Continuing Adrian’s Legacy

Continuing Adrian’s Legacy

What a joy to enjoy a drink on the roof terrace of the Mill Hotel in the late afternoon sun earlier this month.

The place was packed with happy people, all basking in the fine weather and stunning views across Sudbury’s water meadows. From this haughty position, we looked left to see the row of ten Centenary Pollards on Freemen’s Little Common and far to the right to view the cattle congregated on Great Fullingpit Meadow.

All around, buttercups provided a dusting of yellow while the ditches that criss-cross the common lands were rich with different shades of green from the various rare rushes and reeds that grow in these fertile channels.

But the natural beauty down by the riverside does not happen by accident. This pristine setting is a result of a long-term strategy and a programme of demanding work carried out by our rangers and a committed team of volunteers.


The Sudbury Common Lands Charity, which cares for the meadows, was set up in 1897 and for the first 90 years of its existence managed the land with profit from grazing income in mind. However, this all changed in the late 1980s, when the Trustees took the decision to move to a new policy of conservation management.

For the past 37 years management of the Sudbury Common Lands has focussed on conservation as well as public access improvements. The aim of the grazing regime is no longer to maximise the number of cattle that can be grazed but, instead, to support a number that will ensure the grassland is maintained in a favourable state for a range of plants including the uncommon adder’s tongue, round fruited rush and spike rush among more familiar species.

The site’s designations of Local Nature Reserve and County Wildlife Site bear testimony to the fruits of these labours conducted under these plans, which prioritise nature and wildlife. Every action is considered and agreed by the Estate Management committee and the full body of Trustees.

Much of the work carried out is traditional countryside management, such as the pollarding of riverside willow trees like the Centenary Pollards, or the laying of hedges, as seen in Cornard Country Park. The digging out of the ditches on the common lands to provide more wetland habitat and the broadening of the Valley Trail to bring more light into the understorey are other examples of this approach.


I have chosen this column to remind people of the charity’s philosophy because the person who has been most responsible for delivering these benefits for man, woman, flora and fauna is retiring later this month. Yes, Adrian Walters, one of Sudbury’s finest, is off to spend more time with his family and finally fully focus on his travel plans and other interests.

Adrian went part-time a few years ago but, due to staff shortages, returned to an exhausting full-time role while the charity got back on an even keel. Now is the time for him to take a much-deserved rest from the world of work.

Respected and admired by all those who have collaborated with him, Adrian has been meticulous and extremely hardworking in the nearly four decades he has been at the charity. Country walks with him were always a joy as he imparted snippets of information about the wild plants and animals encountered along the way. His life’s work leaves an incredible legacy for the people of Sudbury, in terms of the excellent state of the meadows, which we can all enjoy. It is now down to the current regime to continue this vital work and of course, Adrian will still be about if anyone needs to draw on his extensive knowledge of estate management and countryside matters.

In a modern world where nature is under attack, Adrian is a beacon of hope and his commitment to conservation goes well beyond the meadows and other beloved green spaces in Sudbury and Cornard. Many people will be unaware that he has been a key figure in the planting of 23 acres of woodland and wildflower meadows in Lawshall where he lives. He is also working on a history of the village and is a warden for several roadside nature reserves nearby. He even farms a smallholding where he trials environmentally-friendly farming techniques.

We look forward to staying in touch with Adrian and hearing about (and learning from) his new adventures.

Ross Bentley, Trustee of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity