Extreme weeding – fighting an aquatic invader at Claremont

In an extreme case of weeding, amphibious tractors are this week tackling almost 16 tonnes of invasive weed in the lake at the National Trust’s Claremont Landscape Garden.

The vehicles, an amphibious cross between a tractor and a tank, are armed with giant rakes to remove the carpet of Crassula helmsii – also known as New Zealand Pigmyweed – that is covering the man-made serpentine lake at the Surrey garden.

Extreme weeding at Claremont, photo Dee Durham/National Trust

The non-native weed reproduces rapidly and, without natural competition in the UK, can quickly spread out of control, overtaking a waterbody and blocking out light for other flora and fauna.

The harvesters have been busy collecting the weed and depositing it in a huge pile on the island in the centre of the lake. Here it will rot down quickly, creating compost, while allowing any fish and invertebrates scooped up to make their way back into the lake.

The lake is 27,000 m2 and it could take almost two weeks for the surface to be completely clear of the aquatic invader. There is currently no known way to entirely eradicate the weed, so gardeners at Claremont will manually remove the weed throughout the year using nets and waders. 

Claremont Landscape Garden, photo Hannah Elliott/National Trust

Tim Rayfield, Senior Gardener at Claremont, said: “By using the large harvesters, we’re able to control the Crassula with minimum impact on the lake and its eco system.

“It’s one of the more unusual ways that we conserve this amazing landscape garden, and it’s great to be able to see the trees reflected in the water once again.”

 

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Green light for Sutton Hoo transformation as National Trust is awarded £1.8 million National Lottery grant

Bold plans to take one of the UK’s most significant historical sites into the future are set to go ahead after the National Trust learnt it has been awarded a £1.8million National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help transform the way it tells the story of one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

Home to the burial ground of the Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald, Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in Suffolk has been fascinating visitors from around the world ever since its hoard of treasure and royal secrets were discovered by a local archaeologist in 1939.

Now, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the National Trust can move ahead with plans to transform the experience of visitors and help them discover more about the people who settled here and those who went on to lead the archaeological digs that uncovered the world famous finds, including the Sutton Hoo helmet.

Sunset over the famous burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. ©National Trust Images_Justin Minns

The news of the successful grant bid follows two years of planning and the funds will go towards the total project cost of £4million.

Plans include building a 17 metre observation tower to give views over the entire burial ground and to the River Deben beyond, revealing the fascinating story of this evocative landscape. It was from the River Deben that an Anglo-Saxon ship was hauled up the valley before it formed the burial chamber found in Mound One, where the famous treasure was discovered by Suffolk archaeologist Basil Brown.

A new route around the site will allow visitors to walk in the steps of the Anglo-Saxons.  Tranmer House, the former home of Edith Pretty who instigated the dig that would lead to the discoveries, will be transformed with a new exhibition exploring a timeline of multiple discoveries and the ongoing research at this and other archaeological sites.

Enhanced guided tours, thought-provoking activities and installations, innovative interpretation and creative programming will all sit alongside a schools education programme.

In addition, partnership working with archaeological bodies, the British Museum and the local community will all help to bring both the landscape and Exhibition Hall to life.

The project, called ‘Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo’, will enable the National Trust to create an experience that helps visitors discover more about this internationally significant site and how its stories have captured the imaginations of people the world over.

The dig at Sutton Hoo in 1939. ©British Museum

Allison Girling, Property Operations Manager at Sutton Hoo said: “We welcome visitors with a wide range of interests and knowledge to Sutton Hoo and these plans are all about sharing more about the history of this special place, helping visitors delve deeper into the lives of the Anglo-Saxons who settled here, the people who discovered them and to learn more about what it is that makes Sutton Hoo so fascinating.

“From why the Anglo-Saxons chose to bury their king here and how their lives and traditions have influenced English culture for generations, to how the determination of one remarkable woman led to the discoveries in the first place, there are so many stories to tell at Sutton Hoo and thanks to National Lottery players who make these grants possible, we’ll be able to move forward with our plans.”

Allison added: “We’ve been working with Sutton Hoo’s teams of staff and volunteers, regular visitors and supporters, the local community and the National Lottery to shape the future for Sutton Hoo and together we want to create an experience that really brings history to life whether you’re visiting for a family day out, to discover what’s on your doorstep or to support academic research.”

Replica of the richly decorated Anglo-Saxon helmet found at Sutton Hoo. ©National Trust Images_Andreas von Einsiedel

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England said: “Sutton Hoo is an incredibly significant treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon heritage and it’s exciting that thanks to National Lottery players, this fascinating site will be transformed for visitors from near and far. This is a great opportunity to share this amazing place and put people of all ages at the heart of a story which spans 6,000 years.”

The Trust has also been given permission for plans to transform the welcome centre and car park.

The £4million project is being made possible thanks in part to support provided by members and visitors and the National Trust is aiming to raise a further £560,000 in order to complete the project.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2021.

Embleton Bay crowned BBC Countryfile Magazine’s beach of the year

BBC Countryfile Magazine readers have crowned Embleton Bay their beach of the year.

More than 56,000 readers voted in the poll that saw the Northumberland beach, which has been cared for by the National Trust since 1961, win the beach of the year category.

View of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north West The view shows the sand dunes on Embleton Beach in evening sunlight with the ruins of the 14th century stronghold visible in the distance

View of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north West The view shows the sand dunes on Embleton Beach in evening sunlight with the ruins of the 14th century stronghold visible in the distance. Credit: National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

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Ahead of the curve: innovative 19th century curved glasshouse is restored to its former glory

A rare example of a 19th century curvilinear glasshouse has been restored at the National Trust’s Quarry Bank in Cheshire after a year-long restoration project.

The original Quarry Bank Glasshouse. Credit Quarry Bank Archive.

The 1820s glasshouse was built to supply the owners of Quarry Bank mill, the Greg family, with tender fruit of the time, such as grapes and peaches. Its innovative design and use of modern technology sent a clear message to guests about the Gregs’ financial success and position in society.

Although the conservation charity acquired the 18th century cotton mill in 1939, it was only in 2010 that the kitchen garden was acquired by the Trust. The jewel in the crown of this walled garden was the severely damaged curvilinear glasshouse, a name given to the structure because of its unique curved roof.

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National Trust statement: Car parking at our countryside and coastal locations

Our 4.7 million members continue to park for free.  Non-members have been charged to park at many of our countryside and coastal locations for some time. 

 

Over the past two years we have been gradually introducing pay and display machines at car parks with over 25 spaces, replacing the ‘person in a hut’ and donation box models.

 

The money we raise helps us look after the coast, countryside and footpaths that we would otherwise not be able to do.

 

Special arrangements have been made at Levant for the descendants of people killed in the mine disaster to park for free.

 

Funds raised from car parking will be used to maintain and improve car park facilities, help with footpath repairs, marking out new pathways to improve access and further aid visitor enjoyment and funding conservation projects to encourage wildlife. 

 

Charges will vary depending on location and the average car park fee will be £1 an hour and up to £5 for a whole day. 

 

We want people to visit and enjoy the special places in our care and we need to get the basics right in terms of providing good facilities while balancing this with caring for the surrounding countryside and wildlife, and in the face of rising conservation costs. 

 

As Britain’s largest conservation charity, the National Trust cares for over 250,000 hectares of countryside and 775 miles of coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Over 200 million visits are made every year to our countryside and coastline putting increasing pressure on the landscape and facilities. 

‘Spring is on the way; you can smell it’, say National Trust Gardeners

The 2017 Annual National Trust Valentines Day Flower Count  at Greenway House  the former  home of Agatha Christie - Amy U’Ren amongst the camellias

The 2017 Annual National Trust Valentines Day Flower Count at Greenway Hous,e the former home of Agatha Christie – Amy U’Ren amongst the camellias. Credit National Trust, Steven Haywood

National Trust garden teams in the south west [1] have conducted their annual flower count for Valentine’s Day and although spring seems to be on the way, just as we would expect, what is noticeable is how many scented plants are already out in flower at this early time of year.

Gardeners from across National Trust gardens in the south west recorded 1,737 plants blooming in this year’s 12th annual Valentine’s Flower Count, which is 34% down on last year’s figure of 2,644. However, while numbers are down on 2016, they are still higher than the previous three years [2]. Continue reading

Marking 10 years since the MSC Napoli was grounded at Branscombe, Devon

What do you do when a large tanker containing thousands of gallons of oil is left beached and broken just metres from your beach?

That was the challenge facing rangers at Branscombe, east Devon, on Sunday 21 January 2007.

The stricken MSC Napoli after shedding its cargo, now washed up on the beach at Branscombe, Devon

The MSC Napoli was grounded off the Devon coast ten years ago. Credit: David Levenson / National Trust Images

Days before, the 275 metre long container ship MSC Napoli had broken its back in storms of the Cornish coast.

Tugs battled through stormy conditions trying to tow the ship to Portland harbour, Dorset, when coastguards took the decision to ground her just off Branscombe beach – rather than risk worse damage in deep water.

But the vessel leaked 302 tonnes of fuel and lost almost 200 containers – a tenth of the total number strapped to the ship.

National Trust rangers helped with the clear up along the Devon and Dorset coast.
And the crash helped transform the conservation charity’s approach to planning for marine disasters.

Simon Ford, the National Trust’s Wildlife and Countryside Adviser in the South West, said: “I remember I was at the office when we heard about the Napoli. The rangers at Branscombe rushed down to the beach and we drew together our own team to support the emergency services’ effort.

“There were hundreds of thousands of mars bars completely smothered in oil washing up on the beaches throughout east Devon and Dorset, along with a multitude of other items from car parts to enormous shipping containers.

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Oil-slicked Mars Bars litter the beach following the grounding of the MSC Napoli ten years ago. Credit: Simon Ford / National Trust

“At the time I was working on a marine plan for Cornwall, planning the National Trust’s response in the event of a disaster off the Cornish coast.

“The ship grounded just as I was completing the plan for Cornwall and extending it to Devon.

“When it happened we were caught off guard.

“But because we had the draft plan from Cornwall we knew what we had to do.

“We rushed through, trying to use the information from Napoli to guide our plans for all National Trust places.

“We changed our planning processes as a result, taking into account marine pollution – cargo as well as oil.

“We made sure that every single National Trust coastal site in the UK have an emergency plan.”

Sheep graze peacefully above the aftermath of the MSC Napoli shedding its cargo, now washed up on the beach at Branscombe, Devon

Sheep graze in front of debris cleared following the Napoli disaster Credit: David Levenson / National Trust Images

The oil slick claimed the lives of many birds such as cormorants and guillemots .

But the long-term impact of the disaster on the area’s wildlife was not as bad as conservationists initially feared.

In the immediate aftermath it was thought that the scaly cricket (Pseudomogoplistes vicentae) had vanished from Branscombe beach.

But the rare insect, which is nocturnal and lives on shingle beaches, was rediscovered 18 months after the MSC Napoli was grounded.

Simon said: “We’ve learned the lessons of Napoli and previous tanker disasters, making sure that the damage to wildlife on sea and land is kept to a minimum.

“We’re as prepared as we can be for the next Napoli.”