Historic Landscapes: Renovation, Restoration or Rewilding?
29th December 2020
Part of the on-going estate management at a property nestled between Bristol and Bath, Gareth and his team are focusing on the wider landscape whilst the restoration (renovation?) of the listed Victorian villa carries on apace.
This site overlooks the River Boyd in South Gloucestershire, an area know as Golden Valley. Evolving out of European conventions and local & national planning objectives is the process of ‘landscape characterisation’ whereby the whole of the UK is assessed to provide a statement of an areas existing character, used to guide conservation and planning policies. The Golden Valley Landscape Character Assessment can be found here: Area 11 Golden Valley LCA .
It is within this context that Gareth and his team are looking to manage the estates landscape. Until recently a lot of the estate had been rented out for horse pasture with the landscape reflecting areas of both over-grazing, neglect, wildness and disrepair. A landscape of old character though sadly showing the damage caused by poor past tenants.
Landscape has a memory, with natural and cultural processes over time adding to the story a landscape can tell. We want to add to this story in a positive way by managing the estate sensitively. Restoring hedgerows where more regularly managed hedges are required or maintaining boundary features of post-medieval ditch and bank with ancient Hazel hedgerows. Always good to check out the old maps when looking to manage an old landscape: the Know Your Place resource is fabulous for looking at old tithe maps and seeing how the landscape has changed.
Some of the old neglected hedgerows are to be restored by coppicing (restoration) and replanting (renovation):
Such ‘tight’ management isn’t suitable for all features though, so some of the older hedgerows with veteran trees can be managed not as a hedgerow but as a ‘line of trees’ (the fate of any neglected hedgerow). The character of the site are these old boundaries and small irregular fields. We plan to put in place the yearly routines required to maintain the estate grasslands, so the ambition is for a regular management regime of hay meadows and rotational grazing. Anyone got a herd of Dexters going!?
The River Boyd that marks the boundary of the estate routinely floods some of the lower fields. Flood meadows, ancient boundaries, veteran trees, thickets of scrub all contribute to a complex mosaic of habitat adding to the character and biodiversity of an ancient landscape. Getting the balance right between renovating, restoring and working with the natural processes is going to be the key to a sustainable landscape management approach.
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