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Exploring the estate at Belton

Frosty view from the South Drive towards Belton House with sheep grazing
Explore 1,300 acres of parkland this winter at Belton, Lincolnshire | © National Trust/Graeme Reynolds

With 1,300 acres of parkland surrounding Belton House, there's plenty to explore beyond the garden, including wildlife-rich open grassland, the River Witham and ancient woodland. The deer can be easily seen on walks across the parkland, with plenty of opportunity for some great photos.

Woodpecker Trail!

Visit Belton this February Half Term and discover the resident Woodpeckers that call Belton home on our Woodpecker trail through the parkland.

Enjoy a winter wander through the parkland on this trail and see if you can see or hear our feathered friends, while learning more about them.

The parkland is currently very wet and muddy, so please wear appropriate footwear!

Winter highlights in the Belton parkland

The trees are bare, the nights have drawn in, and on first impression, it can seem like a barren time of year. But Belton’s parkland is still bursting with life if you know where to look, and a walk on the wild side can really lift the spirits.

Winter wildlife

Read on for a taster of what you might see on a winter stroll, then pull on your boots and let us know what we can add to our list here at Belton. Dogs on short leads welcome.

Deer

Belton’s historic herd of fallow deer attracts many visitors during the rutting season (October and November), but once the rut is over and the herd enters a more relaxed time of the year, winter can offer the opportunity of closer views of these magnificent animals.

Once the year’s fawns are relatively independent, and the testosterone-fuelled battles of the autumn have died down, small groups of bucks, or mixed groups of bucks and does, can be seen grazing in front of the house, along the South Avenue, or below Old Wood. A circuit of our three-mile Parkland Walk takes in many of the likely areas to see the deer, and much of the other wildlife at Belton too.

The deer herd at Belton in the frosty parkland
Belton has an historic herd of fallow deer | © National Trust

Birds

Winter is a great time to get to know your local birdlife. While it might not harbour the rousing dawn choruses of springtime, there are plenty of interesting winter visitors to be seen. Now is the time to grab your binoculars and get a good view of them in the trees before the leaves obscure them again in spring.

Wintertime brings spectacular displays of roosting birds – starling murmurations are perhaps the most well-known example (look out for one over Grantham itself) – but plenty of other birds roost en masse too. The rooks that congregate on the East Avenue both look and sound impressive, and you certainly can’t miss the noise they make if you’re walking that way in the gloaming.

A Starling murmuration flying at sunset in the sky above Rough Tor
Starling murmuration | © National Trust Images/Mel Peters

At dusk, you may hear tawny owls calling in the woodlands. Possibly one of the most recognisable bird calls, the classic ‘twit-twoo’ is actually made up of two tawnies calling to each other; the female call ‘ke-wick’ answered by the male ‘hoo-hoo-oo’. Tawny owls establish and defend their home ranges during the winter months, prior to breeding in the spring. As very territorial birds, the winter is a particularly vocal time of year for them!

With the Towthorpe Ponds in the parkland and the Tar Lane ponds in the Gardens, Belton is an excellent place to have a look for winter wildfowl visiting the UK. Ducks, swans and geese are familiar winter visitors to the ponds and are often in their brightest plumage now.

Keep an eye out for Old Nog (the grey Heron) braced against the water rushing through the sluice gate near the entrance to the estate, keeping still as a statue waiting for a passing snack. You may also spot the flash of blue and hi-pitched call that heralds the appearance of a kingfisher.

Flocks of redwing and fieldfares can be seen feeding in hedgerows and across the parkland throughout the winter, and redpolls, bramblings and siskins have all been recorded at Belton in recent years.

Life on the river

Although highly elusive and difficult to see, both otter and water vole are active all year round in the stretch of the River Witham that runs through the Belton Estate. While you might not be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the animals themselves, you are more likely to see their tracks and signs in the wintertime.

Water vole ‘latrines’ of tic-tac sized green droppings are another good sign of a healthy and active population. Neither animal hibernates, but the water voles spend more time in their burrows during the cold months, making them more difficult to spot.

Fungi growing on the woodland floor next to a fallen tree trunk
Fungi display in the park's grasslands | © National Trust Images/David Goacher

Fungi

Fungi are present in the ground and on and around trees throughout the year, but their fruiting bodies are at their best in the autumn. Depending on the weather conditions, impressive displays of colourful grassland fungi, such as waxcaps and corals, can be seen in the park's grasslands well into the winter months too. And many fungi associated with trees and woodland will continue to fruit even once the weather has turned cold.

With so many veteran trees around the estate and several hundred acres of grassland to explore, there’ll always be some interesting fungi to spot, even if the weather has driven most of the other wildlife undercover.

The deer herd at Belton in the frosty parkland

Discover more at Belton

Find out everything you need to know about visiting Belton, including how to get here, things to see and do on your visit, and more.

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