PICTURES: National Trust rangers wake up to frost as temperatures plunge

With temperatures falling to minus 7 celsius last night, National Trust rangers were this morning treated to stunning heavy frosts across England and Wales.

Volunteer John Hubble captured the early morning sunshine at Croome Park, Worcestershire. The 250 year old parkland was designed by society landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. And rangers have spent the last decade working closely with a cattle grazier to restore the grassland landscape that would once have been familiar to Croome’s eighteenth century owners.

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Croome Park is bleached pink in the early morning sun. Credit: John Hubble/National Trust

Temperatures in parts of the Lake District dropped to minus 3 celsius last night. Loughrigg Fell, near Ambleside, was left covered in frost.

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A misty morning at Loughrigg in the Lake District. Credit: Rachel Forsyth/National Trust

Ranger Richard Newman was checking recently-installed boardwalks at Morden Hall Park, south London, when he caught this beautiful sunrise.

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Rangers caught this frosty sunrise at Morden Hall Park, south London. Credit: John Newman/National Trust

Parts of Llyn Ogwen in Snowdonia froze overnight – the first time this winter that the lake has frozen over. According to local legend Llyn Ogwen could be the final resting place of Excalibur – King Arthur’s famous sword.

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Llyn Ogwen, Snowdonia, is rumoured to be where sword Excalibur was left by King Arthur’s knights. Last night it froze over for the first time this winter. Credit: Simon Rogers/National Trust

PICTURES: Restoring Stonehenge’s chalk grassland in world heritage site’s 30th year

As Stonehenge celebrates 30 years as a World Heritage Site, National Trust rangers and volunteers in Wiltshire are working closely with farmers to restore the chalk grassland landscape that would have been familiar to the monument’s original builders.

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Somerset cider expert toasts “sweetest” year for decade as Barrington Court’s apple season ends

More than 650 gallons of cider has been pressed at the National Trust’s Barrington Court estate, Somerset, in a year that the charity’s cider expert says has produced the sweetest apple crop for a decade.

Gardeners and volunteers at the Somerset estate pressed the last of the apple crop on Monday (21 November). Over three months volunteers picked more than 12 tonnes of apples in Barrington Court’s orchards – equivalent to the weight of two African elephants. The apple crop is expected to produce over 1,000 gallons of cider and apple juice.

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Apples are prepared for pressing at Barrington Court, Somerset. More than 12 tonnes of apples have been pressed by volunteers at the Somerset estate, in a year that the National Trust’s pommelier claims has produced the sweetest juice for a decade. (c) National Trust Images/William Sha

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Storm Angus: natural flood management at Holnicote stops Exmoor villages flooding

Despite heavy rain at the start of the week the Exmoor villages of Allerford and Bossington in Devon escaped flooding, thanks largely to innovative work by the National Trust, project partners and farmers to restore nature and reduce flood risk in the National Park.

Since 2009, the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate has been the site of a government research project  exploring how natural flood management measures can reduce flooding on the rivers Aller and Horner.

The conservation charity looks after 90 per cent of the river catchment within the 20 square mile estate.

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Water rushes underneath Allerford’s historic packhorse bridge on Monday in the wake of Storm Angus. (c) Nigel Hester/National Trust

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PICTURES: Barn owl chicks pictured during survey at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

FIVE BARN OWL chicks were snapped by a National Trust volunteer during a recent survey in the Warwickshire parkland where William Shakespeare was supposedly caught poaching deer.

It is believed that the brood of two female and three male chicks were between 41 and 53 days old when they were checked earlier this autumn by volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) at Charlecote Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

BTO volunteer Roger Juckes, said: “Like most barn owls, these five chicks were very docile. If you cradle them on their backs like a baby, barn owls will lie still quite happily.”

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Five Barn owl chicks patiently wait for volunteers to check their age and sex and apply a ring to their lower leg during an autumn survey at the National Trust’s Charlecote Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon. Britain’s barn owl numbers are recovering after decades of decline. Thanks to an abundance of voles in the historic parkland, this year all of Charlecote’s barn owl chicks fledged successfully. Credit: Jana Eastwood/National Trust.

Mr Juckes, a licensed bird ringer, checked each owl chick’s age and sex before applying a lightweight ring around their lower leg. The small metal ring will help scientists carrying out future surveys establish the bird’s age and birthplace.

This has been a good year for barn owls on the Warwickshire estate, National Trust rangers say.

Seven barn owl chicks have fledged from owl nesting boxes erected in the 500 year old parkland.

Joy Margerum, National Trust Area Ranger at Charlecote Park, said: “The tussocky grass in our historic parkland is the ideal habitat for field voles – barn owls’ favourite food. Voles and other small mammals have benefited from a stunning autumn with extended growth of grasses and trees groaning with fruit and nuts.”

Evidence suggests that barn owl numbers in Britain are rising, after more than a century of decline caused by habitat loss and persecution.

Barn owls are a legally protected species; and a license is required to access a nest to ring the birds.

Ms Margerum added: “There have been barn owls nesting in our parkland for hundreds of years. But by putting up nesting boxes and grazing the grassland in the right way we can give the owls a helping hand.”

PICTURES: dozing dormouse discovered at Cotehele, Cornwall

A RARE DORMOUSE was found dozing ahead of its winter hibernation by National Trust ranger James Robbins during the last dormouse survey of the year on the conservation charity’s Cotehele Estate, Cornwall.

It is thought that the rare Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), which was photographed at the end of October, was sleeping ahead of a last attempt to fatten up on hazel nuts before its winter hibernation.

 James Robbins, National Trust Ranger at Cotehele, said: “Dormice are fattening up for winter. They gorge like mad on berries and nuts in autumn, sleep, and then eat a final meal before crawling under leaf litter at the base of trees for their winter hibernation. They become active again in spring.”

Dormouse at Cotehele

National Trust ranger James Robbins was carrying out his final dormouse survey of the year in late October on the Cothele Estate, Cornwall, when he found a Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) dozing ahead of its winter hibernation. Britain’s dormice are threatened by habitat loss – but at Cothele conservation work in the woods mean that numbers are booming. Credit: National Trust Images/James Robbins.

There are 60 dormouse nesting boxes in the woods on the Cotehele Estate and ranger James Robbins, a licensed dormouse handler, regularly carries out surveys for the mammal between April and October.

Mr Robbins, 31, said: “Nationally, Britain’s dormice are struggling – but in one undisturbed wooded valley at Cotehele numbers are booming.

“Our hazel woods are the dormice’s ideal habitat. We’ve recently coppiced hazel trees in the woods and grazing by highland cattle has helped create the perfect habitat for these mammals.”

About Hazel (Common) dormice:

  • The golden-brown Hazel dormice are up to 14cm long – about the same length as an iPhone 6.
  • During the summer dormice spend almost all of their time in the branches of trees. Between October and May, dormice hibernate in nests below leaf litter at the base of trees.
  • The loss of hedgerows and lack of management of woodlands (its preferred habitat) means that dormouse numbers are falling. The rare mammals are listed as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
  • Dormice are a legally protected species and can only be handled under license from Natural England.

PICTURES: “Dream” sighting of rare migrant bird Isabelline shrike at Souter, South Shields

THE CHANCE SIGHTING near South Shields of a small bird normally seen in Mongolia was a “dream come true” for one National Trust ranger.

Dougie Holden, National Trust Assistant Ranger at Souter Lighthouse and the Leas, spotted the Isabelline shrike (Lanius isabellius) on Friday on land cared for by the conservation charity about two miles north of Souter Lighthouse.

The Isabelline shrike is believed to have been blown far off course during its annual migration from Mongolia and China to North Africa. The British Trust for Ornithology estimates that on average just one of these rare visitors is seen in Britain every year.

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Hundreds of birdwatchers flocked to see this Isabelline shrike, which arrived at the National Trust’s Souter Lighthouse and the Leas last Friday after being blown off-course during its annual migration from Mongolia and China to Africa. Credit: National Trust Images/Dougie Holden

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