Caring for the Sutton Hoo landscape

Walks in woodland at Sutton Hoo

Our dedicated Ranger, Jonathan Plews, has ambitious plans to ensure that Sutton Hoo not only plays a key role in protecting some of the UK’s most important history, but also its rarest species.

Winding back the clock

Our plans to improve the woodland at Sutton Hoo for wildlife have a foot firmly in the past. We’re gradually returning the Scots Pine plantations back to mixed deciduous woodland, by thinning the pines and planting native tree species such as oak, silver birch, beech, sweet chestnut and hazel. This will create more space to support greater numbers of our existing woodland wildlife and, we’re hoping, see a return of species lost from this area in recent years, such as the melodious woodlark.

Ancient woodland at Sutton Hoo
Ancient woodland at Sutton Hoo
Ancient woodland at Sutton Hoo

Borrowing from the past 

We’re harking back to Anglo-Saxon land management techniques within our existing deciduous woodlands, Home Wood and Wiffen Wood, as we employ the ancient technique of coppicing. By continually cutting young tree stems down, we’ll be creating a rich natural environment below the tree canopy, called the ‘understory’, allowing a new generation of saplings to grow alongside plants such as holly, hazel and hawthorn. This new layer of vegetation will provide the perfect breeding ground for song birds and invertebrates.

Reawakening an ancient landscape

By felling small areas of trees we’re creating glades within our new deciduous woodlands. Glades are a great conservation tool - a well managed glade can support the largest number of species over the smallest area of land. With scrubby edges, and patches of short and long grass, our glades will provide micro-habitats within the wider woodland area that will allow birds, plants and mammals to thrive.

Much like Sutton Hoo’s buried treasure, the true magic of our glades will be watching seeds and pods long buried come back to life after many years lying dormant. We’ll have to be patient, as this process can take decades, but we’re looking forward to seeing which of our little sleeping beauties make it back to the surface to thrive once again.

Parasol fungi at Sutton Hoo
Parasol fungi at Sutton Hoo
Parasol fungi at Sutton Hoo

Improving the health of our heath

Much of the remaining heathland at Sutton Hoo has become overgrown with bracken through the years. In order to increase the amount of rare lowland acid grassland, which is a valuable part of the heathland mix, we’ll be starting a new programme of bracken control in the valley and across areas of rabbit field on the estate.

Removing bracken and bramble will revive this wildlife rich habitat, encouraging rarer plants such as viper's bugloss, cudweed and sand spurry as well as insects including groundhoppers, brown argus butterflies and red-banded sand-wasps to flourish. We’ll continue to protect this scarce habitat by ensuring that the acid grasslands at Sutton Hoo are lightly grazed by rare-breed sheep.

We’ll see species returning to our new areas of acid grassland in waves, some appearing within a year or so, and many more following in the years that follow. 

A whitethroat at Sutton Hoo
A whitethroat at Sutton Hoo
A whitethroat at Sutton Hoo

Working together for wildlife

The National Trust is a proud member of the Deben Estuary Partnership. As part of this commitment, we’re involved in an ongoing project with our friends and neighbours to encourage the spread of wildlife rich salt marsh in the intertidal areas of the estuary. Together, we’re helping rare wild birds and flowers to continue to prosper here.