Nail-biting nests in unusual places

Springwatch viewers were left on the edge of their seat early this week as they watched a family of four Jay chicks fledge from a nail-bitingly steep nest.

One fan of the smash BBC show, which is filmed at the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate in the Cotswolds, calculated the angle of the precipitous nest at 35 degrees – higher than Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, one of England’s steepest roads.

The National Trust cares for 250,000 hectares of countryside and the conservation charity’s rangers have found plenty of nail-biting nests this spring

Pied wagtail, Studland Beach, Dorset

Two pied wagtail parents have found a far from rubbish nesting site in the cardboard recycling bins at the National Trust’s Studland beach visitor centre in Dorset.

Kevin Rideout, visitor experience officer, said: “They were starting to show quite a lot of interest in the bins, so I had a suspicion that they’d be there. I’m glad I checked.”

After the common black-and-white birds successfully raised four youngsters, staff at the centre thought that they would be safe to empty the bins – which are next to a busy visitor centre.

But when Kevin went to check the bins earlier this week, one of the adults flew out. “They’re onto their second brood!” he said.

After seven weeks, the bins still haven’t been emptied.

PIED WAGTAIL Studland Credit Kevin Rideout, National Trust

Pied wagtail nest in a cardboard recycling bin at Studland, Dorset. CREDIT Kevin Rideout, National Trust

Mallard, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Rangers on the remote Farne Islands discovered a mallard duck nesting beside a stack of Calor gas canisters this spring.

Jen Clark, National Trust ranger, said: “The gas is kept in a cage so that if it explodes it’s contained. There’s a tiny little gap between the wall and the cage that the duck must have crawled into.

“It’s probably just because it was a nice safe place – protected from predatators attacking from above.”

The duck’s eight chicks fledged a little over a month ago. Her gas cage nest site is yet to be used by another bird.

MALLARD Farne Islands CREDIT National Trust

A mallard duck nests next to propane canisters on the Farne Islands, Northumberland. CREDIT: Jen Clark, National Trust

Razorbill, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Around 400 razorbill couples make their nests on the steep cliffs around the Farne Islands – a mile off the Northumberland coast.

Jen Clark, National Trust ranger, said: “They tend to nest on horrible little ledges. They’re really tiny – about the size of the bird. They don’t actually build a nest – they incubate their egg directly on a small, sloping crevice.”

The black and white penguin-like birds, which are only 40cm and spend their entire winter at sea, lay just one egg a year.

The exposed nesting sites makes the eggs and chicks vulnerable to fierce North Sea weather, as well as predatory attacks by gulls.

A razorbill on the Farne Islands, Northumberland

A razorbill on the Farne Islands, Northumberland CREDIT Richard Scott, National Trust Images

Hazel dormouse, Fyne Court, Somerset

Rangers spotted this bashful dormouse was spotted squatting in a birds nest six feet above the ground.

Rob Skinner, a National Trust area ranger and licensed dormouse handler, made the discovery while checking bird nesting boxes on the Somerset estate as part of a regular survey for the British Trust for Ornithology.

He said: “I nearly fell off my ladder. It’s not something I was expecting to see. We have 93 dedicated dormouse nesting boxes in our woods – but this juvenile ignored them all.”

The dormouse stayed for three weeks before disappearing earlier this month.

DORMOUSE at Fyne Court 1 Rob Skinner, NT

Hazel dormouse at Fyne Court. CREDIT Rob Skinner, National Trust

Little Terns, Blakeney Point, Norfolk

One of Britain’s rarest seabirds nests so close to the sea it finds its nests regularly flooded.

It’s thought that there are fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs of little terns left in Britain – with numbers falling by a quarter since the 1980s. Nesting on beaches, the birds are sensitive to disturbance from people and dogs – as well as  flooding from the sea.

Ajay Tegala, National Trust ranger for the little tern stronghold at Blakeney Point, said: “They tend to lay one to three camouflaged eggs on the beach, often close to the high water mark.

“This means that nests regularly get washed away if big tides are combined with stormy weather. They’re also vulnerable from a long list of predators – gulls, birds of prey, foxes, crows, snakes and even herons.”

As part of an RSPB-led EU LIFE+ project, rangers at Blakeney Point have been using plaster models of little terns to encourage the birds to nest up the beach and away from the high tides.

Wren, Harewoods, Surrey

Despite years of hard work to improve the habitat around his National Trust cottage for nesting birds, it’s Andy Wright’s shed that is proving popular for the small birds.

Two months ago a pair of wrens built a moss nest into a coil of rope hanging from the shed roof. It was the first time wrens have nested in the wooden outhouse, which also boasted a family of robins.

Andy Wright, the trust’s countryside manager for the Surrey Hills, said: “They weaved it into the tassels of the rope. With the racket they were making there must have been four or five fledglings.

“I’ve no idea why they nested there. I’ve done a lot of habitat work around the place, so you’d think there would be plenty of natural nesting habitat for them. There’s even a wren nest in my smoker.”

WREN Harewoods CREDIT Andrew Wright, National Trust

A wren’s nest at Harewoods, Surrey. CREDIT Andrew Wright, National Trust

Field mouse, Alderley Edge, Cheshire

One small mouse chose a life in the fast lane after nesting underneath the bonnet of a National Trust van.

Christopher Widger, countryside manager at Alderley Edge, discovered the field mouse’s nesting place in the sound-deadening material beneath the bonnet – after the mouse scuttled across the windscreen wiper.

“I was travelling at 30mph!” Chris said. “I pulled over onto the verge and he made a jump for it – into the nearby hedge.”

FIELD MOUSE Alderley Edge 2 CREDIT Christopher Widger, National Trust

A field mouse nest in a ranger van at Alderley Edge, Cheshire. CREDIT Christopher Widger, National Trust

Pied wagtail, Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim

It was only on the fourth trip over a stony field that Area Ranger Dr Cliff Henry realised that his tractor had taken on some tiny stowaways

Nesting on the tractor’s drive shaft – just below the cab – was a nest containing five small pied wagtail chicks.

“Each trip took an hour,” Dr Henry said. “It was only after the last trip that I twigged that the adult birds were very keen to approach the tractor bearing food.”

The five wagtail chicks have now fledged.

PIED WAGTAIL Giant's Causeway CREDIT Cliff Henry, National Trust

A pied wagtail nest in a tractor on the Giant’s Causeway. CREDIT Cliff Henry, National Trust

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Look forward to a summer of contemporary art at National Trust places

This summer, visitors to the National Trust will be able to explore and celebrate the places in its care through a series of creative programming, exhibitions, visual arts, crafts and architecture as part of its Trust New Art programme.

Trust New Art is a programme of contemporary arts run by the National Trust in partnership with Arts Council England since 2009.

Many Trust houses and gardens were built with art at their hearts, and Trust New Art continues this creative legacy, introducing new audiences to well-known and up-and-coming artists.

Exploring the often complex themes and collections of National Trust properties, Trust New Art offers a different way to approach the stories that have shaped some of the country’s best known houses, gardens and landscapes.

Visitors will be able to see a variety of new art, including large installations, film and theatrical performances, carving and sculpture.

Grace Davies, Trust New Art programme manager, said: “For over seven years, more than 3 million visitors have experienced Trust New Art, our rich and diverse programme of contemporary arts at properties across the country inspired by National Trust places.

“We are pleased to give visitors new opportunities to experience contemporary creativity that is rooted in our unique heritage, and this summer’s exhibitions and installations offer some diverse approaches to telling the stories of our places.”

Here is a selection of Trust New Art projects at National Trust places near you this summer.

Heather and Ivan Morison: Look! Look! Look! Berrington Hall, Herefordshire

From 10 June 2017

Morison pavilion at Berrington (C) Studio Morison

Look! Look! Look!, by internationally renowned artists Heather and Ivan Morison, reflects on the decadent social lives of the wealthy in the 18th century. The giant pineapple-shaped installation is inspired by the tradition of using temporary pavilions for entertaining and dining, and the Georgian passion for importing and eating new and exotic fruits – including pineapples.

nationaltrust.org.uk/berrington-hall

Luke Jerram: Harrison’s Garden, Nostell Priory, Yorkshire

Until 09 July 2017

Luke Jerram Credit Helen Lisk Photography

Luke Jerram’s installation of 2,000 clocks celebrates the work of famous clockmaker John Harrison, who was born at Nostell. Experience this ticking installation as part of the 300th anniversary celebrations of Harrison’s first longcase clock. Harrison’s Garden will be touring to Castle Drogo, Devon (14 July-29 October), Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire (10 Feb-03 June 2018), and Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd (2018 – dates TBC), gathering clocks along the way.

nationaltrust.org.uk/nostell

Florence Kennard, Alida Sayer, Alec Stevens: The Makers, Felbrigg, Norfolk

Until 29 October 2017

The Makers install (Alec Stevens) - cr Paul Bailey 2

For ‘The Makers’, artists Florence Kennard, Alida Sayer and Alec Stevens have created new art works in response to the theme of craftsmanship at Felbrigg. Their film, sculpture and woodcarvings reveal hidden stories and surprising layers of history, giving visitors the chance to experience Felbrigg in a new light.

nationaltrust.org.uk/felbrigg-hall-gardens-and-estate

Hew Locke: The Jurors, Runnymede, Surrey

Ongoing

Runnymede- Hew Locke, The Jurors, 2015. Photo -¬ Max McClure.jpg

Hew Locke’s The Jurors was commissioned for the ancient landscape at Runnymede to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta in 2015. Wrought with beautiful imagery, the 12 bronze chairs invite you to reflect on the histories and issues shown, and to debate the meaning of justice.

http://artatrunnymede.com/

Will Shannon: Bothy, Standen House and Garden, West Sussex

Until 03 September 2017

Bothy Standen.jpg

Will Shannon’s Bothy reflects the pioneering principles and production techniques of Standen’s Arts & Crafts heritage. Tucked away on Standen’s sandstone rocks, Bothy is a space to shelter, reflect and create, built using stained glass, simple furniture and materials found in the Sussex landscape.

nationaltrust.org.uk/standen-house-and-garden

 Bouke De Vries: War and pieces, Berrington Hall, Herefordshire

Until 05 November 2017

Bauke de Vries, War and Pieces.jpg

Taking inspiration from elaborate 17th-century sugar sculptures and banquets given on the eve of battle, de Vries has threaded the story of Berrington into this Arts Council England award-winning porcelain sculpture, transforming the dining room at Berrington Hall.

nationaltrust.org.uk/berrington-hall

Bernar Venet at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

Until mid-October 2017

©Courtesy the Artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Jonty Wilde.jpg

Ten large-scale sculptures, built from soaring steel arcs and bars, sit alongside the angular geometry of the formal gardens at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. Created by Bernar Venet, seen by many as the world’s greatest living French sculptor, this installation is the first outdoor exhibition of Venet’s work in the UK since 1976.

nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden

 Agnes Jones, Lyndall Phelps, Tom Marshman and Matt Smith: World is Chaos, Creativity is Order, Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

10 June 2017 – November 2017

Hanbury Hall -  Tom Marshman.jpg

Drawing parallels between the 18th century and today, Matt Smith, Agnes Jones, Lyndall Phelps and Tom Marshman’s new work uses steel, glass, ceramics and performance to explore how art can evoke histories, stories and a sense of place.

nationaltrust.org.uk/hanbury-hall-and-gardens

Bouke De Vries: Golden box, Croome Court, Worcestershire

Ongoing

The Golden Box, 2016. .jpg

Bouke De Vries’ original work entices visitors to Croome to walk through a reflective cube encrusted with exquisite pieces of Meissen, Worcester and Sèvres porcelain, responding to the theme of ‘expect the unexpected’ at Croome.

nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

 Tony Plant, Mary Keith, Stan’s Café: Heartland, Shropshire Hills, Shropshire

Until October 2017

Shropshire hills.jpg

Over the course of the summer, through theatre, voice and physical interventions, Tony Plant, Mary Keith and Stan’s Café will explore the history, stories and future of the Shropshire Hills, helping visitors to understand the part they can play to continue caring for it.

nationaltrust.org.uk/shropshire-hills

Changing Places, national touring exhibition

July 2017 – February 2018

Changing Places (C) Film and Video Umbrella_Anna Arca

Changing Places is an exhibition of contemporary artists’ video, curated by Film and Video Umbrella. Linking the industrial transformations occurring across South Asia today with the places in Britain where the Industrial Revolution began, ten historic buildings, including the National Trust’s Quarry Bank, Cheshire, and Osterley Park and House, Greater London, will host moving image works by artists who all live in, work in, or retain a connection to Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, exploring the narrative of industrialisation and its global legacy.

fvu.co.uk/changing-places

 Andrew Logan: The Art of Reflection, Buckland Abbey, Devon

01 July 2017 – February 2018

Buckland - Andrew Logan . Photo Philippe Vogelenzang.jpg

The former home of Sir Francis Drake, Buckland Abbey, will welcome 18 sculptures selected from five decades of the career of renowned sculptor Andrew Logan. On display throughout the historic abbey and its grounds, a highlight of the exhibition will be Logan’s new jewel and painted glass portrait of Drake.

nationaltrust.org.uk/buckland-abbey

Rare ‘Ratty’ revival on England’s highest freshwater lake

Rare water voles are flourishing against the odds in England’s highest freshwater lake following a reintroduction programme by the National Trust last summer.

More than a hundred water voles, which were the inspiration for Wind in the Willows’ Ratty, were released onto streams around Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales in August last year. It was the first time water voles had been seen on the lake in 50 years.

WATER_VOLE_RETURN_1

A water vole at Malham Tarn, Yorkshire Dales. CREDIT: North News & Pictures Ltd/National Trust Images

And, in an adventure worthy of Ratty, Mole and Toad from the Kenneth Grahame classic, the water voles are spreading across the lake – in ways that National Trust rangers could never have dreamed.

Survey work has shown that the water voles – which are the UK’s fastest declining land mammal – have spread up to a kilometre from the original release site. Almost a year on from the original release, rangers will be reintroducing 100 new water voles to Malham Tarn.

Roisin Black, National Trust ranger at Malham Tarn, said: “With a mild, wet winter, we were worried that the water levels around the tarn may rise too high and flood the burrows. But it turns out that the voles have spread out across one side of the tarn.”

One vole has even been caught on camera in a favourite haunt for one of the tarn’s otters – one of the predators that will occasionally target water voles.

“An opportunistic otter might go for a water vole, but generally the can live very happily side by side,” Roisin said. “The presence of the otter helps deter the mink – which are behind water voles’ shocking declines.”

A hundred new water voles will be released onto the fenland surrounding Malham Tarn over the course of this week (starting 29 May). The water voles, which have been specially bred by expert ecologists at Derek Gow Consultancy, will be released in sibling groups and breeding pairs.

The release will be staggered over seven days due to the different needs of the groups and pairs. The animals will spend three or four days in large cages, placed on the fringe of the tarn. On the fourth and fifth day the cage doors will be opened. Food placed just outside the cage entrances will encourage the voles to leave the cages and build burrows. After the seventh day the cages will be removed.

ACR_NT13 WEB

Ranger Roisin Black at Malham Tarn. CREDIT: Anthony Chappel-Ross/National Trust Images

The reintroduction is part of a plan by the National Trust to restore wildlife in the Yorkshire Dales. The charity cares for 8,000 hectares of woodland, meadows and moor in the Dales – England’s second largest National Park.

The water voles are helping to restore Malham Tarn’s sensitive lowland fen fringe – one of fifty ‘priority’ habitats handpicked by government as in need of support. The National Trust aims to create 25,000 hectares of new ‘priority’ nature habitats by 2025.

Ranger Roisin Black added: “The water voles area already changing the look of the tarn-side streams. The banks used to be straight-sided, almost like canals.

“But by burrowing into the banks, the voles have created much more natural-looking streams with shady pools that should be really good for invertebrates and small fish.”

National Trust rangers will spend the coming months surveying water voles, looking for signs like the animals’ ‘litter’ (excrement), burrows and nibbled grass ends.

“It will let us estimate the number of water voles we have here at Malham Tarn,” Roisin added.

How do you reintroduce a water vole? Six questions with Malham Tarn ranger Roisin Black.

Helicopter help for Lake District footpath repairs

More than three quarters of a million tonnes of stone is being flown by helicopter in a bid to fix some of the Lake District’s most popular paths.

Volunteers and rangers have spent the last six months gathering the stones, which will be lifted by helicopter to remote paths. Among the paths in urgent need of repair is the main tourist route up Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, and a busy route to the summit of Helvellyn.

The work is being carried out on behalf of Fix the Fells, a partnership backed by the National Trust, Lake District National Park and other partners that has been tasked with repairing some of the Lake District’s most worn paths.

Heli lift ullswater

A helicopter lifts bags of stone in the Ullswater valley. CREDIT: Adrian Mills/National Trust

The helicopter lifts will make a huge difference to the repair work, Fix the Fells programme manager Joanne Backshall said.

She said: “It will allow us to move heavy stones to areas that badly need them. Without the helicopter it would be impossible for us to carry out the work that is needed.

“Our teams of Fix the Fells Rangers, aided by our volunteers, have already hand-filled nearly 800 bags with stone, each bag weighing approximately 950 kg. These will be lifted in to place one by one by a Squirrel helicopter.”

The air drops will allow National Trust repair teams to then move the stones into place, stabilising the paths to prevent erosion and preventing them from becoming scars on the landscape.

The helicopter flights are taking place in Borrowdale, Ullswater, Wasdale and Grasmere, weather permitting.

Path erosion can see soil more easily wash off the fells and into streams and lakes and lakes. By repairing the stone paths, rangers will help slow soil erosion and prevent the paths from spreading out further.

PICTURES: New arrival for ‘Ronald’ the Farne Islands shag

An egg belonging to a Farne Islands shag christened ‘Ronald’ by a Year 4 class from Gateshead has hatched.
Sarah Lawrence, National Trust ranger on the remote Northumberland islands, said: “Ronald nests right next to the main jetty on Staple Island. He’s probably the most photographed shag on the island.”
Ronald the shag CREDIT Sarah Lawrence, National Trust

Ronald the shag sitting on top of ‘his’ nest on the Farne Islands, Northumberland. Credit: Sarah Lawrence/National Trust

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National Trust scoops Special Recognition Award at the Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence

Last night (17 May) the National Trust was awarded a one-off Special Recognition Award at the prestigious Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence.

Nominated by a panel of expert judges made up of some of the heritage sector’s most senior leaders, the National Trust was rewarded for its creativity in visitor engagement, remarkable growth in visitor numbers and its fostering of creative partnerships.

Helen Ghosh accepting the award (C) M+H Awards

Dame Helen Ghosh accepting the Special Recognition Award on behalf of the National Trust (C) Simon Callaghan

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust, accepted the award on behalf of the Trust and thanked the assembled guests and wider heritage sector for their support: “The fact that we are able to reach out and touch so many people is because of all of you and what you do on a day to day basis.

“We are enormously lucky for that support and to be able to spend more than we have ever been able to on conservation and experiences that move, teach and inspire.”

 

The conservation charity also won the Best Educational Initiative for Potter and Ponder: Sensory Experiences at Croome Court, Worcestershire. The project was described as a “remarkable, creative and innovative story of engaging children with severe learning difficulties” by the judging panel.

The Trust’s Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, was shortlisted in the Project on a Limited Budget category for its Lost Treasures, The Imagined Mansion installation, but was beaten to the award by the Hallaton in the Great War Research Group.

The glittering awards ceremony was attended by hundreds of sector professionals. Now in its fifteenth year, the awards recognise the innovators and leaders in the museums, galleries and cultural heritage visitor attractions sector.

The awards were judged by a panel of sector experts including: Dr Diana Owen, Director, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Maggie Appleton MBE, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Air Force Museum; Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism, Historic Scotland; Bernard Donoghue, Director, ALVA; Diane Lees CBE, Director General, Imperial War Museums; Dr Matthew Tanner MBE, Chief Executive of the SS Great Britain Trust and Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum.

To find out more about the awards, visit: http://awards.museumsandheritage.com/

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Heritage science gives visitors unique insight into roof conservation project at The Vyne

Scientists and archaeologists at National Trust mansion The Vyne in Hampshire are giving visitors a unique insight into their work as part of a £5.4 million project to save the former Tudor ‘power house’.

The Vyne, whose famous visitors included Henry VIII and Jane Austen, is undergoing an ambitious 18 month project to repair its leaking roof and crumbling chimneys, severely damaged in the storms of recent years.

As part of the project, partners including archaeologists, dendrochronologists and heritage science researchers from the University of Oxford are using high and low tech equipment to discover how this complex 500 year old building was constructed, then re-arranged over the centuries.

This is the first time the conservation charity has combined science and technology to this extent alongside centuries-old craft skills, which are being used to produce thousands of hand-made tiles and bricks for the project.

Visitors on rooftop walkway and contractors on roof below, © National Trust Images, Karen Legg

Visitors can watch the conservation work as it progresses from an all-access, 360° rooftop walkway. Protected by a huge weatherproof ‘shell’, the walkway looks down on dramatic views of The Vyne’s rooftops.

Monthly visits from a mobile heritage laboratory will also give visitors an opportunity to work alongside scientists from the University of Oxford, using a range of equipment to find out how they measure deterioration in historic building materials, and protect the nation’s heritage from decay.

National Trust archaeologist Gary Marshall says: “Through extraordinary scientific and technological equipment we’re finding out so much about The Vyne’s construction and we’re sharing our discoveries with our visitors.

“With a variety of different methods and technology we are able not only to pinpoint more accurately the date of The Vyne’s construction, and the materials the original builders used to create tiles and bricks, even insulation, but also show how we have made these discoveries and give visitors a chance to explore the science involved.”

Professor Heather Viles from the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory explains: ‘We’ve developed a range of high and low tech kit that allows us to investigate the very serious problem of water ingress at The Vyne.

“We’ll be able to show visitors that by combining quite simple tools such as hand held moisture meters and Karsten tubes with more complex tech methods like 2D resistivity surveys, we can probe into the walls and locate areas of heavy moisture, but without causing damage.”

New dendrochronology analysis – the science of tree-ring dating – has revealed that some of The Vyne’s 16th-century timbers were recycled from an earlier building, most probably the ‘lost’ north forecourt. This was part of a larger estate that now lies beneath the north lawn.

Gary Marshall adds: “We have made some rather delightful discoveries too, such as a number of clay tiles sporting animal paw prints. Around 15 prints have been found to-date, made by Georgian and Victorian dogs of various sizes who must have walked in the wet clay while the tiles were being made all those years ago and been preserved for posterity!”

Close up of dog paw print on tile, ©National Trust Images, Karen Legg

The story of The Vyne’s roof continues inside the house where the spotlight is shone on 19th century owner William Wiggett Chute who inherited a building in great disrepair. However his extraordinary determination to save the neglected mansion secured its future.