Exploring the estate at Belton
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Belton is a three pawprint rated place and offers plenty of opportunities for bounding, jumping and sniffing for dogs. With 1,300 acres to explore, come and join us for a wander with your four-legged friend.
Explore the gardens at Belton, including the Italian Garden, a Conservatory and a Dutch Garden with formal bedding schemes. Whatever time of year you visit, the shifting seasons provide a great variety of colour and wildlife to see.
Packed full of treasures, discover a mansion bursting with history. Belton's collection tells a story rich in global history and our future work will focus on bringing those stories to life.
Explore our fun family day out ideas, including our indoor play area and outdoor adventure playground. Make the most of your day out with the kids at Belton.
The Belton Estate played a significant supporting role in the First World War. Find out about the small town, with hospital and cinema, built for 20,000 men of Kitchener’s Army.
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Plan a visit to one of the special countryside places in our care and discover the benefits of being in the great outdoors. Pack your walking boots and get ready to explore woodlands, valleys and rivers.