Based on a 1781 map of the Shute Estate, Legacy to Landscape is a three-year community project celebrating a valuable landscape ‘hidden’ within East Devon.
A full programme of conservation, practical and educational activities involved people of all ages in their local heritage – linking ‘King John’s Oak’ to the future.


The historic map used as the foundation of the project covers a hidden landscape in the Colyton and Shute area, which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries.

For over 800 years, ‘King Johns Oak’ has grown in the medieval deer park at Shute, whilst the world has changed around it. The ancient Oak is now a magnificent tree and key focus for the project. Naturally twisting over time to give an unusual appearance, the tree provides a great resource for people to learn about the importance of veteran trees, their longevity, the unique biodiversity that they support and their future in the landscape.

Other ancient trees survive locally and it is known the area was once covered in orchards, however little further information is known about the area’s history. By working together with people from local groups and communities, involving them in activities to help us investigate old maps, historical documents and books – as well as gather oral histories – we can piece together the landscape’s remarkable history.

Most of the wildlife in the project area is also under-recorded. Practical conservation sessions improve the landscape and help us discover how much wildlife still thrives and identify opportunities to improve it.




  • To engage local people to help them discover or re-discover their local wildlife, landscape and heritage
  • To provide opportunities for people to get involved with conserving the landscape and do something positive to enhance it.



  • 2016 – Project start date 
  • 2019 – Project end date 


School and youth groups

Working with local schools, and youth groups to take our messages to the future guardians of the landscape so that they will begin to value what surrounds them.

Heritage Activities

Activities including: in-depth studies of old maps and historic estate archives, walks and talks from heritage experts and an exhibition at Axminster Heritage Centre.

Shute discovery strolls

Walks aimed at people who do not normally enter the countryside offering them a gentle introduction to the therapeutic benefits of our natural environment.

King John's Oak

Visits to our 800 year-old veteran King John’s Oak to learn and conserve, including ‘haloing’ to extend its life span; clearing brambles that compete for water and nutrients.

Practical Tasks & Events

Wildlife walks, looking at biodiversity, including orchid-rich wildflower meadows, pollinators and bats.

Collecting tree seeds to germinate and pot on; making bat boxes; laying hedges, or clearing scrub from wild flower meadows


  • Development of a timeline game tracing the 800 year life time of King Johns Oak with local historical events
  • Production of a digitised version of the historic Shute Estate map
  • Newsletters sharing wildlife and heritage discoveries and information



  • Year 1 – 1079 adults engaged with our activities with 261 children either accompanying them or attending child focus events.
  • Four whole-school sessions with the local primary school for children in the 5 -11 age range.
  • Year 3 – Over 50 events attracting over 1320 people to come along.
  • Shute Primary School have adopted this ancient giant of a tree and are determined to bring it to local people’s attention.


Devon Wildlife Trust

Axe Vale & District Conservation Society

Woodland Trust

Many thanks to the Carew Pole family for kindly making their historical estate maps available for digital scanning allowing these treasures to become more readily available for historic research.


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