Boscastle Reflections Ten Years On

Ian Kemp, General Manager for North Cornwall, reflects on the Boscastle flash floods which devastated the village a decade ago.

Ten years ago my job took me to Boscastle only once every ten days or so. August 16th 2004 just happened to be one of those days.

The day after the flash floods revealed the extent of the devastation caused to Boscastle. Credit National Trust.

I had gone to the village for what should have been a routine meeting with our shop staff.  By mid-afternoon the river had swollen to the size of the Thames at Westminster and the shop staff and I found ourselves scrambling up steep valley sides to safety under the watchful gaze of an RAF helicopter rescue crew.

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Dorset jewel adds to the National Trust’s hillfort crown

The spectacular Hambledon Hill, one of the finest Iron Age hillforts in Dorset, has been acquired by the National Trust.

Hambledon Hill in West Dorset is a site rich in human and natural history. Credit: National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

Hambledon Hill in West Dorset is a site rich in human and natural history. Credit: National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

Built over 2,000 years ago, the massive earthwork defences overlie one of the most significant early Neolithic landscapes in Western Europe, dating back almost 6,000 years, and is a place that half of British butterfly species call home.

Standing at almost twice the height of the White Cliffs of Dover and taller than the Gherkin in London Hambledon Hill occupies an area of land the size of 50 football pitches. From the summit of the hillfort you can see across three counties – Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire – and get a real sense of its prehistoric strategic importance.

Jerry Broadway, a National Trust volunteer working on Hambledon Hill, said: “When I come here I feel like someone would when they go into St Paul’s Cathedral.

“When there is no-one else around and I sit on the top of the hill looking at the view I feel very privileged. And to play a small part in looking after the hill is a good feeling.”

This is the first hillfort acquired by the National Trust in Dorset for 30 years. The Trust now cares for seven hillfort sites in a county which is internationally renowned for these special historical places.

Simon Ford, National Trust wildlife adviser, said: “The beauty of a magical place like Hambledon Hill is the combination of a rich natural and archaeological story that goes back thousands of years.

“Wandering around a site whose human history predates Stonehenge and takes you back to the early days of farming makes the heart skip a beat.

“The sound of a skylark ascending above the rich grassland and sight of a cloud of Adonis Blue butterfly in flight touches the soul. This is a place where you feel totally connected to the world around you.”

For the last three decades Hambledon Hill has been owned by the Hawthorn Trust and carefully managed by Natural England as a National Nature Reserve. The purchase by the National Trust is being funded by a Land Purchase Grant from Natural England and with money from a legacy left to the Trust for the countryside in Dorset.

The National Trust portfolio of hillforts in Dorset includes Badbury Rings, Lamberts Castle and Pilsdon Pen. The Trust also owns Hambledon Hill’s nationally important neighbour Hod Hill. Together they tell the story of the beginnings of farming, the need for defence and the arrival of the Romans’ in Britain.

Hambledon Hill has escaped the advances of agriculture over the centuries meaning that its archaeological features remain well preserved and clearly visible on the ground. Causeway enclosures on the hill date back to the dawn of farming 5,500 years ago and the story of this remarkable place is continued through the Bronze Age and Iron Age.

Mat Carter, Natural England’s Area Manager for Dorset, said: “Natural England is delighted that the National Trust is the new custodian of Hambledon Hill National Nature Reserve.

“The Hill is a much-loved feature in the Dorset landscape with outstanding archaeology and wildlife.

“We know that the Trust will be an excellent steward of this important site, and will welcome people coming to enjoy the area’s natural beauty and its abundant wildlife.”

Designated a National Natural Reserve in 1992, twenty-eight species of butterfly, including the Adonis Blue, Dark Green Fritillary and Green Hairstreak, have been recorded here. This nationally important chalk grassland site is also home to at least five species of orchids, such as the Autumn Lady’s Tresses, glow worms, brown hare and a good population of kestrels and meadow pipits.

New garden created by an army of volunteers opens to commemorate First World War

A new half an acre garden of reflection created by 60 volunteers over the past eight months, opens today at Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire, marking the centenary of Great Britain’s intervention in the First World War. Continue reading

Hydropower returns to Cragside and lights up history

A new Archimedes screw at Cragside in Northumberland will harness the power of water to relight this grand Victorian house just as its previous owner Lord Armstrong did back in 1878. Continue reading

Rare Silver-studded Blue butterfly reintroduced at Black Down

David Elliott, Head Ranger on Black Down, West Sussex, tells us about the ranger team’s latest project:

This year on Black Down a very important project has been taking place – we’ve reintroduced a species.

The species in question is the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly. This kind of thing doesn’t come along every day, in fact it’s only the second time I have seen it in my career. In fact it is only the second time the National Trust has ever reintroduced a butterfly to a site where it has disappeared, and I am a little bit excited about it!

Silver-studded Blue - Credit National Trust

The Silver Studded Blue is a proper little marvel. It makes its home on heathland, but it needs heathland in really good condition in order to be able to survive. Heaths have been disappearing at an alarming rate for more than a hundred years. The type of varied age structure within the heather that this butterfly needs is even rarer.

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National Trust campaigns to connect 200,000 kids with the natural world

National Trust/ MischiefPR, Andy Fallon

Hugh Dennis lends his support to the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 campaign

The National Trust is aiming to get 200,000 kids playing outside this summer as part of its commitment to connect the ‘cotton wool generation’ with nature.

By September the UK conservation charity hopes to have helped one in twenty of Britain’s 7-12 year olds (five per cent ) break their reliance on gadgets and computers for entertainment, and experience the simple pleasures of outdoor adventure.

Comedian and actor Hugh Dennis who is lending his support to the campaign says: “My most treasured childhood memories are of being in the outdoors so it’s a sad thought that kids today aren’t enjoying the experiences which we remember so fondly. There are so many simple delights to be had – and it doesn’t have to be a chore or ordeal to do either. Back gardens can be as much as a treasure trove for kids as the seaside or a local park.”

To mark the official start of its annual 50 Things to do before you are 11¾ campaign, the National Trust is hosting more than 1,000 activities and events over the school holidays to encourage families to experience nature. Showing the nation that getting outdoors doesn’t mean getting in the car, Rangers from the charity have also identified the top ten activities on the bucket list that can be done in a garden or local park.

Top 50 Things activities to do in a garden or local park
1. Climb a tree
2. Hunt for bugs
3. Create some wild art
4. Fly a kite
5. Play pooh sticks
6. Plant it, grow it, eat it
7. Build a den
8. Set up a snail race
9. Explore inside a tree
10. Make a daisy chain

The initiative follows new research commissioned by the charity showing that children aged 7-12 spend less time playing outside compared to any other generation. According to the findings, over half of today’s children (54 per cent) spend less than an hour outside each day, whilst one in four (25 per cent) get less than 30 minutes a day in the outdoors. This compares to their parents who spent an average of 2 hours 34 minutes outside each day as children. More than half of grandparents (53 per cent) spent over three hours playing outside when they were aged 7-12, compared to just six per cent of children today.

Despite this, a massive 85 per cent cite playing outside as one of their greatest childhood memories with 91 per cent admitting these experiences have nurtured their love of and need for green spaces in their lives.

Proving that 50 Things is and can make a difference, recent independent data commissioned by the Trust has revealed that half of kids (48 per cent) who have tried an outdoor activity on the list such as climbing a tree, building a den or flying a kite have a greater connection and bond with nature. Children who enjoy the simple pleasures of outdoor adventures are more likely to develop long lasting relationships with the natural world and care about protecting these special places for future generations.

To help families nationwide get involved the Trust has lots of tips and ideas for activities to do over the school holidays on its website as well as an app launching mid July, which will indicate activities on the list that can be done in the surrounding area.

Helen Meech, Assistant Director, Outdoors and Nature Engagement at The National Trust commented:

“We really want kids to enjoy being in the outdoors and to care about nature, so it becomes part of their life as they grow up. The memories made as a child stay with you forever, and if outdoor places are part of these memories then hopefully children will grow up wanting to protect these special places for years to come. I’m sure if nature had a voice it would say that it misses today’s children and wants to be part of their childhood adventures.”

The 50 Things to do before you are 11¾ campaign was first launched in 2012. To date over 90,000 of the nation’s youngsters have signed up to tackle the list. Children who complete all the 50 Things on the bucket list will receive a unique visit pass that will enable them and a parent to access over 200 National Trust places, helping them to develop that long term connection to the natural world.
To find out more about the 50 Things visit https://www.50things.org.uk/

Late Iron Age and Roman coins discovered in cave

An excavation in Dovedale, Derbyshire has unearthed a hoard of Late Iron Age and Republican Roman coins, the first time coins of these two origins are thought to have been found buried together in a cave in Britain. Continue reading

Fingle Woods reaches £3.8m milestone as charities celebrate purchase

Despite the disappointing news announced this morning about the un-successful bid by the the National Trust to acquire a section of iconic estuary and coastline in Devon, it has been able to celebrate the full acquisition of Fingle Woods on the edge of Dartmoor with the Woodland Trust today.

The two charities have reached the £3.8m funding target which means the entire 825 acre site is now fully in their care. Continue reading

Parks in peril?

Harry Bowell, Regional Director for the National Trust, writes about the National Trust’s new partnership with Sheffield City Council to explore new ways of financially supporting the city’s public parks and green spaces. Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Big Lottery Fund and Nesta through their Rethinking Parks programme, the project in Sheffield was unveiled this morning with the release of HLF’s comprehensive report into the threats faced by the UK’s parks over the coming years as funding cuts begin to bite.

“Today’s ground-breaking report from Heritage Lottery Fund is an important wake up call for all who care about people and nature.

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Sensory delights at Cliveden as roses bloom once more

This summer visitors to Cliveden in Buckinghamshire will be able to enjoy a newly restored intimate garden planted with 42 different rose varieties whose colours mirror the rising and setting of the sun. Continue reading