Althorp’s aim is to promote a thriving rural environment which makes a positive contribution to the local economy, conservation and preservation of heritage
The management of the Estate seeks to balance commercially based activity, with good stewardship of the landscape, wildlife conservation and a recognition that the countryside has to balance agricultural activities with that of leisure and recreation.
Farming remains the most significant activity in terms of land area, with the majority of land let on traditional tenancies. In many cases, the same family has farmed the land for generations.
Approximately 3,000 acres are farmed in hand by the Spencer family, combining efficient food production with the conservation of habitat and wildlife. There is a strong tradition of good hedgerow management across the Estate, with regular new planting, restoration and hedge-laying taking place.
Through careful management, the Estate can boast a healthy population of many species that are considered rare or endangered – including skylarks, wild grey partridges and barn owls. In Northamptonshire, the Estate work with the South Midlands Barn Owl Conservation Project to monitors barn owls, provide nesting boxes and release birds into the wild.
On the North Creake Estate in Norfolk, farming practices are tailored to support the wild grey partridge – ensuring birds receive good nesting, feeding and brood rearing cover.
TREES AND WOODLAND
Trees are a vital part of the Estate’s character, with the forestry team responsible for the care of around 1,000 acres of woodland. Accounting for 7% of the Estate’s land area, this expanse of woodland is a direct result of the long-term stewardship and careful management of the Spencer family’s continuous ownership.
Noted for its stunning veteran trees – some in excess of 400 years old – Althorp Park’s 20 Year Forest Plan has been prepared to simultaneously protect the heritage and clarify a long-term vision. In addition to commercial timber production, key objectives centre on the maintenance of significant landscapes and woodland habitat value.
Conservation of the Estate’s buildings is also an important task and a regular programme of conservation and repairs facilitates upkeep of the Grade I listed Althorp House and Stables.
In addition, there is the need to maintain more than 15 miles of stone walls, in excess of 100 listed buildings and structures, 20 thatched buildings, 3 scheduled ancient monuments and many other important landscape features.
Previous projects have involved repairs to the Grade II Listed St. John’s Spire at Little Brington. The body of the original church was demolished in 1947, with the spire being left as navigational landmark for RAF pilots.
COMMUNITY FACILITIES, RECREATION AND PUBLIC ACCESS
The Estate takes an active part in the provision of community facilities. Working closely with Parish Councils, examples include two village Post Offices, village halls, sports fields and pocket parks. The Estate has also been involved in the provision of affordable housing in two local villages.
Committed to upkeep of the many miles of public rights of way running through The Estate, Althorp also actively promote the use of 300 acres of local woodland at Harlestone Firs for informal recreation – a facility that many thousands of people visit annually.