30 years of caring for Sherborne Park Estate

Mike Robinson, Area Ranger Mike Robinson Area Ranger
View over Sherborne with poppies

It is now 30 years since Sherborne Park Estate has been cared for by the National Trust. Following the death of Charles Dutton, 7th Lord Sherborne, on Christmas Day 1982 the Estate came into National Trust ownership in March 1987. Mike Robinson, Area Ranger, started working on the Estate while it was owned by Charles Dutton, joined the National Trust and is still an important part of the ranger team today.

I started here as a forester, working for Charles Dutton, Lord Sherborne, as part of a gang of five. We had a sawmill and carpenters and we provided all the timber for carpenters to make door and window frames.

The work was very commercial, nature was not a priority so all the deadwood was cleared up and everything was very tidy.

Small steps

There has been a gradual change over the last 30 years, and it’s still changing now. The Trust took areas out of arable and back to grassland and the work on restoring the watermeadows started.

We work with tenant farmers and partners to restore the health and beauty of the countryside and bring back wildlife. Conifers aren’t planted anymore, wider banks are left either side of the river and some of the limestone grasslands are now enriched wildflower meadows.

Nature corridors

Back in early 90s we linked up a lot of our woodland. We have 70 small woodland blocks and have linked them together with double hedgerows so the bats have a habitat corridor that they can move through, making the whole estate more wildlife friendly. We’re working with farmers and other organisations along the Windrush valley to keep working towards linking habitats for wildlife.

" My two real interests are birds – what started me into wildlife was watching the birds on the garden table as a young child. We now have good raptor populations here, the owls, barn owls, tawny owl, little owls, red kites first breeding site in Gloucestershire in 2013 , sparrow hawks and hobbies. Sometimes it is just fantastic just to watch 600-700 linnets and yellow hammers on a winter stubble field and see the flock just burst up as a sparrow hawk flies over. "
- Mike Robinson, ranger.

Typical day

In a typical day we’re straight in checking e-mails and office work, but at this time of year we’re also out clearing footpaths - we mow with a mini tractor to keep the paths open – we repair fencing and signs, ensuring that people can still enjoying walking and exploring.

In the water meadows we keep the ditches clear. They get shaded and get a lot of leaf litter so we have to keep them open so there are a variety of habitats along the ditch from open sunny areas to more shaded which allows a variety of wildlife to use them. If there is grass the water voles create lawns – they graze the grass down and leave droppings to say ‘it’s my place’ then they use little runs to the next lawn. We just make sure that habitat is there so they can use it.

Future ambition

We’re improving habitats and creating ones again and connecting them up for species to move into. If we managed it correctly, it would be fantastic if something like Duke of Burgundy butterfly came back once more – but we can only create habitats and wait.

And we can get our visitors really interested and understanding the landscape they are walking in. We have forest schools and activities so young people can get involved in the wider landscape and nature and once we’ve shown people they will always have that interest. We hope people having a walk will start to understand the landscape, know the type of habitat and what they can expect to see on their walk.