Historic landscapes such as parks and formal gardens have an important function for the conservation of biodiversity in Britain because they provide habitats for a range of protected species such as great crested newt, bats, badger, barn owl and water vole. In some cases the features that gardens and parklands provide, such as ancient trees and ponds, are no longer common features of the British Countryside and consequently historic landscapes have become increasingly important for the protection of British wildlife.
Management of gardens is usually intensive and involves regular disturbance and as such has not been viewed by conservation organisations as ideal for the protection of biodiversity. However, with careful timing and sensitivity it is possible to manage gardens so as to maintain their aesthetic qualities without compromising the needs of wildlife.
Senior Ecologist Mark Wood’s article published in the 2010 edition of Historic Gardens magazine, illustrates how horticulture and conservation can happily co-exist in a case study of Brackenhurst Hall, which is surrounded by gardens that originated in the 18th Century.
Nowadays the site is part of Nottingham Trent University and the campus is used for courses in land-management. Within the gardens there are several ponds of varying sizes, all of artificial origin. The ponds have been colonised by great crested newts and the site now supports one of the largest populations in the county.
Over the last fifteen years staff have worked together to develop a programme of management that maintains the aesthetic appearance of the ponds without compromising the conservation needs of great crested newts. Despite a recent extensive building programme and the continued intensive management of the land surrounding the ponds, the newt populations are thriving and have expanded beyond the gardens into the wider countryside.