Working towards a healthier woodland at Seaton Delaval Hall

The landscape at Seaton Delaval Hall

As part of the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project to conserve Seaton Delaval Hall for future generations to enjoy, we’re undertaking woodland management works to improve the health of the landscape and restore lost elements of the eighteenth century design.

The woodland at Seaton Delaval Hall

We’ve been looking after over 400 acres of land here at Seaton Delaval Hall since 2009. Our management plan helps us to plan what work we need to do to keep the woodland healthy and beautiful.

As a conservation charity one of our main aims is to encourage wildlife and nature to flourish. The woodland at Seaton Delaval Hall is an important place for wildlife, but has become overcrowded over time.

These trees have started to block the light from reaching the woodland floor and have stopped plants and flowers from growing beneath them. The lack of ground vegetation is a problem for insects and birds, and also prevents new native trees from growing. 

" Managing the woodland to improve light levels on the woodland floor allows the habitat to recover, encouraging natural regeneration of woodland plants and creating lighter conditions for young trees to grow which will improve wildlife in these areas. "
- Corey Higham, Property Landscape Manager

A well-balanced wood has trees of all ages. Without felling and replacement planting, the existing trees would eventually reach maturity and begin to die back. Planting new trees now ensures that when this happens there is a natural order with other trees growing to take their place, and newly cleared areas are good for young trees.

What we’re doing this year

This winter we started work to selectively fell approximately 750 trees across several areas of woodland. The work has been completed by carefully chosen contractors who’ve worked with our ecologists to inspect each tree for signs of wildlife habitation before work started. We’ve also made sure that it all happened before nesting season and retained the trees containing essential food for the birds and wildlife that live at Seaton Delaval Hall.

The trees which have been felled or thinned were selected following a full tree survey which identified ones that were in poor health or had reached maturity and were contributing to overcrowding of the woodland floor.

We’ll be replacing the felled trees with a combination of field maple, alder, birch, hornbeam, hazel, hawthorn, beech, holly, bird cherry, oak, willow, mountain ash, whitebeam and lime. 

In total we’ll be replanting over 1,270 new trees. Although this seems like a lot, plantations are initially planted densely to allow for natural losses, and to provide shelter for the growing trees. As the trees mature they’ll be thinned out through ongoing management to allow the best specimens to reach maturity.

When you visit it’ll look very different to what you’ve been used to, but we hope that you’ll enjoy watching the new landscape take shape, grow and evolve over the years, just as Vanbrugh intended. 

Restoring the landscape

As well as helping to protect woodland habitats at Seaton Delaval Hall, the woodland management works help us maintain a visually beautiful estate, protecting the Hall’s cultural heritage and improving our visitor’s experience across the site. 

The landscape of Seaton Delaval Hall has changed several times in its history. The landscape as we see it today has evolved a long way from its eighteenth century design. 

The replanting scheme for new trees has been inspired by the historic 1781 estate plan and will restore elements of the eighteenth century landscape that have been lost over time, such as opening up hidden paths and views to and from the hall, which architect Sir John Vanbrugh intended. Restoring this design will allow our visitors to experience Seaton Delaval Hall and the surrounding landscape in a new, yet old, way.