Conservation of the park and gardens
Conservation in the gardens, is the equivalent of dusting and sweeping the house.
You'd not think that mowing, edging, hedge cutting, weeding and strimming are conservation activities, but they are, and they're just as important as the work we do in dealing with damage caused by bugs, adverse weather conditions and even humans.
Damage caused by bugs
Last autumn we had an outbreak of garden chafer grubs which eat roots of grass. This resulted in us having to remove huge amounts of damaged turf from the croquet lawn. It was left for the birds to remove remaining grubs until we could replace the turf which cost us £3000. A further £1000 is going to be spent introducing nematodes, which are small worms that feed on the grubs, in the Autumn of this year.
Hedges wiped out by disease
Over the last few years we've had incidents of Box blight on our historic hedges and part of our national Buxus collection. During this outbreak we lost a 25 metre hedge in the former rose garden and 160 metres of the terrace hedge from the Italianate garden. Removing these hedges and replacing them was a huge cost for us.
Wear and tear caused by people
While we love to see lots of visitors, in the past, large numbers of people walking on the lawns have caused so much damage that we've had to close the internal garden rooms for three months every year whilst they were allowed time to repair. Last year we laid gravel pathways along the box avenues and this allowed us to keep the gardens open all year.
Devastation caused by larger animals
In the park there are conservation problems caused by deer. It’s great to see them in the parkland but too many deer are a real problem for us here at Ickworth. They graze on young tree shoots and on the trunks of larger trees. Coppicing has been carried out in some of the woodlands to prevent them getting in, otherwise the woodland would not regenerate naturally. The wild deer population at Ickworth has to be carefully managed.
Conservation is not just about spending money. At Ickworth a large percentage of the estate is covered by woodland and a positive outcome for the work involved in maintaining it is the money that's raised by selling the end products of our conservation tasks. Our two rangers are aided by a team of thirty volunteers who cut up felled trunks and sell planks of wood, bags of wood bark and chippings and logs for firewood. Money raised in this way is ploughed back into the pot that feeds the cost of maintaining the park.