A ray of light for a Co Down woodland

Michael Quinn, estate manager for Rademon.
Michael Quinn, estate manager for Rademon.
  • 50 hectares of woodland in Co Down estate to be restored to its former glory
  • Ancient woodland supports a complex web of species
  • All timber felled on the etsate will be used as biomass

The renowned and centuries-old Rademon Estate, near Crossgar in Co Down, is set for a new lease of life.

Almost 50 hectares (123 acres) of woodland within this extensive estate will be restored to their former glory, thanks to the foresight of owners the Boyd family, with Rose Boyd taking a particular interest in the gardens.

“Rademon has become that rare thing that is a sustainable country estate with a keen interest in its legacy for times to come.”

Michael Quinn, estate manager for Rademon

The Co Down venture is part of the Woodland Trust’s ambitious UK-wide project which, thanks to funding of £1.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, offers restoration advice to owners across 52,000 hectares (200 square miles) of damaged ancient woodland.

Ancient woodland is irreplaceable and supports a complex web of species, including plants, fungi and insects – some rare and vulnerable. In the 20th century, however, many of our precious ancient woods were felled and replanted with non-native, fast-growing conifers in the post-war drive for timber.

Today, Northern Ireland’s ancient and long-established woods1 cover a mere 0.7 per cent of the landscape, and over 40 per cent of this tiny area is either conifer plantation or a mixture of conifers and broadleaves.

Michael Topping, the Woodland Trust’s project officer, enthuses: “Rademon Estate has extensive woodland dating back to at least the 1800s. Some of the original native woodland, however, was felled years ago and replanted with conifers, including larch and Norway spruce. We’re offering guidance to convert almost 50 hectares of this plantation back to its natural broadleaved state, along with advice for the control of harmful invasive species such as laurel and Himalayan knotweed.

“Rademon is a real treasure trove just waiting to be unearthed. A number of fine old oaks have managed to remain, but today are almost hidden by the fast-growing spruce. You’ll come across remains of charming old stone walls and faint scatterings of woodland plants, such as bluebells, desperate for light and the chance to impress.

“Ancient woodland restoration must be done sensitively. The gradual removal of dense conifers and invasive species slowly opens up the canopy, allowing sunlight to filter in and giving precious species – our native trees, plants, fungi and mosses – a chance to thrive once more.”

Michael Quinn, estate manager for Rademon, says: “I’m delighted to be restoring this precious woodland and am very glad of the guidance from the Woodland Trust.  I have the best job in Northern Ireland: I get to spend all day in the forest at Rademon curating the woodland of the future!

“All the timber felled on the estate is used for biomass heating which is enough to entirely heat Rademon House. We also have both wind and hydro turbines to more than meet all our energy needs.

“Rademon Estate is also home to the award-winning craft distillery which produces Shortcross Gin. Inspired by its setting and using various botanicals from the estate, this unique gin is a fine reflection of its surroundings.

“Between the introduction of renewable energy and craft distilled gin, Rademon has become that rare thing that is a sustainable country estate with a keen interest in its legacy for times to come.”

The Woodland Trust is offering free specialist support to make the ancient woodland restoration process as straightforward as possible.

To find out more contact Michael Topping on 028 9056 9556, email michaeltopping@woodlandtrust.org.uk or visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk.