Ipswich: Holywells Park is a wildlife haven in a busy town

Spring is on it's way in Holywells Park, Ipswich

Spring is on it's way in Holywells Park, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Given to the town in 1936 by Lord Woodbridge, Holywells Park is a haven of peace and tranquillity in a busy world.

With towering trees, expanses of grass, and secluded areas, Holywells provides a number of different habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna.

Joe Underwood, wildlife and education ranger for Ipswich Borough Council, said: “We are at that transition stage between the end of winter and beginning of spring.”

A keen ornithologist, Joe is looking forward to spotting the first birds – chiffchaffs, blackcaps and willow warblers to name a few – as they make their migration from Africa.

Joe, who points out a group of tiny siskins as we stroll in the park, said: “We have got a little egret. They used to be rare here and more often seen in the Mediterranean but over the last 20 years they have become residents in this country. It might be a sign of global warming.”

As we walk round the park’s 70 or so acres Joe is enthusiastic about everything that is going on around us.

He added: “Holywells Park is a big part of the community. There are a lot of different habitats and last year we spotted 100 different species of birds. Spring is my favourite season. We are hoping for a golden oriel.”

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With snowdrops, primroses already out and crocuses just about to bloom, there are sure signs that spring is just about here.

Nick Wilcox, park manager, said trees coming into leaf will be happening in the next few weeks.

He added: “In April we will have the bluebells and by May summer will be on its way.”

With foxes and muntjac and frogs and bats, Holywells is also a haven for animals.

Nick added: “We have a very active friends group and they hold a lot of events throughout the year. It is a popular park.”

Towards the bottom of the park – near Holywells Road – there is a wildlife pond – home to birds such as the kingfisher, grey wagtails, heron and various duck species.

Richard Sharp, community engagement and volunteer officer for the park, is part of the team bidding for £2.8million of Heritage Lottery funding to reinvigorate the park and to restore the park’s stable block and orangery.

He said: “The park is mostly used by young families – the park boasts a pretty impressive play area – and the local community. It is like having a little bit of countryside in the middle of the town.”

Holywells Park has a long history going back thousands of years, tools from the Stone Age have been found on the site and Bronze Age axes and Roman coins have been found nearby.

• Early written records indicate that the land at Holywells was part of the Manor at Bishops Wyke which was held by the Bishops of Norwich in the 13th Century.

• During Henry VIII’s reign the manor was returned to the crown and then granted to Sir John Jermy, and then passed hands many times before John Cobbold secured the title in 1812.

• The Cobbold family had been using the land since 1689 to make beer; they used the water from the natural springs and shipped it to Harwich where their brewery was located.

• In 1935 the land at Holywells was presented to the people of Ipswich by Lord Woodbridge and then opened to the public in 1936. Much of the manor is now lost with only the stable block remaining.