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In the final interview of our National Trust series, Tom Hill discusses his love for the outdoors and why keeping alive an appreciation for woodlands and their native wildlife is so important.

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As a Trees & Woodland Specialist with the National Trust, it is Tom’s role to lead the restoration and care of 80 acres of ancient woodland at Sheffield Park in East Sussex.

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While an average day can involve anything from uncovering ancient woodland pathways with a team of archaeologists to securing grants for much-needed conservation work, Tom and his team are committed to preserving the landscape of Sheffield Park and making the most of the natural resources available to them.

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WHY WORK OUTDOORS?

Like the seasons, nature is always changing, never predictable, never the same as the day before. This makes it interesting to work outdoors because you constantly have to adapt and learn to keep up with the natural environment around you. My workplace, is always evolving and surprising me in ways I can’t imagine. A woodland may be ancient but it never stands still. It’s a dynamic and exciting place to be.

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WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT SHEFFIELD PARK?

The variety – not only do we have huge and incredible trees from all over the world growing side by side, but you can explore everything from ancient woodlands to wildflower meadows, or spot wildlife from inside a WW2 pillbox.

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WHY PRESERVE HISTORIC WOODLAND?

Woodlands and our relationship with them has always been fundamental to our existence and evolution. Even today, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone living without some form of wood in their house. Woodlands connect us to our ancient past, a time when we were all hunter gatherers, living in and from the forest. Keeping alive an appreciation for woodlands and their native wildlife is vital to retaining our ecological heritage and understanding exactly what it is to be human.

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ANY HIDDEN GEMS?

The Skyglade in the parkland was installed a couple of years ago and is a kind of stone henge made from huge wooden planks. It was made so that visitors could enjoy the exceptionally starry skies that we get in the area. In the garden, the lesser known Storage Pond is the best spot for dragonflies in the summer and usually a quieter place on busy days.

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THE BEST VIEWPOINT.

The Walk Wood - which lies to the north of the garden - gives you glimpses of the oldest known ‘pleasure grounds’ on the estate; an area allegedly landscaped by 'Capabilty' Brown in the 18th Century. A trail of wooden sculptures adds to the views through the trees and is particularly impressive on a sunny day as light cascades in amongst them.

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