Rediscovered 19th-century painting aids restoration of English estate

The painting inspired a new landscape development plan at the Killerton Estate. Image: Fi Hailstone/National Trust

In South England, a 19th-century painting is aiding the National Trust to redevelop a country house. The artwork shows a fertile and green landscape around Killerton, an 18th-century estate near Exeter. The beautiful scenery helps the National Trust to develop the country house’s surroundings. 

The project aims to add 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. “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”, project manager Paul Hawkins told The Guardian

Lost natural heritage

The inspiring painting is attributed to the 11th baronet, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland. His family donated the Killerton estate to the National Trust in 1944. The artwork was rediscovered during the COVID-19 lockdown when the team had more time to sort through a large deposit given to the estate by an Acland family member. (Text continues below image)

The estate may look green and beautiful, but the reality is that much of the wildlife has been lost since the 19th-century. Image: Alison Bay/Flicr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Nowadays, Killerton is still a beautiful and green heritage site, but the painting shows that a lot of nature has been lost over the years. Hawkins hopes the project will create better conditions for diverse wildlife. “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”, he explained. 

Full circle

The development plans, inspired by the painting, are financially supported by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. This government fund aims to support nature recovery and green jobs, according to the National Trust. One of the new workers is Harry Whiting, a great-grandson of the estate’s former head gardener. 

“My mum and grandma were also born on the estate”, Whiting explained to The Guardian. “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.” All thanks to a remarkable 19th-century painting. 

Killerton estate and its garden. Image: Alison Day/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Source: National Trust and The Guardian

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