Something exciting is happening: Landscape restoration at Weald Country Park

Restoring the landscapes of our past for the future.

Weald Country Park

Weald Country Park is over 520 acres of beautiful parkland, woodland, lakes, hay and wildflower meadows – as well as being home to the fallow deer park and Stick Man sculpture trail!

The park is an exciting blend of landscapes which have evolved over time – dating back over 700 years to when the site was first a medieval deer park.

The park was later home to a great Tudor mansion and Weald Hall, which saw elaborate landscaping plans developed by the French architect Bourguignon in the 1700s.

Weald is now a Historic England grade II listed park and garden.

Parkland at Weald Country Park
Weald Country Park

What we are doing at Weald and why

Wood pasture, good grassland and well managed woodlands are becoming increasingly rare in Great Britain.

This valuable mix of habitat is hugely important for a variety of common, rare and declining wildlife.

At Weald that flora and fauna includes the heath dog violet , spotted orchid and native bluebells. Ten types of bat, butterflies, owls, the great crested newt, common toad, kingfishers and egrets.

We're therefore excited to be undertaking an ambitious landscape restoration and management programme of our woodlands, wood pasture and grasslands, as well as some wetland works, to support a nationwide effort to protect and enhance the environment for the future.

This work is agreed by Natural England (the government’s statutory body responsible for natural green infrastructure) and made possible by a government funded scheme known as Countryside Stewardship as well as funding by Essex Highways and Lower Thames Crossing.

A series of habitat audits and focussed surveys will be ongoing to check the impact and ensure that the restoration and management is successful.

Wonderful woodlands

Woodland at Weald
Woodland at Weald Country Park

Much of the area of Weald to the north east, known as ‘The Forest’, is made up of small areas of modern-day conifer plantations which stand on the site of much earlier plantations dating back to the 1800s.

This area is also home to many older mature broad leaf trees including ancient oaks and hornbeams that have watched over the landscape for over 500 years.

As fast-growing conifers, silver birch and scrub grow up, areas of woodland can become overcrowded, and it’s important that the woodland is well managed for its future health and that of its wildlife.

Our aim is to create more glades and open areas in the woodlands. Tracks will be created and some invasive and plantation trees will be removed as part of the works to create a healthy woodland for the future.

Creating space between the trees means more sunlight and warmth can reach the woodland floor.

This allows certain plants such as native bluebells and foxgloves to thrive, which in turn attracts insects, birds and mammals.

Thinning also helps the surrounding trees to flourish, as they have space to grow to their natural shape.

Foxgloves in the woods at Weald Country Park
Opening areas of woodland up to let the light in at Weald
Veteran tree at Weald Country Park
Veteran tree and grassland in Lodge Field at Weald Country Park

Our veteran trees

Weald is home to nearly 200 veteran trees and is a top twenty site for saproxylic beetles in England.

A veteran tree tends to have a large trunk often adorned with fungi, large holes and gnarled and twisted branches forming fantastic shapes.

As well as contributing to the beauty of the landscape they are important historically and culturally and hugely beneficial for the biodiversity of our woodlands.

Rare fungi and invertebrates, including endangered beetles, lichens, birds and bats and other species call them home.

Conserving our veteran trees and identifying new ones for the future is important, as their many nooks and crevices provide many habitat niches that do not exist on younger trees.

Some careful surgery and reduction of branches may take place to help prolong the life of the tree. Dead wood is left close to the tree to allow resident insects to re-colonise and reduce shading by taking out younger trees from the immediate surroundings.

Read more about veteran trees at Forestry England.

Marsh orchids and wildflowers in The Roughs at Weald
Wildflowers at The Roughs at Weald
Red poll cattle grazing at Weald Country Park
Red poll cattle grazing at Weald Country Park

Good grassland

At Weald we are also planning to increase our areas of good grassland and wetlands to benefit plants, insects and amphibians.

We will increase the areas of the grassland and wood pasture, in particular at Lodge Field and The Roughs in the north of the park, being grazed by our native Red Poll cattle, known for their gentle nature, and new fencing will be installed to enable this.

The cows eat just enough grass for wildflowers to flourish which in turn increases the variety of insects and pollinators.

The work already undertaken is starting to pay off. Visit Weald in the summer to see large numbers of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies for yourself.

The programmes taking place at Weald is just one part of an ambitious scheme to restore these valuable landscapes and habitats across the Essex Country Parks to aid nature recovery across the county.

Learn more about the other exciting projects funded by the government's Countryside Stewardship scheme and Essex Highways.

*Weald Country Park works closely with Essex County Council’s (ECC) Place Services ecologists and Natural England Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) advisors.