Work is now underway to breathe new life into Dartington’s 66 acre medieval Deer Park after The Dartington Hall Trust successfully met its £998,000 fundraising target in September. Volunteers, Trust staff and contractors alike are now working to conserve an ‘at risk’ scheduled ancient monument, and offer a new heritage learning programme for the first time.

This has been possible thanks to donations from public that have joined grant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Viridor Credits Environmental Company, Natural England and The Pilgrim Trust. The project, which is due to be completed in summer 2017, will provide hands-on learning for primary and secondary school children, families and visitors of all ages.

Project manager of this scheme, Richard Williams says:

‘We’d like to thank everyone who donated to our fundraising campaign. It’s great to see work finally starting on this project that will reveal how ordinary people lived and worked on this land from Norman times. We look forward to welcoming many more people onto the estate from all walks of life to delve into its fascinating heritage.’

The contractors appointed to repair and conserve the Deer Park Wall, Sally Strachey Historic Conservation, who will be overseen by historic building conservation specialists Philip Hughes Associates to ensure it meets conservation standards. Sam Wheeler, Philip Hughes Associates, says:

‘We’re using traditional heritage methods to conserve the wall, such as lime mortar, in keeping with the methods used at the time of the wall’s construction in the 1780s. If you’re walking nearby you’ll notice blankets are used to protect the wall’s capping while the lime ‘cures’.’

As well as the new schools’ learning programme which will start in late 2016, Heritage Revealed is also providing learning opportunities for volunteers. 26 students from Language in Totnes (pictured) gathered original fallen stone from the wall in September, and then in October 14 volunteer Heritage Guides were shown significant historical and conservation features of the site by learning and participation coordinator Lizzie Mee and conservation officer Mike Newby (pictured).

Learning and participation coordinator Lizzie Mee said:

‘It’s really exciting to start developing the guided walks for the Heritage Revealed project. It’s important to involve our volunteers in creating the tours so it was great to meet them on our fact-finding walk this week. We’re creating a tour for the public that will cover the early medieval roots of Dartington’s Deer Park as well as explore the ancient woodlands and it’s wildlife. So alongside the brutal story of the medieval hunt, participants will be able to learn about wildlife including cirl buntings, stonechats, greater horseshoe bats, cupboard spiders and otters that use the wall as their habitat today.’

Future volunteering opportunities will include conducting biodiversity surveys and carrying out historical research. There will also be training opportunities for estate-based prisoner resettlement scheme LandWorks to gain useful employment skills. 

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