Going back to its roots – historic parkland to be restored to 19th Century heyday - The National Trust

The National Trust is piecing back together a 19th century landscape using a Victorian survey map and aerial photographs taken by the Royal Air Force after World War II.

The project, which will take a decade to complete, will see native trees planted including the rare black poplar, white willow and oak re-planted in the Grade 2 listed landscape at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk.

A total of 227 trees will be planted making the project one of the largest and most ambitious wood pastures the conservation charity has created with the aim of establishing a species rich, native wood pasture to attract more wildlife and to increase biodiversity.

open grass pastureland with new fence
Fence work is underway as part of the parkland restoration work at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. (Credit National Trust)

The Trust will also be recreating ponds and planting areas of scrub to create a resilient habitat that will be more resilient to climate change and endure for centuries to come.

Wood pasture and parkland is a rare and threatened habitat, in decline since the 1950s due to the repurposing of land to help feed the nation after World War II.

Conservationist and historian, Dr Sarah Rutherford, from SR Historic Environment has worked closely with the estate team, researching the project. She says: “Using an Ordnance Survey map from 1904 we have been able to research details of how the landscape looked when it was at its peak. We’ve also used RAF aerial photographs from 1946 which show the park before its sale in 1951 which clearly show numerous trees. Fortunately, we have the sales details for the trees sold at auction (to be cut for timber) and we’re using this to identify the individual locations and species of trees for re-planting after making some adjustments for the impacts of current challenges such as climate change and ash dieback where the historic species would no longer thrive.”

Working in partnership with Natural England and Historic England, the first phase of the project is underway with the team aiming to create a parkland landscape similar to the ones at Ickworth in Suffolk or Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.

The first phase includes re-seeding areas of the parkland which haven’t regenerated naturally with a very diverse seed mix to create 32 hectares of wood pasture. A wide range of wildflower and traditional grass seed will be sown, with some areas left to regenerate naturally with local species. A further nine hectares of existing wood pasture habitat will be restored.

Posted on: 07 May 2021

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