A week in the life of Dunham Massey’s rangers

No two days are ever the same for the ranger team at Dunham Massey. They can be found feeding the deer, completing tree safety work and even winding the clock in the clock tower. The rangers’ roles revolve around every aspect of habitat and estate management across the 3000 acre estate, from looking after the herd of fallow deer to managing the park- a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Discover what the rangers might get up to in an average week…

Buck bellowing at females during the rut


The first task of the day is feeding the deer. In winter there isn’t enough food growing naturally in the park so we supplement the herd with rolled barley, grown by one of our farmers and deer nuts. When spring arrives we cut down on the amount we feed the deer and when there is enough grass we stop altogether. The Ranger team consists of the Lead Ranger, 3 Rangers, 1 Academy Ranger and 3 Long-Term Volunteers. We often break into groups so that we can complete all the work necessary to maintain the estate. Today, one group removes thick ivy off a shed roof whilst the other group completes important tree safety work.

Blocked drains in the park


After feeding the deer we divide into groups again. One group spends the day clearing blocked land drains in the park and around the estate. For access they run the mill wheel to reduce the water levels in the moat. Wearing waders is a must for this part of the job! The other group complete more tree safety work. One of the rangers takes on the role of tree climber and prunes the damaged branches on the tree whilst the others use a chainsaw to process the brash on the ground.

Fawn taking a drink


Today a deer vet visits Dunham Massey to check the herd. He explains that the deer herd are very well managed by our Lead Ranger and confirms the ginger fawn we have will turn white as he ages. The vet takes some deer faeces for analysis and we will get his report in a few weeks. In the afternoon we complete tasks at the yard ready for our upcoming wood sale. We are working on processing the timber we have collected from our tree safety work. We do this through a combination of chainsawing, handsplitting with an axe and maul and using the log splitter on the tractor.

Chainsaw and tractor in front of timber


We decide to make use of the dry weather to burn our brash pile. We have a burn pile of invasive species that we have cleared and small bits of brash that we can’t use. Whilst one of us starts the fire, another maintains chainsaws in the estate yard. The other members of the team remove a dead Lime tree on the main lawn and transplant a suitable replacement. Later we work on log rail barriers together. We are removing a section of log railing and installing new posts. We use the tractor to pull the old log rail barrier out of the ground and the auger to install the new posts. We manage to get a few positioned but as it is a big job we can’t get finished in just one day.

The mechanism in the clock tower


Every Friday morning we wind the clock in the clock tower before it runs out. There are two parts of the clock to wind and it takes two people working together on each side. The weights on the pendulum are lead and extremely heavy. Once wound, the time must be adjusted because the clock speeds up by a few minutes during the week; this is always a little nerve-wracking because failure to hold the correct lever still whilst you adjust the clock will see the lead weights fall and the clock will break.

Deer sleeping in the park

Other Tasks

Other tasks include managing invasive species and installing fences and hedges. Managing invasive species is something we spend a lot of time on, for example we’ve been replacing non-native cherry laurel hedges with holly as well as removing rhododendron and balsam. The work can be intensive but it is always enjoyable and an important part of protecting this special place for everyone.