Creating the Wildfell Centre for Environmental Recovery on the site of the historic 296-acre Grays Farm estate represents the biggest landscape scale nature-recovery project Ground Control has undertaken in its 50-year history. 

Made possible by an initial £2m Evergreen Fund investment, the transformation of this ex-arable farm will provide a showcase of Biodiversity Net Gain and Carbon Sequestration design, delivery, and management innovation for public and private sector landowners for decades to come.

The estate was purchased in May 2021, opening the gate to an exciting programme of assessment, investigation, planning and habitat restoration, creation, and adaptive management pilots.  Wildfell opened as a nature-recovery showcase in September 2022 and now welcomes public and private sector landowners and conservation partners to tour the site, enabling sharing of insight into the pioneering woodland, meadow, hedgerow, and pond restoration programmes underway.

Ground Control Director Kim Morrish said:

This is such an exciting project for Ground Control and the East of England.
It’s the first time in fifty years that Ground Control has taken on a nature-recovery project of this size and ambition.  It will be an amazing resource for public and private sector landowners for decades to come.

Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper CBE said:

Environmental ambition must go beyond protecting what’s left of our natural world to embrace plans for its recovery. One vital aspect of what is needed are compelling examples of success to inspire more investment and action, including trailblazing initiatives from businesses like Ground Control’s Wildfell Project.

Highlights of the Wildfell Plan

Alongside the restoration of an ancient woodland at the heart of the estate, other highlights will include the regeneration of native hedgerows, pond restoration and scrub, native woodland, wildflower meadow and pond creation.  In addition, pilot projects will also test innovative approaches to nature-positive grounds maintenance, tech-enabled data collection, monitoring and environmental data reporting – all delivered through Ground Control’s comprehensive Green Gains nature recovery process.

Download a site tour and phase 1 plan >> ltc-knowledge-share-tour-map-wildfell.pdf


  • Creation of woodland & hedgerow reconnection link to wider landscape
  • Reinstatement of external boundary hedgerows, 4km new
  • Connection into ‘Big Green Internet’; connect pilot project at Great Maplestead with Wildfell across 7km over next 2 seasons
  • Create linked species rich grassland
  • Create 10+ new ponds
  • Plant 50ha new woodland, approx.100,000 trees
  • Restore two existing ponds with GCN populations, a local stronghold for protected species
  • Improve water quality through tree planting and permanent habitats
  • Provide natural flood alleviation by water storage in upper catchment of River Pant plus decrease flashiness through increased infiltration, storage and slow the flow in ditches
  • Create five ‘leaky dams’
  • Enhance wet grassland and earthworks to river corridor
  • Establish seed sources from existing woodland & hedgerows
  • Implement enrichment planting at low density (100 SPH) to enhance compartments
  • Creation of 35ha habitat creation and 30ha enhancement; scrub mosaic, species rich grassland, ponds, and orchard.
  • Graduation woodland through scrub to grassland


Ground Control will also build a new Learning Centre for public and private sector landowners to grow their Biodiversity Net Gain and Carbon Sequestration knowledge.  The centre will be a space for sustainability leads and estate managers to come together with biodiversity, conservation, and external maintenance experts, giving people scientific-based expert knowledge to help them effectively execute Biodiversity Net Gain, act upon nature related risk and opportunity, and realise the environmental, social, and economic benefits of green infrastructure.



'First Avenue' tree dedicated to Essex eco champion

Ground Control dedicates ‘First Avenue’ tree to Essex eco-champion at showcase nature recovery project

Ground Control invests in the Wildfell Centre for Environmental Recovery

A 296-acre site, dedicated to helping landowners unlock the potential of their under-used land for nature’s recovery

Carbon neutral businesses advocate sustainable tree planting pledges

Forklift truck distributor Briggs Equipment has teamed up with Ground Control on a sustainable tree planting initiative in Braintree, Essex

Project Wildfell

Ground Control’s 296-acre nature-recovery laboratory
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