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Our work at Belton

Book conservation volunteer in action mending a historic book at Belton House, Lincolnshire
Book conservation volunteer at Belton House, Lincolnshire | © National Trust Images/Anastasia Stratigou

Conservation work at Belton preserves over 400 years of history and the impressive parkland and gardens, while uncovering new stories from the past. Staff and volunteers preserve vital historic artefacts and maintain the grounds to make every visit to Belton special.

Preserving the book collection

One of the ongoing projects is preserving the very special book collection in the Library. Belton House has one of the largest libraries (over 20,000 books) in the care of the National Trust and contains many rare and important books.

The collection isn’t just located in the Library and Study; the attic rooms are also packed full of more volumes, all of which require the same conservation attention as the books on display.

Our work with the books

Sometimes this can mean sending books away to specialist conservators, but we do a lot of the work here at Belton with our specially trained team of volunteers. While the house is closed, the team work their way around the library shelves, cleaning, examining and recording the details of each inspected book. Book conservation is a year-round task, often complicated by unexpected finds.

Belton’s second-hand bookshop helps raise funds to support our conservation work and keep the collection special. Located in the stable yard, the bookshop has a huge range of preloved books to add to your own collection.

Grey heron by the river
Grey heron by the river | © National Trust Images/Derek Hatton

Blue Green Corridor Project

As part of the National Trust's ambition to play our part in restoring a healthy, beautiful, natural environment, we're working in partnership with South Kesteven District Council, North Kesteven District Council and the Environment Agency as part of the Blue Green Corridor project.

With support from the European Regional Development Fund, we're rejuvenating this section of the River Witham to benefit wetland biodiversity and improve the connection with its floodplain.

We're working to slow the river's flow by reconnecting the river to its original floodplain. This will also improve conditions for wildlife that live along the river corridor, such as water vole and white-clawed crayfish, as well as otters and the resident bat population.

A wetland habitat has been restored next to the River Witham on the Belton Estate, with hopes to increase biodiversity and improve conditions for wildlife as part of the Blue Green Corridor Project.

Over time the river has become separated from its natural floodplain, negatively affecting local wildlife. Local contractors, Lions, have worked to restore the grassland in Belton’s parkland back into floodplain habitat. The river will now be encouraged to naturally flood and cut new pathways across the floodplain, using a series of wooden blockages.

This wetland area will be great for wildfowl, herons, little egrets, as well as other wildlife like frogs, toads, newts and Daubenton’s bats. We will also hopefully see an increase in dragonflies, damselflies, water beetles, and aquatic plants such as water dropwort and flag iris.

Through this partnership project, we hope to develop a new wildflower meadow area close to the riverside. This will not only make an attractive landscape for people but will also create a flourishing haven for pollinators, insects, birds and other wildlife.

Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)
Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) | © National Trust Images/Bat Conservation Trust/Hugh Clark

A home for bats

Belton Estate hosts some wonderful habitats for bats, from its historic buildings to the magnificent trees in the parkland.

Daubenton’s bats feed along the river and parkland ponds, and noctules, Britain’s largest bats, feed among the canopy of the large parkland trees. Pipistrelle and long-eared brown bats have been regular visitors to the stables, roosting in considerable numbers in the roof space. More recently, however, our surveys suggest that numbers have declined.

Improving the bats’ habitats

Belton’s rangers have undertaken work to increase insect populations which are the main food source for bats on the estate. By improving the condition of the grassland and water habitats, not only do wild flowers flourish and fish spawn at an increasing rate, but insect numbers increase too, ensuring the resident bat population also thrives.

The stables project incorporated work to enhance the space for pipistrelle and long-eared brown bats, including the provision of heated bat boxes, improved access to and from the building, and improved routes to feeding grounds near the river. We hope that this will not only protect Belton’s existing bat population, but also encourage more bats to settle here again in future.

Protecting the famous Moondial

In 2017, on the 30th anniversary of Helen Cresswell’s much-loved children’s book Moondial, the sculpture at Belton House that inspired it was given some much needed attention to preserve and protect it.

The base of the Belton sundial was showing signs of deterioration, and vital remedial works had to be carried out in 2017 to ensure the stability of the pedestal. At almost 300 years old, this much-loved garden sculpture was in need of some care.

Proceeds from a fundraising raffle went towards the cost of renovation.

Thank you

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

Frosty view from the South Drive towards Belton House with sheep grazing

Donate

Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help nature flourish and ensure our shared history continues to inspire us all. Thank you for your continued support.

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