my characters I sculpt them either out of epoxy clay or polymer clay that I bake in the oven. For characters that I make a lot of I make silicone moulds and then produce casts out of resin. Each one is hand painted and I either try and find dolls clothes to dress them or I hand sew them to fit.”

Her inspiration for the story about Red the squirrel is about kindness.

“Sometimes Christmas can become too much about consuming and portraying how perfect life is through social media. I wanted to get away from all that, strip it back, make it simple and show that you don’t need lots of money or shiny new things to have a nice Christmas.”

Caz spends two weeks installing the trail in the grounds and challenges include the fact it needs to look good both in the daytime and at night and last outside for a month and a half.

But it is rewarding to see people enjoy it: “I often walk around the trail and listen to the families enjoying their experience and hearing their excitement and awe when they see things that I hide for people to spot. It’s a great feeling knowing that all the work that goes into it is enjoyed by so many people.”

The new theme is designed to be expanded upon every year so that more props and creations can be reused, making it even more environmentally friendly.

An accompanying paperback book of the Festive Forest story will be available to buy in the Hever Shop.


Visitors can enjoy another story from the Festive Forest for 2023 and explore the charming ‘Lost in the Festive Forest’ Christmas Trail with Red the squirrel and discover the story of Ted the lost bear who Red helps to find his way home.

Discover more about Christmas at Hever Castle.