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Wildlife & Conservation

Our diverse landscape is what makes Castle Howard so special and along with the historical buildings, monuments and artifacts, it too needs protecting
From badgers to bats, birds of prey to invertebrate and even rare species of flora and fungi, the Estate is home to all kinds of wildlife. At Castle Howard, we are committed to managing our land in a sustainable and positive way, for people and for wildlife. You can find out more about the different ways we do this below or take a look at our Wildlife Gallery

Woodland Recycling

Castle Howard are currently trialling the Tubex recycling scheme for plastic tree shelters.

Having removed 1000s of old shelters from trees who are now big enough to fend for themselves, we have joined forces with the Howardian Hills National Landscape to collect and recycle these items so they can be fully removed from the landscape and recycled into new products.

Thanks to the amazing volunteer team, over 6000 of the shelters have been rolled into bags, ready to be collected by Tubex.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Howardian Hills National Landscape to manage plastic waste.


Removing Rhododendrons


Rhododendron x superponticum, with its easily recognisable bright pink flowers and glossy dark green leaves was hugely popular in the Victorian times and was widely planted in gardens and parks. From there it has gradually spread into our wilder areas until it has become a common sight in woodlands across the UK.

As with Himalayan Balsam (take a look at what we’re doing to tackle this other invasive species below) the rhododendron can easily out-compete our native flora and fauna, creating a dense bush across the woodland, smothering other plants and blocking light to the woodland floor.

Having identified this as a problem back in 2018, we’ve been working hard ever since to eliminate rhododendron from one of our woodlands, Brandrith Wood.

We are pleased to say that year on year the rhodos have been retreating here with only a small amount of regrowth showing this spring. We will continue to control this area until no regrowth occurs but we are also now opening our target area up to more areas of the Estate.


Balsam Bashing: Removing an Invasive Species

A relative of the popular garden bedding plant Busy Lizzie, at first glance Himalayan balsam is a bright and breezy annual with swathes of pink bonnet-shaped flowers. However, its cheerful appearance masks the true nature of this invasive species.

First introduced to the UK in 1839, Himalayan balsam quickly turned from garden plant to smothering weed. Originally passed between gardeners and through natural seed dispersal along waterways, the plant can now be found covering areas of riverbanks and wetlands across the countryside. The dense thickets it forms, and its impressive 2m height, means that it can quickly smother other vegetation, blocking their source of light and killing off native species. The abundance of nectar that the flowers produce is also very popular with pollinators, most likely to the detriment of other species which may be shunned in favour of this cunning new player. More worryingly, each plant can produce hundreds of seeds per season which are spread several metres when the seed pods ripen and explode. Remaining viable for 2 years, seeds can be spread over many miles by rivers and streams or on boots and tyres.

Unfortunately, patches of Himalayan balsam can now be found on the Castle Howard Estate where it enjoys the wet woodland habitats found here. However, through a mixture of environmental stewardship and the dedicated team at the Howardian Hills National Landscape, this invasive threat is being tackled head on.

Over the past 4 years, Castle Howard’s woodland team have been working to eradicate an area of balsam in one of our most beautiful woods, Pretty Wood. Thankfully, our efforts have been proving successful with less and less balsam appearing each year. With this area coming under control, we’ve now begun searching other areas of woodland for the threat of Himalayan balsam.

Our thanks go to the fantastic staff and volunteers at the  who also work hard year on year ‘balsam bashing’ areas across the Howardian Hills, making a significant impact on halting the spread. By working together, we hope to keep threats like Himalayan balsam under control and protect this unique and diverse landscape for future generations of people and wildlife to enjoy.


Working Together for Woodlands


Whether it’s focusing on recycling or installing energy efficient heating, Castle Howard have always taken an eco-friendly approach to help reduce our environmental impact and ensure Castle Howard can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come. This ethos applies not just to the stately home, but to the surrounding landscape too.

For many years, our Forestry team have been planting trees across the Estate as well as selling native trees and shrubs to customers across Yorkshire from the Castle Howard Tree and Shrub Nursery. The trees planted in our woodlands are cared for across their lifetime with a program of maintenance including weeding, pruning and thinning. This care and attention allows our trees to grow into healthy, strong woodlands which in turn provide important habitats for a diverse range of species.

Environmental stewardship is at the heart of our woodland management and in recent years’ older coniferous plantations have been felled and replanted with native broadleaf species such as oak, sycamore and cherry as part of our restoration of ancient woodland sites. 

Some of our young woodlands have now reached 10 years old and to help our bright young plants become the grand old trees of tomorrow, each small sapling had been planted with a wooden stake and plastic guard in order to protect the young trees from mammal predation. These guards have stayed in place, providing a safe growing space, for 10 or so years before the trees outgrew them and the trunks eventually split the guards apart.

This has left the team with the enormous task of gathering shelters from across the Estate.This year, Castle Howard have teamed up with The Conservation Volunteers to help remove plastic from the woodlands. TCV are an important charity working across the UK to create healthier and happier communities for everyone by connecting people and green spaces to deliver lasting outcomes for both. The York-based team of volunteers has been carrying out vital work in the Castle Howard woodlands, which has meant that we’ve been able to remove 1000s of tree guards already, allowing the woodlands to continue to grow in a plastic free environment.

The next time you walk along one of the many footpaths criss-crossing the Estate, you may see some of the shelters, gathered together and ready for collection.This work is part of a larger commitment Castle Howard has made to ensure the woodlands are managed in a sustainable way. As part of the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme (an independent, voluntary scheme that recognises good practice and sustainable woodland management) we ensure our woodlands adhere to a strict, internationally approved standard.

Our team is also busy working to create wildlife habitats, control invasive species such as Himalayan balsam, enhancing native woodland plants as well as clearing scrub (another element TCV are playing an important part in) as part of our Countryside Stewardship Scheme.


Turtle Doves

The beautiful Turtle Dove is our smallest European dove. This tiny powerhouse of a bird flies 11,200 km to reach North Yorkshire from Mali in Africa each spring. Unfortunately, Turtle Doves are in big trouble; their population has declined in both the UK and Europe to such an extent there may now be fewer than 100 birds nesting in the whole of Yorkshire. Only 50 years ago it was classed as a fairly common bird. The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project, funded by Heritage Lottery, North York Moors National Park, Forestry Commission and Howardian Hills National Landscape in partnership with RSPB, Scarborough Borough Council, and North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre, aims to help these birds. During 2019, turtle dove surveys took place across the Howardian Hills and Castle Howard Estate to record the number of birds in the area and ultimately, help the chances of these small but beautiful birds.We hope for these surveys to continue this year.

For more information visit the North York Moors website.


Countryside Stewardship

Countryside Stewardship is a Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), an agri-environment grant scheme to help farmers and land managers protect wildlife, create new habitats, reduce flood risk and improve landscapes to increase productivity and resilience.

In 2018, Castle Howard entered it’s woodlands into the 5 year scheme and so far we have been:

  • Controlling invasive non-native plants such as Himalayan balsam and rhododendron. Both these species are a problem because they out compete native species, reducing the amount of habitat available.
  • Enhancing native woodland plants by managing open spaces such as woodland tracks. Cutting woodland tracks mimics natural process such as wild fires and allows sunlight to the woodland floor, encouraging native plants to regenerate.
  • Creating deadwood habitats which are vital for invertebrate, fungi and small mammals.

Helping our Bluebells Thrive

In winter 2018, Castle Howard began reducing the brambles in some of our key bluebell sites. Brambles are an important part of the woodland eco-system but left unmanaged they can soon cover large areas, blocking light from the woodland floor.

In spring 2019, the bluebells made a strong comeback in the areas that were mulched and we’ve enjoyed some stunning displays of spring flowers.

We're now very much looking forward to seeing how the bluebells fare in 2022. With continued management, the bluebells (and the brambles) will thrive.


Restoring Ancient Woodlands

Our timber is harvested in a sustainable way and the Castle Howard Tree Nursery supplies our team with trees for replanting the woods after felling operations. Environmental stewardship is at the heart of the wider management of the Estate and in recent years older coniferous plantations have been felled and replanted with native broadleaf species such as oak, sycamore and cherry as part of our restoration of ancient woodland sites. 


Have you enjoyed your time at Castle Howard? Want to tell us what you thought? Take our quick and easy Discover Nature survey. It's your opportunity to tell us about your experience of nature on the Estate and how we can improve our visitor experience.

Thank you for your time and we hope you enjoy your next adventure!


Wildlife Gallery

The grounds and Estate are a haven for wildlife; enjoy birdsong in Ray Wood, the hustle and bustle of the birds on the lake and keep your eyes peeled for much more besides.
Take a look at just some of the birds spotted and photographed by members Pauline and David Eccles in the gallery below.
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