A look back at lock-down with the Rangers

Matthew Bevan, Ranger Matthew Bevan Ranger
Firewood in bags Ickworth

Things have been different for the Ranger team at Ickworth over the past few months, and the parkland and woods have been cared for by a smaller team.

One of the last jobs we undertook in March before lockdown was erecting the fencing around the coppice block we had been working on over the winter, to stop Deer getting in and nibbling off the reshooting Hazel. This is usually a significant marker in our year anyway as we look towards our spring and summer work, however this year it was also the start of a complete shift in the way of working for the team. We should’ve been starting to process firewood for offsite sales, mill some of the timber we had felled for the Wood Fair, as well as undertake general repairs to gates, boardwalks, fences and begin to mow and strim main visitor areas. 

During lock-down only two members of the Ranger team were working to mainly perform security and safety checks, alongside enhanced cleaning regimes. All cottages, boundary gates and yards were checked, as well as ensuring no one was using the site when it was completely closed to visitors. Topping up the biomass was also essential and the dry spell over May and June prompted some emergency watering of the parkland trees planted last winter. Timber was extracted when time allowed, as this is a job that can only be done over the dry summer months, some of which has since been sold in the round in the absence of doing a Wood Fair this year.

Whilst wildlife was becoming braver and popping up in places usually filled with people, it was nice to see visitors back when the gates reopened. On travelling around the site, it is great to see so many people, families especially, enjoying the new Multi-Use trail and accessing the furthest parts of the estate.

These Silver Washed Fritillaries have been spotted at Ickworth
Silver Washed Fritillaries Butterfly Ickworth
These Silver Washed Fritillaries have been spotted at Ickworth

Coming back it was great to see everything in abundance, especially butterflies including many Silver Washed Fritillaries over the last month. One of the major parts of our work since then has been surveying all the gardens, properties and waymarked routes for Ash with signs of Chalara/Dieback. All trees with over 50% canopy loss have been marked down with results due to be collected regionally and work then planned in accordingly depending on the scale.

Being in the East and with large amounts of Ash, this is something which has affected us severely, and when going round your walks you will notice many trees with pink spray marks which are due to have work done. With more people on site, paths, car parks and waymarkers have been mown and strimmed, and we have carried on extracting timber from the woods.

What are we doing next?

The coming months, we will continue with the upkeep of presentation and keeping paths cut back, and we will be mowing the woodland rides and glades before starting our annual Tree Safety Management Surveys in the autumn.