Holkham’s legendary poplars were awarded the contract
The new biodiversity and conservation project, led by the Holkham Forestry and Conservation teams, will allow local wildlife and natural habitats to thrive while protecting the safety of visitors.
Located on one of the UK’s most beautiful coastlines in North Norfolk, Holkham Estate is launching a major conservation project on the iconic site of Lady Anne’s Drive to encourage local wildlife and increase the area’s carbon benefits. The project, approved by the Forestry Service, North Norfolk District Council, AONB, Natural England and Historic England, will be phased out starting this February. All work is carried out by Holkham’s in-house forest team and supported by the director of the Holkham National Nature Reserve – Jake Fiennes. The first phase of forest operation lasts a week, and the permitted footpath is also closed.
The Holkham National Nature Reserve covers 150 acres of forest, including that along Lady Anne’s Drive, which was established in 1823. The main access route to Holkham Beach, Lady Anne’s Drive, is just off the A149 across from the Victoria Inn and gives visitors year-round access to the Beach and The Lookout. The original avenue of holm oaks (Quercus ilex) was largely replaced by non-native, fast-growing hybrid poplars (Populus / Canadensis) after the 1953 flood killed most of the holm oaks due to salt water damage. The aim of this planting was to protect the vehicles from the wildlife that thrives on the freshwater marshes on either side of the driveway and to hide the visual containment from view. Over time, the trees have grown rapidly and their canopy is now too tall to provide shelter and safety. As a non-native species, poplars have limited environmental value compared to native hawthorn, which supports over 300 species of insects including bees and other pollinating insects.
Juvenile Hobby, Holkham, Norfolk, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries
Holkham will remove the poplars over a period of time to allow wildlife to continue to thrive. The first phase of the project will remove 30% of the poplars and be completed by February 8, 2021. During the planting season, the team will replant the avenue with a mix of native trees and shrubs such as Hazel, Hawthorn, and Field Maple to create a hedge-like screen and wildlife corridor. This provides habitats and food for insects, small mammals, and migratory birds, including field tariffs, redwings, and thrushes.
Trees are planted around them with eco-friendly guards – to prevent deer, hares and rabbits from grazing. These younger trees take in our carbon dioxide, bind the carbon and release oxygen faster than the older poplars, which are now reaching their maximum rate. The Holkham team will leave the stumps and root balls in place as it is a carbon sink. They will also rot as a habitat for biodiversity of invertebrates, fungi, and bacteria. The wood obtained is used as a chip for biomass – a renewable energy source.
Jake Fiennes, Director of Holkham Nature Reserve said: “The work we will be doing on Lady Anne’s Drive will provide significant benefits to the wildlife, flora and fauna of Holkham National Nature Reserve. The new peeling creation will also improve the experience of our visitors, while the CO2 refunds are the icing on the cake. “
Harry Wakefield, Holkham’s chief forester, sums up: “We are very pleased to be able to start working on this project after months of joint studies and planning with our local ecological and ecological partners. Forest management is central to Holkham’s goal to be the UK’s most sustainable country estate. Projects like this are testament to the property’s long-term investments in biodiversity and a healthier environment for future generations. “
This project is part of a property-wide action plan for sustainability and nature conservation: WONDER. WONDER is focused on three key objectives and commits Holkham to pioneering the environment, advocating low carbon living and eradicating waste.