The overriding purpose of the project was to undertake a national study of historic parklands to inform the future direction of funding through Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship (ES) scheme following CAP reform. This study was formed of two main parts: firstly we carried out a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the effects of ES in conserving historic parklands, and secondly we developed a robust and practical methodology for prioritising parklands for future funding. Furthermore, the report also provides a comprehensive overview of the development and character of historic parklands for non-specialists so that they are able to understand and implement the methodology successfully.

We were the sole authors of the report, writing the historic parkland and Environmental Stewardship overview chapters, devising methodologies for assessment of 25 sample parklands, analysing and summarising the quantitative and qualitative data, creating the prioritisation methodology, and presenting our conclusions. We also acted as the project managers, liaising with the steering group (which included key specialists from Natural England, English Heritage and DEFRA), handling data, and instructing and managing the specialist sub-consultants who assisted with the parkland surveying. The role of client was to set the brief, provide datasets, discuss our proposed methodologies and findings and comment in general upon our draft reports.

This project is significant as a national study underpinning Natural England’s primary funding scheme for the conservation of the environment, helping to guide change in a period of uncertainty during CAP reform. The study furthermore highlights the importance of historic parkland landscapes, which are a finite resource, and the need for their conservation. Ultimately the report provides recommendations for Natural England and DEFRA at a national scale, as well as being an accessible and comprehensive ‘handbook’ that enables local and regional Natural England project officers to guide conservation clearly and robustly.

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