Behind the Scenes
One of the most important aspects of the grounds within Stormont Estate is its contribution to the conservation of local wildlife. To this end, the ecological status of the Estate has been monitored in the past, most recently in 1996 and updated in 2005 This monitoring has informed the management within the Estate and has sent a signal that the government takes its local environmental obligations seriously.
Over the years, the Estate has developed into a major wooded park on the urban fringe of Belfast containing 60 hectares of managed, mainly deciduous woods as well as public accessible parkland, amenity gardens, sports grounds, agricultural land and a children’s play ground.
Apart from the activities associated with their support of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and Northern Ireland Assembly through security, official transport, courier services and events facilitation, the staff at Stormont Estate are involved in a wide range of horticultural and environmental activities. As the Stormont Estate grounds generally falls to the remit of the Department of Finance and Personnel, Properties Division within the Department have developed a number of objectives for managing the Estate.
- To provide public access to, and enjoyment of the parkland area of the Estate
- To provide a protected woodland environment with minimal intrusion, to protect and expand the habitats for plant and animal life within the Estate
- To maintain and develop existing facilities, to ensure an attractive and aesthetically pleasing environment for the benefit of all users of the Estate.
Since its inception a succession of Ministers, Civil Servants and forestry Consultants have influenced the development of the Stormont Estate. These influences have created one of the most important publicly owned deciduous woodland areas in Northern Ireland, with many fine compartments of expertly managed native trees. Such has been the quality of past management that the Stormont Estate woods are fast becoming important heritage and educational sites that will contain some of the best examples of deciduous forestry trees on this island.
The woodland character of Stormont Estate is its most significant and valuable feature. The ever changing vistas of woodland interspersed with open meadow provide a superb environment for the thousands of people who either work in the Estate, visit or utilise the Estate for recreational and educational purposes.
Previous forestry practice of planting fast growing non-native conifers and maintaining these in the sole interests of commercial timber production has ceased. The existing conifer woodlands are continually managed and maintained to encourage and favour naturally regenerated native species.
The vast majority of ground space at the Nursery is given over to the production of trees shrubs, mostly from seed but a few species are propagated from cuttings. Strong healthy mature trees growing within the Stormont Estate woodlands are carefully selected as parent stock and seed is collected from the selected parent trees growing within the established woodlands and hedgerows on the Stormont Estate grounds.
Once the trees reach a suitable size they are lined out at the nursery, root pruning is done at this stage depending on the species. Species produced include Alder, Holly, Oak, Dog Rose, Guelder Rose, Birch, Blackthorn, Ash and Beech. Some ornamental trees have also been grown. When space permits the raised beds can also be used to produce ‘direct sow’ type bedding plants such as Myosotis, Wallflower and Bellis.
Recycling and Storage
All waste plant material generated from our work throughout the estate is brought up to be composted in the bays at the nursery. In a year to 18 months this becomes a fine, dark coloured, friable material which is used to enrich soil and can be worked in to the ground when planting new stock.
The latest addition to our composting is a leaf mould bay. For this we use leaves collected from around the estate in autumn and winter. It is left to decompose for a couple of years and produces a product particularly suitable for growing acid loving or ericaceous plants, (rhododendrons for example).
Woody plant material (tree and shrub branches) from work in the estate is deposited in one of the bays. When full, the material is put through a chipper. This reduces the branches down to a state where it can be incorporated into compost production or used as mulch itself.
Bulk materials such as bark, manure, sand etc. are also stored in the bays to enable us to have a ready supply of media for various projects.