Higher Level Stewardship Funding has allowed significant works to the Park to be undertaken already and the consented Enabling Development for 190 new homes on the Wellwick Site, 17 houses in the Park and 72 houses in the West Field have secured funding for the following works:
- The complete restoration of Bailiffs Cottage and its neighbouring Toll Barn
- The complete restoration of the Gatehouse
- The complete restoration of the Darcy House West Wing
- Essential works to the roof of the Darcy House East Wing
- The repairs to the historic fabric of the Abbotts Lodgings
Also £1.2 million of the funds raised by the Enabling Development are to be put in the Building Preservation Trust’s Escrow Account, which will be used to provide any match funding required when applying for Heritage Lottery Funding and other funding.
Bailiffs Cottage & Toll Barn
Works on site are currently focused on Bailiff’s Cottage and the Toll Barn which are Grade II* listed and date back to the 14th Century. The building was in a considerable state of disrepair and concerted efforts are being made to restore this building to the highest quality, keeping as much of the original fabric as possible. The beautiful oak A-frame roof structure had suffered badly after the previous owners inserted unsympathetic dormer windows and the timber became infested with death beetle and woodworm.
To restore the intricate oak A-Frame roof, each truss was taken apart, recorded and numbered before the restoration started. They were cleaned using a wire brush, and chisels where necessary, glued and spliced in new oak. Once put back together we have secured the old and new jointing with oak pegs to be in keeping with original. Further restoration to original roof dormers and tie beams have also been completed along with three handmade bespoke staircases.
See below before and after restoration images.
Historic Landscape & Parkland
We have been able to make good progress over recent years on improvements to the park and the landscape that had for many years been degraded by extensive gravel extraction and lack of good husbandry. Whilst the bulk of the work has been funded by the Family, grant funding from Natural England has also helped to achieve the results thus far through direct one off grants and Higher Level Stewardship; an environmental stewardship agreement which is designed to offer support to more active and environmentally beneficial management practices. There is a great deal more we wish to achieve but sensitive restoration on this scale is a slow process especially where sensitive eco-systems exist.
All of the work has been carried out following extensive specialist survey work and advice to ensure that what is very important about this very special estate is protected and enhanced.
Introducing Grazing Cattle
A large task has been the re-fencing of the entire parkland and grassland totalling approximately 250 acres of ground and approximately 7.5km (5 miles of fencing) so that we could introduced English Longhorn, a rare and native breed of cattle to improve the ecology of the park, to animate the landscape and to keep the grass cut. These animals have been chosen because they are a hardy rare breed that graze in such a way that protects the landscape, promoting better bio-diversity and are suitable for conservation habitat
Introducing the Grassland - We have worked very hard to re-introduce suitable grassland between the parkland and marsh habitats. The grass mix chosen will not support a large herd but it promotes better bio-diversity, making the parkland more attractive to native bird species such as wintering waders and insects. The grass mix was chosen, despite being five times more expensive than a commercial mix, because we believe that an abundance of wildlife enhances the aesthetic beauty and ecological value of the Estate.
Restoring the Old Orchard Trees - We have taken samples of the existing trees in the orchard and sent them to Brogdale, the National Fruit Collection, so that we could identify their species and ensure that the new species complement the historic ones. The existing trees have also been carefully pruned to increase their longevity.
Creating a Wildflower Meadow and Floristically Enhanced Margins - Using native species of seeds, we have reinstated the pretty wildflower meadow and replanted and restored some of the historic hedge lines which had sadly been lost over the years to Dutch Elm Disease and changing uses of the Priory. Once fully established these will enhance biodiversity and act as wildlife corridors for a myriad of animals to enjoy and traverse the landscape.
Introduction of a Wild Bird Food Plot - We have sown a 5 acre area with a suitable mix to provide valuable winter food source for farmland birds and small mammals. This plot is cultivated and re-sown every 1-2 years to ensure that there is a plentiful supply of food each and every year over the winter months.
Introduction of Ground Nesting Bird Habitat - We keep an area of approximately 5 acres roughly cultivated each year but uncropped to provide breeding sites for ground-nesting birds such as Lapwing. In addition, it can provide beneficial foraging for other declining birds such as partridge, turtle dove, skylark, yellow wagtail, linnet, yellowhammer and corn bunting.
Restoration of the Medieval Fish Ponds
The large fish ponds in Nunns Wood are part of the legend of St Osyth and therefore are not only an important part of the ecology but play an important part in the rich history that defines the place. These ponds were the monastic carp ponds and latterly the centrepiece to the 18th century woodland garden. Some of these ponds were silted up to the top and whilst the spring waters still ran through them, the amount and diversity of wildlife they supported had been dramatically curtailed. The silt was also causing trees to prematurely fall over into the pond in high winds because their roots were bedded into the loose silt, rather than the better soil; further silting up the ponds. Finally, the aesthetic quality and historic significance of these historic woods had been somewhat lost.
Major earth moving works have taken place with approximately 25,000 cubic metres of wet silt weighing approx. 48,000 tonnes being removed from the ponds. This is currently drying out on the land adjacent and will be utilised in the restoration works elsewhere. Great care was taken not to cause disturbance to the birds while carrying out these works, by undertaking them out of the bird nesting season (March to August); even though this made the task more difficult during the wetter months. The works were expected to maintain and enhance bird numbers in the Heronry, the Rookery and the colony of little Egrets, however as a direct result the bird numbers have in fact increased.
There was the need for an extensive amount of tree management works and clearance to be undertaken surrounding the ponds as they had become so overgrown key historic features and elements of the landscape were lost. For instance, these works have uncovered the main viewing mound which was heavily crowded by sycamore trees.
Below images show the before, during the process and the beautifully restored ponds.
Maintenance to Trees & Important Design Features
Established woodland and important design features throughout the estate that have been identified are being continuously maintained to increase the bio-diversity throughout the parkland. An extensive number of new appropriate species have now been identified and are being planted throughout the parkland; including Hazel and Oak, which are typical of the historic landscape and help to improve the bio-diversity in the parkland.