Blickling Estate (26 April 2013)

On a very sunny, but not particularly warm morning, nine members assembled for a walk in Blickling Park with the Head Ranger, Dave Brady. He started by giving a brief history of the development of the Blickling estate from the original building of the house in 1620, illustrated by maps starting with the Corbridge map of 1729. Blickling pond

We set off via Park Gates and immediately found a barn owl hunting in the sunshine. As we headed off in the direction of the tower, Dave Brady explained that the sheep were used to graze the part of the park used for concerts and the Aylsham show, while the further parts were to be grazed by cattle. Ahead of us, a buzzard floated and on the ground we found a dead mole; moles are apparently not to the taste of birds of prey; they have been very busy throughout the parkland.

As we crossed the parkland, Dave Brady pointed out places where fences have been removed in the last couple of years; some areas were put into arable use during the war and have recently been returned to grass. The park has many standing dead trees, and others nearing the end of their lives; replacements for these have been planted, protected from the attentions of the livestock by tree cages; normally, each cage contains a single sapling, but in some cases three or four are planted as replacements for an existing clump.

Blickling walkAfter passing through a gate in the fence separating the sheep from the cows, we found a semicircle of 13 tree cages, around a single post; there was once a circle of trees in the area and its recreation is in the form of a sundial; where the post is now, will be a stone on which visitors will act as gnomon.

Down in a valley, there is now a pond; it has only been there for two months, but there used to be one in the same spot; it already has resident water boatmen, water beetles and pond skaters; the idea is just to see what will colonise it naturally. Overhead about six skylarks seemed to be intent on colonising the newly-available grass.

We walked through Woodgate car park and into the Great Wood, which should be full of bluebells by the third week inBlickling pond April, but we could find only one plant which had raised a flower-spike above the leaves, and a few with buds still well tucked down.. The cold weather has delayed spring, but several chiffchaffs were singing here. Dave Brady told us that the only gardening done by his countryside team was to mow this part of the wood in autumn for the bluebells; in fact all of the landscape is artificial; examples are the way that the wood is planted up with rows of conifers and oaks, and a belt of Lawson Cypresses at the top of the path which was planted to force pheasants to fly higher for the benefit of the guns.

We stopped by the mausoleum where we were shown a section of the Great Wood which had been lost, and the replanted by reference to old plans. Another buzzard floated by, to the annoyance of the local kestrel.

From there, a downhill return to the car park and the end of our walK.