Welcome to Staunton Harold Hall
The Staunton Harold Estate is a traditional country estate of some 2000 acres, centred on the great Georgian mansion, Staunton Harold Hall. Family run, and ‘hands on’ in its management style, the estate has embraced modern uses for its diverse assets.
The Hall itself became a family home again in 2003, after fifty years of institutional use. With some eighty three rooms, the main building easily accommodates three generations of our family. Son-in-law, Tony Cantrill, has taken over the West Wing, now converted into high quality managed offices and conference facilities, known as LION COURT.
The suite of fine ‘State Rooms’ on the east and north front lend themselves to large functions, and here we host weddings and other events up to twelve times a year.
Our family’s involvement with Staunton Harold began in 1955, when we purchased the three farms at the core of the estate. These included the large Georgian stable block, which stood abandoned and ruinous. We put it in good repair, and in 1974 began its conversion to craft workshops and studios. Now known as the FERRERS CENTRE FOR ARTS AND CRAFTS this is a true ‘making’ centre with some eighteen businesses covering a range of disciplines. Most of our land is let to local farmers, but the four hundred acres of woodland we manage ourselves with a forestry team based at our estate sawmill. From here we sell firewood through the TEN MILE TIMBER COMPANY, and sawn material, mainly oak and larch, through Staunton Hardwoods, cut to customers’ requirements.
Our family business centres around maintaining and renting out property and a recent addition to this, built from our own timber, is DEERPARK LODGE. This is a holiday cottage, sleeping six, set among trees on a hill above the Hall. The hamlet of Staunton Harold includes a garden centre, in separate ownership, and a fine 17th century church, now in the care of the National Trust. We have become something of a walking and cycling centre, with adequate car parks and restaurants and seven routes radiating from the settlement.
Sometime back in the 1960s the government dreamt up a scheme to pay farmers to plant trees on their land. Thousands of trees, mainly conifers, were planted and then forgotten. Twenty five years on they survived as spindly poles with a tuft of green on top, useless to man or beast. As a woodsman I saw them on my journeys up and down the country.
So when thirty square miles of the East Midlands, including Staunton Harold, were selected as the site for a new ‘National Forest’ twenty five years ago, I predicted a similar fate. The money to plant was generous, and the farmer kept the land, but there was no mention of cash for subsequent management. First thinnings are a net cost. Another problem with woodland, unlike corn or potatoes, is that thinning can be put off for a few years, but not indefinitely.
An early aim was to obliterate the scars of mineral extraction, and this has been achieved. Thirty percent tree cover was the target, about twenty per cent has been planted and is unlikely to much increase, with farmland now so expensive. Areas which were blots on the landscape have become tourist attractions, The planting has been mainly of native and deciduous trees, though climate change and tree diseases are now prompting a wider palette.
Most importantly, thinning and management are now being actively encouraged. Contractors skilled in thinning by machine have entered the market, bringing down the initial cost. With thousands of acres to tackle much of it in scattered small blocks, there is a long way to go. We are not ‘out of the woods’ yet, but increasingly we should be able to see the light between the trees.