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Our work on the estate at Bateman's

Sheep grazing outside the east front at Bateman's, East Sussex
Sheep grazing on the estate at Bateman's | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Whatever the time of year, there’s plenty of work to be done on the estate at Bateman’s. No two days are the same for our team, headed up by ranger Kevan Gibbons. They may be coppicing, clearing one of the estate’s 19 ponds or monitoring the estate’s dormouse population by surveying nest boxes.

Conservation activities

Bateman's estate covers over 300 acres and has a wealth of different habitats for wildlife – hay meadows, coppiced woodland, ponds, streams and a river. Our team carries out conservation activities throughout the year to maintain these habitats and protect the wildlife living in them, including coppicing in the winter and restoring the hay meadows in the summer.

Pond improvements at Bateman’s

On the estate, there are 19 ponds (remnants of the Wealden iron industry) that became overgrown. Our team has worked hard to revitalise some of these to create a habitat to attract rare amphibians, as well as dragonflies and damselflies, with ponds at different stages of succession.

In 2016, we successfully applied for grant funding for work on three of the ponds on the Bateman's estate. Contractors de-silted the ponds, and some of the trees were cleared from around them to allow more light and warmth onto the water. This should increase the number of species and help amphibian eggs to develop successfully.

A close-up of a black speckled newt
Great crested newt | © National Trust Images/Phil Bruss

Great crested newts

One of the ponds previously dried out every summer preventing the successful development of young great crested newts. We installed a liner and, in 2019, we discovered that adult great crested newts had taken up residence for the first time. Two of the ponds are adjacent to public rights of way so can be visited easily.

‘Come nightfall in summer, you’ll find me treading carefully across the Bateman’s estate looking for rare great crested newt colonies. Summer is peak time to check in on the newts. At night, they swim in open water, displaying their jagged crest to attract females.’

– Kevan Gibbons, Ranger

Wildlife survey

As part of the National Trust’s work to help reverse the UK’s decline in wildlife, we have been monitoring the number of newts and other wildlife in the ponds since the project to revitalise them. During recent surveys, we’ve been thrilled to find dragonflies and damselflies in all the restored ponds. Encouragingly, great crested newt numbers are increasing too.

These are species we’ve never recorded in these locations before, so we can safely say the work we carried out has improved biodiversity of the network of ponds on the estate. We are gradually working on more of the ponds.

Rolling grass and trees of the estate at Bateman's, East Sussex
The estate at Bateman's | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Winter jobs on the estate at Bateman's

Coppicing during the winter months

Coppicing is one of the ways we look after the woodland here at Bateman’s, using the ancient technique to create or restore habitats that will support a wide diversity of species, both plants and animals. It traditionally takes place from November to the end of March so that we can reduce the impact on the nature already living in our woodland such as nesting birds and ground plants.

As you’re walking through the countryside at Bateman’s on one of the waymarked estate walks, you may come across small areas where we are coppicing.

What is coppicing?

This practice can be traced back to Neolithic times and refers to deliberate felling of trees, with sprouts then growing from the cut stump (stool). It provides a sustainable supply of wood for a variety of uses. This continuous cycle of thinning and clearance followed by regrowth allows a mosaic of different habitats to form, encouraging new plant growth and insect activity.

‘Coppicing lets light into the woods, improving them for a range of wildlife including wildflowers, butterflies and the dormice we have discovered in the hedgerows.’

- Kevan Gibbons, Ranger

A worker using a chainsaw to cut down a small tree. There's pile of logs nearby
Coppicing woodland on the Bateman's estate | © National Trust Images/H Broughton

Supporting nature

We stack material from coppicing to create habitats for nesting birds and over-wintering newts and frogs. These piles also provide places for fungi to grow and insects to lay their eggs. Plants too – such as honeysuckle, bramble and travellers joy – will colonise these habitat piles, attracting invertebrates: butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and hoverflies.

Some of the coppiced wood is used in the garden for pea-sticks and other plant supports, or to protect new growth from nibbling by deer.

Thank you

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

House reflected in the mill pond at Bateman's, East Sussex


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