Management

Chillingham Park has been managed under a Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme agreement ever since the scheme was introduced in 2004. The values and objectives of the scheme are closely aligned to those of the CWCA. The main thrust of the scheme is the management of the species rich grassland. The grassland receives no chemical inputs and no cultivation is carried out. A percentage of the Park is “topped” every year. This involves mowing the pasture after the wild flowers have set seed. It prevents the spread of invasive weeds, such as thistle, and reduces the build up of dead grass in the rougher areas of the Park.

Bracken is very invasive and can dominate species rich grassland. The bracken is controlled at Chillingham to prevent this happening. Some chemical control has taken place in the past but it is now done by mechanically crushing the bracken fronds.

The Park is essentially “organic” as it has received no inorganic inputs for centuries, bar a little bit for bracken control. However, it is not registered as organic as there would be no benefit. With no agricultural products being sold from the Park, registration would simply be a cost for no gain.

The low input, species rich pasture in the Park is not unique in itself. What makes it unique is that it has been grazed by cattle for centuries with no deposition of any veterinary residues, particularly wormers. There has been much research done on the quantity of dung beetles in the soil and there is more work needed on the overall soil “health”.

As there is no unaccompanied public access in the Park, the old trees do not need to be made safe. They can decline as Mother Nature intended. This means that there is a great deal of standing dead wood across the Park, as well as much timber rotting on the woodland floor. This provides valuable habitat for fungi and insects, which in turn provide food for woodland birds. Hollow trees provide nesting sites for species such as Barn Owls and Woodpeckers.

The upper section of the Park is heather moorland and is included within the Bewick Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest. The woodland area below the moorland, known as Robin Hood’s Bog is registered as Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland. The Park itself is registered as a Historic Park & Garden.

There is roughly 350 acres of woodland surrounding the Cattle Park. It forms a vital biosecurity ring around the Cattle Park. It is managed under a Forestry Commission Management Plan in accordance with the Stewardship Agreement. The woodland is very varied and different areas are managed for different objectives. Landscape is very important around the Park, as is conservation and also timber production. Much of the woodland area was severely damaged by Storm Arwen in November 2021.

Much of the Park is bounded by a tall stone wall. For most of the length, it is a dry stone wall but some sections are built using lime mortar. It is thought that much of it will date to the reformation of the Park in 1790, but parts of it are thought to pre-date that work. Every year, lengths collapse and need to be rebuilt.