Heritage Open Days: 10-19 Sept. 2021 - what did you discover?!

Blickling Estate - Riverlands

Blickling's striking Jacobean Hall and beautiful gardens are a classic entry on stately homes 'to visit' lists, but with an estate covering 4,600 acres of woodland, parkland, and farmland there are many other stories it can tell. For the past few years the team have been using HODs as a chance to highlight different aspects of Blicking. For 2019 they focused on a new river restoration project - delighting visitors with a weekend of special walks exploring the history and ecology of the river as it meanders through the estate.

© National Trust - Silvergate Stream winds scenically through the estate into Blickling Lake. An important part of the iconic whole, Silvergate was the first section to be restored for Riverlands.

Bethan Edmunds, Ranger, National Trust, Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Why we take part

As a nationally recognised festival HODs gives us an opportunity to showcase different aspects of our work. ‘Behind the scenes’ is a concept associated with the indoors, but I have found it is possible to surprise and delight visitors by adding value to a walk they may have done hundreds of times, or by giving them the confidence to explore parts of the countryside they may not have ventured into before. As a working estate with many tenants, providing access to parts of the estate not normally ‘open’, and improving access to stories of the estate is something the whole team are keen to continue.

The Riverlands project is helping to restore this magical place. / © Murray Thompson

What we do for HODs

Last year we embarked upon 4 guided walks over the first weekend of the festival which took visitors on to Pond Meadow and along a stretch of Silvergate Stream. The stream is a tributary of the main River Bure, one of only 200 chalk streams in the world, making it an internationally significant habitat but also the lifeblood of the estate. We walked across the meadow and back down the stream towards the hall, ending the walk in the gardens to which the participants had free entrance. Our restoration engineer volunteers were there to greet us with a demonstration of the water pump taken from the pumphouse on Pond Meadow and restored, which originally supplied the Hall with water from the stream.

The difference it's made

The work that myself and the Riverlands Upper Bure project team did in preparation for the 2019 series meant collaborating with our fantastic restoration engineer volunteers. Working with them enabled us to deliver an experience which was both about the conservation need of our natural environment, and the links between the landscape and social history of the estate. Taking on the task of opening a second water pumphouse in the gardens to visitors also brought its own challenges. However, working closely with Donna, our regional Operational Risk Business Partner, on this project has meant I am better equipped to anticipate what is required when inviting visitors into new parts of the estate and their buildings.

Nice surprise

As a property that has traditionally provided a ‘house and garden’ offer, the level of interest in a nature/wildlife focussed project happening in the catchment and at Blickling was a nice surprise.

Personal highlight

The River Bure sparkles in the sunshine - perfect for a walk with hidden depths! / © National Trust

I was coming back into our main visitor reception to take the second walk of the day and bumped into a couple who had been on the morning’s walk. To my excitement they were clutching a National Trust membership pack! They had joined the NT having been on the walk I had given. I began my NT career on visitor reception at Blickling; one of the reasons I wanted to be a Ranger here was to be actively involved in the amazing conservation work I had been inspiring our visitors with stories of in the reception role. To have visitors support the charity because I had shared my experience of the river restoration project with them was a very proud moment for me.

Top tip

Go for it! Participating in HODs is always a rewarding experience. Work together – having Ali from the project team, friends in the marketing team and buy-in from Ops Risk made our walks a success. Think about teams or pieces of work that would be good to get involved, or elements that could add value to the experience.

Inspired? Find out more