Our view on foraging for wild food

Our National Specialist Matthew Oates writes:

‘The National Trust supports the use of its properties for foraging for abundant species of wild food for personal use. Good foraging will remind us that we are part of nature, make us appreciate nature more, and tame our instincts to over-exploit nature.

Clump of Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) at Prior Park, Bath, Somerset

Foraging activities must be based on the principle of sustainability. We must protect vulnerable species and habitats, and ensure that foraging takes place in a safe and sustainable way.

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Bluebells at Dockey Wood, Ashridge Estate

On two weekends in early May, the National Trust plans to charge visitors a small amount to enter the woodlands at Dockey Wood on the 2,000 hectare Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire. Entrance for National Trust members will be free.

Dockey Wood is noted for its spectacular bluebell displays, with thousands coming into bloom at the end of April and early May. However, in recent years large visitor numbers has led to trampling of the flowers and compaction of the soils – which has in turn meant that bluebell numbers are declining.

The charge – £3 for adults and £1 for children over the age of five – will be made over two weekends: 30th April – 2nd May and 7th – 8th May, 10:00-16:00. Entry will be free for members of the National Trust.

The Trust has created a designated visitor route through the bluebells in a bid to offer them further protection. Fencing has also been erected at the entrance to the woods to prevent erosion to the woodland’s bank and ditch.

The money raised from entrance fees over the two weekends will go directly towards conservation of wild flowers and trees at Dockey Wood and the wider Ashridge Estate.

Lawrence Trowbridge, Lead Ranger at the Ashridge Estate, said: ‘The countryside at Ashridge is free and it can be accessed at any time, any day of the year.

‘We want to ensure that as many visitors as possible can experience the bluebells at Dockey Wood, while also protecting them for future visitors to enjoy.

‘Over the past few years we’ve noticed that the bluebells are being damaged by trampling and the soil that they grow in is being compacted. This means that the overall numbers of bluebells are reducing, which is concerning.  The measures we are taking are all about conserving this wonderful spectacle for many years to come.’

Lalenya Kukielka, Visitor Experience Manager at Ashridge Estate, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We see around 2,000 cars per day – although not all to Dockey Wood – at weekends in peak bluebell season. The popularity of bluebells and the numbers of visitors at bluebell time has definitely increased in recent years.

‘I took one phone call today from a lady from Lichtenstein who was travelling to Ashridge to see the bluebells. Local photographers advertise the bluebell woods as a backdrop for family portraits and the visitor centre takes many enquiries about large group visits.

‘The reaction to our measures to manage footfall at Dockey Wood has been reassuringly positive. Most people, particularly those who come regularly to Ashridge understand that something needed to be done to protect the bluebells.’

About Ashridge Estate

Ashridge is a 2,000 hectare estate in the Chiltern Hills, comprising woodland, commons and chalk downland. Entrance to this countryside estate is free to all visitors.

Visitors can see Bluebells free of charge elsewhere on the Ashridge Estate. Download our Bluebell Walk here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/trails/three-in-one-bluebell-walk-at-ashridge.

About Bluebells

Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a plant particularly associated with ancient woodland where it may dominate the woodland floor in spring to produce carpets of violet–blue flowers. It is protected under UK law. Bluebells tend to grow in lightly acid soils and to get the most of the spring sunshine, they flower quickly – just before the trees growing above them are in full leaf. They can grow quickly during this period by using the nutrients stored in their bulbs. As bluebells are adapted to woodlands, the young shoots are able to penetrate through a thick layer of leaf litter found on the woodland floor. They cannot however penetrate heavily compacted soils and the bulbs eventually die.

Visitors can see Bluebells at many National Trust places. Late April and early May is the best time to see these wild flowers. Find a Bluebell wood near you at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/bluebell-woods-near-you.

For press enquiries contact Tom Seaward, Assistant Press Officer, tom.seaward@nationaltrust.org.uk or 01793 818544

Celebrating thirty years as World Heritage sites

On World Heritage Day this Monday (18th April) three iconic National Trust landscapes and places will celebrate thirty years as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Established in the 1970s by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the World Heritage Convention recognises places of natural or cultural interest that are of international importance, protecting them for future generations.

The United Kingdom joined the UNESCO scheme in 1986.

In that year seven places in the UK were granted World Heritage status. They included three iconic landscapes now in the care of the National Trust: Giant’s Causeway, Stonehenge and Avebury Landscape, and Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens.

Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland was the only place awarded World Heritage status in 1986 for its importance as a natural landscape.

Formed over millions of years, the Giant’s Causeway is famous for its tall basalt columns. The columns inspired one of the legends associated with Finn McCool (or Finn mac Cumhaill), the fair haired giant who – it is claimed – built the causeway in order to do battle with Benandonner, a Scottish rival.

View across part of the Giant's Causeway, Co Antrim

View across part of the Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim. These basaltic columns were formed during a period of violent geological activity. (C) National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Eleanor Killough, National Trust Learning and Visitor Experience Manager at Giant’s Causeway, said: “It is a privilege to assist in managing such an important landmark. Those of us who work here know how much the causeway is valued both by international visitors and the local community.”

This weekend, visitors to Giant’s Causeway can celebrate thirty years of the site’s World Heritage status with trails, family craft activities and music from around the globe.

Wiltshire’s Stonehenge and Avebury, also celebrating its thirtieth year as a World Heritage site, is one of the best places in northern Europe for prehistoric monuments, most famously Stonehenge and the stone circle at Avebury. The National Trust cares for the Avebury stones and much of the grassland landscape that surrounds Stonehenge.

All this year visitors can walk this ancient landscape with the Avebury 50km walking challenge.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens in North Yorkshire boasts a more recent history. The magnificent Cistercian monastery – dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 – was later incorporated into the elegant water gardens of John Aislabie, a socially ambitious politician of the eighteenth century.

Since being designated a World Heritage site in 1986, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens has welcomed nine million visitors.

Sarah France, World Heritage Coordinator and Conservation Manager at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Garden, said: “With 800 years of human history in one landscape, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal World Heritage Site has a wealth of stories that offer a fascinating window into the past. It is a truly unique place; breathtakingly beautiful throughout the seasons.”

Celebrate thirty years of world heritage with the National Trust this weekend

Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Day

Giant’s Causeway Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

Sun 17 April; 9:00 – 19:00

Take a 2-hour guided walk with a National Trust conservation expert and plant wildflowers, or join us in the Visitor Centre for a themed-treasure trail, crafts and world music with Belfast musical ensemble, Los Dramaticos.  Normal admission applies; National Trust members free admission. Book online for discount at www.giantscausewaytickets.com. To book a place on the guided walk call: 028 2073 3419.

Avebury 50km Walking Challenge

Avebury, Wiltshire

Throughout 2016

Discover eight walks in Stonehenge and Avebury’s ancient landscape, finding out more about the area’s wildlife and archaeology on the way.  Totalling 50km, each of the eight walks varies in length from between 3km (approx 2 miles) to 9.5km (approx. 6 miles). Registration for this self-led challenge costs £10, with all money going towards conserving these special landscapes. Register before the end of 2016 and you will be entered into a prize draw, with the chance to win £300 voucher to spend with our partners Cotswold Outdoor.

Exhibition: Thirty years of World Heritage Site

Fountains Hall, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens, North Yorkshire

Sat 16 April – Wed 29 June; 10:30 – 17:30

Find out about the achievements and challenges involved in maintaining the World Heritage site at a special exhibition in Fountains Hall (Saturday 16 April – Wednesday 29 June). Exclusive to this weekend (16 – 17 April, 11am – 4pm), try designing your own landscape garden and discover what life as an eighteenth century gardener would have been like at our historical gardeners’ tent.

 

Statement on senior membership price increases

The National Trust currently offers nearly one million senior members a heavily discounted price of 25% off our adult rates.

This discount is offered to senior members who have held either an individual or joint membership for at least five of the last ten years as a way of saying thank you for their long-term support.

That costs the Trust over £11m a year (in lost income) but we believe it’s right to reward our members’ loyalty in this way.

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Springwatch comes to Stackpole

The National Trust’s Stackpole Estate will be in the spotlight this Friday as the coastal Pembrokeshire estate hosts BBC’s Springwatch at Easter.

The Easter special of the wildlife programme will see presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan explore the estate and wider Pembrokeshire for early signs of spring.

As the coast and countryside begin to burst into life and colour, the Springwatch special follows the diverse flora and fauna, the conservation stories behind the landscape and the volunteers who dedicate their time to looking after special places like Stackpole.

The Trust hosted a beach clean at Freshwater West as part of the show, working in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy, Marine Conservation Society, Natural Resources Wales and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

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Michaela Strachan speaks to Rhian Sula, Visitor Experience and Community Officer at the National Trust’s Stackpole Estate

Speaking about the programme, Mike Greenslade, the National Trust’s Manager of Stackpole, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Springwatch at Easter to Stackpole and are excited for the team to discover the seasonal sights, sounds and stories.

“Spring is when the estate truly comes alive and we hope that the show will help encourage more people to come and explore the landscape for themselves.”

The broadcast of Springwatch at Easter will see the launch of the BBC’s Do Something Great season, encouraging people to take action for nature.

Welcoming the BBC’s focus on volunteering Helen Timbrell, Volunteering & Community Involvement Director at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust relies upon the help of more than 60,000 volunteers to look after the special places in our care.

“Our places offer volunteering opportunities for everyone: from looking after rare breed cattle at Wimpole Home Farm in Cambridgeshire to helping to keep Pembrokeshire’s beaches free of plastic litter with the local community at one of our drop-in beach cleans.

“With the natural environment facing some real challenges over the coming years it’s more important than ever that we all get out and Do Something Great for nature.”

Springwatch at Easter will be broadcast on Good Friday (25th March) at 9pm on BBC Two. The programme will be repeated on Easter Sunday (27th March) at 6pm.

For more information on spring at National Trust places in Pembrokeshire, please visit nationaltrust.org.uk/pembrokeshire

MCS: litter on our shores increases by a third in one year

Beach litter increased by more than a third in just one year, according to Marine Conservation Society (MCS) figures released today.

Run over one weekend last September, the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean saw thousands of volunteers survey and remove more than 275,000 pieces of litter from 340 beaches in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Last year fourteen National Trust beaches took part in the survey.

Now in its 22nd year, the Great British Beach Clean allows us to identify trends in the amount and types of litter washing up along the coast. Volunteers count and collect every item of litter found along a 100 metre line on a beach.

Problem of plastic

Compared to the previous year, 2015 saw an increase of over 40% in the number of plastic bottles found by Beach Clean volunteers.

The sheer number of bottles found during the Beach Clean has convinced the MCS to lobby UK and devolved governments for a deposit return scheme which would offer consumers a financial incentive for returning single-use plastic, glass and aluminium drinks containers.

Responding to the MCS results Phil Dyke, the National Trust’s Coastal and Marine Adviser, said: “The MCS’s latest Beach Clean results show just how big a problem marine litter continues to be. As an organisation that looks after more than 750 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have first-hand experience of the environmental and visual impact of litter on our shores.”

Unusual National Trust finds

Fourteen National Trust places took part in the MCS Great British Beach Clean last September, including Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire, Woolacombe in north Devon and East Head, west Sussex. At Formby on the Merseyside coast volunteers collected 62kg-worth of rubbish. A small plastic bin made an ironic find for volunteers at Woolacombe beach in Devon. Volunteers at East Head, Sussex, were surprised to find 6kg of micro-plastic (measuring 3mm in diameter) on an otherwise pristine-looking beach.

2015 saw the National Trust celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Neptune coastline fundraising campaign. Over the year our staff and volunteers uncovered some unusual pieces of litter at Beach Cleans across the country:

  • 23 bags of plastic bottles at Chesil Beach, Dorset
  • A toilet seat at Ayrmer Cove, south Devon
  • Dumped gazebo at Northey Island, Essex
  • A small plastic penis at Trenow, Cornwall
  • Diving flippers, a chaise longue and underpants at Blakeney and Brancaster on the Norfolk coast

Pink bottles

Plastic litter has long been an issue for the National Trust, but it only occasionally hits the headlines.

This happened earlier in the year when thousands of pink bottles appeared along the Cornish coastline from a container that had been lost at sea.

National Trust staff worked closely with local volunteers and other agencies to clear and dispose of over 7,000 bottles – with the manufacturer covering the disposal costs.

But as the bottles began to disappear so did the media.

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Ranger Justin Whitehouse removes pink bottles from Poldhu Beach (c)National Trust Images/Steve Haywood

National Trust Area Ranger on the Lizard, Justin Whitehouse, said:  “Litter doesn’t go away. If you visit a beach and there’s little evidence of plastic litter, it’s more than likely because somebody, usually a volunteer, has been there already and cleaned it.

“Plastic never biodegrades; it just breaks down into smaller pieces, presenting a growing threat to wildlife. But by doing our bit and reducing the amount of plastic we use or taking two minutes to pick up litter whenever we head to the beach, we can start to reduce this threat to our landscape and wildlife.”

Taking part in the beach survey really helps to track trends with the litter turning up on our beaches. Sign up now for the next Great British Beach Clean on 16th – 19th September 2016.

National Trust secures £1m to invest in young people

The National Trust has been awarded almost £1m by the Big Lottery Fund to give young people the skills and opportunities to help care for local natural places across five cities in England and Wales.

The Green Academies Project 2 (GAP2) is one of over thirty projects that will benefit from the Big Lottery Fund’s £33m Our Bright Future fund.

Based at six National Trust properties and involving a wide range of local partners, GAP2 will work with young people aged 11 to 24 in Birmingham, south London, Greater Manchester, Newcastle and Wrexham.  The project will be delivered with support from UpRising, a youth leadership development organisation.

Proven model

The funding will allow us to further develop a volunteering model that has already proven itself in Birmingham.

Since 2009 the National Trust has offered training and volunteering opportunities to young people aged 11 to 19 in south Birmingham, working closely in partnership with Birmingham City Council’s Parks and Nature Conservation department and Birmingham Youth Services,

A dedicated training programme has given young people aged 16-19 who are not in employment, education or training the chance to gain NVQ-level equivalent experience in nature conservation management.

Young people on the programme have given more than 20,000 hours volunteering at National Trust properties and local green spaces in Birmingham, helping to plant four new orchards and laying over 350 metres of hedgerow.

Jacko teaches bug hunting with young volunteers

GAP student Jacko takes Birmingham teenagers on a bug hunt (c) National Trust/Dee Whittle

Volunteer success

Former Green Academies Project volunteers have gone on to enjoy careers in horticulture and nature conservation.

Father of two Allen Downing started volunteering with the Green Academies Project (GAP) in 2012.

“I’d gotten into a rut trying to get work”, he says. “But it wasn’t work I was really interested in. GAP has given me the chance to find out what I do enjoy doing.”

Since graduating from the Green Academies Project Allen has found work with the landscaping team at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

“I feel like I’ve moved forward as a person. I’m more confident speaking to people. I’m actually being paid to do what I enjoy.”

A movement for change

Dee Whittle, National Trust Urban Green Space Project Manager in Birmingham and leader for GAP2 in the city, welcomes the opportunity to extend the Green Academies project to other cities.

Young people can be among the most marginalised groups in our society. With the help of Our Bright Future and our local partners, we have the chance to support more people in England and Wales to shape their local and natural environment.

GAP2 will be based at six National Trust properties in England and Wales:

  • Birmingham: Clent Hills and Birmingham City (Back to Backs)
  • South London: Morden Hall Park
  • Greater Manchester: Dunham Massey and Quarry Bank
  • Newcastle: Gibside
  • Wrexham: Erddig

The six properties will be working with local partners in the education, youth and conservation sectors to develop volunteering programmes for young people, opportunities for young people to achieve informal or formal conservation qualifications and activities to engage the wider community with local green spaces.

GAP2 is part of the National Trust’s wider efforts to support people to look after the green spaces where they live. Over the coming decade we will be testing ways to connect people to their local green spaces and helping people to play a part in caring for these special places.