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Our work at Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood

A National Trust ranger felling trees with a chainsaw at Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood, Essex
A ranger felling trees at Danbury Commons | © National Trust Images/David Piper

The team of staff and volunteers work all year round to conserve the landscape at Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood for visitors and wildlife alike. Discover some of the tasks we carry out throughout the year, from restoring the precious heathland to counting dormice.

Wildlife adaptation

Although the landscape looks wild and natural here, the Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood are highly managed habitats. People have grazed their animals for wool, meat and milk on the commons and in the woodlands for centuries. Timber was harvested for building houses, war ships, hurdle fences and other crucial everyday items.

The habitats that are present on these sites have been shaped by humans. Wildlife and plants have learned to adapt to our interaction and seasonal harvesting. The three main habitats we work to maintain and restore are lowland heath, ancient coppice woodland and ponds.

Heathland restoration

Lowland heath is a rare and important habitat in the UK. At Danbury we've been working tirelessly to restore this precious heathland. On Danbury Commons we can’t manage the land by grazing as the common rights prohibit fencing sections for livestock, so we use tractors instead.

Storm clouds over Danbury Common, Essex
Storm clouds over Danbury Common | © National Trust Images/Justin Minns

Living Landscapes

Essex rangers have been working in partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust, other local landowners and volunteers as part of Danbury Ridge Living Landscape.

The idea is for partners to work together using their common conservation goals to manage the area for wildlife on a landscape-based scale. This means we can work towards connecting fragmented habitats and restore large areas where wildlife can thrive.

We’ve managed scrub for nightingales, helped to restore local wildlife meadows and planted a hedge which is now acting as a wildlife corridor at Pheasant House Farm.


In centuries past, traditionally coppicing trees (cutting the trunks just above ground level) would have been a common practice in winter to allow for plentiful regrowth in the spring. The idea is to leave the stems to grow back for different lengths of time depending on what the wood is to be used for. We coppice trees for firewood, thatching spars, hurdle fencing and fence posts, among other things.

Creating ponds

At Danbury Common, we create and manage the ponds to provide a great habitat for a wide range of wildlife such as newts, frogs and grass snakes. They also make the perfect nursery for dragonfly larvae.

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

Protecting dormice

Nationally, Britain’s dormice are struggling but the woods at Danbury are the dormice's ideal habitat. Coppiced hornbeam trees in the woods have helped to create the perfect home for these rare mammals.

In addition to the ongoing conservation work we carry out to manage the woodlands at Danbury, we've installed 50 dormouse nesting boxes. The boxes were made and donated by Friends of Langdon Hill and funded by local National Trust supporters.

Dormouse monitoring

Rangers and volunteers regularly carry out surveys to monitor dormice from May to November, with the help of licensed handlers from the Essex and Suffolk Dormouse Group. Dormice are a legally protected species and can only be handled under licence from Natural England.

Thank you

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

Wildflowers in June at Godolphin, Cornwall


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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