In the early 1960s, Major Iain Grahame purchased Daws Hall and started a Wildfowl Farm. From which grew the idea of a nature reserve that would provide a valuable educational resource for schools to visit. This became the charity, the Daws Hall Trust.
The Nature Reserve was established in 1981 and its full educational potential realised in 1985 with the opening of the Daws Hall Centre for Environmental Learning in what was the Hall's old coach house and stables. This was achieved through the enthusiastic and generous support of local people and other interested parties as much as Major Grahame's hard work and persuasive passion.
The reserve still retains a little of the Wildfowl Farm in the private Sanctuary Garden, a protective area where waterfowl species such as the endangered red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis), and eider (Somateria mollissima) continue to thrive. On open days the Sanctuary may be open to the public, by kind permission of the Major and Mrs. Grahame.
Today, the Daws Hall Reserve and Centre for Outdoor Learning is run and managed by Daws Hall Trust, a charity established by Major Grahame in 1988 to secure the future of the Reserve. Daws Hall's value as a centre of environmental learning is evident in its enduring relationships with schools and other organisations in Essex and Suffolk.
Our small but enthusiastic and dedicated team, from the Chairman and Trustees, to the grounds staff, teaching staff and general manager, take immense pride and pleasure in ensuring that the Daws Hall Reserve and Centre for Environmental Learning continues to provide a valuable landscape of inspiration, wonder and learning and will do so for many years to come.
Read more about the founding and development of Daws Hall in Major Iain Grahame's new book "Birds, Bees and Butterflies"
We've been keeping honey bees at Daws Hall for many years now and not just for their delicious honey.
Bees are fascinating and charming animals. Our colonies live in traditional hives in the wildfowl sanctuary and forage in the surrounding gardens, wildflower meadow, woodland and farmland beyond for nectar from flowering plants.
Honey bees and bumblebees (and even hornets!) are important pollinators and their contribution to natural and agricultural ecosystem is vital.
Our educational bee room is equipped with an observational bee hive (a slice of bee hive encased in glass) that captivates children and adults alike as they watch the seething mass of worker bees and search for the Queen!
Daws Hall and the Stour Valley
The Stour Valley’s natural and human history is written into its landscape: from the icy torrents of a retreating glacier's melt-water that first scoured and shaped it, to the networks of waterway, hedgerow, transport, power and communication that have been layered across it since.
From the Daws Hall Nature Reserve, at the top of the Stour river cliff – a geological feature of the valley’s creation – you get an overall sense of the valley and its mainly rural, agricultural past of fertile arable fields and grazing meadows, scattered farmsteads and more recent railway and roads. Up close, the finer detail is evident – the wildlife living in it, fossils embedded in it, human artefacts revealed by it.
Daws Hall is firmly placed in the history of the Stour Valley, natural and human. The house itself was painted by John Constable and once housed the village school; along the river are the remains of Pitmire Lock, a feature of canal engineering, and a mighty concrete 'pill box', one in a chain of WWII defensive emplacements constructed across East Anglia during the height of wartime invasion fears.
Human networks feature too, and Daws Hall Trust is an active member of the Stour Valley Education Network (SVEN), Essex Learning Outside the Classroom Providers Group (ELOtCP), and the River Stour Users’ Group (RSUG), which connect education providers and other organisations, clubs, and landowners to promote knowledge and use of the Stour Valley and its River to the communities that live here.