The Gamekeeping and River Department is responsible for the control of vermin, river and riverbank maintenance and conservation work. Particular attention must be paid to controlling species that can damage agricultural crops, such as rabbits and woodpigeons. Carrion crows are also actively controlled.
The river is a major feature of Ford & Etal and much conservation work is needed to preserve and enhance its environment for the benefit of fish stocks, otters and other river life. The River Till has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
To counteract the effects of erosion and help stabilise the riverbank, willow sapling are planted on more vulnerable areas and stone ‘croys’ are constructed in strategic places to establish a better environment for river life. These help to create deeper pools and faster flowing waters which flush silt from the riverbed making a better breeding area for the minute creatures that the fish feed on.
Staff of the Grounds Department are responsible for looking after the appearance of the villages, other public places and the private gardens of Ford Castle and Etal Manor, giving them work to do all year round. Their duties include tending the formal gardens, trimming hedges, controlling weeds and mowing the large area of grass and verges in Ford & Etal.
Like farming, technology has affected gardening and grounds maintenance. Formerly t here were up to 20 gardeners employed on the estate at a time when not just the Manor or the castle, but most of the larger houses, such as the vicarage and the larger farmhouses employed garden staff.