Dave Piper, Head Ranger at Flatford / Dedham Vale

Dave with Matt Baker filming the BBC's Countryfile © Henry Bexley

Dave with Matt Baker filming the BBC's Countryfile

Dave Piper
Area Warden
Flatford and the Dedham Vale

Dave Piper talks to us about his conservation work in and around Flatford and the Dedham Vale. Including current and up and coming projects.

Managing the views
Dedham Vale is famous for being painted by Constable and this brings its own implications for a ranger. We need to manage the views so that they're recognisable but without fossilising the landscape. There's the danger that you create a view that was actually invented by an artist to suit their needs.

A year ago, I set up a new group of volunteers whose task it is to help maintain the views across the vale. Some of the work is about keeping access through an area, while other work includes opening up and restoring views.

Once a year, we clear the reed mace from the Haywain view and we drain the Dry dock which is flooded during the winter to protect the bricks.

We've put in a fence of hazel hurdles to obscure the wire security fence near the Lock that features in several of Constable’s paintings. Much of the land is grazed by local farmers on our behalf, so some of my time is spent communicating with them the ways in which we'd like our land managed.

The countryside team
My team look after over 550 acres within the Dedham Vale. The area incorporates grazed meadows, arable fields, parkland fields, and a couple of small woodlands.

We have a great team that always looks to do more. If you want to have a go and don’t mind getting wet and muddy, come and have a chat. We meet on a Tuesday as well as some Wednesdays.

Keeping traditional skills alive
We're able to train people in traditional methods, for example in hedge laying or coppicing. So not only are we getting the work done, we're passing on these older skill sets evident across the British landscape.

I also work with the Suffolk National Trust Volunteers who meet on Sundays and we carry out work across the county of Suffolk.

Restoring the Valley Farm kitchen garden
Another of our projects is restoring the Valley Farm kitchen garden. Again we have a team of dedicated gardening volunteers who do an amazing job growing fruit and vegetables for our tearooms and supplying a stall for visitors to buy produce.

Every day is different and rewarding.

Want to find out more about volunteering?