PICTURES: Ice petals flower in woodland at Hardcastle Crags, Yorkshire

Rangers and volunteers at Hardcastle Crags, west Yorkshire, were treated to a rare spectacle last week as ice “petals” covered branches in woodland on the National Trust estate. 

Frost sculptures

Rangers and volunteers stumbled across these ice sculptures on dead wood at Hardcastle Crags, Yorkshire. Credit: Natalie Pownall/National Trust

Natalie Pownall, 25, National Trust Academy Ranger at Hardcastle Crags, said: “We were walking through the woodland at Hardcastle Crags with our conservation volunteer party, when we saw all these glittering white gems littered on the woodland floor. At first I thought they were fungi – but on closer inspection they turned out to be ice. 

“The ice formations are caused by water in the wood freezing. The water expands out of the logs, creating the beautiful ice ‘petals.’ 

“Most of these ice petals formed on the dead logs that we’ve left on the woodland floor after our woodland conservation work. One tree, which we felled last year, was covered in the ice fungi. Dead wood can also be an important habitat for invertebrates like beetles, birds and fungi. 

“You’ll often see these ice formations if the conditions have been below freezing and clear for a couple of days. Normally they melt away as soon as the sun comes up, but because our wooded valley is north facing and doesn’t get much sun we can enjoy the frost flowers all day long.”

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: 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.

credit-national-trust-images-jordan-worsfold

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

Red squirrel recovery

Following recent positive reports about red squirrels in the north of England, we revisit the story of the red squirrels at Formby. Countryside Manager Andrew Brockbank charts a challenging few years for the red squirrels on this stretch of the Sefton coast in Lancashire.

Formby

National Trust Formby is in the heart of the Sefton Coast pine wood reserve of 400 hectares (1000 acres).

The surrounding landscape is part of the North Merseyside red squirrel stronghold, which extends from the northern fringes of Liverpool to Southport, including part of West Lancashire.

Pine woods are a very valuable habitat for red squirrels. At Formby they can be at high density of up to one red squirrel in every acre.

Red squirrels eat a variety of berries, seeds and shoots of trees but pine cones and seeds form the mainstay of their diet.

Continue reading

Sussex project tops off boom in National Trust tree planting

This week marked the start of the largest ever National Trust tree planting project at the conservation charity’s Slindon Estate in West Sussex.

The ten year programme, named ‘The Rise of Northwood’, will see 75 hectares (185 acres) of woodland – the equivalent of 105 football pitches – restored to its former glory, having been removed during the First and Second World Wars. Thanks to a generous legacy left to the Trust for use in the South Downs, the Slindon Estate team’s vision for the area has become a reality.

Ranger Hannah Woodhouse firms the soil around a new yew, credit www.scottramsey.co.uk

Ranger Hannah Woodhouse firms the soil around a new yew, credit http://www.scottramsey.co.uk

 

Over three months, volunteers will help to plant 13,500 native trees at Northwood using seeds collected from the surrounding woodland. In just two days, more than 3,000 trees had already been planted, thanks to the support of more than 100 volunteers.

This planting, however, is just the beginning of a ten year project, with many more trees expected to emerge through natural colonisation, direct seeding and further planting of saplings.

Continue reading

In Pictures: storm damage to trees at National Trust places

The winter storms have led to some dramatic losses of trees at National Trust places. Here is a selection of pictures showing how they have affected our estates and countryside. Our teams on the ground have been working hard to keep access open, removing some of the timber for use at the properties and creating new homes for nature in the fallen trees.

The ranger team working at Lyme Park in Cheshire to clear a footpath after a fallen tree had blocked it

The ranger team working at Lyme Park in Cheshire to clear a footpath after a fallen tree had blocked it

Trees lost on the southern end of Brownsea Island as a result of the south-easterly winds

Trees lost on the southern end of Brownsea Island as a result of the south-easterly winds

A split Oak tree at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire

A split Oak tree at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire

An old Lime tree at Trelissick in south Cornwall blown over by the storms.  The timber will be used for carvings and to create a new habitat for insects and fungi.

An old Lime tree at Trelissick in south Cornwall blown over by the storms. The timber will be used for carvings and to create a new habitat for insects and fungi.

A split tree at Tatton Park which has lost thirty trees this winter.  The team cleared many of them within 24 hours.

A split tree at Tatton Park which has lost thirty trees this winter. The team cleared many of them within 24 hours.

A 500 year old oak tree at Kedleston in Derbyshire which will become an ideal home for wildlife

A 500 year old oak tree at Kedleston in Derbyshire which will become an ideal home for wildlife

For more information about how the winter storms and extreme weather have impacted upon National Trust places you can follow the hashtags #NTnature and #NTcoast on twitter

National Trust voices concerns on biodiversity offsetting for habitats earmarked for housing

In response to Owen Paterson’s interview in the Times on Saturday 4 January, a spokesperson at the National Trust said: “We are deeply concerned about the article in the Times regarding biodiversity offsetting for housing to include 400 year old woodland. Continue reading