Land returns to Oxburgh estate

View of Oxburgh Hall from the historic parkland

Land that was once part of the parkland surrounding the historic Oxburgh Hall has been returned to the estate.

Thanks to funding from Natural England, Historic England and the generosity of National Trust members and supporters, an exciting ten-year restoration project is now underway which will see part of the Grade 2 listed landscape restored to a species rich, native wood pasture to attract more wildlife and increase biodiversity.

The historic estate at Oxburgh Hall once stretched over nearly 3,000 acres including arable farmland, villages and over 400 acres of parkland habitat. By the time Oxburgh Hall was saved from demolition in 1951 and given to the National Trust, much of its vast estate had been sold off. But in 2017 we were able to acquire 125 acres and today work is underway to restore 175 acres of the original 400 acres of historic parkland habitat.

The land, which was used for arable farming for over 70 years, has been left fallow while we conducted research. Using an Ordnance Survey map from 1904, the team have been able to research how the landscape looked when it was at its peak. Fortunately, we have the 1951 sales details for the trees sold at auction (to be cut for timber) and we’re using this to identify the individual locations and suitable species of trees for re-planting today.  

Wood pasture and parkland is a rare and threatened habitat, in decline since the 1950s due to the repurposing of land to help feed the nation after World War II. Although we’re moving to a type of farming which is more aligned with creating woodland pasture, we’ve received incredible support from our neighbouring farms, the former land owners, tenant graziers and our partners to restore this rare and vital landscape.

Ancient trees sit alongside the new parkland
Ancient trees look out towards the new parkland
Ancient trees sit alongside the new parkland

Now the first phase of the project is underway to restore this landscape. 227 specimen trees including Oak, White Willow and rare Black Poplar will be planted over the next two years to help re-create the look of the original parkland and will grow alongside the ten ancient trees that remain in the landscape. We will also be recreating ponds and planting areas of scrub and lowland meadows to create a resilient habitat that will endure for centuries to come.

We’ll be opening up access so that visitors can explore the wider estate. Look out for new pathways when you visit and speak to our friendly Welcome Team who will be happy to let you know where you can explore.

" It’s humbling and a privilege to be part of a restoration which will still be in its infancy in my lifetime, knowing it will benefit people and nature for centuries to come."
- Russell Clement, General Manager

How the project will benefit nature

Barbastelle bat

Bats and moths

The parkland project will benefit a range of wildlife, from deadwood-loving insects such as the nationally scarce Hornet Moth to woodland birds such as the lesser spotted woodpecker. Once fully matured, the wood pasture will also create new roosting sites for bats such as the brown long-eared and barbastelle.

A bee sits on a knapweed flower

Wildflowers and soil

Less intensive management means soil health will be improved. Wildflowers including bird’s foot trefoil and knapweed will start to appear to benefit invertebrates. As the parkland matures, the soil’s fungal networks will recover which is when rarer species, such as orchids, will begin to reappear.

A common blue butterfly

Butterflies and birds

Wood pasture is the closest habitat type to the landscape that is thought to have once covered most of Britain. It makes the perfect home for a variety of butterfly species from brimstones to common blues, plus many species of native and migratory birds including meadow pipit, spotted flycatcher & garden warbler.

" We’re really excited to get started. This project will root Oxburgh Hall back in the landscape once more, bringing back the feel of the 19th century parkland and creating new habitats supporting a rich and diverse range of wildlife."
- Tom Day, Area Ranger