A chat with Simon Nicholas

Countryside Manager, Sherborne Park Estate

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Simon Nicholas - Countryside Manager

Previously a Ranger at Dovedale in the Peak District, Simon now works as Countryside Manager on the Sherborne Park Estate. Read on to find about more about his work, and what he loves about this special part of the Cotswolds.

Simon Nicholas working on a drystone wall

What is so special about Sherborne Park for you?

My first sight of Sherborne Parkwas when I was driving through the village for my interview. I caught a beautiful view of the park: the lake, the veteran oak trees and the historic green parkland. It’s an idyllic Cotswolds landscape.

Before I came to Sherborne I worked in the Peak District – an area that was dripping in designations. Sherborne Park has nothing like that: we’re not in a National Park and it’s not a Site of Special Scientific Interest. But we’ve got plenty of wildlife here: otters, water voles and farmland birds like yellowhammers and linnets.

Sherborne Park is home to many species of wildlife
Rolling fields on the Sherborne Park Estate
Sherborne Park is home to many species of wildlife

What makes the estate so good for farmland birds and other wildlife?

The variety of habitats makes it suitable for lots of different species.  The mix of grassland, parkland, arable land, woodland and watercourses provides habitats for an abundance of invertebrates, small mammals and aquatic life.  These, in turn support predators from otters to red kites, barn owls to stoats and flocks of farmland birds. 

Farmers contribute through wildlife-friendly measures such as leaving uncropped arable field margins and supplementary feeding with wild bird seed.

We’ve put owl next boxes around the estate. Barn owls are doing well here, which suggests that there are plenty of voles for them to eat. Management work on the river - with the help of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust – has also had benefits for otters and water voles.

How did your career as a Ranger begin?

I started as an 18-year-old trainee National Trust warden at the Ebworth Estate, near Stroud. Working in South Gloucestershire opened my eyes to the conservation issues at home:  previously, conservation to me had been more about wales and dolphins, rhinos and tigers.

Otters are thriving at Sherborne Park thanks to habitat management work.
Otter
Otters are thriving at Sherborne Park thanks to habitat management work.

What’s the best thing about your job?

That would have to be the pleasure of working in such a beautiful and varied place.  Watching the landscape and the wildlife change through the seasons reminds me that there is always something going on, and that makes me feel so lucky to work here.

And the more difficult parts?

Working in the countryside, you get to see the result of things like rubbish being left or wildlife habitats being lost. Nature is a central part of all our lives as it gives us clean water, food and a place to escape and breathe fresh air. It's important that we look after it.

You’ve got two daughters – what do they make of their Dad’s job?

They love it – especially if they come to work and get to ride in the 4x4. They really like being outdoors and learning the names of flowers and birds, although they’re not too fond of the wind.