Conserving the countryside at Calke

Dog walking at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

There’s more to caring for Calke Abbey than meets the eye. With over 600 acres of historic parkland, including ancient woodland, open meadows, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and important National Nature Reserves, there are lots of green spaces to look after. Every day, our rangers work hard to keep Calke’s countryside alive, so it can be enjoyed for generations to come. Your support makes this vital work possible.

Outdoors in all seasons

With so much countryside to look after, the rangers and a group of volunteers work outdoors all year round, managing the parkland and wildlife. This includes routine maintenance throughout the year, such as repairing fences, gates, stiles and footpaths, as well as seasonal work, such as haymaking and managing the wildflower meadows.

Each area of the parkland is managed in a different way. The woodland requires coppicing, hedge-laying and occasional tree-felling to ensure that the trees have enough space and light to grow. Grassy areas such as Raggs Close and the meadow piece need cutting with the tractor and flail mower, while hay-making includes the cutting, drying, balling, stacking, transporting and storing of hay.


Haymaking in half a minute

Haymaking is a big part of a ranger's job during the summer, and includes cutting, drying, baling, stacking, transporting and storing the hay. See a snapshot of our rangers haymaking in the Pleasure Grounds in this timelapse video.

The rangers are also responsible the health and well-being of the wildlife here at Calke, including a flock of rare-breed Portland sheep, and a herd of red and fallow deer. Springtime is lambing season for the Portlands, while autumn sees the rise of the deer rut – both of which are busy times for the rangers.

As well as their day-to-day work looking after the estate, the rangers help to manage larger projects outdoors at Calke. Recent projects include re-introducing a rare butterfly to the estate, and repairing the dry-stone walling around the estate.

A haven for butterflies

In 2018, Calke Abbey embarked on a project to reintroduce a rare butterfly species, the Grizzled Skipper, to the estate, working in partnership with Butterfly Conservation and Natural England. This involved preparing the area for the arrival of the butterflies: removing tree and shrub cover, opening areas of bare soil, and planting wild strawberries for the butterflies to feed from.

The Grizzled Skipper butterfly
Grizzled Skipper Butterfly
The Grizzled Skipper butterfly

Ten adult butterflies were released into vegetated areas in June 2018, with 11 eggs placed in secure conditions, in the hope that they would grow into adults ready to be released into the estate in early 2019. In May 2019, the first butterfly emerged and was released into the estate. Ten more were brought to Calke later in May to increase chances of a successful reintroduction.

In summer, the ranger team have been doing regular butterfly counts, called transects, to record butterfly species and their numbers in certain areas of Calke. The results of the transects are sent to Ken Orpe, the County Butterfly Recorder. This vital work helps us to monitor butterfly species, and ensure that we can maintain a healthy environment for butterflies and other wildlife.

Planting future veteran trees

In the winter of 2018, we planted more than 10,000 new trees in the wider estate as part of a collaboration with Native Forestry, to help expand Calke's existing woodlands and create valuable new habitats.

We planted a mixture of deciduous, native trees such as oak, beech, hornbeam and cherry, as well as hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel. Some of these trees may one day be classed as veteran trees, when they reach a ripe old age!

Over the next few years we plan to plant more trees, using funds raised from the property raffle. Previous raffles have helped us repair the dry stone walling around the estate and purchase a new Tramper, an off-road mobility scooter, to help visitors explore more of Calke.

New tree plantings at Calke Explore
New tree plantings at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire
New tree plantings at Calke Explore

Your visits help to keep Calke’s countryside alive

The upkeep of Calke Park costs £375 every day. Your visits help us to continue this work, so that Calke Abbey and its amazing, inspiring parkland can be enjoyed for generations to come.

If you’re a National Trust member, every time we scan your membership card, Calke Abbey receives a £2.50 member credit. That’s why it’s important to show your card on every visit.

Thank you for helping us to preserve this special place for ever, for everyone.