Hello, I’m Ross Symonds and I am an Ecologist. I have been working with the Charity to help improve and increase the natural environment within the estate, in a way that is in keeping with the ethos and legacy of William Robinson.

I am writing this article following our third biodiversity volunteering work party at Gravetye on 11th March 2023.

We planted native tree species, put up a mix of bird boxes, and remove the unsightly and potentially harmful barbed wire. It was a beautiful day, the volunteers were lovely, passionate and hardworking, and there was a really positive vibe.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to say what we are doing and why we are doing it. So here we go:

Gravetye Estate is 650 acres. The hotel grounds make up 30 acres, the remaining 620 acres being ancient woodland, commercial plantation and farmland. It is that 620 acres that the charity, and myself, have been tasked with improving for nature and us humans (who are natural as well!).

Historically the ancient woodlands have been sadly undermanaged for nature. Initial surveying suggests that there is a shortage of native birds, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates and native plant life on the estate. We hope to change this situation using local volunteers, school groups, local businesses, universities, and experts in their field.  I believe if we all pull together, we can turn the estate into a beautiful, vibrant, exciting alive place to visit.

But how? I have put together a surveying schedule to establish a detailed picture of what is living on and using the estate. Most surveying is done seasonally and now that we are currently halfway into March we can start in earnest. Our next volunteer session is on the 1st of April and this will mark the first of our monthly nesting bird surveys. We’ll also be laying out reptile refugia (an easy way to monitor reptile activity), and setting up small mammal and dormouse ink traps. These are also easy, non-invasive ways of surveying that anyone can help with. Subsequent sessions will include botanical and inverted surveys, nighttime bat emergence surveys, and getting a 360-degree picture of the lake.

It may be that we suddenly find that the estate is full of life and that would be great. The more likely outcome is that we find very little. But as an old ecology professor once said “no data is good data” meaning once we know what we have or haven’t got we can act accordingly. Habitat creation and management is indeed very high up the charities’ agenda. Either way, the future of the ecology at Gravetye is in good hands.

If you’d like to learn more and get involved, please get in contact.