Heritage Lottery Fund award boosts National Trust appeal to secure Churchill’s legacy at Chartwell

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of £3.45 million towards the National Trust’s appeal to reinvigorate Winston Churchill’s legacy and acquire many of his personal objects at his family home Chartwell in Kent.

The south front of Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill between 1922 and 1964, Kent.

The south front of Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill between 1922 and 1964, Kent.

The conservation charity launched its ‘Churchill’s Chartwell’ appeal in September to raise £7.1 million.

Since then, nearly £2 million has been raised from around the world from members, supporters, charitable trusts and the Royal Oak Foundation – the Trust’s membership affiliate in the US.

The HLF grant brings the total raised so far to nearly £5.5 million and the National Trust is hoping that more supporters will come forward to help reach the appeal target.

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Ground breaking technology reveals location of monks’ cemetery and new evidence of their burial rituals at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire

Remarkable ground-penetrating technology has revealed more than 500 graves of Cistercian monks and lay brothers who once lived at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, now cared for by the National Trust.

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Fountains Abbey. Credit National Trust Images/Andrew Butler.

The abbey at the site existed from the early 12th century to its closure in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The conservation charity has been working for over two years on a project with experts from the University of Bradford, Geoscan Research, and Mala Geoscience to research the largest monastic ruins in the country.  Continue reading

PICTURES: Barn owl chicks pictured during survey at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

FIVE BARN OWL chicks were snapped by a National Trust volunteer during a recent survey in the Warwickshire parkland where William Shakespeare was supposedly caught poaching deer.

It is believed that the brood of two female and three male chicks were between 41 and 53 days old when they were checked earlier this autumn by volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) at Charlecote Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

BTO volunteer Roger Juckes, said: “Like most barn owls, these five chicks were very docile. If you cradle them on their backs like a baby, barn owls will lie still quite happily.”

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Five Barn owl chicks patiently wait for volunteers to check their age and sex and apply a ring to their lower leg during an autumn survey at the National Trust’s Charlecote Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon. Britain’s barn owl numbers are recovering after decades of decline. Thanks to an abundance of voles in the historic parkland, this year all of Charlecote’s barn owl chicks fledged successfully. Credit: Jana Eastwood/National Trust.

Mr Juckes, a licensed bird ringer, checked each owl chick’s age and sex before applying a lightweight ring around their lower leg. The small metal ring will help scientists carrying out future surveys establish the bird’s age and birthplace.

This has been a good year for barn owls on the Warwickshire estate, National Trust rangers say.

Seven barn owl chicks have fledged from owl nesting boxes erected in the 500 year old parkland.

Joy Margerum, National Trust Area Ranger at Charlecote Park, said: “The tussocky grass in our historic parkland is the ideal habitat for field voles – barn owls’ favourite food. Voles and other small mammals have benefited from a stunning autumn with extended growth of grasses and trees groaning with fruit and nuts.”

Evidence suggests that barn owl numbers in Britain are rising, after more than a century of decline caused by habitat loss and persecution.

Barn owls are a legally protected species; and a license is required to access a nest to ring the birds.

Ms Margerum added: “There have been barn owls nesting in our parkland for hundreds of years. But by putting up nesting boxes and grazing the grassland in the right way we can give the owls a helping hand.”

Farmer moves into £1m coastal farm – for just one pound a year

SHEPHERD Dan Jones and his young family have moved in to their ‘dream farm’, the National Trust’s £1 million Parc Farm on the Great Orme, North Wales.

Ceri and Dan Jones and their sheepdogs move into Parc Farm. Credit Richard Williams.JPG

Ceri and Dan Jones and their four sheepdogs, Bet, Tian, Nel and Floss are the new National Trust tenants at Parc Farm on the Great Orme. Credit Richard Williams

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PICTURES: dozing dormouse discovered at Cotehele, Cornwall

A RARE DORMOUSE was found dozing ahead of its winter hibernation by National Trust ranger James Robbins during the last dormouse survey of the year on the conservation charity’s Cotehele Estate, Cornwall.

It is thought that the rare Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), which was photographed at the end of October, was sleeping ahead of a last attempt to fatten up on hazel nuts before its winter hibernation.

 James Robbins, National Trust Ranger at Cotehele, said: “Dormice are fattening up for winter. They gorge like mad on berries and nuts in autumn, sleep, and then eat a final meal before crawling under leaf litter at the base of trees for their winter hibernation. They become active again in spring.”

Dormouse at Cotehele

National Trust ranger James Robbins was carrying out his final dormouse survey of the year in late October on the Cothele Estate, Cornwall, when he found a Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) dozing ahead of its winter hibernation. Britain’s dormice are threatened by habitat loss – but at Cothele conservation work in the woods mean that numbers are booming. Credit: National Trust Images/James Robbins.

There are 60 dormouse nesting boxes in the woods on the Cotehele Estate and ranger James Robbins, a licensed dormouse handler, regularly carries out surveys for the mammal between April and October.

Mr Robbins, 31, said: “Nationally, Britain’s dormice are struggling – but in one undisturbed wooded valley at Cotehele numbers are booming.

“Our hazel woods are the dormice’s ideal habitat. We’ve recently coppiced hazel trees in the woods and grazing by highland cattle has helped create the perfect habitat for these mammals.”

About Hazel (Common) dormice:

  • The golden-brown Hazel dormice are up to 14cm long – about the same length as an iPhone 6.
  • During the summer dormice spend almost all of their time in the branches of trees. Between October and May, dormice hibernate in nests below leaf litter at the base of trees.
  • The loss of hedgerows and lack of management of woodlands (its preferred habitat) means that dormouse numbers are falling. The rare mammals are listed as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
  • Dormice are a legally protected species and can only be handled under license from Natural England.

PICTURES: “Dream” sighting of rare migrant bird Isabelline shrike at Souter, South Shields

THE CHANCE SIGHTING near South Shields of a small bird normally seen in Mongolia was a “dream come true” for one National Trust ranger.

Dougie Holden, National Trust Assistant Ranger at Souter Lighthouse and the Leas, spotted the Isabelline shrike (Lanius isabellius) on Friday on land cared for by the conservation charity about two miles north of Souter Lighthouse.

The Isabelline shrike is believed to have been blown far off course during its annual migration from Mongolia and China to North Africa. The British Trust for Ornithology estimates that on average just one of these rare visitors is seen in Britain every year.

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Hundreds of birdwatchers flocked to see this Isabelline shrike, which arrived at the National Trust’s Souter Lighthouse and the Leas last Friday after being blown off-course during its annual migration from Mongolia and China to Africa. Credit: National Trust Images/Dougie Holden

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PICTURES: Buckinghamshire bat bucks ghoulish reputation at Cliveden Estate

BATS in Buckinghamshire are failing to live up to their ghoulish reputation – with one calmly sitting in National Trust ranger Jordan Worsfold’s gloved hands during a recent survey on the conservation charity’s Cliveden estate.

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Soprano pipistrelle bat. Credit National Trust Images / Jordan Worsfold

Rangers survey for the bats twice a year under license from Natural England with volunteers from the Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire Bat Group. The woodlands and stately home at Cliveden are home to 10 of the 18 species of bat resident in the UK.

Jordan Worsfold, National Trust Academy Ranger at the Cliveden Estate, said: “If the weather stays mild, this Hallowe’en you’ll be able to see Cliveden’s bats flying through the woods at dusk. Thanks to the proximity of the River Thames and our woodland rides, we’ve got thousands on the estate.”

“Bats have a ghoulish reputation – but it’s undeserved. During a bat survey this year, one female Soprano pipistrelle bat happily sat in my hand as I checked her age and size.”  Continue reading