Medieval Deer Park on Dartington Hall estate to get new lease of life as a heritage site, educational resource and visitor attraction thanks to funding success
The Dartington Hall Trust has secured new funding of almost £750,000 to repair and conserve a historically significant area of the 800-acre estate – a medieval Deer Park and its 18th century Grade II listed stone wall.
An important feature of the Dartington Hall estate for around 700 years, the Deer Park will become a heritage site and a new visitor attraction free to the public, welcoming a potential 25,000 visitors each year to the area.
Grants of £622,600 from The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and £120,000 from Viridor Credits Environmental Company (via the Landfill Tax and the Landfill Communities Fund) are enabling Dartington to proceed with an imaginative ‘Heritage Revealed’ programme on a 66-acre Deer Park that was at risk of being lost forever to future generations.
The project funding also includes £100,000 previously secured from Natural England under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and a contribution of £99,000 from The Dartington Hall Trust itself. All that remains is for The Trust to find £12,300 of ‘match funding’ as a condition of securing one of the grants, with the money needing to come from independent means, not from The Trust’s own resources. An Appeal has been launched to achieve this.
The Deer Park’s 700-year-old history and its contribution to the life of the estate will be captured through an artistic, creative and thought-provoking retelling. This will also feed into the Park’s remit as an educational resource for local schoolchildren.
Once a status symbol of the powerful and wealthy, the Deer Park, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, occupies the largely hidden north east corner of the Dartington estate. A partially encircling wall still remains, which dates from 1738-40. It also boasts an extremely rare feature in the form of a Viewing Platform whose circular earthwork is still just visible. This would have supported a lodge, allowing guests to shelter and take refreshment while the hunt took place. The Park itself typically includes a mixture of woodland and grassland, which provided both cover and grazing for the deer, and a reliable source of fresh drinking water in the form of a sheltered spring.
With the Deer Park’s bloody past and aristocratic association now long gone, today it is a natural habitat of incredible biodiversity. It supports species including lizards, toads, beetles, birds and bats in and around the wall itself while otters, kingfishers, dippers and cirl buntings are also common sights in the wider area. In learning about, spotting and recording wildlife to help build up a fuller picture of this special haven, visitors themselves will become a part of the new Dartington story, with the opportunity to record their memories and impressions on a ‘Message Tree’ at the Visitor Centre.
Says Rhodri Samuel, CEO of The Dartington Hall Trust:
‘We are incredibly grateful to The Heritage Lottery Fund, Viridor Credits and Natural England for their generous support for the Heritage Revealed project. I hope that the project will encourage people of all ages to come along and explore this unique heritage landscape and learn more about the remarkable characters and events that have shaped it and been shaped by it.
‘The project will help to bring to life the fascinating and sometimes overlooked medieval and Georgian history of the estate. It will also set a new benchmark for how Dartington interprets its story, addresses accessibility and involves schoolchildren, volunteers and valued partners such as LandWorks. I very much look forward to seeing the project take shape.’
This £1m project has been further enhanced by significant in-kind support from Dartington in terms of management and project staff time, as well as the generous input of very committed volunteers.
Says Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West:
‘Dartington’s deer park has a fascinating history, offering a glimpse into the medieval way of life. It is also home to a wide array of wildlife and is a great place to spend time outdoors. Thanks to this National Lottery support, the deer park and its features will be conserved for the future, opening up this hidden area of the site so that visitors can enjoy its many charms.’
Says John Lockwood, CEO of Viridor Credits Environmental Company:
‘The Dartington Hall project gave our trustees a rare opportunity to contribute to the rescue of a nationally important heritage site that has strong community involvement and a diverse ecology. The vision of the Trust and the use of volunteers were key to securing funding and I look forward to completing a successful project with them all.”
Says Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes
‘I am delighted that the Dartington Hall Trust has been awarded Heritage Lottery Funding for the Deer Park Project. This will protect and improve an important part of our local heritage, opening up more of the Dartington estate to the public and developing new skills for all those involved.’
The project will also create new opportunities for people to get involved. There will be 50 volunteering posts in archaeology, archival research, conservation and biodiversity as well as in visitor tour guiding. (Interested individuals are invited to email email@example.com for further information.)
Trainees from the estate-based LandWorks charity (which provides a supported route back into the community for current and ex-prisoners), will lend hands-on support improving footpaths and installing interpretation materials in the landscape. All work will be conducted with due care for the area’s natural ecology and to minimise any environmental and archaeological impacts.
The project is already up and running. Repair work and conservation of the wall is due to start in August 2016, with all elements of the project scheduled to complete by April 2018.
Further notes and information
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk and @heritagelottery.
About Viridor Credits
Viridor Credits Environmental Company actively seeks applications from not-for-profit groups, organisations and projects that would not necessarily obtain funding from other, often more complicated, grant schemes. Applications can be made for projects that fall into one of three categories, provided that the project is located within 10 miles of an active Viridor landfill site. They are:
- Provision of a public amenity;
- The conservation or promotion of biological diversity within the vicinity of a landfill site through the provision, conservation, restoration or enhancement of a natural habitat, or the maintenance or recovery of a species or its habitat on land or water
- Restoration or renovation of buildings of historical or architectural importance or those used for religious worship, provided they offer public access.
Viridor Credits is looking for further projects to fund located within 10 miles of active Viridor-managed landfill sites. Community groups can visit www.viridor-credits.co.uk, call 01823 476476, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Viridor Credits Environmental Company, Aintree House, Blackbrook Park Avenue, Taunton, Somerset TA1 2PX for more information.
Viridor Credits Environmental Company is an environmental body and independent charity.
About the Landfill Communities Fund
The Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) is an innovative tax credit scheme enabling Landfill Operators (LOs) to contribute money to organisations enrolled with ENTRUST as Environmental Bodies (EBs). EBs use this funding for a wide range of community and environmental projects in the vicinity of landfill sites. LOs are able to claim a credit against their landfill tax liability for 90% of the contributions they make.
Since its inception in 1996, over £1.3billion has been spent on more than 51,000 projects across the UK. For further information, please visit www.entrust.org.uk or see HMRC’s general guide to Landfill Tax.
How the funding will be used
As well as enabling extensive repair work to the wall, the funding will pay for upgrades to existing footpaths and new ones to be installed for easy access all year round, including for all-terrain mobility scooters and families with buggies. Wayfinding and interpretation will be designed in harmony with the surroundings, using natural materials such as timber sourced from the estate. Atmospheric installations will appeal to sight, sound and touch. There are plans to include evocative silhouettes of deer dotted on the landscape, audio story points en route, and locally handcrafted wicker deer to pat, while a ‘deer leaping’ challenge will test the adventurous.
About the history of the Deer Park at Dartington
Originally a private hunting reserve, its use varied over the centuries as the priorities and attitudes of the estate’s owners changed. It was created by the Martin family, Norman settlers who arrived in England after the Conquest of 1066 and who held the Dartington estate from c1107 to 1342. Through the Middle Ages it became a fashionable private hunting reserve for the aristocratic owners but then fell into dereliction. The Deer Park was revived and landscaped in the C18th, including building the stone wall in evidence today, which served to prevent deer – formidable jumpers – from escaping. It is a fine example of the practices and skills of previous generations, highlighting traditional building techniques and locally sourced materials, with the stone probably coming from the estate quarry. Gateways in the Deer Park wall created a scenic carriage drive from Totnes along the banks of the River Dart.
About the history of Deer Parks in general
Deer Parks were a powerful medieval status symbol on account of the large area that wealthy landowners could set aside for non-agricultural use. They were mainly used for rearing, managing and hunting deer although rabbits, hares, wild boar and birds were also popular and fish were kept in ponds. The Deer Park acted as a ‘living larder’, providing fresh meat (a luxury, difficult to transport and keep fresh) for the table. Every part of the slaughtered deer was used.
Deer Parks also provided valuable opportunities to practise the skills the aristocracy needed for war, such as tracking across terrain, horsemanship and using weapons. Hunting was considered a social event creating camaraderie amongst those who took part. Cultural mores have shifted dramatically over the years, but in the Deer Park’s heyday a strong element of ritual, spectacle, glamour and hospitality would have been associated with the events.
About the involvement of schoolchildren
Young children are to feature strongly in the project, thanks to in-depth projects being worked up with two Torbay primary schools for late 2016, while a new outdoor learning programme for primary schools in the region is launching in 2017. This will get children out of the classroom and into the natural environment, bringing history to life and firing their imaginations. Children coming on general visits with families will be kitted out with interpretive backpacks to help them get the most out of their experience.
Says Sue Stell (Headteacher) and Jo Morgan (Outdoor Learning Lead Teacher) of St Margaret’s Academy, Torquay:
‘We are delighted to be given the opportunity to work in partnership with The Dartington Hall Trust in the development of the Deer Park. Whilst engaging in outdoor learning, the children are able to develop a strong sense of respect for the environment, encouraging them to care for it now and in the future.
‘As part of this project, we are excited to explore the skills and craftsmanship involved in creating a cob oven using the materials and expertise at Dartington. Our children will be able to use these skills back at school to build an identical cob oven to support our wider curriculum opportunities. The cob oven will tie together our love of being outdoors and our love of cooking and food education.’
Says Teresa Lakeman, Business Director, of King Edward VI Community College (KEVICC), Totnes:
‘The Design & Technology Department at KEVICC will be working in partnership with local designers developing installations and working on a subsidiary project on the design and aerodynamics of historical and contemporary arrow head forms, to link in with the historic use of the Deer Park. Students will develop their own designs, use 3-D computer-aided drafting and print patterns for silicon mould making.
‘These moulds will then be used to gravity cast arrow heads for testing – much as it would have been done historically. This blend of modern and traditional processes is an exciting prospect for us. We are delighted to hear of the success of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the Dartington project and look forward to working with them and their project partners to enhance the learning of our students.’