The Burning Man 2015

Last Saturday 19th September, our annual Burning Man event took place on the beach at Trelissick. The Man, as always, was the creation of Dave Hart, who will be know to many of you through the free green woodworking classes that he runs in the park each Saturday.

It was a perfect, still and dry evening to carry out what is fast becoming an end of summer tradition on the estate. A big crowd turned out to watch as the 30ft giant was set ablaze using flaming arrows! The results, as you can see from the gallery below, were a dramatic way to mark the changing of the season…..

Many of these photos were taken by photographer, Jim Donahue, who has kindly given us permission to use them on our blog. You can visit his website and see more photos from The Burning Man at:

Many thanks Jim!

  • The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford
Posted in Trelissick

The onset of Autumn

September is here and summer, such as it was, seems to be shifting into autumn with bracing, misty mornings, the earlier encroachment of evening and the faintest suggestion of leaves beginning to rust.


Mostly ready, some for later: blackberries in Pill Lane

Blackberries are abundant this autumn, with seemingly every hedgerow full to bursting with the sweet little fruit. The Kea plums which are traditionally grown along the creeks around Trelissick are almost ripe enough to pick with many destined to be made into the famous local jam. The apples in the orchard at Pill Farm are not far away and all around, above our heads, are haw berries, damsons, cherry plums and sloes…


Haw berries at Pill Farm



Parasol mushroom near the park at Trelissick

Keep your eyes peeled, when walking the estate for fungi that have fruited, either in the woodlands or out in open field such as the parkland or over at Tregew – there are some magnificent specimens to be spotted, like this impressive parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) which can often be seen through until November.

In the shade of the woods, if you are observant, you may spy a ‘chicken of the woods’ (Laetiporus sulphureus) bonded to a branch or trunk. These distinctive, orange fungi are very beautiful but, if you see one, please do not remove it from the tree. This act damages the mycelium, killing the parent fungus and meaning this wonderful organism will no longer occur in the area….

Chicken of the woods

Chicken of the woods at Roundwood


Dave Hart, our green woodworker, is often industrious during the first weeks of September. It’s at this time he constructs ‘The Burning Man’ – a 30ft goliath made of ash poles and willow and stuffed with bamboo (for a highly explosive effect). Attendees of his Saturday woodworking club can participate in this construction and then watch, on the evening of 19th September, as we allow the tide to rise up around him and then set it all on fire!

Preparing to lift 2Beach lift 10

The Burning Man symbolizes a subtle change in our work out in the countryside at Trelissick. We shift focus from maintaining the footpaths and fields for the intense visitor numbers during the school summer holidays and instead turn toward planning our woodland management which will be carried out over the coming winter months.

This September we also welcome two habitat management specialists to the ranger team – Peter and Parker.  These two piglets live on the estate and belong to lead ranger Neil cheeky pigStevenson, who has been grazing pigs in the woodland at Trelissick for the last 15 years.

The porcine duo are natural woodland animals and thrive in the plantations around the farm and wider estate. They do a fantastic job clearing brambles and other invasive plants from the woodland understory, turning over the soil and opening up the ground for the colonization of wild flowers. Unlike other grazing animals, pigs do not eat or destroy tree seedlings but clear space for natural woodland regeneration. Their dung provides perfect habitat for a proliferation of insects which, in turn, encourages and feeds the woodland bats we have on the property, including the very rare barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus).

Peter and Parker are perfect for engaging school groups and providing an introduction to traditional woodland management techniques as well as being great characters that we all enjoy seeing around the farm. Pigs also make great stress relievers; their large ears ideal for telling them all your worries at the end of long, hard day.


  • The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford


Posted in Trelissick

July at Trelissick

Summer is a busy time at Trelissick – everything is growing vigorously, with the hedgerows and footpaths in constant need of attention to keep our visitors from being ensnared by encroaching brambles and branches. We have a strong policy in the countryside of cutting quite late to allow the wild flowers enough time to seed. This means we do not deplete the seed bank or prioritise tidiness over sustaining the beautiful and important abundance of wild flowers and plants that are so essential to support the diversity of British wildlife. It also means we have our hands full come July….

IMG_1358The beginning of the month saw the long-awaited re-surfacing of the ferry landing, where the Enterprise Boats offer visitors the chance to enter the estate from the river. It now boasts a much-improved, new tarmac surface, just in time for the summer holidays.


The ranger team have constructed a new gateway onto the beach using granite from a local quarry as part of the long-term repair of the sea wall after the severe winter of two years ago. The gap in the wall in front of the boat-shelter has long been used to access the beach and so we thought it was time to make it official, safer and more aesthetically pleasing.

IMG_1357 IMG_1356


European Hornet [Vespa crabro]

On the wildlife front, there have been many Hornets [Vespa crabro] spotted all over the estate so far this summer. These magnificent members of the wasp family are undeserving of their ferocious reputation and are actually very docile unless strongly provoked. Keep an eye out and enjoy them whilst they are about!


Hornet Longhorn Beetle [Leptura aurulenta]




Talking of Hornets – down on the boat-shelter at the bottom of the park we spotted a close lookalike – the Hornet Longhorn Beetle. This is a nationally scarce species, primarily found in the Southern counties of Britain, with a sizeable proportion of our national population found in Cornwall. The larvae of these striking beetles develop in the dead or decaying wood of broadleaved trees, especially Oak, although it is also associated with Ash, Beech, Birch, Horse Chestnut, Willow and Walnut. Adult beetles emerge in June/July and can be seen, frequently flying, until August or September. Trelissick boasts a known population of these beetles and other fascinating invertebrates owing largely to our policy of leaving as much dead wood as possible in situation rather than removing it from the site.

A pod of Common Dolphins were seen in the river off Trelissick in mid-July, near King Harry Reach. Unfortunately these amazing animals were later stranded further out towards Falmouth, at Mylor. The Dolphins were successfully re-floated and all but one was saved by a fantastic team consisting of members of the public and BDMLR [British Divers Marine Life Rescue]. The Marine Strandings Network are appealing for any witnesses, information, photos or videos so please send in any info to:

– The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

Posted in Trelissick

June at Trelissick

The countryside team of rangers and volunteers have been busy over the last month with a variety of different projects:


New chestnut railings on the South woodland walk

The railings running down the steps from the South woodland walk, toward the King Harry Ferry, have recently been replaced with a sturdy new set. This ‘post and rail’ style fencing was milled out of chestnut from the woods over at Turnaware, across the river. These are the first of several sets to be replaced around the estate in the coming months.

Many will have noticed that the copse in the centre of the park has now been completely fenced off. This area is used as our woodland activity centre: it is home to our Saturday green woodworking club and offers a fantastic setting for children’s educational activities, barefoot walking and family learning groups. Because of the way we enjoy and benefit from this woodland, along with an apparent rise in dog walkers using the countryside at Trelissick, we have decided to make the copse a dog-free area. For a little more information on this decision, please see the earlier blog article: Dogs in the copse

The horse loggers have returned this past June to haul out the remainder of the timber from last winter’s forestry work. They have been using a horse and harness to extract Ash stems, coppiced to allow the Oaks in that area the space and resources to grow on and become mature standard trees.


Jimbo, the heavy horse, extracting timber using an Amish harness

Oaks that had been badly damaged by Grey Squirrels were also ‘pollarded‘ to reinvigorate the tree and stimulate new and healthy growth. Coppicing the Ash in this manner opens up the woodland canopy, allowing more light to stimulate the growth of wildflowers, subsequently providing nectar for insects and, in turn, food for woodland birds such as Black Caps. Several individual Ash trees were retained to produce fine timber for use in 50-60 years time.

Wildlife sightings have been plentiful as the weather is warming up; many fledglings can be seen flitting about the woodland walks and parkland, often under a watchful maternal eye.


The majestic Red Kite

Red Kites are a bird of prey that has seldom been seen over the last few years but large numbers have been spotted over West Cornwall this summer. A pair was spotted soaring high above the park mid-way through June – an unmistakeable bird with a red-brown body, forked tail and noticeably angled wings. Red Kites were saved from national extinction by one of the world’s longest protection programmes and successfully re-introduced into England and Scotland. These birds have been rarely seen over the last few years, this being only the second known sighting on the estate.


Hummingbird hawkmoth [photo courtesy of butterfly]

Over at Tregew, on the far side of Lamouth Creek, we are encouraging visitors to keep their dogs on leads so as not to disturb ground nesting skylarks that are known to use the fields in this area. Skylarks are one of our classic British songbirds and have experienced a severe decline over recent years owing to changes in farming practices. It is important that we respect their nesting sites in order to give them a fighting chance in the local area.

Meanwhile, over at Pill Farm, where the ranger team is based, there have been Red Mason bees spotted nesting in the office wall, Hornets buzzing around the yard and even a Hummingbird Hawk Moth was spotted in the lane leading out to the farm.

Painted Lady butterflies have been spotted in the park with the UK braced for its once in a decade mass influx of these incredible insects. The orange and black butterflies migrate to Britain from Southern Europe as part of the longest butterfly migration in the world.


Painted lady butterfly photographed in front of the house at Trelissick

This butterfly is a common sight throughout the summer in gardens and around the countryside where its caterpillars rely on thistles as a food-plant. However, approximately once every ten years, the insects arrive en masse and we enjoy what is known a ‘Painted Lady summer’.

The last such event was in 2009 when 11 million butterflies were recorded across the UK.  Since that year, recorded numbers have been below what is expected and, as a result, Butterfly Conservation are asking for the public to record sightings of the butterfly to help chart the progress of any potential immigration during the summer. We have decided to include an excerpt from an article by Butterfly Conservation about the migration – just because it is so amazing!

Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording explained: “The Painted Lady migration is one of the real wonders of the natural world. “Travelling up to 1km up in the sky and at speeds of up to 30 miles-per-hour these small fragile-seeming creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year, even though none of the individual butterflies has ever made the trip before.” The Painted Lady undertakes a phenomenal 9,000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle each year – almost double the length of the of the famous migrations of the Monarch butterfly in North America. Research using citizen science sightings from the 2009 migration revealed that the whole journey is not undertaken by individual butterflies but in a series of steps by up to six successive generations.

Painted Lady and Hummingbird Hawk Moth sightings can be sent to Butterfly Conservation at: Migrant watch

– The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

Posted in Trelissick

Turnaware regatta 2015

Last Saturday 30th May, Truro River Rowing Club (TRRC) held the annual regatta at Turnaware Point, opposite the historic Trelissick Estate.598

The event was a great success, attended by several hundred competitors and spectators who all enjoyed the fantastic racing and lovely weather. Despite the sunshine, strong southerly winds made for challenging racing conditions.

Many clubs from all over Cornwall took part in racing both flash boats and skiffs throughout the day.

Flash boats are traditional Cornish racing boats, based on a type of Tamar fishing boat and skiffs are racing versions of 15′ Oyster punts, which are still used on the river today and commonly seen at Turnaware Point through the Winter.


Turnaware Point during World War II

The 6th June 2015 will commemorate the 71st anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The impact of World War II on the inhabitants of the Fal Estuary began to increase from July 1940 when the German forces seized control of the French airfields, bringing Cornwall within reach of their bombers. German pilots would use the twisting shape of the river around Turnaware as an approach marker for regular raids on Falmouth Docks.


Historic photo of the military structures at Turnaware from above

However, it was in Autumn 1942 that the landscape around Turnaware Point was radically altered as it was fashioned into one of the launch points for Operation Overlord – The Allied invasion of German occupied Europe.

Britain’s existing ports could not cope with the sheer scale of Overlord without bottlenecks and severe delays. To avoid this, at least 68 (some estimates say as many as 100) additional launch sites were used, with four situated in the Fal Estuary alone. Turnaware was one such location; ideal because it offered secrecy, shelter and the capacity for deep-water moorings.

In 1942, the farms and waters around Turnaware Point were a hive of secret military activity with large-scale changes in land use, communications and the significant re-shaping of the headland itself. Estimates suggest anything from 40-70 workers were employed building the hard standings and the new, military road at Turnaware during this time.

The invading forces was scheduled to embark for Normandy on June 5th but severe weather conditions forced the operation to be postponed until the following day.

The infamous beach landings of  June 6th 1942, are well known from countless re-tellings through myriad forms – by midnight that day over 10,000 Allied troops had been killed but 130,000 successfully made it ashore and the beaches were secured.


Posted in Trelissick

Planting the first plums at Tregew Community orchard

IMG_0063  Last week, the countryside team of staff and volunteers planted the first six Kea plum trees in our new community orchard project at Tregew, on the Trelissick estate.

Tree cages, to protect the young saplings, were constructed from chestnut, a type of wood known to be extremely durable out in the countryside owing to its high content of tannic acid. These were fenced with stock mesh, whilst the trees were planted with a weed control mat, a rabbit guard, and extensively mulched to give each individual the best possible start.

This community project aims not only to help preserve some of the traditional, local fruit varieties but also to bring people together, share their knowledge and learn new skills; from planting trees, pruning and harvesting, right through to chutney making. 

Those visitors to the estate who often walk the fields at Tregew will have noticed some significant changes over the last few years. The fields above Lamouth Creek on the North IMG_0080woodland walk were used for intensive agricultural production until 2008, when the National Trust acquired them. Since this time the fields have been allowed to revert back to meadow, reducing the amount of run-off into the creek below and providing a stable habitat for local wildlife. The results of this management have been hugely encouraging with the meadows now supporting a range of wild flowers and many species such as harvest mice, barn owls, skylarks, curlews and burnet moths, to name but a few. If you visit the site today you will notice a three acre section of this field has been fenced off for our project, with occasional posts left tall for barn owls to roost.

Historically, much of this land along the creeks of Lamouth, Cowlands and Coombe would have been planted with fruit trees, in particular the local Kea plum. We felt it fitting with the local culture and character of the place that this site was chosen for our new IMG_0085community orchard.

The Trelissick ranger team are looking for sponsorship to help cover the cost of grafting, planting of future trees and on-going maintenance for the entire orchard project. If you are interested in sponsoring a tree or becoming involved on a more practical level then please get in touch. Varieties will include Kea plums, local apples and some nuts too.

– The Trelissick and North Helford ranger team

Posted in Trelissick

Gorse management on Rosemullion Head

photo 1 (1)Gorse is the much-loved, emblematic flower of Cornwall and there are two species to be found in and around the county –  Western gorse [Ulex galii] and Common or European Gorse [Ulex europaeus]. It is a well known flowering plant that provides many important services to the ecosystem: As a member of the pea family [Fabaceae], it fixes nitrogen in the soil, whilst its often impenetrable, prickly structure provides habitat for birds and mammals and its dense root structure helps combat erosion. Gorse is extra-ordinarily hardy and young shoots will readily re-sprout from the stumps that remain in soil after cutting or burning. As a fuel it burns very hot, and the living Gorse plant will also burn readily owing to the high concentration of oil in its branches. Gorse seeds are released by heat (from both sunlight and fire) and can be projected from the plant a distance of 2-3 meters – these seeds are believed to remain viable in the soil for up to 70 years. Both species found locally are invasive and will thrive in most soil types; they do however require direct sunlight and will eventually die if situated in shade.

Managing the Gorse

For the last few years, the National Trust countryside team have been managing the Gorse and scrub out on Rosemullion Head in a rotational cuttiphoto 2ng scheme. This means we aim to cut one seventh of the total Gorse on the headland each year, using brush-cutters and chainsaws. When all of the Gorse has been cut we will return to the starting point and begin again. All cut plant material is dragged up the steep sides of the headland to the top so that the farmer can take it away by tractor and burn it off site – this is to reduce the risk of uncontrolled fire. We always cut during the winter months so as not to disturb any nesting birds.

The benefits of management


Management such as this is essential for the continued health and vigour of the Gorse. After around ten years of unmanaged growth, the plant starts to lose its density and tightly bunched form, subsequently diminishing its value as a habitat for wildlife whilst the plant itself suffers a decreased ability to regenerate. Our work also sustains the overall diversity of the area – if left unchecked, the Gorse would undoubtedly encroach on the surrounding, herb-rich grassland which itself boasts a significant population of Green Winged Orchids. 


photo 3  A few months on, as spring starts to gather momentum, the headland becomes a sea of wild flowers with bluebells, primroses, stitchwort and fox gloves to name a few. This burst of flowers is great for insects, with lots of bees and butterflies taking advantage of the nectar. Areas of bare ground created by the cutting are also ideal habitat for Common Lizards and the increasingly threatened Oil Beetles.


– The National Trust ranger team for Trelissick and North Helford




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