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Our work at Killerton

A dormouse poking its head out ranger's hands that are carefully holding it during box checks in the woodlands at Killerton, Devon
Dormouse box checks at Killerton | © National Trust Images / Fi Hailstone

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.

Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus)
Barbastelle bat | © National Trust Images/Bat Conservation Trust/Hugh Clark

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

Bat walks

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.

Dormouse nest box in old Hazel coppice at Ashcombe Bottom, South Downs, Sussex
Dormouse nest box in old hazel coppice | © National Trust Images/Laurence Perry


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.

Three-pane window

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.

Stained-glass window

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.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

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.

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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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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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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.

A view across the park to the house in the background at Killerton, Devon

History of Killerton 

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.

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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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