Discover a sea of bluebells with the National Trust

Spring has arrived and what better way to brighten up your day than by taking a walk to see the bluebells across National Trust places.

There is something magical about bluebells. With their sudden, mystical takeover of ancient woodlands the flowers have long been linked to the fairy-world.

Get the family together and discover the delights of these delicate flowers that transform Britain’s wonderful woodlands. The blooming date for bluebells varies depending on the weather, but you can usually expect to see them in April and May.

Here’s a selection of the top National Trust places and events where you can enjoy bluebells in all their glory:

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Celebrating 300 years of Capability Brown with the National Trust

2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of the UK’s most celebrated landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

A revered designer, entrepreneur and salesman, his nickname came from his fondness for describing country estates as having great ‘capabilities’ for improvement.

He designed landscapes on an immense scale which provided the must-have setting for country houses, surrounded by wooded belts, parkland dotted with trees, carefully contoured ground, and serpentine lakes that resembled artificial rivers.

Many of Brown’s designs can still be seen at National Trust places across England and Wales today, cared for by the conservation charity’s teams of gardeners and volunteers.

We’ve got plenty of activities taking place throughout the year to mark the anniversary and help you explore the landscapes of ‘Capability’ Brown.

Here’s just a small selection to show you what’s on offer.

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63% more plants blooming in this year’s annual Valentine’s flower count

National Trust Garden teams in South West England have been busy recording flowers in bloom in this year’s annual Valentine’s Flower Count, with nearly all gardens showing an increase on last year.

The Annual National Trust Valentine's Flower Count - Fiona Hailstone counting Snowdrops

The Annual National Trust Valentine’s Flower Count – Fiona Hailstone counting Snowdrops

In 2008, 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded in Devon and Cornwall (where the flower count first started), marking the earliest spring so far recorded during the count. This year, 2,644 plants were recorded in gardens across the whole of the South West compared to 1,622 in 2015. Continue reading

How is the mild weather affecting nature?

The autumn and winter of 2015 has seen some unseasonably mild weather with day time temperatures remaining in double figures far longer than usual – and even night-time temperatures have remained very high. 2015 is now the warmest year on record, thought to be the result of man-made climate change and El Nino. This mild weather has affected wildlife and the natural world at many of our places.

Narcissus 'California' growing in March at Cotehele, Cornwall.At Polesden Lacey in Surrey daffodils and daisies are in bloom, bats, which would normally be hibernating, are still flying around, as are insects such as bumblebees, ladybirds and wasps.

Strawberries are still fruiting in gardens in Devon and in the Chilterns our ranger team has seen flowers on holly trees, cherry trees in blossom, rooks starting to nest and the grass continuing to grow.

Crowd pleasers such as snowdrops and daffodils are flowering at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. While on the South Downs, catkins are already opening on hazel trees and hawthorn has been spotted coming into flower.

Pete Brash, an animal ecologist for the National Trust, said: “The weather has been ridiculously mild which is having an impact on our wildlife. We’ve seen swifts, swallows and sand martins and there are a number of flowers in bloom very early including  dandelions and even cowslips.

“As we’re seeing the effects of climate change on our winters, nature is simply taking a gamble. If the swallows, for instance, can find sufficient food to maintain good condition then they can be first on the best territories ahead of breeding season next year. But, they have to weigh up the associated risks of staying and not being able to find sufficient food and warmth versus the risks of travelling 3000 miles.

“What could be a worry, however, is that long-range forecasts are predicting that January might see considerably colder weather on the way, which could cause problems.”

Newton’s pips take space tour with Peake

Apple seeds from the famous tree that inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity have been sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the latest mission which saw British astronaut Tim Peake blast off to join this week.

Newton's apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor. Credit Ann Blackett and National Trust

Newton’s apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor. Credit Ann Blackett

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Autumn review

Susan Guy_Calke Abbey_Serpentine Wood_Autumn 31.10.15_2

Autumn colours at the end of October in Serpentine Wood at Calke Abbey. Credit Susan Guy.

Matthew Oates, nature and wildlife specialist, looks back on the effects of a mild autumn on our wildlife:

Autumn has been incredibly mild, to date.  The south has had a single light frost, a windscreen affair on October 25th. It has also been dry, everywhere – with a drought in Northern Ireland – until the autumn rains arrived, perhaps with a vengeance, after the warmest November day on record (the 1st).

In consequence, many summer plants are flowering in garden and countryside.  Even tender summer annuals, such as Nasturtiums, are persisting.  In the wild some high summer plants have sprung back into bloom, notably the brambles.  Also, many of spring’s flowers are evident, again in both garden and countryside – especially Primrose, violets, Wild Strawberry and, most noticeably, the garden Viburnums.

Insects have lingered long into the autumn. Speckled Wood butterflies made it into November in numbers over much of southern Britain, and dragonflies, moths and crickets and grasshoppers have also persisted well. This year it will be the rains, rather than the frosts, that kill them off.

The leaves came off on time, with the exception of the Ash which dropped somewhat early in many districts. The maples flamed deep red this year.

Now, Fieldfare and Redwing seem unusually numerous, perhaps because poor weather in Scandinavia and Russia has pushed them deep into their wintering grounds.

It seems likely that the first part of the winter, at least, will be mild and wet, and perhaps stormy.

Thank you National Lottery players!

Today the National Trust is taking stock and saying a big #ThankYouThursday to everyone that has purchased a National Lottery ticket and indirectly helped us to complete some amazing projects in our gardens over the past 21 years.

In fact, across 17 garden related projects we have received an incredible £19.07 million. Continue reading