Holywells Park – adventure, wildlife and history in the heart of Ipswich

Thursday 11th February 2016

When asked about fond memories of childhood, how many of us would recount summer days exploring the countryside with friends or siblings, the thrill of climbing trees, spotting a fox or badger, building a den or cooking over a bonfire?

Suffolk Wildlife Trust believes that this emersion in the natural world should be part of everyone’s life, large or small, being proven to benefit health and well-being.

In Ipswich we are fortunate to have an array of special wild places on our doorstep, with ancient woodlands, rolling heaths, the spectacular Orwell estuary and several outstanding historic parks and gardens.

One of the most beautiful of these parks is Holywells. Its history can be traced back to the 13th Century, when it was part of the Manor of Wyke’s Bishop. The name Holywells refers to the natural springs that emerge in the park, once used to make beer by the Cobbold family, who shipped the spring water up to their brewery in Harwich. The park has passed through many hands, to eventually be given to the people of Ipswich by Lord Woodbridge in 1936.

A mosaic of important habitats can be found in the park; mixed woodland is a major feature, with ash, poplar, beech, goat willow and sweet chestnut trees all present. The park also supports protected bat species pipistrelle and barbastelle. Ipswich Borough Council’s management of the park recognises the importance of fallen and standing dead wood for wildlife, which benefits several important species, including the magnificent stag beetle, five banded weevil-wasp, bee wolf and golden hoverfly.

In 2015, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Suffolk Wildlife Trust began to expand its hands-on approach to environmental education by taking it out of nature reserves and into the iconic parks of Ipswich. At Holywells Park we have been working with the park rangers to encourage young people with a love for nature, to build on their ID and practical conservation skills by learning from and working alongside local wildlife experts.

We also ran a number of community wildlife events - and have many more planned for the year ahead (more details below). It proved to be a fantastic summer for wildlife at Holywells - one of the highlights was undoubtedly the first red kite record for the park, spotted at a community BioBlitz event.

This hands-on approach to inspire young people about the wonders of the natural world on their doorstep is exciting because it sees us working alongside Ipswich Park Rangers and other wildlife groups such as Greenways, Suffolk Biological Records Centre and Ipswich Museum. These partnerships are crucial as they provide a range of opportunities for young people, particularly those who have an inherent interest in the natural world (our next generation of David Attenboroughs!) What an honour it is to indulge their passion and watch their knowledge grow.

At Holywells, this range of opportunities is growing all the time, in addition to community and family events we run regular ‘Young Wardens’ work parties, wildlife courses for teenagers and activities for local schools with themes including hibernation and pond life. Suzanne Kingsnorth, a teacher from nearby Murrayfield Primary School recounts:

“The children loved everything today, including the sunny weather at last. They all went home clutching their findings from the owl pellets. We couldn’t persuade them to leave them at school at all…they all wanted to show their parents and talk about the activity with them.”

2016 promises to be another wild year at Holywells Park - we look forward to seeing you there!

• Free wildlife sessions for schools are available as part of the Heritage Lottery funded initiative, please contact Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Ipswich Education Officer on 01473 890089 for details.

• Visit our website: suffolkwildlifetrust.org/whats-on to book your places on the following half-term events:

Wild Bushcraft skills at Holywells Park
Monday 15 February, 10.30am – 12.30pm
Age 10-16, £2.50

Family Bird Box Building at Holywells Park
Tuesday 16 February, 10.30am-12.30pm
Age 3+, £5/nest box

Bonkers about Bones at Kiln Meadow
Identify skulls and bones and hunt for signs of animals
Wednesday 17 February, 10.30am-12.30pm
Age 8-14, free

Family bird-box building at Chantry Park
Thurday 18 February, 10.30am-12.30pm
Age 3+, £5/nest box

Young Wardens at Holywells Park
Join us for hands-on practical work, followed by hot chocolate and marshmallows
Friday 19 February, 10.30am-12.30pm
Age 10-15, free.

Tagged with: Events & Shows, Closer to nature, Education, Ipswich