THE head of an estate’s arboretum has told of the transformation of the site during his near three decades on the site. 

Ian Chandler has spent the past 25 years nurturing and developing the 951-hectare Markshall Estate set in the heart of the Essex countryside.

Having joined in 1998 as an estate worker/arborist, he has seen significant expansion of the location, which has nearly doubled in size during his time. 

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“The arboretum, as I remember, was very different to what you see now,” he said. “It was half the size it is today, with areas such as the Birkett Long Millennium Walk and Gondwanaland not yet developed or planted. 

“The walled garden was just a large lawn surrounded with three long borders, and an arboretum in its conception.” 

Since then, the arboretum has expanded and significantly developed, thanks to the help of Ian and the arboretum and horticulture team at Markshall; between eight of them they care for more than 950 hectares of arboretum, gardens and woodlands. 

Key to the site’s transformation, 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,” he said. “From paper records in folders and books, the entire catalogue has been digitalised 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.” 

When asked what the future holds for the site, Ian said: “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’.”