‘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

One year on: Storm Desmond and the Lake District

One year on from Storm Desmond, National Trust rangers in the Lake District are still fixing the damaged caused by floods that left the charity with facing a million pound clean-up bill – including £600,000 worth of uninsured damage.

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View from Latrigg 2016. Credit John Malley

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Thorneythwaite Farm

The National Trust has acquired approximately 303 acres of land at Thorneythwaite Farm in Borrowdale, in the Lake District, following a successful bid at auction. This beautiful landscape will now be looked after for ever, for everyone.

We are passionate about conserving the beauty and uniqueness of the Lake District. We bid for this land because it offers such amazing places for wildlife including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture. It’s home to a wealth of important wildlife including redstarts and pied flycatchers.

The land was split into two plots by the auctioneers: the farm land and a farm house. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building.

We were aware that there was international interest in the lots, and that it had been marketed widely, so there was risk it could be bought up by a private owner from anywhere in the world, or a property investor. There were certainly no guarantees that a local farmer would have secured it. We simply don’t know who else was in the market for it and what their intentions would have been.

We bid above the guide price but we had an independent valuation which was significantly higher than that. We are confident that we paid the right price to secure this very important stretch of Lakeland landscape. We did not have the funds to buy both lots, the farm house and the land, and for us the land was more of a priority than the farmhouse.

We will continue to farm this land and we believe we can look after it in way which benefits nature, our visitors and the local community. We already manage much of the surrounding land in Borrowdale, which means we can take a ‘big picture’ view of how we look after the wider landscape. That allows us to continue farming and at the same time deliver healthy soil, natural water management, thriving natural habitats and continued public access.

We will also explore how we may be able to use the farm to slow the flow of the Upper River Derwent, thereby contributing to the prevention of flooding downstream in communities such as Keswick and Cockermouth.

The Trust has a long history of and is committed to the tradition of Herdwick farming. We have an existing stock of 21,000 Herdwick sheep and we own 54 farms in the Fells.

The land will be managed by a tenant, and we have already had several expressions of interest. It will be farmed with nature in mind but it will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.

National Trust launches £250,000 coastal appeal to protect stunning Cornish clifftop

A £250,000 fundraising appeal is today  being launched by the National Trust to raise money to protect and care for Trevose Head near Padstow in Cornwall.

The fund will enable the conservation charity to extend areas of existing wildlife habitat on Trevose, whilst retaining other areas as arable farmland. Both are important in supporting rare wildlife. National Trust rangers will also create new footpaths, opening up the headland for visitors.

Thanks to the generosity of people who have left gifts to the National Trust in their Wills, the Trust is able to commit significant funds towards the purchase of Trevose Head.

Trevose Head -55 by John Miller

Trevose Head (c) National Trust Images / John Miller

 

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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

2015: The year of the jellyfish

2015 was another challenging year for wildlife, with many new issues coming to the fore, say experts at the National Trust as part of its annual weather and wildlife review.

The conservation charity, which looks after almost 250,000 hectares of land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, conducts the review across its places every year to help paint a picture of how the year’s weather has affected the nation’s wildlife against a long-term backdrop of decline for 60% of species in the UK.

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