Our work at Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
With resident nightingales and adders, Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood offer a diverse wildlife environment. Why not try a geocache GPS trail with the family to discover it all?
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.