Restoring a Natural Landscape

Lakes are great for reflections

A secluded valley and a retreat from the busy modern life nearby, Woodchester Park is a little haven of peace – but it is also a place where a lot of changes have been taking place.

You could happily lose yourself in Woodchester Park. As ranger Max Dancer says, ”Stroll into the park and within minutes you feel like you’ve entered another world – some liken it to standing by a tranquil Scottish loch. It’s such an unexpected retreat.”

Woodchester Park boathouse, Gloucestershire
Woodchester Park boathouse, Gloucestershire

But rather like ducks on the water, on the surface all may appear calm but behind the scenes we’re beavering away to take the park back in time. Gradually we’re restoring the park to how it was in the nineteenth century – stripping out some of the coniferous plantations that the Trust inherited and creating a healthy patchwork of native woodland, open grassland and waterways.

Seeds Stockpile

Already there are welcome signs of what’s to come…a wildflower meadow right by the car park stockpiling local species seeds ready for harvest, a 5-hectare lakeside plot stripped of 2,000 conifers. It’s a slow process but well worth it, as yellow rattle, violets, red clover and cowslips start to make an appearance where once conifers were the only thing growing.

One of the unexpected perks of uprooting conifers is that they expose a poor limestone soil much loved by meadow plants. And cattle love it too.

Wildflower meadow at Woodchester ready for harvest
Wildflower meadow at Woodchester ready for harvest

Cattle grazing

You might meet our gentle herd of Belted Welsh Blacks mowing the meadow grasses, and in turn flies and beetles make a beeline for steaming cow pats.

Following closely after the flies come hungry bats – nature as it should be. Over the summer months, lesser horseshoe bats roost in the boathouse and are well worth seeking out at dusk on their evening flypast.

In time, Max hopes to bring on board special seed volunteers to help build up stocks of precious meadow seeds to share with local farmers and communities, creating much needed corridors for wildlife and even more magnificent meadows.