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Historic painting helps inspire 50 year vision for carbon and nature rich landscape at Devon Estate - National Trust

Historic watercolour c. 1860-80 by 11th Baronet Sir Thomas Acland which is helping inform vision for boosting nature conservation work at Killerton Credit Fi Hailstone
Historic watercolour c. 1860-80 by 11th Baronet Sir Thomas Acland which is helping inform vision for boosting nature conservation work at Killerton Credit Fi Hailstone

The National Trust is taking inspiration from a 19th Century painting of the Killerton Estate in Devon to help create a 50 year vision for the landscape boosting its ability to store carbon by improving and expanding habitats and creating areas rich in wildlife.

The painting, believed to be by the 11th Baronet, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland whose family gifted Killerton to the National Trust in 1944, depicts a healthy and diverse landscape rich in mature trees and hedgerows with areas of scrub with roaming rugged highland cattle, giving a snapshot of the historical estate.

But, instead of turning back the clock, the conservation charity is now aiming to capture the very essence of the landscape with a 15 month project to reconnect the river with its floodplain to reduce flooding; to restore and plant 4km of new hedgerows, and to plant and establish 18 hectares of new woodland, five hectares of agroforestry, 40 hectares of wood pasture and planting 200 trees in hedgerows.

Paul Hawkins, Project Manager at the National Trust said: “Nurturing what we have, has got to be the first step of a green recovery.

“Our plans involve thinking about what we’ll need the landscape to deliver in 50 years, and how we can make that happen. Nature is incredibly powerful but sometimes we need to give it a helping hand.

“We want to ensure the estate now evolves to capture more carbon and to help the land, wildlife and livestock cope with more extreme weather events.

“Currently just under 10 per cent of the Killerton Estate is priority habitat – and the combination of work we are doing to protect and enhance these areas together with changes in management should boost nature on the estate and hopefully demonstrate to others what can be achieved.

“The estate as it is now may look green and beautiful but the reality is that so much of the wildlife that was on the estate when the picture was painted, has been lost. Species of plants and habitats are unable to adapt to the impacts of climate change which could lead to extinctions and impact the functioning of the ecosystems humans depend on.”

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