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Our work in the parkland at Lyme

A ranger scooping up leaves and mud at Lyme Park, Cheshire
A ranger working at Lyme Park, Cheshire | © National Trust Images/John Millar

A huge amount of work goes into caring for a place like Lyme, and the parkland that surrounds the house is no exception. From ongoing conservation work and infrastructure investment to restoration work brought about by flooding and fires, our work in the parkland at Lyme is a round-the-clock job.

Conservation work carried out by rangers and volunteers at Lyme Park is done in line with a Conservation Management Plan, created with the support of National Trust specialists and Natural England.

The plan sets out the best way to care for the long-term future of Lyme’s diverse landscape and the wildlife that live here.

Conservation grazing at Lyme

Part of the work outlined in Lyme’s conservation management plan includes increasing sensitive, low intensity grazing at certain times of year.

The Legh family, who lived at Lyme for nearly 600 years, cleared large areas of woodland to create open spaces for farming including meadows, moorlands and heathlands. While we no longer farm here at Lyme, we do wish to keep these areas open for people to enjoy and for plants and animals to thrive in.

Why conservation grazing matters

We’re now increasing the amount of grazing as surveys of the park have shown that plant diversity has reduced, with single species dominating in some areas. Grazing is the most effective and sustainable way to tackle this and so maintain these areas.

It’s also the most sensitive way of stopping bramble, bracken, coarse grasses and tree saplings returning these areas to woodland.

Highland cattle grazing

Cattle have been re-introduced to the moor, Cluse Hey, Turfhouse Meadow and Caters Slack. The 'fold', as a herd of highland cattle is called, has been steadily growing over the last few years.

These docile animals are perfectly suited to harsh conditions at Lyme during the winter and happily graze outside throughout the year without the need for additional feeding.

The fold move around and graze different areas of the estate at different times of the year. Through the summer they eat and trample the more dominant grass species which gives other more delicate species the opportunity to thrive.

During winter, they eat the dead grass which not only improves the habitat but also reduces the risk of moorland fires in spring.

An unusual job

Aside from eating and trampling the land, these cattle are also important as their dung creates a whole ecosystem of its own. More than 250 species of insects alone are found in or on cattle dung in the UK. These in turn provide food for birds, badgers, foxes and bats.

A Highland cow with large horns looking into the camera at Lyme Park
A Highland cow at Lyme Park, Cheshire | © ©National Trust Images/Nick Garbutt

Sheep grazing

Sheep have been introduced at the Knott and Drinkwater Meadow, where they graze from spring to the end of autumn. The flock leaves Lyme for the winter and returns in the spring when you might spot lambs alongside their mothers.

A herd of sheep help us to maintain the open views across the estate and increase plant diversity. Without the sheep, the pastures wouldn't be full of fungi in autumn.

Please take care

Please keep dogs on very short leads in areas where livestock are grazing. These will have clear signage around the gates. Up-to-date information on where cattle and sheep are being grazed is available from the Estate Office.

Green recovery at Lyme

Protecting heritage and homes from flooding

At Lyme, rangers and volunteers have used natural flood management techniques to slow the flow of water across the estate, helping to mitigate the risk of future floods downstream and protect local communities.

Following a devastating summer flood in 2019 that saw over £250,000-worth of damage caused to Lyme’s estate and Grade II listed gardens, Green Recovery funding has enabled the team to create a total of 166 ‘leaky dams’ across the site that naturally reduce the risk of flooding.

Natural barriers

Using material sourced on site, including coppiced wood from trees in Lyme’s parkland, dams have been laid across streams and gullies that can quickly fill with water during periods of heavy rain, creating natural barriers to slow fast-moving floods.

As well as improving water quality by filtering out sediment, the leaky dams are contributing to the creation of a wet woodland habitat at Lyme. One of the rarest woodland habitats found in the UK, rangers hope Lyme’s new wet woodlands will attract species like willow tits, frogs, and damselflies.

A dam of logs in a wooded area with a muddy pool in front and a slope to the left.
Leaky dams created in the watercourse as part of conservation work at Lyme Park, Cheshire | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Restoring the Lime Avenue ponds

The restoration of the Lime Avenue ponds in 2017 was a long-awaited project to bring back a historic piece of the Lyme landscape.

It was part financed through the fundraising efforts of the ranger team; the remainder was secured through the Higher Level Stewardship.

Turning to the past to restore the present

The pond first shows up on a map in 1740 as one pond and by 1810 was described as a series of pits alongside the margins of Lime Avenue.

In 1909 the ponds were fully restored by Thomas Wodehouse, the 2nd Lord Newton. At this point the lime trees were removed and shrubbery was planted in the hope that it would encourage a duck flight pond as part of the hunting estate.

The 1980s saw the addition of features including a silt trap, a water feature in the dam to reduce stagnation, flagstones to aid visitors and an upper island.

Restoring the ponds

Restoring the ponds involved de-silting and re-instating the original watercourse between two ponds along Lime Avenue.

As the restorations were based on the 1909 map, the process also included the removal of the modifications made in the 1980s.

Purple flowers seen over the lake at Lyme Park, Cheshire
The lake at Lyme Park, Cheshire | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Our ranger team

The Ranger team spent months carefully planning this project, working closely with an archaeologist and a team of ecologists.

Along with the help of our Youth Ranger group, they constructed hibernaculums to provide a refuge for a host of amphibians, including newts.

Lime Avenue today

Before the work started it was possible to walk past the ‘ponds’ and not even realise that they were there. What exists today is a functioning pond system that's as true to its historical form as possible.

Visitors can enjoy their beauty, observe wildlife in and around them, and transport themselves back in time whilst listening to the trickling water.

Now that the project is complete, the ponds have provided better breeding conditions for newts, dragonflies, damselflies and bats.

Looking after the parkland at Lyme

Flash weather events, such as storms, flooding and moorland fires can cause significant damage to the landscape, wildlife and buildings. Aside from their day-to-day work, the rangers also undertake repair works after such events.

Across the parkland more broadly, this could include repairing walls, restoring habitats and removing trees damaged by storms and flooding.

Flooding at Lyme Park 

Regular, long, dry spells followed by heavy downpours has led to increased flooding around Lyme Park, Cheshire, with flooded gardens and water pouring into the property.

A major flood in July 2019 caused significant damage, as the lake overflowed and spread over 25 tonnes of debris across the garden.

Fast-flowing water has also caused dry stone walls to collapse and saturated paths to become unnavigable muddy bogs.

The team is intervening with tree planting on moorlands to hold back the flow of water and reduce flooding risks, as well as managing water leaving the estate to prevent other areas flooding. 

In the case of flood damage in the garden, tasks include removing rubble and debris, dredging lakes to allow nature to thrive and repairing pipes.

An autumnal view of the lake and south front of Lyme Park, Cheshire


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