A new vision for the woodland

woodland, photo

Radical change came in the early 20th century when Geoffrey Wolryche-Whitmore took over the running of the estate. Having studied the latest methods of forestry management in Germany, his pioneering work saved the estate from economic ruin.

Geoffrey’s interest in trees included ornamental planting. He was among the first in England to grow the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) from seed collected in 1948 after its rediscovery in China. His forestry use of different conifers, such as Douglas fir and Corsican pine, was pioneering (the government’s Forestry Commission was only established in 1919) and he became recognised as one of the country’s leading experts.

It was the planting and harvesting of fast-growing trees that helped Dudmaston to survive during the long agricultural depression. At the 1951 Festival of Britain, a model of Dudmaston was chosen to demonstrate an estate with integrated farming and forestry. Geoffrey was President of the Royal Forestry Society in 1944–6  and received several of the society’s medals, including one of their first Gold Medals, in 1961.

Geoffrey planted fast-growing conifers on the light sandy soil north and west of Comer Wood, where the agricultural land was of poor quality, and mixed them with broadleaf trees on the heavier soil around the pools and in Comer Wood. Though Geoffrey's work succeeded financially, some of the new and expanded plantings concealed the earlier history of the landscape. Today, the Ranger team is working to recover some of the lost views in the Pleasure Grounds and reverse the effects of this planting.