Skip to content

Our work at Cobham Wood and Mausoleum

Highland cow amongst bracken at Cobham Wood, Kent
Highland cow amongst bracken at Cobham Wood | © National Trust Images/Jo Hatcher

Cobham Wood is part of the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Discover the work we’re doing to protect it, what makes the wood so special and how we’re tackling condensation in the historic mausoleum.

Our work restoring wood pasture at Cobham Wood

The team at Cobham Wood is working hard to reinstate 60 hectares of a wood pasture that’s long since declined.

Ancient wood pastures are areas of grazed parkland, with a scattering of mature and veteran trees. They are such a rarity that they’re classed as a priority habitat under the Government’s UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).

What is special about wood pasture?

Only when trees can grow without competition from others can they reach their full potential in both size and age. Open grown veteran trees are especially attractive to insects, bats and birds, who thrive in their sunlit canopies and dead wood.

Why does it need restoring?

For hundreds of years, this site formed part of the Earl of Darnley’s estate at Cobham Hall. As the land was sold off from the mid-1950s, this once vibrant landscape reverted to a scrubby mess.

Mature trees were choked by the infilling of glades, whilst weed growth suppressed the once species-rich pasture.

What are we doing?

We’re felling as much growth as possible between the mature trees, whilst retaining some specimens to be the veterans of the future. A proportion of felled wood is left for habitat, whilst the remainder goes into firewood, which we sell to generate funds.

We stabilise the veteran trees with the occasional surgery, which also encourages sustainable new growth. For the first time in hundreds of years, we’ve started to pollard trees on this site, coppicing them above the ‘browse line’ of deer and cattle to stimulate growth.

The understorey is managed by our ‘fold’ of Highland Cattle. They trample the bracken, and happily feed on bramble and thistle all year round.

How is the reinstatement project going?

Today the wood has a much more open feel, with most veterans no longer having to compete for light and nutrients. Pathways are increasingly irrelevant as trees are thinned and scrub suppressed, with grassy glades replacing brambles.

This is just the start of a dynamic process, which will lead to a sustainable landscape whereby regeneration is moderated by future generations of cattle and deer.

Coffin shelves in the mausoleum at Cobham Woods and Mausoleum, Kent
The lunette arch windows are prone to condensation | © National Trust Images/Jo Hatcher

Our work at Darnley Mausoleum

Following the major restoration of the Mausoleum in 2010, we continue to regularly monitor and maintain the condition of the building.

Recently, condensation had started to build up in the lunette arches again and remedial work was undertaken before any damage could occur.

This was an interesting challenge arising from the question around whether James Wyatt's original design was ever completely worked through. The Mausoleum’s architect, George Dance, was supervising the construction and finer details, but it’s likely that the original windows were probably meant to have air gaps to allow the natural circulation of air to do its job.

Twenty-first century intervention

To allow a proper circulation of air through the dome, we installed ventilation into the outer windows so that alongside continuing to protect the stained-glass, condensation could dry out and further damage could be prevented.

Conservation work at special places such as the Mausoleum is never quite complete.

Thank you

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

Blue tit in December near Bradworthy, Devon


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

You might also be interested in

Two women walking along a footpath surrounded by bare trees in winter.

Things to see and do at Cobham Wood 

Discover Britain's 'wild wood' past through 190 acres of historic wood pasture and views of the Kent countryside at Cobham Wood.

View of the eighteenth-century mausoleum framed by bare winter trees at Cobham Wood, Kent

The history of the Darnley Mausoleum 

When the vaults in Westminster Abbey became full, the Earl of Darnley commissioned a family mausoleum, but it has never been used for its intended purpose.

Ranger in National Trust fleece inspecting white blossom on tree in orchard

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.

A group of hikers climb a path through woodland towards the camera

For everyone, for ever: our strategy to 2025 

Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.