Grey squirrels – a major threat to our native woodland

A great deal of our woodland management at Trelissick revolves around the removal of trees that have been severely damaged by grey squirrels. Often these trees are mal-formed, stunted and feeble, leaving them unstable and unsafe, particularly when in close proximity to one of our footpaths. The consequences of the grey squirrel introduction to our native woodlands is still yet to be fully understood but it is already evident that a huge number of broadleaved trees will never reach maturity as a result. This blog post examines where the squirrels have come from and why they present such a severe threat to the British countryside.

Grey squirrel illustration

The introduction of grey squirrels

Over the last century, the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) has been on an unstoppable advance across the British Isles. As a species, it has come to exemplify the threats faced by our native wildlife from invasive, non-native species’.

Recent research suggests that the success and extent of the grey’s occupation can be almost entirely attributed to the actions of a select few landowners during the late 1800’s. Grey squirrels, the fleet-footed, furry mammals, that have become such a ubiquitous sight around our gardens and woodland actually originate from North America. They were captured, imported and  released into Britain as a fashionable estate accessory in a time before anyone knew any better.

The Imperial College, in London, has recently published findings that lay the blame (more or less) at the feet of one man – the 11th Duke of Bedford, Herbrand Russell, who attained ten grey squirrels and released them into the gardens of his home at Woburn Abbey in 1890. He also sent the squirrels to his friends as gifts so that they might also release them on their own estates and was at the heart of the grey squirrel discharge into Regent’s Park, London.

The report goes on to state, “Grey squirrels are not as crazy invaders as we think – their spread is far more our own fault.” It was previously thought that grey squirrels, through various dominant characteristics, have spread across the UK in a virtual invasion but this is now believed to be incorrect. Further genetic studies carried out by the college have found that local populations of grey squirrel are not closely related in parentage and have actually originated from vastly different locations – the only way this could have occurred is through significant human intervention.

The displacement of red squirrels

Red squirrel illustration

The grey squirrel has become infamous for displacing our native red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) in British woodlands. The two species cannot co-exist for several reasons, chief of which is the squirrelpox virus carried by the greys. The greys are immune to this disease but it can be passed onto the reds when the two species come into contact. It has been approximated that the loss of red squirrels in Britain has happened twenty times faster than it would have done had the greys not carried this virus.

Another reason for the virtual disappearance of the red squirrel is the competitiveness of the grey. The grey is the larger of the two, at twice the weight, and has the behavioural advantages of foraging the woodland floor and the ability to digest acorns, both of which are adaptations that elude the red.

Resultantly, the UK now has a population of grey squirrels estimated at 5 million compared to around 120, 000 red squirrels, 75% of which are in Scotland. The last red squirrel was seen in Cornwall in 1984.

Grey squirrels – a threat to biodiversity

Some among you might ask, ” what does it matter if we have red squirrels or grey squirrels? – one is clearly better adapted than the other!” This may indeed be true on one level but grey squirrels actually pose a grave threat to our trees, woodlands and the overall biodiversity of Britain, whereas the native reds do not.

Grey squirrels cause an enormous amount of damage to our native trees by stripping away bark in order to access the sweet tasting sap beneath and, in some cases, even cause the death of the tree. The removal of this sap results in severe retardation of growth, weakening, deformity and increased proneness to fungal infection. Our trees are most vulnerable to attack when they are between 10 and 40 years old, after which their bark becomes too thick to strip.

Squirrel damaged tree

A young oak tree clearly displays its stunted and broken crown – the result of grey squirrel bark stripping

A survey carried out by the Royal Forestry Society puts grey squirrels as a greater threat to broadleaved woodland than damage caused by grazing deer or even diseases such as ash dieback.

The cost to our economy through losses sustained in commercial forestry alone is estimated at over £50 million per year although the real price is many times that value with damage to gardens, parks and woodlands not included in that figure. On the Trelissick Estate, we lose trees to high winds every year because squirrel damage has rendered them too weak to withstand the weather.

Squirrel damage

A Trelissick ranger holds a log that clearly shows the destructive effect of squirrels on the growth of young trees

Grey squirrels further damage our biodiversity by predating on the eggs and chicks of our native woodland birds. Several studies have shown that number of birds are significantly smaller in areas that house sizeable grey squirrel populations.

Re-introduction of red squirrels to Cornwall

The Cornwall Red Squirrel Project is an initiative that has been set up to re-introduce red squirrels into Cornwall. The group website states:

‘Cornwall is ideally suited to this project because of its relative isolation from the mainland, and the presence of wooded valleys and mixed woodland which offer suitable red squirrel habitat. The project will start with reintroductions on The Lizard and in West Penwith. These sites have been identified in a habitat survey as being suitable for re-introduction. As the two areas are surrounded by sea on three sides they are also more easily defended against re-population by grey squirrels’.

Their website is also a fantastic resource for all information on this subject and was immensely useful when compiling this particular blog post. It can be found at:

http://www.cornwallredsquirrels.co.uk

 

Further action at Trelissick:

On the property we avoid putting down poison in the countryside at all costs.  Trapping grey squirrels can be very labour intensive for a small ranger team and doesn’t exclusively target the desired species. We have found the best way to keep on top of the squirrel population is through controlled shooting which we attempt to undertake whenever time and resources permit. We intend there to be a squirrel cull on the property soon and so thought is timely to offer the reasons why we take such action to reduce numbers of these animals at Trelissick.

– The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

 

 

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Wassail!

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An’ all under one tree.
Hurrah! Hurrah!

– Traditional wassail song

apple tree

There is a great deal to honor about orchards. These abundant spaces have inspired painters and poets,  folklore passed down through the ages, and provided recipes for both cooking and distillation. We toast to the fruit, the blossom, the wonderful wildlife within, the potent cider and thirst-quenching juice; all of which elevate the orchard to a unique place that unites both nature and culture.

Celebrations themselves can form the basis for local action; fostering feelings of connection and respect – reinforcing community ties which help protect and add value to an orchard.

The most famous of these celebrations in modern times is undoubtedly Apple Day, which began in Convent Garden in 1990 (and has gone from strength to strength), but there is another, far older form of veneration for our wonderful fruit trees – the wassail.

The word ‘wassail’ comes from the Old English ‘waes haeil’ meaning ‘be healthy’ or ‘be whole’ and both meanings live on in the modern English phrase ‘hale and hearty’.  These old words were first spoken as a simple greeting or salute by the Anglo-Saxons but the later, Danish-speaking inhabitants of England seem to have turned the hail and its reply ‘drink hail’ into a drinking code that has since been widely adopted by the people of England. Origins such as these indicate that wassailing, at the very least, pre-dates the Norman conquest of 1066.

 The tradition of wassailing seems to originate, and has certainly been sustained, by the cider producing counties such as Devon, Somerset and Herefordshire. The custom seems to be less deep-seated in local practice within Kent where, although known as the ‘garden of England’, most fruits were grown for the table. In the other counties previously mentioned, the crop was traditionally of apple varieties too acidic for eating and therefore suitable for cider. Thus wassailing is and was most ubiquitous in the ancient cider and perry orchards of the west country.

However, wassailing was not necessarily always the exclusive practice of rural communities. There are historical records of a wassail carried out in the king’s court during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1507).

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The robin – ‘guardian of the trees’

There is some degree of dispute on which is the correct date to wassail – some celebrate on Twelfth Night (January 5th or 6th) but many choose Old Twelvey Night, January 17th, as it would have been before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. 

Ceremonies tend to vary from region to region but usually share the same core elements – After dark those taking part make their way down to the local orchard and gather around  the largest or most venerable tree (known as the ‘Apple Tree Man’) carrying items that can make a lot of noise.

An old folktale from Somerset reflects this custom and describes the ‘Apple Tree Man’ who is the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and within whom the fertility of the orchard is believed to reside. A local man offers his last mug of cider to the trees of the orchard and is rewarded by the spirit who reveals the location of some buried treasure.

Elements of this story remain in the modern wassail when the roots of the chosen tree are doused in cider and bread (historically the mainstay of ordinary folks’ diet) is placed in the branches as an offering to the robins. The lowest branches are also sometimes dipped in cider as the revelers sing a toast to the tree. A wassail king and queen often lead the song accompanied by the shouting and banging of pots and pans and alternating with speeches in praise of the tree’s fruitfulness. The ceremony concludes when those with guns give off a great volley to ensure the work is good and done. This ceremony then, is one that seeks to stir life in the orchard and help it arise from winter slumber that it might better thrive and produce a bounteous crop next season.

As many of you know, our orchard over at Tregew is still very much in it’s infancy but, with many trees being planted over the couple of months, maybe we will give it a good start with a wassail in future years!

– The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

– Illustrations by Sonia Hensler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Work and wildlife: a new year’s round-up

Happy new year to all our visitors at Trelissick! It has certainly been a wet and stormy festive period, with weeks of high winds and relentless heavy rainfall.

 Sea wall Jan 2016

The sea wall has once again succumbed to rough waves and two sections have now collapsed. This breach has allowed the sea to pour into the bottom of the park, resulting in a fair amount of detritus, seaweed and water in that area. Torrential rain and heavy footfall has also had a detrimental effect on all paths and many other areas throughout the parkland. We are asking visitors to help us look after the park and minimise wear and tear by exploring the North Woodland walk, Roundwood and Tregew wherever possible.

Seaweed sea wallv Jan 2106

Our team of staff and volunteers have begun the fairly arduous process of draining this area and moving the seaweed back onto the beach over the coming weeks. Please bear with us whilst this time consuming work is carried out.

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Oystercatcher

Meanwhile, on the wildlife front, curlews (Europe’s largest wading bird) and oystercatchers can be seen in the park at the moment, feeding on the soft ground and at the newly formed pool by the beach. This is an especially encouraging sight considering curlews are now globally threatened and have experienced a 50% decline in breeding population over the last 25 years (photos courtesy of http://northeastwildlife.co.uk/).

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Curlew

 

Waxcap 2016

Meadow waxcap

Meadow waxcaps (Hygrocybe pratensis) have been recorded in large numbers over on the private side of the park during the last month. Waxcaps are a group of fungi that only appear briefly each year, found predominantly in nutrient poor grasslands where there has been little or no fertiliser application. Unimproved  areas such as these are in extensive decline and so waxcaps are often used to identify grassland of high conservation value.

Hogweed flower Jan 2016

Early hogweed flower

 

The weather might have been wet but it’s also been unseasonably mild  and this has  enticed several unlikely candidates out into flower. The ranger team have noticed hogweed flowering and oak trees coming into leaf already – let’s hope the old adage ‘oak before ash, we’re in for a splash’ is true after all the soaking we’ve endured!

 

Over the next month or so, regular visitors will also notice the sheep returning to graze the private side of the park, continuing their fantastic work and helping to support the abundance of wild flowers we all enjoy come spring.

That’s about it for now, we are entering our busiest time of the year in the countryside when we get out into the woods and begin our forestry work. A great deal of our subsequent work, throughout the year, hinges on our successful thinning and extraction of timber and it seems mild temperatures may mean the window of opportunity is short this time around…..better crack on!

  • The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

 

 

 

 

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The dead-wood invertebrates

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Holly weevil (Rhopalomesites tardyi) found in the woodland at Trelissick

It’s apparent that a great deal of our blog posts seem to revolve around a single aspect of our work as rangers here at Trelissick: This oft-omitted subject – a source of great fascination, discussion and affection for our small countryside team – concerns the retention and protection of our dead and dying trees and the remarkable, obscure ecosystems that are entirely reliant on this twilight phase of the woodland cycle.

Hornets feeding on sap run

European hornets (Vespa crabro) feeding on a sap run caused by the fungus Ganiderma resinaceum

 Trees that are dead or decaying play a crucial role in the functioning and  fecundity of woodland ecosystems through their direct effect on biodiversity (the sheer number of different species present). Within a single such tree, crevices and rotting cavities fill with detritus and provide food and shelter for an enormous range of invertebrates such as scarce beetles, centipedes and wood lice. These insects in turn provide food for birds such as the tree creeper and lesser spotted woodpecker and bats such as the noctule. Furthermore, tree wounds and seepages (where rainwater gets into the sap) afford feeding sites for hornets, hoverflies and butterflies.

dead wood

The ‘galleries’ created by the movements and mastications of dead-wood invertebrates are clearly displayed here….

Within the woods at Trelissick, it is not difficult to spot substantial accumulations of deadwood, all around as you explore. Organisms that feed upon this wood are called ‘saproxylic’ and a large proportion of those that are rare or threatened are often completely confined to this relict form of habitat. A great deal of these species have rigid requirements for their very existence and can only be found where management has made concessions for the continuity of mature trees and deadwood.

 

We would like to introduce you to a selection of these secretive creatures that we have here on the estate:

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Lesser stag beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus)

These beetles are the smaller cousin of the larger (and more famous) Stag Beetle: The larvae of this insect depend upon dead and rotting wood for both food and shelter (especially ash, beech and apple wood) and the adults can be found, during the summer, hiding around dead wood and leaf litter during the day. At night these beetles emerge to fly and are often attracted to bright lights.

 

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Large fruit tree bark beetle (Scolytus mali) only known site in Cornwall

The larvae of these wood boring beetles develop in the galleries between the sapwood and the bark of freshly dead or dying Rosaceous trees; mainly pear, plum, apple and hawthorn. Scolytus mali is therefore usually found in traditional orchards and hedgerows containing fruit trees. This recording was noted in one of the old orchards we have on the wider estate.

 

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Snail killing fly (Tetanocera phyllophora) – only known site in Cornwall

This fly has been observed at Roundwood and is mainly associated with ancient woodlands, especially those situated near water, making Trelissick a perfect habitat. The voracious larvae of this fly feed on various types of land snail. These flies are fairly widespread across  Britain but these are the first such records for Cornwall.

 

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Death-watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) – rare in Cornwall

“…within ye hear/No sound so loud as when on curtain’d bier/ The death-watch tick is stifled.” Keats

The death-watch is a wood boring beetle, rich in sinister folklore. Its morbid presence can be noted throughout the full spectrum of arts and literature as an ill omen, symbolic of imminent death.

It is the beetles’ characteristic behavior that has bestowed that moribund moniker. In order to attract a mate, these insects create a tapping sound, often heard in the beams or rafters of old buildings during summer. As a result, this species is associated with sleepless nights and the vigil kept beside the dying or the dead. The superstitious have come to view the appearance or sound of a death-watch as the harbinger of impending doom!

 

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Hornet longhorn beetle (Leptura aurulenta) – nationally scarce

How apt that this beetle, in its Cornish colours, resides with us on the estate. It is best known in Cornwall within the Fal and Helford catchment areas.

The soft larvae of this longhorn develop over several years in the totems of dead trees, stumps and cordwood. They particularly favour oak, beech and chestnut. When ready, they emerge as adults in July and August to visit the flowers of elder, angelica, bramble, broom and scabious, flying with a loud, almost mechanical hum.

 

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Oak longhorn beetle (Phymatodes testaceus)– first record in Cornwall

This bright red and violet/black beetle is commonly called the violet tanbark beetle. In Europe, this is one of the most common longhorn beetles but sadly, within the UK, it is rare and recorded most frequently on newly cut stacks of oak.

These beetles have a one year life cycle with oak as the preferred host – the larvae feed under the bark of dead branches and trunks, finally surfacing as adults from April to June. Unlike other longhorn beetles, Phymatodes will readily lay their eggs in freshly cut timber.

These beetles often appear during the winter months in firewood when kept for several days in heated rooms. However, it is not considered a danger to wood used in buildings because the wood has become too dry.

Unfortunately, this beetle’s vivid claret colour may also have contributed to its scarcity. Many gardeners in the UK often assume any all-red beetle is a lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) and kill them.

 

Several notable bat species are also reliant on old trees and the two listed below have been recorded at Trelissick. We are about to have a bat survey carried out and will have a more definite idea of which species reside at Trelissick when it is complete….

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Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula)

The noctule is one of the largest species of bat in the UK. It is predominantly a tree-dwelling species, often roosting in old woodpecker holes or those created by rot. It emerges in the early evening, making characteristically steep dives to catch flies, beetles and moths.

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Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) – first record on the Fal

Barbastelle bats are veteran tree specialists and are one of Britain’s rarest mammals. They are medium sized with a peculiar pug-shaped nose and amber-brown fur, feeding mainly on moths during the dark hours…

All of these species listed here are really just a small proportion of the total that reside at Trelissick as a direct consequence of our strict deadwood policy. Hopefully these covert creatures will help demonstrate why we are so relentlessly passionate and outspoken on this subject….

  • The National Trust Trelissick and North Helford ranger team
  • All illustrations by Sonia Hensler

 

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Why are we leaf-blowing in the woods at Trelissick?!

Oak leaf illustration

Over the last few weeks, the countryside rangers have been vying with the wind and gradually blowing all the leaves, twigs and mud from the woodland walks. Whilst carrying out this task we have noticed our work being met with confusion, and sometimes irritation, by many of our visitors and, we must admit, it’s easy to see why! It seems like a very strange thing to do; ‘blow leaves around in a woodland that is thick with the fallen things at this time of year?’, ‘Are we mad?’ (just some of the questions we have been asked). Besides anything else, we all love to see the autumn leaves on the ground; we prize their fiery colours and crispness underfoot whilst marveling at their myriad shapes and sizes. For many, the way that fallen leaves alter and enhance our British woodlands is something that defines the autumnal season.

Unfortunately, at Trelissick, with the sheer volume of visitors we receive and the number of feet trudging along the woodland walks each day, the little leaves don’t remain in leaf form for very long. If left alone, the blazing carpet of autumn becomes a thick layer of mud by the onset of winter – the path no longer sheds water as it should, pools and potholes appear, ditches no longer drain and, within a short number of years, the track will have deteriorated greatly or even have started to pull itself apart in places….

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Our current path surface was laid almost twenty years ago and, if you are a regular visitor to the Trelissick countryside, you will know it is still in fantastic condition and remains so throughout the year. We have several miles of this footpath, making it great for walking but prohibitively expensive to resurface even sections with any sort of regularity. The good condition can be attributed in large part to our diligence at keeping the leaves off the track and back in the woods where they can break down and actually return to the soil…

As ever, and with a sincere apology to autumnal aesthetics, it is about balance for us as rangers: We welcome an incredibly diverse range of visitors to the countryside here, from dog walkers and families with pushchairs to serious ramblers. Additionally, since we began hosting the annual Trelissick 10k Run, we have noticed a significant increase in people using the woodland walks for running – a contingent who do so because, among other reasons, the path surfaces are excellent.

We are passionate about managing our countryside to be as natural, un-spoilt and intact as possible whilst, at the same time, keeping it open and accessible to all.

– The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

 

 

 

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High winds on the Trelissick estate

It’s always very sad when a great, veteran tree succumbs to a storm but it’s not necessarily the end of the road….

Fallen oak in Nanphillows field 1

Fallen oak in Nanphillow’s field

Recent high winds have brought down several veteran trees around the estate, including this majestic sessile oak (pictured above); a familiar presence, presiding over the bowl-shaped bottom of Nanphillows field. ‘Nanphillows’ is the name given to one of the valley fields on your left as you drive along the narrow, walled road into Trelissick. Historically this area was one, self-contained farm but this has long-since disappeared and the area has now become a parkland field.

On your walks around the countryside at Trelissick, you may notice a great deal of other fallen or dead trees, left where they have tumbled, like arboreal skeletons, to rot down and return to the earth. You might have wondered why we don’t gather up all this wood and turn it into logs and timber, so we have decided to write a series of posts on our management, and the outcomes of our management, on these hugely important trees….

fallen lime near ha ha 1

This multi-stemmed lime tree was also a victim of last week’s high winds. A cavity had formed within the main stem of the tree which was then colonized by a ‘white rot’ fungus. This severely weakened the tree and it subsequently collapsed in several different directions.

It is our policy, within the Trust, not to dismantle or remove fallen or dead trees wherever practically possible. We work hard to give each individual tree (where it is able) a chance to re-establish, thus preserving both the provenance and the gene pool which can stretch back hundreds – in some cases thousands – of years. These considerations are crucial because soil and weather conditions have a great impact on the success and longevity of trees and our parkland at Trelissick has very shallow soil, often making it difficult for imported trees to establish. Trees that have developed over millennia in the locality have a much better chance of survival and success.

lime pollard in private side of park

This lime tree was one of the original plantings in the park, making it over two hundred years old. It came down during the storms of two years ago and, as you can see here, much of the stem was sawn up and used as a natural barricade to protect the ‘pollard’ from grazing animals. It is now growing again….

A large number of tree species’, after yielding to the influence of an almighty wind, might seem shattered and broken but, from that splintered stump, they will often begin to grow again, forming a ‘pollard’ (see the photograph above). This natural occurrence retains a great deal of value for wildlife because trees, especially the older they become, offer a range of habitats within their crown, stem and roots. As well as general appeal, these may be adopted by ‘specialists’ which rely on very particular conditions. These specialists include insects, fungi, lichen ferns and bryophytes.

Even when a tree has no chance of coming back (such as with the sessile oak) we remove the less substantial ‘brush-wood’ for safety reasons and retain the framework (or skeleton, if you like) of the tree and allow it to rot down, providing habitat for a wide variety of wildlife for the next 20-30 years, until it has completely broken down.

sawing up fallen lime

One of the rangers removing brush-wood from the fallen lime tree

 

Several years ago, we employed a team of insect experts to survey and record saproxylic invertebrates (insects which live and feed on the veteran trees) at Trelissick. This team identified and recorded several very rare species, some of which exist only here on the estate and a few other sites in Britain.

Receiving extremely affirmative records such as these is one of the highlights of our job as countryside rangers – it reinforces why it is that we carry out the work we do and make decisions that shape the countryside around us.

The next blog post will shine a spot-light on these remarkably evolved dead-wood invertebrates we are so lucky to provide a home for on the Trelissick estate….

  • The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

 

 

 

 

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Foraging for wild food

mushroom illustration

As the foraging season draws to a close, the National Trust has developed a position statement for foraging on our property. The gathering of wild food (plant/fungi/animal) from the countryside and seashore has a long tradition in the UK and can be a good way to make use of natural resources. The popularity of foraging has increased in recent years, inspired by celebrity chefs, commercial interest and the influence of foraging cultures from continental Europe, especially relating to fungi.

Collecting wild food can also be an inspiring way to connect people with the coast, countryside and the natural world and to help people understand the importance of nature. As Richard Mabey wrote in the introduction to his classic book ‘Food for Free’:

‘ I know there may be some people who will object to this book on the grounds that it may encourage further depletions of our dwindling wild life. I believe the exact opposite is true. One of the major problems in conservation today is not how to keep people insulated from nature but how to help them engage more closely with it, so that they can appreciate its value and vulnerability and the way it needs to be reconciled with those of humans…. Far from encouraging rural vandalism it helps to deepen the respect for the interdependence of all living things.’

True foraging, then, is not based on exploitation, but on reaching a sustainable relationship with the natural world.

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Wild strawberry (taken from http://northeastwildlife.co.uk)

 

The key messages within the statement are as follows:

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.

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.

We are deeply concerned about the widespread gathering of fungi, particularly from SSSI land (ASSI in Northern Ireland), and will seek to reduce, regulate or prevent such activities.

To help us achieve all this we are supporting the creation of an independent Guild of Foragers and are working with other organisations to develop national codes of good practice for foraging.

In the rare circumstances where we believe it appropriate to have commercial foraging we will issue a specific license, at an appropriate fee, and ensure through careful monitoring that there is no undue impact on wild food populations. Ideally, monies so raised will be used to give something back to the land.

We will work closely with foragers, wildlife organisations and other land owners to find an agreed way forward in this important area. We may revise this positions statement in line with future developments.

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Orange birch boletus (taken from http://northeastwildlife.co.uk)

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Common puffball (taken from http://northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Principles of safe and sustainable foraging developed by the National Trust:

The National Trust has a responsibility to protect wild species on its land and wants to make sure that foraging can take place sustainably, both for the species being collected and other species that might depend upon them (e.g. some 1000 species of invertebrate depend on, or are strongly associated with, fungi).

We are working with other organisations to develop a code of practice for safe and sustainable foraging which will adopt the following principles:

What:

  • Only pick what will definitely be used – don’t waste wildlife
  • Take your field guide to the plants/animals – not the plants/animals to your field guide
  • Only pick what you know – be aware of and avoid poisonous species
  • Only pick what is abundant – know and avoid rare or vulnerable species
  • Only pick what is legal – know your protected species and sites. If you are unsure, here is a list of rare and vulnerable fungi species –  http://www.britmycolsoc.org.uk/files/2013/3537/5755/RDL_of_Threatened_British_Fungi.pdf

How:

  • Don’t uproot fungi or damage their structures below ground and be careful not to damage populations when collecting roots/bulbs etc. from common plants
  • Don’t over-collect or over-strip foliage or flowers – only collect from plentiful populations, allow the plants/fungi to survive
  • Scatter trimmings or offcuts discreetly in the area where they were collected
  • Allow mushrooms to release spores – do not pick them until the cap has opened and leave those that are past their best
  • Always stick to the Countryside Code (for England and Wales) – Respect, Protect and Enjoy https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code/the-countryside-code

Where:

  • Keep to public rights of way and open access land unless you have the landowner’s permission to go elsewhere
  • Never forage without consent on a National Nature Reserve or Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – it may be illegal and can be damaging. If the National Trust agrees to your proposed activities, it may have to obtain consent from you from the statutory body (Natural England etc.)
  • Always seek permission for commercial foraging on any land unless you own it.

 

Many of you who forage for wild food will already know and practice a great deal of what is outlined within this statement, but for those who are just starting to take an interest, hopefully this document will help you on your way!

-The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

 

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