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Our work in the parkland at Croft Castle

Ancient trees on the walk up to Croft Ambre Croft Castle, Herefordshire.
Ancient trees on the walk up to Croft Ambrey, Croft Castle | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Maintaining the 1,500 acres of woodland and parkland at Croft is an ongoing task. We’re undertaking regular, vital projects to restore, revive and conserve the historic parkland for current visitors and future generations. Discover more about the work we’ve been doing at Croft.

Restoring species-rich grassland

Since the 1930s, the UK has seen a dramatic loss of 97% of its wildflower meadows, causing significant harm to wildlife. Thanks to the generous support of Buglife and Herefordshire Meadows, we are part of a transformative project, 'Get the Marches Buzzing,' aimed at restoring meadowland at Croft Castle.

At Croft Castle, we're focusing on three specific sections of land, strategically working to reconnect habitats. This initiative creates a series of 'stepping-stones,' allowing wildlife to move freely through our landscapes instead of being confined to isolated areas. With proper management, these areas will evolve into wildflower-rich grasslands, appealing to both wildlife and people.

Restoring species-rich grassland is a gradual process, taking several years to fully settle and reach balance. Therefore, ongoing management is essential to ensure the success of our initial groundwork and seed-sowing efforts. We are grateful for the support of our partners, volunteers, members, and visitors in preserving the rich natural heritage of this region.

'Get the Marches Buzzing' is funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), Milkywire, Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust and the Millichope Foundation. To learn more about the project, visit the Buglife website.

Managing ash dieback

With a severe spread of the fungal disease ash dieback spreading quickly though Croft’s heavily wooded estate, action was taken to prevent potential risk to visitors if the badly infected trees next to the footpaths shed limbs and boughs, or even fell as they ‘died back’.

Work began in February 2020 to fell the most infected trees in Fishpool Valley and this continued from November 2020 to March 2021. The valley was closed until April 2021. Infected trees were felled and removed for safety reasons. Once the tree is infected, the disease is usually fatal.

Some areas of selective felling work was undertaken around the main drive and the castle, with most of the work occurring while the site was closed.

Re-establishing native trees

Plans to re-establish other native trees before ash became dominant such oak, chestnut, beech, lime and hornbeam, will help ensure resilience against diseases in future. The trees selected for replanting have been carefully chosen from a local seed source and include many flowering and fruiting species to help attract a wide variety of wildlife to our woodland. Our ranger team have planted hundreds of trees in Fishpool Valley which will enhance biodiversity.

Wood pasture management

The Forestry Commission, National Trust and Natural England are working to reinstate historic wood pasture at Croft Castle.

The Forestry Commission removed 28 hectares (70 acres) of non-native conifers from the central part of Croft Wood as part of its planned woodland management. This was the first major step towards reinstating the beauty spot's historic wood pasture.

Converting to woodland pasture

Conifer plantations conflict with how the landscape looked up until the mid-20th century and lack in biodiversity, so we’ve worked over a number of years to convert this to wood pasture. Our ranger team have re-planted thousands of trees in the area, including broadleaved tree species such as oak, sweet chestnut and beech. The removal of the dense conifers have also allowed wildflowers and wildlife to flourish once more on the woodland floor.

Croft's landscape is designated as Grade II for its historic and national significance and documented evidence shows the presence of wood pasture throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The restoration will also enhance the setting of the Iron Age hillfort of Croft Ambrey, a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM).

Fishpool Valley restoration project

An ambitious five-year restoration project was recently completed in Fishpool Valley. The valley was remodelled in the early 19th century in the 'Picturesque' style. The stream was dammed to form a chain of artificial pools, and the valley sides were thickly planted with a mix of oak, ash, willow, poplar and evergreen species to suggest the 'bold roughness of nature'.

Thanks to supporters, the team have been able to restore the dams, sensitively thin some of the tree cover to improve biodiversity, open up lost views and conserve the historic structures in the valley, including a gothic pumphouse, ‘Picturesque’ grotto and limekiln. New walks have also been created through the landscape and you can now step inside the pumphouse for the first time in many years.

The ranger team have also been improving the drainage on the footpaths and restoring the woody edge of the paths to improve the intended natural shrub growth and redirecting canopy cover. Fishpool Valley is also a very tranquil spot for birdwatching. See if you can spot a variety of herons and moorhens to great spotted woodpeckers, sparrowhawks and other native woodland birds.

Read more about the Fishpool Valley restoration project

Biomass boiler

A biomass boiler and heating system helps provide 75 per cent of Croft Castle’s heating, saving 19,500 litres of oil per year as well as 52 tonnes of CO2.

The boiler is fuelled by woodchip from felled conifers, as these trees introduced after the Second World War are replaced by native broadleaves to encourage wildlife and biodiversity.

Check out our video which shows how we're getting warmth from the woods and helping to build a sustainable future:

Tree planting

Alongside the wood pasture restoration project, other woodland areas are being restored.

Felling and re-planting work has been carried out in School Wood, which is a plantation on Ancient Woodland Site. This will help to improve the biodiversity for wildlife and turn it back into natural woodland.

Trees planted are a mixture of sessile oak, common oak and bird cherry along with rowan, hazel, maple and lime trees.

The East, or Entrance, front of Croft Castle, Herefordshire


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