19th-century artwork inspires restoration of Devon estate

Landscape painting discovered in Killerton house informs National Trust development of grounds

A 19th-century painting found in the archive of a Devon country house is being used to help inspire the 50-year restoration and enrichment of the estate.

The artwork depicts a healthy and diverse landscape at Killerton, near Exeter, rich in mature trees hedgerows and scrubland being grazed by Highland cattle.

It is helping the National Trust to inform its development work, which includes adding more than two miles of hedges, 40 acres of wood pasture – grazing areas planted with trees – and reconnecting a river with its floodplain to reduce flooding.

Paul Hawkins, the project manager at the National Trust, said: “We want to ensure the estate evolves to capture more carbon and to help the land, wildlife and livestock cope with more extreme weather events.

“Currently just under 10% of the Killerton estate is priority habitat – and the combination of work we are doing to protect and enhance these areas together with changes in management should boost nature on the estate.

“The estate, as it is now, may look green and beautiful, but the reality is that so much of the wildlife that was on the estate when the picture was painted has been lost.”

The painting is believed to be by the 11th baronet, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, whose family donated Killerton to the National Trust in 1944.

It was rediscovered in the estate archives during lockdown when the team had more time to start sorting through a large deposit given to Killerton by another member of the Acland family.

It is hoped the project will create better habitats for a range of creatures, from dormice to woodpeckers. Hawkins said: “Where we are planting new hedgerows and changing their management, we hope to attract more wildlife such as butterflies and bats that will use these as corridors to join up habitats across the estate. In the future, this work should help us give visitors even more opportunities to get close to wildlife.”

The work will be funded with the help of just over £750,000 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair’s green recovery challenge fund.

The funding has created jobs, including a countryside apprentice, Harry Whiting, whose great-grandfather Henry Thorne began as a boot polisher on the estate and worked his way up to head gardener.

Whiting said: “My mum and grandma were also born on the estate. It’s really nice as it feels as though things have come full circle, I’m now working on the land my family have looked after and lived on.”


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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