Landscape that inspired Thomas Hardy acquired by the National Trust

More than 200 acres of the sort of wild and windswept heathland that inspired Dorset’s most famous writer, Thomas Hardy, has been acquired by the National Trust. Slepe Heath in Dorset is the largest area of lowland heath that the Trust has acquired for more than a decade.

The magical Slepe Heath in Dorset. A landscape that inspired Dorset's most famous writer, Thomas Hardy. Credit: National Trust/Will Wilkinson.

The magical Slepe Heath in Dorset. A landscape that inspired Dorset’s most famous writer, Thomas Hardy. Credit: National Trust/Will Wilkinson.

As part of a conservation vision inspired by the landscapes featured in the novels of Thomas Hardy, Slepe Heath will connect the protected lowland heath of Hartland Moor, already looked after by the National Trust and Natural England, and the Arne reserve, owned by the RSPB.

A former forestry plantation, the 240 acres of heathland is a haven for wildlife attracting rare birds such as Dartford warblers, nightjars and woodlark.

Along with rare wildlife, visitors to Slepe Heath, which rises 30 metres above its low-lying surroundings, are treated to breathtakingly panoramic views taking in Corfe Castle, Poole Harbour and the Purbeck Hills.

Laurie Clark, National Trust Purbeck General Manager, said: “Slepe Heath is somewhere you can get that little bit closer to a true wildness. It’s a magical and wonderfully atmospheric place where visitors can experience Hardy’s fictional Egdon Heath, the setting for the Return of the Native.

“Dorset’s heathland is among its crown jewels in terms of both wildlife and landscape. By looking after Slepe Heath we can ensure that this heathland remains open and protected for everyone to continue to enjoy.”

The previously separated Hartland Moor and the Arne reserve have been protected by conservation cattle grazing. This £650,000 acquisition, which was made possible by a legacy for the purchase of unspoiled countryside or coastline in Dorset, means that the two sites can be united into a single grazing area, as envisaged under the Wild Purbeck Nature Improvement Area announced by the Government in 2012.

Wild Purbeck is one of 12 Nature Improvement Areas across the country, designated with the aim of bringing significant benefits to nature conservation at a landscape level.

As well as Hartland Moor, the National Trust also manages nearby Studland and Godlingston Heaths. All three are national nature reserves.

Great British Walks – 100 routes to explore

IMG_31342This September the National Trust launches the Great British Walks book featuring 100 routes across iconic landscapes, through ancient woodland and along breathtaking coastline.

The book, which accompanies the Great British Walk 2014, will be available to buy from 25 September from National Trust shops as well as online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/shop.

National Trust research has revealed that 84% of people find that the kaleidoscope of natural colours experienced on an autumn walk make them feel happier, healthier and calmer at a time when more than 40% admit to feeling down as the nights draw in. Running through the woods and along the river, the route at Hardcastle Crags is just one of many walks from the book which is perfect for exploring a rainbow of autumn colours.

Continue reading

Big Butterfly Count – the recovery of the Small Tortoiseshell 

As Butterfly Conservation releases its results from the Big Butterfly Count, National Trust’s Matthew Oates, looks at some of the highlights. 

It was great to learn from Butterfly Conservation’s speedy analysis of the 2014 Big Butterfly Count data that the Small Tortoiseshell is continuing to recover. It is the quintessential garden butterfly, one of the nation’s favourites – but we took it for granted until it inexplicably started to nose-dive during the early noughties.

Continue reading

The beauty of autumn colour

Gwen Potter is the National Trust ranger for Ceredigion in Wales. Looking after coast and countryside, Gwen sees autumn colour across a range of landscapes; here she describes why autumn is her favourite time of year for exploring the landscape.

Autumn for me bursts with colour and life. It’s the best time of year to see and feel nature and wildlife at its most spectacular, but it’s also a time of change and reflection.

Ashridge Estate, credit National Trust Images, Michael CaldwellWalking during the autumn is like nothing else. Wood smoke mixes with the leaves to create that beautiful, familiar smell. It’s cooler than summer, but not cold. You could get a misty morning with those damp smells or a clear, crisp day when everything is brighter.

In the hills and heaths, the heather is bright purple. The paths are full of blackberries, damsons and sloes.

In the woods, the trees start to turn every shade of red and yellow imaginable. Leaves can be caught as they fall (number 33 on 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾!) and every leaf tells a story – the caterpillar munching it, the micro-moth burrowing in it, the lichen on the stalk or shrivelled gall from a solitary wasp.

Continue reading

Autumn colour is a natural tonic to beating the winter blues

New research from the National Trust has found that the kaleidoscope of natural colours experienced on an autumn walk makes people feel happier, healthier and calmer [1] at a time when more than 40% admit to feeling down as the nights draw in.

The conservation charity released the findings as part of its Great British Walk 2014, Carding Mill Valley, Blue Hills. Autumn walk. National Trust.which launched this week with an invitation to enjoy a rainbow of walks. Shades of blue found on walks by water or when the landscape is coloured by the evening’s darkening sky were found to help soothe away stress (36%), while the greens of hilltops and pine woodlands leave people feeling more connected with the natural world (52%).

Continue reading

Hen harriers breeding in Peak District after 8-year gap

One of the newly fledged hen harrier chicks in the Peak District.  Credit: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

One of the newly fledged hen harrier chicks in the Peak District. Credit: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Five hen harrier chicks have successfully fledged on National Trust land in the Upper Derwent Valley – the first time hen harriers have bred successfully in the Peak District for eight years.

This a result of a wide partnership of people and organisations that have worked together to protect the birds and their nest as part of the National Trust’s High Peak Moors Vision for the area, which aims to restore birds of prey as part of a rich and healthy environment.

Continue reading

Beef and beer come out top at the Fine Farm Produce Awards

Two producers have risen to the top to be crowned overall food and overall drinks winner at this year’s Fine Farm Produce Awards.

Neil and Sally Grigg from Burrow Farm in Devon - overall food winner at the Fine Farm Produce Awards 2014

Neil and Sally Grigg from Burrow Farm in Devon – overall food winner at the Fine Farm Produce Awards 2014

Continue reading