Over the summer months, the mixture of warm sunshine and rain accelerates the growth of crops, and flowers, and also grass. It’s the job of the landscape team, on behalf of registered charity Chatsworth House Trust, to ensure grassed areas don’t become unmanageable and overgrown. The landscape team help maintain the villages of Pilsley and Edensor, and strim back footpaths in Stand Wood so they remain safe for walkers to enjoy.
Over the last few years, certain areas have been designated as ‘no mow’, allowing nature to take hold and inviting an abundance of wildflowers and pollinators. These are left throughout summer and then cut and raked once September arrives. This keeps the nutrient content in the soil low to discourage nettles, docks and brambles from taking hold.
Time for a trim
At the end of the summer, following bird nesting season, the team commenced its annual hedge-cutting programme. Hedgerows provide a vital source of food and shelter for wildlife and in recent years, fewer hedges have been trimmed as part of our ‘making space for nature’ programme. The team’s priority is to keep hedges along roadsides and at entrances trimmed to meet visibility, safety and access requirements.
Preserving native species
As the seasons start to change, many of the trees at Chatsworth produce an abundance of seeds. Since setting up our own nursery, the team has been collecting seeds from around the estate, particularly oak and beech, but also hawthorn, hazel and blackthorn, to grow saplings to replant. This process allows us to preserve the genetics of the species present at Chatsworth, some of which have been in existence for up to 1000 years.
As autumn takes hold, the landscape team’s focus shifts to maintaining the vast network of waterways that feed the water features within the garden. The banks of these streams must be cleared regularly of vegetation and leaves to remove the risk of blockages which could potentially cause them to overflow, damaging the banks and causing leaks.
With several miles of these waterways to maintain, some of the work is done with a mini-digger with a scissor attachment which can cut and scoop the vegetation off the sides. Where this cannot access, the work must be done by hand using rakes and secateurs to remove the vegetation. The landscape team will re-visit some areas several times over the season, as leaves can collect in tight spots overnight and will need raking out again.
Through the ‘Celebrating the Cascade’ project, Chatsworth House Trust has the opportunity to share the story of water at Chatsworth. Work has begun exploring the network of streams that criss-cross the estate, with landscape volunteers removing decades of built up soil to reveal the buried stone work of these streams, including some we did not even know existed.
Drains and roads also need to be kept clear of fallen leaves. Many are composted to be used in the garden, helping reduce costs and carbon emissions.
Alongside regular autumn maintenance tasks, volunteers have created and erected bird boxes around the woodland. This work revitalises a historical Chatsworth project to support pied flycatchers, which, for a long time, was a declining species. Nationally, numbers are now on the up thanks to projects like this, and we’re hoping that we can help increase the population of pied flycatchers at Chatsworth too, building on the previous project’s good work.
The landscape team has the daunting task of erecting the multitude of Christmas trees on display in the house for Christmas at Chatsworth. Manoeuvring 20ft trees around tight corners and past historically significant artwork and artefacts is a time consuming task that requires the utmost care and patience but, once the Christmas team have worked their magic with lights and decorations, the finished result is well worth the effort.