Could you be our farming hero? National Trust offers £1m coastal farm for just a pound a year

THE keys to a £1m farm and the future of a precious landscape could be in your hands for just a pound a year, as long as you’ve a passion for nature, people, and a lot of sheep.

Last year the National Trust stepped in to protect the rare and fragile landscape of the Great Orme in Llandudno, North Wales. The conservation charity is now offering the lease on that land for just a pound to ensure it can recover, thrive and give a potential shepherding star a helping hand to start out in farming.

This unique £1 tenancy follows on from the announcement of the conservation charity’s new ten year vision, aimed at reversing the alarming decline in wildlife – 60 per cent in the past 50 years – and finding long term solutions to help nurse the countryside back to health and deliver for nature.

In buying Parc Farm at the Orme’s summit and the associated grazing rights over the majority of the headland, the National Trust has taken on the means to ensure the survival of its internationally rare habitats and species; some of which exist nowhere else on earth.

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New EP captures sounds of Marconi’s Lizard

A new four-track EP, Marconi and the Lizard, by musician and producer Joe Acheson is released today following a week-long National Trust sound residency on the Lizard in Cornwall in August 2015.

The first-ever National sound residency, which was based at the hut where Guglielmo Marconi broadcast the ship-to-shore radio transmission on the beautiful south Cornish coast, was part of the Sounds of our Shores project that ran during the summer of 2015.

Joe Acheson said: “It was a privilege to record sounds that are disappearing from the Lizard, such as the old foghorn and the decommissioned spark transmitter.

“Making music that is so deeply-connected to one specific location brought its own resonance to the project. Like the food philosophy, ‘what grows together, goes together’, sounds from one place naturally work well with each other.”

Download an exclusive FREE track from Marconi and the Lizard

Joe Acheson, Credit National Trust, Steven Haywood

Acheson spent a week exploring a coast full of coves and cliffs in wild summer weather to capture the sounds of the most southerly part of the UK.  Taking inspiration from the Cornish landscape and the people who work in it, Acheson’s EP incorporates sounds of a now decommissioned lighthouse foghorn and fishermen chatting over ships’ radio.

Catherine Lee, National Trust Community and Volunteering Officer on the Lizard, said: “Joe Acheson’s recordings bring the rugged beauty of the Lizard to life. Living and working here you get used to the sounds of the weather and the sea. These familiar sounds which I never consciously notice jumped out of Acheson’s music.

“Acheson transports you back in time to 1901 to the Lizard of Guglielmo Marconi. History seeps into the compositions, with the lighthouse spark generator which has now been taken out of use and lobster pot weaving, a traditional practice now only used by a select few. These sounds might have been lost to history had they not been recorded, shared and celebrated as part of the National Trust’s first ever sound residency.”

Sounds of our Shores was a collaboration between the Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland. The project saw more than 680 sounds uploaded on to a crowd-sourced sound map, helping to capture a sonic journey around the 10,800 miles of UK coastline. All of these sounds have now been added to the British Library Sound Archive.

 The EP will be available for digital download from the Tru Thoughts website and to stream on Spotify. The RRP for the EP is £2.50, with individual tracks priced at 79p.

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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Spring fever

With the arrival of spring National Trust wildlife expert Matthew Oates muses on the changes this season of beauty brings:

Narcissus 'California' growing in March at Cotehele, Cornwall.

Narcissus ‘California’ growing in March at Cotehele, Cornwall.

“Spring has been officially ushered in by the equinox. Signs of it, of course, have been with us since before Christmas, as the first half of ‘winter’ was remarkably mild, December in particular. Had colder, more normal weather not arrived in mid-February, and persisted until recently, spring would now be in an even more advanced state than it is. A colder month has slowed things down, and led to unusually long flowering periods in many garden and wild plants, notably snowdrops. Had this slowing down not occurred all but the late-flowering varieties of daffodils would have finished by Easter, and an early Easter at that.

Many keen observers managed to find bluebells out in February, which is remarkable as it wasn’t long ago that March bluebells began to appear. Now, along the foot of warm south-facing banks the wild garlic or ramsons flowers are beginning – five or six weeks ahead of their traditional norm. Whatever next?

Bluebells and wild garlic growing in Skelghyll Woods near Ambleside, Cumbria.

Birds and insects have, though, been held back by those four chilly weeks. Many rookeries actually kicked off late, during the second week of March. The recent dry and intermittently sunny spell was too cold for most winged insects – no bad thing as they can be tempted to venture out before their allotted time, only to get caught out when the weather subsequently deteriorates and more normal conditions return. This jumping-the-gun has been a feature of recent springs (the exception being the late spring of 2013), and has been highly damaging.

Our wildlife is speaking to us loud and clear, stating how dramatically our climate is changing – particularly through mild winters. Our naturalists notice these changes. Now, more than ever, the UK needs its naturalists – and more of them – to become nature’s spokespeople and provide our decision makers with up to date information as to what’s going on.”

Slowing the flow of water as it leaves the hills

Over the last few winters we’ve seen the impact of major flooding on communities and the landscapes across the UK. Nigel Hester, project manager at the National Trust, reflects on some of the lessons from a major flood demonstration project in north Somerset:

The weather this winter has been characterised by a series of storms battering the UK with gales, mountainous seas and record amounts of rainfall, causing misery, damage and disruption to homes, businesses, infrastructure and the landscape.

 

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Water flowing through the village of Allerford on the River Aller; one of two villages that have been at risk of flooding as the waters head down from the hills of Exmoor

In recent years, there has been a shift in focus in flood risk management recognising that, in addition to conventional flood measures, more can be achieved by allowing the land to function more naturally. This natural flood management is at the core of an exciting demonstration flood project at the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Exmoor.

The project, core funded by Defra, has been running for 6 years and shows how working with nature, introducing some careful natural flood management interventions, and working in partnership, can contribute to reducing local flood risk and, importantly, provide a range of other benefits for the environment and local communities.

The target area for the work is based on the whole catchment approach, working from source of the rivers Horner and Aller high on Exmoor down to the Bristol Channel, using natural features to slow down or store flood water before it reaches the downstream villages of Allerford and Bossington.

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One of the bunds, helping to store the water when the river levels rise, helping to reduce the risk of flooding in the villages of Allerford and Bossington

Since 2011 a range of natural flood management measures have been undertaken including moorland drainage interventions, woody debris dams, woodland creation, leaky weirs and flood storage areas on the floodplain.

Partnership work with farmers has also focused on improved soil management to reduce run-off and soil loss during rainfall events. In addition, it has been critical to have an extensive hydrological monitoring network in place to provide high quality rainfall and flow data to capture the effects on any land management changes made.

The extreme weather events in recent years have been a good test of the natural flood management measures implemented and the key outcomes are very positive. During a severe storm in late December 2013, when the ground was already waterlogged, there was a 10% reduction in the flood peak reaching the downstream villages.

In the extremely wet winter of 2013/14, there was no flooding in the vulnerable catchment villages that have experienced regular flooding in the past. The insurance value of the properties at risk is estimated at £30 million yet the capital costs of constructing the flood storage area were £163,000, a small cost in comparison.

Despite the high rainfall experienced so far in 2016, people’s homes have remained dry and the river has remained in its channel. The work has not finished at Holnicote; there are still lots of opportunities to slow the flow even further by encouraging the land to act as a natural sponge and the National Trust is committed to finding ways to continue this work into the future.

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

Cyril Diver: a natural hero

National Trust wildlife expert Matthew Oates explores the life of naturalist and wildlife pioneer Cyril Diver.

“Few of Britain’s remarkable naturalists achieved as much as Cyril Diver (1892-1969). During the 1930s he and other volunteer experts meticulously surveyed, mapped and recorded the wildlife of the heath and dune system on the Studland peninsula, near Swanage in Dorset. They had a fantastic time, and also saved the site from development. A civil servant, Diver went on to draft much of our country’s initial wildlife legislation, and devise and lead the Nature Conservancy. This country owes him big time, yet he is largely forgotten.

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Cyril Diver and friends surveying Studland on the Dorset coast in the 1930s

Eighty years on, the National Trust has led a three year project to resurvey the peninsula, with close reference to the Diver archive material. As in the 1930s, specialist surveys were conducted by volunteers, both experts and beginners, though coordinated by a project officer. They had a fantastic time too, and have pioneered the citizen science approach to advanced wildlife recording, much of this in partnership with techy students from Bournemouth University. There is nothing naturalists love more than survey work, especially in a place as rich as Studland Peninsula.

The place has changed too, massively. Major changes commenced when Studland was taken over for tank training during the Second World War, and then when Rabbits died out to myxomatosis. A new sand dune has developed since the 1930s, and major changes to the ponds, swamps and mires have occurred.

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Cyril Diver in Dorset in the 1930s.

Recent surveys found 620 species of vascular plants – a quarter of the UK’s native flora, an increase from 465 in Diver’s time, though a few rarities have disappeared. Diver didn’t survey the lichen flora, due to a scarcity of experts, but recently over 340 lichen taxa have been found, including 29 major rarities. Insect-wise, today’s beetle surveys comfortably outscored Diver – 777 species, compared to 239, though 56 of Diver’s 239 were not re-found. Diver found 325 species of moth, the recent surveys found 611 but failed to re-find 105 on Diver’s list. And so on… . The recent surveys discovered two species new to Britain, though others may await confirmation. All this data will fascinate scientists, particularly climate change specialists, and will be celebrated at a conference at Bournemouth University on March 21st.

Now, more than ever, this nation needs its naturalists, to provide data to help us understand the burgeoning issues of climate change, new species colonisation and impending ecological change. We need more in-depth studies along the lines of the Diver Project, and to recruit and equip a new generation of inspired naturalists. The National Trust has a key role to play here, and will do so.”