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.
Rachel, who manages our sawmill, found a hedgehog curled up under some logs last week. Rowan, our secretary, remembers seeing one cross the road last year. Andrew remembers his dog disturbing one at the farm. So there are some still about, but most of our gang here at the hall cannot recall the last time we saw one.
A recent report from two national societies attributes their decline to loss of habitat. That makes no sense round here. There are more, not less, hedges than there were thirty years ago, and thousands of acres have been planted with trees. Headlands are left unploughed, and ‘link woods’ connect one sanctuary to another. Talk to any countryman he’ll tell you it’s the badgers.
I am not a very observant countryman, but I’m aware that we are seeing badger activity where we never saw it before. There are setts in all our woods. I see dead badgers by the roadside instead of flattened hedgehogs. And I’m told that badgers are responsible for all the excavated wasps nests we are seeing lately. Maybe that’s why we see less wasps at our tearooms.
A couple of things puzzle me in all this. Although they did not have protected status I hadn’t heard that badger numbers were regularly controlled in earlier times. Badger baiting and some gassing – yes, but would that have been enough to prevent the explosion of numbers we are seeing now? My other thought concerns the areas where badgers are now being culled under licence; are hedgehog numbers recovering there?
One thing badgers didn’t have before is an organisation devoted to protecting them. Is that why hedgehog reports run scared of naming them? These single issue campaigners are a reflection of our predominantly urban society. Real countrymen, I’ve found, take a more pragmatic and balanced approach. All wildlife counts for them, but none too much.