The Sudbury riverside might appear to provide a timeless backdrop to the ever changing town. However, although it still retain much of its bucolic charm, no more so than when the cattle are crossing the floodgates pool from one pasture to another, it has in fact changed enormously over time. Indeed it would be fascinating to be able to travel back in time to see how things were. The only constant theme is the grazing of livestock over very many centuries and the fact that there have also been people responsible for the management of the Sudbury Common Lands for a very long time.
When Henry Vlll was King of England the person responsible for the day to day management of the Sudbury commons had the title of neat-herd but by the following century he was known as the hayward. However, sometime during the eighteenth century he became the ranger and certainly by 1822 no one could remember any others apart from the ranger working on the Sudbury Common Lands.
It is unlikely that the names of those responsible for the care of the riverside centuries ago were recorded for they were not important members of the town. From 1897, however, when the high court set up the Sudbury Common Lands Charity, there are records of all those employed by the Trustees. With the passage of time they come and they go, sometimes taken away by the demands of war but mostly by the passage of time.
This month Ian Crighton retires after very many years as a full-time ranger. In the early 1990s he attended a guided walk and then offered his services as a volunteer following a downturn in the construction industry. As the charity gradually took on more land and work he joined as a part-time ranger while studying countryside management and arboriculture and was then offered a full-time position. Over the ensuing years there has been no part of the riverside that he did not have a hand in working on or in the shaping of its fortunes and so there is something of the riverside in him that will ensure that he keeps an eye out on what is going on.
In the meantime, at the beginning of the year, the charity took on Nick Shimwell as his replacement. He has been very busy learning about the various aspects of estate management having previously volunteered for the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts during and following his university years when he studied wildlife conservation and management. There is a lot to learn as well as a lot of people to get to know and the task in hand must seem quite daunting. The Sudbury riverside, however, is a wonderful place to work and as the jobs change with the seasons there is never a dull moment.
So while there is change and a new chapter begins, there is also continuity of management as the riverside habitats evolve and improve with careful stewardship.