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Wild About...

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Seed Harvesting & Native Trees

September 2020

Harvest time is once again upon us and here in the Forestry department that means we have been gathering together our buckets, baskets and long handled tree pruners and heading off to hunt along the hedgerows. Our quarry is the millions of seeds that hide among the branches which we will hand pick, prepare and plant, supplying the Castle Howard Tree & Shrub Nursery with true wild, Estate-grown trees. These early autumn days are the perfect time to go picking and we’ll be setting our sights on acorns, crab apples, sweet chestnuts, sloes, hazels, Beech masts and the feathery winged keys of Sycamore. Choosing the day to go harvesting is very important; if you go too soon there may not be enough to harvest, but leave it too late or after a particularly blustery night and it will be a race against the birds and the mice to get to the seeds first.
One of the more enjoyable jobs in the Forestry department, spending a day collecting seeds on a quiet patch of the Estate overlooking the fields and the House is fantastic, with just the birds and an odd hare for company. However, it’s physical work, using the pole to lower the higher branches (which are often the most laden) and scrabbling under hedges to collect those already fallen to the floor.  By the end of a few good hours, our buckets are full of fare and we head back to the Tree Nursery with our loads rattling with berries and nuts.
Once the seeds have been collected, some can be hand sown in the Castle Howard nursery straight away. Others, such as the sloes from the prickly Blackthorn, need to be cleaned first to remove the surrounding pulp before they can be planted. After harvesting a huge number, only a small percentage is likely to be fertile and germinate successfully but by the end of the process we are left with beautiful fresh seedlings.
Seed harvesting has a long history across the British countryside but Castle Howard are one of the few estates that still hand-pick wild stock. It’s fantastic to be out in a secret corner of the Estate making our way along the old hedgerows just like the Estate staff who have gone before us would have done in their day. It’s truly great to think that we are keeping this tradition going, not just to keep the past alive and all the memories of those who worked here, but also to know that we are part of the future and that the seeds we collect will be part of the local landscape for years after we are gone.  
If you are thinking about planting some hedging or you’re looking for a tree to add to your garden, contact our Tree Nursery and we can provide you with wild British-grown stock, from our hedge to yours.

Working Together for Woodlands

March 2020

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.


Oak Trees

January 2020

A new year means new beginnings and that makes it the perfect time to plant a a tree and watch it grow big and strong. This season, our Tree and Shrub Nursery will be supporting Castle Howard’s charity of the year, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The charity, which works to create a Yorkshire rich in wildlife for the benefit of everyone, looks after over 100 nature reserves across Yorkshire and has been involved in many important projects over its 70-year history, from protecting our precious seas and coastlines to campaigning to save nationally important habitats.
We sell tens of thousands of oak trees every season for as little as 30p each and each tree can grow to support a huge range of wildlife. This year, for every oak tree sold, we will donate 1p to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. This is just one scheme Castle Howard are planning to help raise funds for Yorkshire’s wildlife.
Take a look at our Tree Nursery page for more information and to see our full range of plants.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, 1 St George’s Place, York, YO24 1GN. Registered charity number 210807 registered in England number 409650.






Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

September 2019

This month we are incredibly excited to announce that we will be partnering with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to launch our Charity of the Year scheme
Each year, we will partner with a different charity to help raise funds for causes across Yorkshire and the UK.The charity chosen to kick-start the scheme is the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, a local charity that aims big when it comes to standing up for Yorkshire’s wildlife.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust aims to create a Yorkshire rich in wildlife and wild places for the benefit of all. They manage over 100 nature reserves covering over 3000 hectares of land. These are wild places where wildlife can thrive but that can also be used by people to enjoy nature and their green space. The Trust work on partnership projects ranging from our Bradford Urban Discovery Scheme engaging young people in city centre Bradford with their green spaces to projects facilitating the return of species like otters and oysters to Yorkshire’s rivers and wetlands. Their marine team deliver projects reducing ocean litter and protecting marine conservation zones. They also campaign for legal protection for our wildlife and in particular a stronger environment act for when we leave the European Union, as well as working with councils and stake holders to protect wildlife and wild places from harmful development.
Keep an eye out for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust donation boxes on your next visit to Castle Howard and listen out for more wildlife news, events and exclusives.


July 2019

Castle Howard has played host to some exceptional guests in the past; the cast of Brideshead Revisited, indie sensation the Arctic Monkeys and Queen Victoria herself to name just a few, but this year sees the historic house welcome an altogether different kind of guest. Rather spiny with a real wild side and questionable table manners, yes we’re talking about hedgehogs! Castle Howard has teamed up with charity Hoggies Respite to provide a safe and welcome home to hogs in need.
This partnership comes at a crucial time for hedgehogs. Their numbers have declined dramatically over the last 10 years and with fewer than 1 million thought to be left in the UK, these endearing creatures are disappearing from our countryside. However, help is at hand and the small but dedicated team at Hoggies Respite are busily working to help our hedgehogs get back on their feet. With over 190 sick and injured hedgehogs rehabilitated and released back into the wild in 2018 alone, their work plays a vital part in conserving this iconic species.
Maggie Farmer is one of the founders of Hoggies Respite, ‘every hedgehog needs a home and with acre upon acre of hedgerows, woodland and parkland, Castle Howard is the perfect release site for rehabilitated hogs. It’s fantastic to know that our hedgehogs will find a safe home here and hopefully help populations thrive.’Now in their 5th year, Hoggies Respite and their volunteers are working round the clock to care for mothers and their young who have become too vulnerable to make it on their own. Among the hedgehogs to be released at Castle Howard are orphans Fred, Ginger and Edd as well as Mama Mama, a strong mother hedgehog with 6 little hoglets.
Here at Castle Howard, we are thrilled to be part of the excellent work done by the team at Hoggies Respite. Our natural landscape and the wildlife that live here are just as important as the historic buildings in our care and they too need conserving. We look forward to welcoming the first set of hedgehogs as they make their journey back into the wild.



April 2019

Owls are truly stunning creatures and it’s one of life’s special moments when you spot a barn owl gliding through the landscape, silent and ghostly pale against the dusky sky. Leave it to just the right time of evening and if you’re lucky, you might see one swooping across the Lime Avenue. Eyes fixed on the ground below, it seems to see straight through you, transfixed in a world of predator and prey and listening intently for the soft rustle of mice below.
What is it about these birds that is so fascinating? Just hearing the twit and twoo of a tawny owl as the light fails around you can send a shiver down your spine; a strange mixture of excitement, wonder and is that a slight hint of fear? A nocturnal creature that calls from the darkness, cloaked in folk lore and with large bewitching eyes, hearing an owl seems to draw us back into our childhoods - a world of dark and dangerous woods, fairy tales, witches and the big bad wolf.
It’s a real pleasure to have these beautiful and fascinating birds breeding on the Estate and this spring we’ve been working  to provide new nesting sites for owls. By installing new nest boxes across the Estate we hope that they will provide the perfect sites for owls and their owlets this season.
Long may they delight and spook us.


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