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.

Cider insider welcomes a bumper British apple harvest

NATIONAL TRUST cider expert Rachel Brewer has predicted a strong year for cider and apple juice, with late summer rains producing a sweet and juicy apple crop.

The pommelier and gardener manages ten acres of orchards at Barrington Court, Somerset, where over 90 varieties of apple trees grow.

Ms Brewer said: “The apple juice this year is some of the best we’ve ever made. I was worried that too much summer sun would stunt our crop but the rain came at a crucial moment late in the season, leaving us with lovely sweet and juicy apples.

“There may be some sore heads in Somerset this winter; sweet apples means that our cider will be strong,” she added.
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Where have all the butterflies gone?

Today the results from Butterfly Conservation’s annual Big Butterfly Count reveals that this was the poorest summer for common garden butterflies since the Count began in 2010.

The National Trust’s butterfly expert, Matthew Oates comments on the report findings. Continue reading

Amy Liptrot’s THE OUTRUN wins Wainwright Prize at BBC Countryfile Live

Amy Liptrot’s debut book was named winner of the prestigious award for nature writing at a special event at BBC Countryfile Live this afternoon.

The Outrun, her account of reconnecting with her native Orkney, beat five other titles to win the Wainwright Golden Beer Prize.

Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot

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66 miles of new England Coast Path opens in Kent

The National Trust is today supporting the launch of 66 miles of the England Coast Path in Kent and East Sussex.

The conservation charity cares for six miles of coastline in Kent, including the White Cliffs of Dover and Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve.

An event marking the opening of the path will take place at the National Trust’s White Cliffs visitor centre.

The England Coast Path is an initiative of Natural England, the government’s natural environment agency. When the full path opens in 2020, the 2,700 mile long England Coast Path will be the longest continuous walking trail in the world.

Visitors walking their dog along the clifftop at The White Cliffs of Dover, Kent, on a sunny day in August.

Visitors walking their dog along the clifftop at The White Cliffs of Dover, Kent, on a sunny day in August.(c) National Trust Images / John Millar

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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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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.”