Clearing historic vistas at Osterley Park and House

One of Robert Adam's original vistas of the House across Middle Lake

Over the past year our ranger team have been hard at work restoring the historic vistas that formed part of Robert Adam's original design. We sat down with our Lead Ranger Jeremy Dalton to find out more about the work that's been going on.

Restored vista on the Long Walk
View of the back of Osterley house from the play trail
Restored vista on the Long Walk

What is your role and how long have you been with the Trust?

My job title is ‘Lead Ranger’, this means I manage the team responsible for the general upkeep and improvements to the wider estate at Osterley Park and House. I have been in this role for the last 10 years.

What work has been going on over the winter to clear the vistas?

The ranger team have been removing some sections of broken fencing, some scrubby field boundaries and selectively felling some of the Alders along the edge of our larger lake to recreate the 18th century vista of Osterley House from Osterley Lane.

9 acre in 2016 before the vista clearing work began
View of 9 acre in 2016
9 acre in 2016 before the vista clearing work began

How long have you been planning this work and what was involved?

This is the last part of a 3 year plan to restore all designed vistas of the house from various points on the estate including the Long Walk and two locations on Osterley Lane.  We have had to notify the council regarding the felling of some trees in a conservation area, budget for works where contractors have been needed, and plan the work around sensitive times for wildlife such as avoiding nesting season. The project has provided great opportunities for our ranger volunteers to get involved with a landscape restoration project.

Why is work like this important, both for the environment and the history of the place?

Osterley Lane was the original entrance to the estate in the 18th century, over time the views of the mansion from this side of the estate had become obscured.  It was possible to walk the entire length of Osterley Lane and be unaware of the mansion house.  By restoring the vistas we have linked the house back to the estate, showing it off it it’s context as imagined by Robert Adam.  By removing selected trees from the lake edge we are also promoting the growth of marginal aquatic plants and diversifying the flora on the estate.  This vista restoration work has also tied in nicely with the improvements to pathways around the parkland, these two project working alongside each other to improve the presentation and feel of the wider estate.

9 acre in 2018, with most of the vista clearing complete
View of 9 acre in 2018
9 acre in 2018, with most of the vista clearing complete

What are the next stages for this work?

We have a few more Alder trees to fell this year – we are only losing a small percentage of the tree line along the lake edge, this will benefit wildlife by creating a more varied marginal habitat with varying stages of tree growth, coppice stools and more herbaceous growth along the lake edge.  The timber from these trees has been used to re-design the car park, woodchip and mark out a new path in the American garden, mulch all of our newly planted trees, and provide timber for log sales.

What is your favourite thing about Osterley Park and House in the spring?

Seeing the ‘flowering of Osterley’ begin – from Hazel catkins to bluebells in the meadows through to the formal gardens.  I enjoy seeing how our grassland management is improving the wildflower cover in the Great Meadow, more bedstraws and knapweeds in particular.