Gardens and Landscapes Conservation
English Heritage looks after many nationally important historic gardens and landscapes, such as Wrest Park and Osborne House. Their conservation is guided by detailed management and maintenance practices, and we have developed extensive guidance on these, much of which can be downloaded from this page.
English Heritage cares for many significant and historic plants and plant collections. Some of the plants are among the earliest introductions of that species in the UK. Others are intrinsically linked with historic events or people, such as those at Down House, the family home of Charles Darwin where he developed his ground-breaking theories.
We also conserve collections of rare historic plants, such as fruit cultivars and over 3,000 veteran trees. At Marble Hill, for example, we care for a Black Walnut which has been recorded as the third largest in the country and is about 300 years old. These important collections often depend on conserving the unique microclimates that are vital to their survival.
Threats to Gardens and Landscapes
The fabric of historic gardens and landscapes is threatened by pests, diseases and invasive plant species. These growing threats are thought to be the result of increased global trade as well as climate change and are introduced via infected plant material or human transfer, or are spread naturally, for example by wind, water or wildlife. Animals like squirrels, badgers and Canada geese can also threaten the presentation and management of a historic garden or landscape.
The consequences of climate change are already noticeable in many historic gardens,from increased carbon dioxide levels to average temperature changes and more frequent extreme weather. These changes affect not only historic planting but also visitor numbers and needs, perhaps resulting in more wear and tear or alterations to visitor facilities and routes due to changes in the prevailing weather conditions.
Developing policies to manage the impact of climate change allows us to conserve historic gardens for the future. As well as monitoring the effects of climate change in our gardens and landscapes, we limit the use of peat and manage green waste sustainably wherever possible.
Looking after historic parks and gardens is complex. The protection and conservation of historic designs and features have to be balanced against the needs of visitors and wildlife. Conservation management plans for individual properties help us to understand what matters and why, and how to conserve and manage it. They can also be used to develop programmes of repair and restoration or to draw up proposals for change.
As well as advice on preparing plans, English Heritage publishes guidance on the standardised management practices and policies applied at all our historic gardens and landscapes.
- Landscape Advice Note: Commemorative Benches
- Landscape Advice Note: Commemorative Trees
- Landscape Advice Note: Falconry Displays on Historic Properties
- Landscape Advice Note: Vegetation on Walls
- Landscape Advice Note: The Treatment of Dead Wood in Historic Parks and Gardens
- The Management and Maintenance of Historic Parks, Gardens and Landscapes: The English Heritage Handbook, edited by John Watkins and Tom Wright
Detailed historical research enables us to restore historic designs and introduce appropriate historic plants. Our research methods include landscape and geophysical surveys, aerial photography, and remote sensing technology as well as excavation and the study of environmental archaeological evidence.
At Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, for example, detailed historical and archaeological research was the focus of the restoration of a 17th-century style garden. The garden planting was based on the advice of 17th-century garden writers such as John Gerard and John Parkinson in his book Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (1629).
Where historical evidence is lacking, new designs may be appropriate, such as those created for our Contemporary Heritage Gardens project. These designs had to be in keeping with the context of each historic property but also present the best of contemporary design and set standards of design for future heritage.