Our work at Killerton
With garden, parkland, historic buildings and ancient woodland, the vast estate at Killerton is home to creatures great and small. Some of these creatures, such as bats and dormice, need a little extra help being protected than others and that’s where Killerton’s team of rangers and volunteers step in. There are bat boxes and dormice boxes across the estate, which are monitored to see how well these special animals are thriving.
The Acland Chapel at Killerton
This year has seen a large scale conservation project on the Acland Chapel, in the heart of the estate, The team at Killerton are working hard to raise funds to ensure this maginificent Grade I building will still be standing in the future for everyone to enjoy. You can keep up to date with the conservation work as repairs progress by visting our project page.
Monitoring bats at Killerton
A team of expert volunteers are discovering more about the bats that live on the Killerton estate. The rangers work with Devon Bat Group to undertake bat monitoring across the estate.
A special team of bat volunteers also keep tabs on which species of bat call the woodlands, farmhouses and barns of Killerton home.
Bats in Ashclyst Forest
Ashclyst Forest is the largest woodland on the Killerton estate and the team regularly check more than 60 bat boxes a month in Ashclyst alone. They also monitor bat roosts around Killerton house, garden and parkland, as well as tenant farms and other buildings that might be inhabited by bat species.
Why Killerton loves bats
Bats are a sign of a green and healthy environment so the bats love Killerton as much as the team love the bats. The volunteers’ efforts on bat monitoring across the estate tell us which bats live here, how they use the estate’s habitats and the health of their populations.
Killerton is home to three particularly exciting species for Devon: lesser horseshoe, greater horseshoe and barbastelle.
'Through the team’s monitoring we have so far recorded 11 of the UK’s 17 breeding bat species at Killerton, making the estate a hugely important site for bats in the South West’
- Sarah Butcher, Devon Bat Group
Keep checking back for information on bat walks that Sarah runs at Killerton in summer and early autumn.
Dormice Monitoring Programme
There’s a healthy population of dormice at Killerton and the rangers are working hard to ensure that our furry neighbours can thrive. Like bats, dormice are a good indicator of a healthy woodland habitat.
There are 100 dormouse nest boxes across the estate, which help the team monitor the resident dormice.
Surveying the boxes
The boxes are surveyed once a month between April and October when the mice are active. We’re lucky to have some lovely hazel coppice stands around the estate, which are great places to look for evidence of dormice.
While surveying the boxes, rangers will check the dormice, weigh them, sex them and take photos before returning them to the box, all without waking them.
Improving dormice habitat
Dormice like to be high among the tree branches, rarely coming to the ground, so the team at Killerton ensure that there are connecting branches high up. This means the dormice can move around on their treetop canopies during their nocturnal activities.
The small rodents also prefer ancient woodland and hedgerows – loss of this habitat is partly the cause for their declining numbers. So, here at Killerton, we’re looking after the hedgerows and ancient woodland to protect their home.
We also make sure the woodlands and hedgerows all connect, so dormice populations don’t become isolated.
Killerton’s rangers use the traditional forestry technique of coppicing, which essentially means cutting back plants and letting them regrow. This cycle increases woodland biodiversity, because it allows more light to reach the woodland floor and other species to grow.
Many of these plants that grow are food sources for butterflies and other insects. These, in turn, provide food for birds, bats and mammals such as the dormouse.
The team at Killerton also use the traditional rural skill of hedge-laying to ensure the hedges are free from gaps, dense in structure and stock-proof. These then provide great food supplies and habitat for the dormice.
Restoring the Bear’s hut
The Bear’s hut in Killerton’s garden was originally built in 1808 as a summerhouse for Lady Lydia. While this historic hut has stood the test of time, it needs care and attention to keep it in great condition.
It was rethatched in early 2019 and then went through substantial conservation work throughout 2021.
Repairs to the interior
The original floor of the Bear's hut is made from sliced logs. Spring of 2023 saw considerable damage in this area but we're pleased to report that the floor has now been repaired.
Basket weave seat
In spring 2021, the high-backed seat inside the hut was repaired by a specialist weaver using willow. Any parts of the weave that were damaged have now been replaced, meaning it’s a comfy seat once again.
The three-pane, clear glass window in the hut has also been repaired and refitted by Holy Well Glass, a specialist Wells-based company. The beautiful original glass now reflects like a mirror.
Coloured putty has helped blend the fitting into the surrounding wood, so it looks like it’s always been there.
The stained-glass window in the Bear’s hut was removed in early 2020 and replaced temporarily with clear glass. The glass was cleaned, repaired and refitted by Holy Well Glass.
Environmental protective glazing is also in place, allowing the glass to have an extra level of protection. This will keep the stained glass cleaner and protected from the elements.
In the heart of Broadclyst Village, lies another example of conservation work inside Markers Cottage. This thatched house was built in about 1450, and the walls are made of cob. It is named after Sarah Marker, who lived there about 200 years ago. The internal space was subdivided into a hall and parlour by a plank-and-mutin screen which is now of historical significance. Markers Cottage is closed to the public and privately tenanted, but to allow visitors to still see the interior, the Killerton team commisioned a virtual tour.
Click here to see the 3D tour of the cottage.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Get into the festive feeling and enjoy the Christmas decorations on ground floor of 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.
Killerton’s estate is an important wildlife haven, but is threatened by climate change. Thanks to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, projects have been completed to protect its grounds.
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.
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.
The Aclands lived at Killerton for almost 300 years and in that time they renovated the house into a Georgian mansion and transformed the garden and estate with exotic plants.
Discover what to see and do in Killerton's diverse garden. There’s plenty of space for walks and adventure at this country estate near Exeter.
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.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.