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. This year, we’ve re-introduced a rare butterfly to the estate, and we’re continuing a project to repair the dry-stone walling. You can read more about these projects below.

A haven for butterflies

This year, 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, with 11 eggs placed in secure conditions, where they will grow into adults and be released into the Calke Estate next year. We’ll have some idea of how successful the reintroduction has been in the summer.

In the meantime, the rangers 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.

You’re helping to keep historic walls standing

There are over 4km of dry stone walling around the Calke Estate, and it costs £250 to repair just one metre. Over the last two years, you’ve helped us to raise nearly £25,000 by supporting the property raffle. Every penny of the money raised goes towards the upkeep and repair of this historic walling.

The dry stone walling formed part of the historic boundary to the old deer park and as such, is an important part of the fabric of Calke. The walls still serve the purpose of keeping the sheep and cattle where they should be.

We’re currently repairing sections of the wall that are in need of some attention. To form a solid structure, mortar is used in the centre of the walls and the face of the stonework isn’t pointed. This makes it look ‘dry’, and is in-keeping with the remaining walls, where the original lime mortar has weathered away and left open joints between the stones. Thanks you for supporting this important work.

It's thanks to your support that we can repair the dry stone walls
A builder repairing the dry stone walls at Calke Abbey in Derbsyhire
It's thanks to your support that we can repair the dry stone walls

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.