The Discovery Project
A Heritage Lottery Funded Programme
Winter 2020/21 project works
Over the coming months, we will be starting a phase of works to reinstate three historical landscape views connecting the House to the shoreline, as originally intended when Christopher Spurrier built Upton House in 1816.
Views & Vistas
Like so many country manor houses of the time, the Pleasure Grounds (the gardens between Upton House and the shoreline) were designed to celebrate the grandeur and wealth of its residents. Approaching carriage paths offered oblique views of the House, whilst long open avenues from the principle state rooms would have celebrated the shoreline setting. The eye would have been drawn across the grounds to the views beyond, over Holes Bay and across to Poole Old Town where the Spurrier’s trading ship masts are likely to have been seen rising above the quayside properties.
Sadly, over the years invasive species such as Poplar (which are shown as the pale green trees in the aerial view below) now block the views and old grazing shoreside meadows. However, as part of the estate’s wider revival of our Regency Style Pleasure Grounds, we will be removing the invasive trees and scrub during the coming months, whilst also protecting and enhancing our older Oaks and supporting our much-valued wildlife.
Specimen Oak trees previously used to frame the views can still be seen today. It is thought that some of these amazing trees may exceed 400 years old and recent studies believe that they can support over 2,300 difference species, over 300 of which are completely reliant on Oaks! To help retain these fabulous specimens, the team are clearing the ground below the canopy to provide space for the trees to flourish and reduce competition for vital nutrients, water and light – a woodland management technique called Haloing.
FUN FACT: It is said that an oak tree takes 300 years to grow, 300 years to mature, and 300 years to die. Some last even longer!
The Regency Style Pleasure Grounds
With £7,000 of support from the government’s Coastal Revival Fund in 2019 we were able to employ a Heritage Landscape Architect who has carried out extensive research into what the grounds would have looked like in 1818 and has informed our Conservation Management Plan for the gardens.
The Pleasure Grounds comprise 1.3 hectares, or 3.2 acres of estate land that lie between Upton House and the shoreline. The work that we are undertaking within the Pleasure Grounds follows the plan to not only revive our lost heritage landscapes but also to conserve the grounds and history for our visitors.
BELOW: The three historical landscape views to be reinstated across the Pleasure Grounds, re-connecting the House and park to the shoreline
VIDEOS: Describing how we will be reinstating some of the original views & vistas
The Driveway & Ice House
Encroaching Laurel has been removed from the driveway. This has opened up the views of the House as the Spurriers intended back in 1818, and restores the original impact that the House would have had on a visitor approaching along the driveway.
The Beech and Sweet Chestnut trees next to Upton House will be removed due to conservation concerns for the House’s west wing. The weight of trees and soil are causing damage to the structure of the Ice House which is located beneath them; this work conserves our important heritage.
The Duck Pond
This winter the team are carrying out a phased programme of clearance works to re-invigorate our ornate wildlife pond located south of Upton House, often referred to as the ‘duck pond’.
With the support of our hard-working Practical Conversation volunteers, the team have already cleared overgrown vegetation in and around the pond and will go on to repair the timber banks. The result will provide an improved habitat for our wildlife to enjoy… including the ducks!
Looking ahead, as part of the Discovery Project, we will also be installing new pathways to this location and working on our network of land drainage to not only improve year-round access for all, but also reinstate the natural spring water supply which feeds the pond.
BEFORE & AFTER: The pond and some of our wonderful Practical Conservation volunteers
VIDEO: Describing the works carried out so far and what’s to come
Last winter, with the help of Arts University Bournemouth student volunteers and Woodland Trust, new trees and 6,500 young whips, which included species such as Rowan, Hornbeam, Lime and Field Maple were planted across the meadows to the south of the estate. Gaps in historic hedgerows were re-planted and once established will provide important wildlife corridors, offering protection and feeding grounds for our wildlife. In addition, with the support of the Lytchett Minster Explorer Scouts, new fruit trees were planted in the estates orchard and a fruiting hedge introduced alongside the play area boundary.
This winter, 13 new oak trees, a Giant Redwood and a Blue Atlas Cedar will be added to the new open spaces. A wild flower meadow will also be initiated in the spring, encouraging more insects into the Country Park, which are vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems.
We hope to provide further opportunities for you to get involved and plant new trees in our new spaces on Family Volunteering Days in the new year – further details nearer the time.
AUB volunteers and Lytchett Minster Explorer Scouts planting new trees in the orchard
VIDEO: Introducing the latest extension to the Country Park SANG and the planting that has taken place
The Stable Yard
Our beautiful brick stable yard, located on the approach to the Walled Garden, is having a make-over this winter. Set within the area of our Grade II* listing, the works will involve isolated repairs, using traditional materials wherever possible.
We will repair collapsed drains along the approaching track and below the brick yard, and the ornate surface will be sympathetically reinstated. The yard’s failing northern boundary wall will be rebuilt and soil behind re-landscaped. Planting in the spring will provide an attractive and wildlife friendly setting to conclude these works.
Before and after the Stable Yard landscaping
VIDEO: Describing the works
The Dog Kennels & Fowl Shed
In the new year, works will begin to restore the listed Dog Kennels and removing the Fowl Shed next to our Spurrier’s play areas. The removal of the heavily dilapidated Fowl Shed, which is not considered to provide any historic or architectural significance to the Pleasure Grounds, will open up the central area of the Country Park for our visitors to enjoy.
The sympathetic refurbishment of the old working dog kennels will restore and preserve an historically important feature of the estate’s grounds. Recycling materials from the Fowl Shed, the project will raise and repair the roof to provide a more usable space in the future.
The Dog Kennels to be restored
How do we know what the gardens looked like in the past?
We have carried out detailed research and uncovered historical maps which date back to Christopher Spurrier’s time. An archive of photographs from the beginning of the 20th century also helps shape our understanding of the grounds.
Similar examples of a Regency Pleasure Ground can also be noted at other estates elsewhere in the country, for example Kenwood House in London, Chatsworth Park in Derbyshire, and Kingston Lacey in Wimborne.
Why are you keeping some trees and not others?
The estate is fortunate to host trees in a variety of different settings, from native woodlands to individual specimen trees from around the world.
Unlike commercial timber woodland that encourages tall trunks and limited canopy, our tree stock is managed in a more open setting, enabling the tree canopies to develop and wildlife to thrive.
Fast growing species like Poplar (Populus albac) can quickly take over an area if left unmanaged, with new shoots called root suckers growing from the lateral roots of the main tree. This growth can quickly dominate other slower growing species, a situation that is particularly evident along our shoreline to the detriment of our lost historic vistas and shoreline meadows.
Oak trees however offer one of the most biodiverse habitats of any tree in the UK. They can support up to 280 species of insects, as well as a plethora of bird and other wildlife species.
With the support of BCP Council Arboriculture and Biodiversity Officers, the team continues to monitor some of our oldest veteran trees and ensure we provide and support a healthy and sustainable tree collection for our wildlife and future generations to enjoy.
Can you use the timber from unwanted trees?
Yes, we already use timber from the estate to create natural dead-hedges, play features and mini-beast homes. If suitable, larger windblown timber is also stored before being recycled to create bollards and posts.
Does the Country Park have any Tree Preservation Orders?
No, whilst the Country Park benefits from a wide variety of beautiful trees the estate does not have any Tree Preservation Orders. The team works very closely with BCP Council Arboriculture and Biodiversity Officers to ensure the current and new tree stock is managed and nurtured for future generations to the enjoy.
Why are you planting non-native species?
Our planting scheme recognises and celebrates the estate’s past as a country manor house, providing a range of habitats and formal gardens for our wildlife and visitors to enjoy.
Within the Pleasure Grounds, a selection of non-native species have been chosen that are considered in-keeping with what would have been originally intended and available during the early 19th Century.
Planting across the wider estate is more complimentary to the natural setting. For example, during the restoration of our hedgerows we planted native species to provide valuable sources of food and cover for our wildlife to enjoy.
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