March: Out on the estate
Colin, Area Ranger at Attingham
Colin is Attingham's Area Ranger, he's worked at the estate for over 35 years and leads the Ranger team. Much of their work takes place in the wider estate looking after the rivers, pasture and woodland.
What's your role at Attingham?
I first started working at Attingham over 35 years ago as an Assistant Gardener, moving on to become a Gardner, then Park Warden, then Senior Park and Estate Warden before becoming Area Ranger. I’ve always been an outdoors person and my father and grandfather worked on the estate before me.
The Ranger team includes myself, Ranger Gareth, during the year student placement Rangers, as well as over 30 volunteers, all of whom are invaluable members of the team, giving up their time to work on all aspects of the Attingham estate. Between us we look after the Deer Park, woodlands and wider estate at Attingham.
" There’s much more to Attingham than meets the eye. The estate is approximately 4,000 acres in size of which the visitors see around 200 acres."
How does what you do help nature to thrive at Attingham?
Being a Ranger is by definition a varied role, with the size of the estate and it including rivers, a deer park, woodland, farm land, and estate buildings no two days are ever the same!
On a daily basis we attend to Attingham’s herd of around 180 fallow deer- we keep an eye on them, check they are in good health (from a distance!) and during the winter we play a more active role in feeding them.
The maintenance of the estate is a big part our role and includes tasks such as laying and planting hedges. We use traditional techniques to encourage various types of flora and fauna to grow. Hedges are really important ‘wildlife corridors’- linking and joining areas of wildlife habitats, allowing populations to move and providing shelter.
We work with the estate’s tenant farmers to find ways to farm sympathetically to the surrounding environment and for nature- this means biodiversity on the estate increases, different birds and mammals thrive in different habitats , and we are visited by wonderful birds such as skylarks, lapwings and grey partridges.
Attingham now has a biomass boiler to provide the main buildings with heating and hot water. So we manage the woodland to provide timber to fuel the boiler, and also to keep the woodland healthy and in good condition.
We see many different species of wildlife on the job, barn owls and goshawks are often spotted - as well as brown hares, which are not often seen today. We have 16 barn owl boxes on the estate, and around a third of them have barn owls nesting successfully in them. Broods that have nested in these boxes, return in later years to nest and produce their own broods, and at Attingham we have a steadily growing population.
There’s nothing like seeing – or hearing - our efforts paying off when we see and hear different species enjoying the Park as much as we do. Hearing the first cuckoos of the season or seeing the first swallows arriving is lovely. We’re expecting the first swallows any day now, with the weather being so mild this year they should be coming early in the first week or April or so.
Where can we see nature conservation taking place at Attingham?
Somewhere really special is the hay meadow down past the Tern Bridge and next to the Ismore Coppice Campground. This field is a traditional hay meadow, farmed organically by one of our tenant farmers. Left alone to grow during the spring and early summer wildflowers grow amongst the grass and mammals, butterflies and insects can enjoy it. There is a three week period where it is at its best and we open it to visitors – usually around June time – and you can see all the colours of the flowers, see and hear the butterflies and insects.
The farmer leaves the hay until all the flower seed heads have dropped to the soil before cutting it in the late summer, cattle then graze in the field until mid winter, and the cycle begins again the following spring.