Enhancing Sawbridgeworth’s Pishiobury Park

PUBLISHED: 11:06 28 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:06 28 August 2018

The new boardwalk makes it easy to get up close to nature (photo: Countryside Management Service)

The new boardwalk makes it easy to get up close to nature (photo: Countryside Management Service)

Countryside Management Service

The diverse parkland of Pishiobury Park in Sawbridgeworth is undergoing a five-year plan to promote its heritage and enhance its habitats. It makes for a royal day out

Pishiobury Park on the edge of Sawbridgeworth provides an opportunity to embrace nature and history in a peaceful parkland landscape. The centuries old parkland has diverse and locally- important wildlife habitats, including grassland, woodland, wet meadow, wet woodland and veteran trees, providing an interesting place to visit this late summer and into autumn.

In partnership with landowners East Herts District Council and the Friends of Pishiobury Park, the Countryside Management Service has developed a new Greenspace Action Plan for the site. This sets out the management of the park for the next five years and aims to protect and promote the site’s heritage, enhance habitats for wildlife, and improve public access and enjoyment.

Pishiobury Park has a rich past dating back to the Neolithic, with evidence of a causewayed enclosure, an area thought to have been used for social gatherings some five thousand years ago. Although not visible on the ground, the enclosure’s distinctive earthworks of concentric rings were revealed by cropmarks showing up in aerial photographs. This area of the park is designated as a Scheduled Monument, recognising its national importance.

The parkland was once six times its current size and formed part of the grounds of Pishiobury House, which was granted to Ann Boleyn by Henry VIII in 1534. Although the house is no longer visible from the park, features of the estate grounds remain and provide evidence of the 18th century landscape design, possibly attributable to Capability Brown. Historic design features include scattered parkland trees, tree groups, woodland belts and tree-lined avenues. Oak Walk, a focal point of the park, marks the former approach to Pishiobury House from the north, and the planted Lime Avenue replicates the original drive to the house from the west. The special historic interest of the park has been recognised through its designation as Grade II Historic Parkland.

Otters have been spotted in the Stort (photo: Getty Images)Otters have been spotted in the Stort (photo: Getty Images)

Pishiobury Park is managed to reflect its parkland character, for nature conservation, and for quiet informal recreation. Most recently, East Herts District Council acquired management responsibility for a strip of wet woodland along the eastern boundary of the park, known locally as the Osier Bed. It derives its name from when the area was managed as a working coppice planted with osier willow. Wet woodland is rare in Hertfordshire and provides a home for a wide range of wildlife. Managing this important woodland has presented an exciting opportunity to expand the existing circular walks and improve habitat quality. Following a busy winter focused on creating a healthy woodland with a more open structure, a new boardwalk has been installed, providing public access to a unique habitat for visitors to enjoy.

A stroll across the boardwalk gives you a chance to get up close to the wildlife and provides picturesque vistas over the river Stort. The waterway environment supports a large number of invertebrates, birds and mammals.

You might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a barn owl, a great spotted woodpecker or dark bush cricket, or even an otter or water vole. Look out too for dragonflies and damselflies hunting above the water. The surrounding trees provide suitable roosting sites for bats - common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and noctule have been recorded here. Over the summer, the woodland floor is awash with a wide variety of plants such as angelica, hemp agrimony and red campion, particularly in response to recent management which has created pockets of light.

The boardwalk links into an established woodland trail and a network of mown paths which criss-cross the extensive grassland area. The main park area is grazed by rare breed English longhorn and British White cattle, while Romanian Water Buffalo graze the fenced water meadow. This is a traditional, sustainable and effective way to maintain a wildlife-rich grassland. The park has been grazed in some form for centuries. Attractive displays of wildflowers such as bee orchid and ox-eye daisy and grasses create a lovely place for a walk (you can also pick up the towpath to Bishop’s Stortford and Harlow) and at the same time provide an important food source for insects. Of particular interest is the high number of butterflies, including green-veined white, white-letter hairstreak butterfly and holly blue.

Bee orchid - a rare british flower up close (photo: Getty Images)Bee orchid - a rare british flower up close (photo: Getty Images)

For more about the work of the Friends of Pishiobury Park, and to get involved, visit friendsofpishioburypark.co.uk

To keep up to date with Herts walking news and events, sign up for the monthly bulletin at hertfordshire.gov.uk/updateme

Charlotte Carter is land management projects officer at the Countryside Management Service.

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