Head of Arboretum and Gardens reflects on 25 years of Nurturing an Essex Estate

The Head of the Arboretum and Gardens, Ian Chandler, has spent the past 25 years dedicating most of his working career to nurturing and developing the 2,350 acre landscape in Coggeshall, in line with the last private owner, Thomas Phillips Price’s, wishes of the Estate being held in the Trust for the nation “for the advancement of agriculture, arboriculture, and forestry.”

Ian joined the team back in 1998 as an Estate Worker/Arborist. He recalls “the Arboretum, as I remember was very different to what you see now…half the size as it is today with areas such as the Birkett Long Millennium Walk and Gondwanaland not yet developed or planted existing. The Walled Garden was just a large lawn surrounded with three long borders. An Arboretum in its conception and very early days.”

Since then, the Arboretum has expanded and significantly developed all thanks to the help of Ian and the Arboretum and Horticulture Team at Markshall; between eight of them they care for more than 2,000 acres of Arboretum, Gardens and Woodlands.

From helping to develop the redesigned Walled Garden, Birkett Long Millennium Walk and Gondwanaland. Some of Ian’s other projects have included the creation of the hard path network. This was particularly significant as it “made the grounds more accessible to our visitors.”

“More recently it has been very rewarding to be a part of being involved in the creation of the digital plant catalogue. From paper records in folders and books, the entire catalogue has been digitalized and loaded to a Horticultural database. This means moving forward the management of the tree collection will be easier and more focused, and visitors can now explore the Arboretum and more than 5,000 trees through the Arboretum Explorer on our website.” Ian is the ultimate tree hero!

So, what does the coming years hold for Ian as Head of Arboretum and Gardens? “There’s so much to do! After the recent creation of the Himalaya region in Asia and new lake in North America (totalling around 25 acres) these areas will now need much planning and planting which is “a huge task”. Also, the felling of the last stand of pine trees still belonging to the Forestry Commission will be a hugely significant occasion as this will mean that for the first time since the Trust was established, all land will be in the control of the Trust and managed ‘in house’. Couple this with the completion of the new Landscape Master plan will mean the future direction of the Gardens and Arboretum will be set in stone for the next 30 years.”

Ian’s commitment to the charitable aims and love for the unique landscape is admired by all that knows him. Chair of the Board of Trustees Meriel Barclay commented “Very many congratulations to Ian after 25 years at Markshall. Ian has been an incredibly valuable member of the team having started as an Estate Worker/ Arborist and been steadily promoted to become Head of the Arboretum and Gardens. He is a pleasant colleague, a very motivational manager for his team, as well as being exceedingly knowledgeable in all aspects of arboretum management.

From a conception of an Arboretum to developing zones, designing landscapes, and planning for the future, Ian has achieved so much in 25 years at Markshall. Everyone at Markshall is incredibly thankful for his dedication and commitment to the development and safeguarding for the estate. All falling under the last
private owner, Thomas Phillips Price’s, wishes of the Estate being held in the Trust for the nation “for the advancement of agriculture, arboriculture, and forestry.”