Caring for our land
Sun 21 February 2016
One of the attractions of Sheldon is the landscape within which it sits. We are surrounded by beautiful countryside with views down the Teign Valley, across to the Dartmoor National Park and over to the Haldon Forest. Closer to home, we have our own land – 45 acres of pasture, woodland and gardens – with plenty of space for guests to walk and relax, for sheep to graze and for us to grow fruit and veg. However, this much land does not look after itself!
We have a small but dedicated part-time estate team – Simon, Rom and Lawrence – who take on the heavy work around the grounds. Much of the work is regular, some in response to sudden events, often weather related, and some new projects (for example, building new raised beds or laying new land drains).
The very heavy rain that we experienced this winter has brought its challenges. Our fields are saturated so the grass and other soft surfaces are easily damaged by our tractors and other machinery. A number of streams flow through the site and more appear when the rainfall is very high. One stream runs down through Sheldon Copse towards the open-air theatre and is channelled under the stage through a culvert. In the heavy rains in December last year, the culvert blocked so the stream carved a new path down the theatre track, dumped gravel all over the stage and poured over the side of the stage gouging out a large hole before re-joining its usual course. The estate team was soon on hand to unblock the culvert, clear the stage and repair the damage. Throughout the year they will be working to get the theatre ready for this year’s exciting series of concerts – details at www.sheldontheatre.co.uk.
Anyone who has visited Sheldon will know that there is a lot of gravel around the areas used by vehicles. Gravel has a habit of disappearing so needs regular topping up. 15 tonnes of new gravel arrived last week and Simon soon spread it around the site. In the autumn and winter many of these surfaces will be covered by fallen leaves so a regular job for the team is to strap on the leaf blower and clear paths and drives. As well as dropping leaves, trees can also shed branches so an important part of the work is to keep an eye on the trees and deal with any that are in need of attention. This may involve getting a tree surgeon in to deal with large trees or high level work.
We take the stewardship of our land seriously, balancing the enjoyment (and safety) of our guests with the needs of our livestock and the encouragement of the wildlife (even the badgers). When you’re next at Sheldon, take some time to explore the grounds and admire the work of the estate team!