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Green recovery at Killerton

Two rangers work to plant and protect hedge restoration at Killerton, Devon
Rangers working to plant and protect hedge restoration at Killerton, Devon | © National Trust Images/Fi Hailstone

Set in 2,590 hectares of Devon countryside, the Killerton estate is an important wildlife haven. However, its grounds are threatened by climate change, which is bringing droughts, storms, heatwaves and heavy rainfall. That’s why the National Trust has delivered nine projects across the estate, thanks to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. These projects have created new wildlife habitats, to help prevent flooding and store carbon and water.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund

The government launched the Defra Green Recovery Challenge Fund. It was intended to be a short-term, competitive fund that aimed to kickstart the process of nature recovery, start to address the climate crisis, and help create and retain thousands of green jobs.

The £40 million fund was developed by Defra and its arm’s-length bodies (ALBs), and was distributed and monitored by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. In December 2020, the National Trust secured funding for two successful bids: ‘Historic Landscapes’ and ‘Ancient Woodland and Trees’.

Historic Landscapes and Ancient Woodlands

The National Trust’s ‘Historic Landscapes’ programme was awarded £3.85 million. This kickstarted a huge programme of work to enhance nature and combat the effects of climate change in five of the most significant historic National Trust landscapes, including Killerton.

Meanwhile, our ‘Ancient Woodlands and Trees’ programme also receivied funding. Working with the Woodland Trust, this 15-month programme made a real difference to the condition of the ancient woodlands and ancient and veteran trees on the estates.

Bats, owls, and insects live in the veteran trees and rare species of fungi and flowers grow here. Killerton is also home to more than 30 species of butterfly. The woodlands, riverbanks, protected parkland, and wildflower garden on the estate make it a haven for nature and people.

Rows and rows of newly planted trees as part of a restoration project in the grounds at Killerton, Devon
Woodland restoration planting at Killerton | © National Trust Images / Fi Hailstone

How did this affect Killerton?

Killerton was one of the estates given funding to help it work towards a ‘green recovery’. In fact, Killerton benefited from just over £750,000 of Green Recovery funding and completed nine projects over the last 2 years, to start combatting the effects of climate change that threaten the Killerton estate.

Work at Killerton

Work involved planting trees and hedgerows around the estate, increasing agroforestry to support more sustainable farming. The project also delivered a floodplain restoration pilot along the River Culm to provide a better habitat for wildlife and people to enjoy.

This improved habitat also provides a range of opportunities for people to engage with nature and the wellbeing benefits that brings.

Ancient Woodland and Trees

As part of the ‘Ancient Woodlands and Trees’ programme, the Woodland Trust and the National Trust worked together to restore and manage ancient trees and woodlands across the Killerton estate.

This included thinning and removing invasive and non-native species to increase light levels and support natural regeneration of these precious habitats. Both these projects had the added benefit of supporting the local economy by creating jobs.

Find out more on how we’re making Killerton more resilient to climate change with this video.

Green Recovery work on the Killerton estate

1. Restoring the floodplain on the River Culm

Killerton partnered with Westcountry Rivers Trust to start the process of nature restoration in the floodplain from Ellerhayes Bridge to Columbjohn. A selection of speakers gathered in April 2021 to present the 50-year vision and spoke about the plans to deliver the first phase of works.

You can watch the recording of the Webinar on the Connecting the Culm website.

Two kilometers of floodplain have been restored, providing an environment for nature to thrive.

2. Creating new woods

The project at Killerton has seen nearly 70,000 trees planted over an area approximately the size of 130 football pitches. This included 18 hectares of woodland that has been created across the estate, providing more channels for nature to move across the landscape.

3. Wood pasture

The Trust has worked with graziers to create 40 hectares of wildlife-rich wood pasture.

4. Agroforestry

We’ve established partnerships with growers and created five hectares of agroforestry, which will improve soil health through nature-friendly farming.

5. Replanting lost hedges

Working with the SW Farms and Wildlife Advisory Group, the Trust planted 10km of hedges across the estate over the last two years. This will ensure a hedge network that’s bursting with life.

6. Planting trees for the future

The Killerton team planted 400 open-grown trees into the landscape.

7. Restoring ancient woodland and protecting ancient trees

We've partnered with the Woodland Trust to restore precious ancient woodland across the estate. We've also protected 70 ancient trees by giving them more space to thrive, installing drip line fencing and sensitive halo thinning.

8. Accessing nature

Three kilometers of new track has been laid to improve access to nature on the estate and to facilitate habitat management.

9. Wildflower meadows

A vast 3 hectares of species rich wildflower meadows have been restored or created on the estate.

A view of a fence running through the parkland with the house in the far distance in August at Killerton, Devon
The parkland at Killerton | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

Green Recovery project timeline

July 2023

The Ongoing Green Recovery

The government funded Defra Green Recovery project was intended to be a short-term project to kickstart the process of nature recovery, address the climate crisis and help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The Killerton team have continued to build on the huge programme of work over the last two years, and are now seeing nature take hold. Newly planted wildflower meadows have seen rare butterflies, insects and wildlife return, whilst new species have now been seen across the Killerton estate.

For up to date news on the work that's been done, keep an eye on our social media pages.

A bulbous yellow flower with bright green leaves in a hay meadow with slightly blurred red clover and white daisies in the background.
Yellow rattle | © National Trust Images/Nick Upton
Snowdrops in the grass at Killerton with the chapel in the background


Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

Our partners

Green Recovery Challenge Fund

This project is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Woodland Trust

The UK's largest woodland conservation charity.

Visit website 

Westcountry Rivers Trust

Bringing rivers to life by restoring and protecting the Westcountry’s freshwater environments.

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FWAG South West

Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South West has been supporting fellow farmers, for over 50 years, to value the environmental assets on their land and use them for a sustainable and profitable future.

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Our work at Killerton 

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Volunteering at Killerton 

Killerton relies on more than 400 volunteers to carry out conservation work across its house and estate and is looking for more people to join its friendly and dedicated team.

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Things to do on the estate at Killerton 

Explore the forests, orchards and parkland on the vast estate at Killerton and discover the creatures that live here, from Highland cows and dormice to bats and butterflies.

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Things to do in Killerton House 

Step inside and explore the country house residence of Sir Francis Acland, 14th Baronet, home of the Acland family from the late 17th century. The house is open daily.

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Our cause 

We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.

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Grants and funding 

Find out more about the funding the National Trust receives from grants, and the projects it has helped support.