June at Trelissick

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hummingbird hawkmoth [photo courtesy of butterfly conservation.org]

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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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Dogs in the copse

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The copse at Trelissick 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 all enjoy and benefit from this woodland area, along with the apparent rise in dog walkers using the countryside at Trelissick, we have decided to make the copse a dog-free area.

We realise that this move may prove unpopular but our decision has been made after careful consideration, respect for the users of this site and recent experience. The latest clean up of the copse collected more than sixty bags of dog poo from within the fenced off area and, several weeks ago, a den building exercise involving four and five year old children ended with a number of the children, parents and materials adorned with a pungent coating of dog poo!

We have hundreds of acres of for you and your dog to explore at Trelissick – from the park and woodland walks to Tregew and Roundwood Quay. It is for a very specific set of reasons that we don’t allow dogs in Bodger’s Copse :

  • Dog poo and children’s activities don’t mix
  • Allowing your dog into this area, no matter how well behaved it is, distracts learning groups and disrupts activities
  • Some people, especially children, are frightened of dogs however friendly your dog may appear to you

We are aware of the public demand for more dog bins situated throughout the park, however the rangers here are a small team dedicated to a large area of countryside, which also includes the North Helford River. The task of emptying the dog bins is contracted out to the local council who need direct, vehicular access to the bins. This is why all three dog bins on the estate are situated on or near roads and the reason why it is not possible to place them in the park or woodland.

– The Trelissick and North Helford ranger team.

 

 

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Spring days at Trelissick

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The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also -Harriet Ann Jacobs

May is upon us and spring has well and truly declared itself at Trelissick: April has come and gone and, despite its reputation for being all months in one, was mostly spectacular skies and sunshine.

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Swallows, one of the true heralds of spring, have returned from their astonishing odyssey over the Sahara and can be seen swooping and head skimming their way around Pill farm, where the ranger team are based. The orchards around the farm grounds are also brimming with pink and white blossom, abundant in its promise of sweet autumn apple harvests.

An amble through the park or a stank along the woodland walks in the coming days will affirm that all but the most reluctant trees are bursting their buds in a barrage of fresh green leaves, casting shade on constellations of celendines and primroses as they cluster along the footpaths, speared by the occasional spike of rust-tipped sorrel.

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The clearance work that was carried out down at Roundwood over the last few years has brought the woodland floor back to life. Beneath towering beech trees and twisted sessile oaks, you can find a haze of bluebells broken here and there by clans of delicate, white flowered wood anemones. 

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If you decide to venture further, across to the paths and tracks of Tregew, you will find them crowded with towering alexanders, cow parsley and hogweed, whilst spindly stitchwort and brazen patches of pink campion stand out defiantly from the seasonal dress code of green. When walking in this area, please consider the skylarks that have returned to nest the stubble fields. This species are one of the classic British songbirds but are becoming increasingly rare owing to habitat loss. Skylarks both nest and feed on the ground during the spring months, making it extremely important that dogs are kept on leads in this area. We manage the cutting of these fields to allow for nesting times and leave the stubble to provide plenty of food.

We hope to see many of you soon, enjoying the wild flora and fauna of spring at its best…..

The ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

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Spectacular stinging nettles

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Stinging nettle [Urtica Dioica]

You will surely have noticed, on your walks around the countryside this spring, the sheer green abundance of armoured Urtica growing in the hedgerows and the woodlands, the footpaths and the fields.

Nettles are one of the vegetable world’s richest sources of iron making them invaluable for those who may be suffering from anaemia, during menstruation or just for general strength and energy. These plants are incredibly rich in vitamin c, indispensable as a tonic and antioxidant, and great for eczema, skin, hair and eyes. Vegetarians might also take note; nettles are ten percent protein, which is more than any other vegetable with the exception of hemp.

When gathering nettles, soup is my initial inclination but the nettle and sorrel risotto recipe I have included at the end is a great combination of both edible plants.

I am quite evangelical about stock – I sincerely believe it is fundamental to making great soup or risotto and so I have included basic recipes for both chicken and vegetable stock. You can just use bouillon if you wish and I’m sure the results will be delicious but great stock can elevate soup to a world beating standard.

Garlic bread is a perfect accompaniment to nettle soup and if you can find some ramsoms then the recipe further down the page is well worth a try!

Picking

Nettles start picking up steam in our hedgerows from the end of March and are probably at their best through April and the beginning of May. After this time the plants can become a bit course and hairy.

If you are picking nettles from your garden then a strimmer is your friend; strimmed nettles will send up new growth which is perfect for eating – keep harvesting and strimming and they will keep coming!

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall suggests that ‘a carrier bag is the standard measure’ when collecting nettles and I suppose that may suit us all. Wear a pair of substantial gloves if you want, although if you grasp the stem firmly below the top leaves then you can avoid being stung quite successfully. Pick only the tips and first pair of leaves of young green nettles for soup. It must be remembered that from May onward, the nettles may have begun to flower and these keen individuals are best avoided for culinary purposes.

Note: Both the soup and risotto recipes included here have been taken from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. This is simply because I have tried many recipes and these are the best examples I have found – his method of thickening the soup with rice makes a fantastically light and refined soup.

The stock and butter recipes are my own, hence the rambling, scatter-brained instructions. Forgive me….

Nettle soup 

Serves six

Around 150g nettle tops
30-35g knob of butter
1 onion, peeled chopped
1 large or 2 smallish leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp white rice, such as basmati
1 litre vegetable (or chicken) stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 heaped tbsp thick, plain yoghurt, to finish
1 small bunch chives, to finish

Pick over the nettles, wash them well and discard any tough stalks. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat, add the onion, leek, celery and garlic, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until soft but not brown. Add the rice and stock, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the nettles, stirring them into the stock as they wilt, and simmer for five minutes or so, until the rice and the nettles are tender (very young nettle tops will need only two to three minutes). Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Purée the soup in two batches, reheat if necessary and check the seasoning. Serve in warmed bowls, topping each portion with a large dollop of yoghurt and a generous sprinkling of snipped chives.

Chicken stock recipe

Almost any parts of a chicken will do for stock; breast is not really suitable and is kind of a waste to use but legs, drumsticks, carcasses, neck and wings are perfect and flavoursome. Sling them in a large pan with any or all of the following; onions, celery, leeks, carrots, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme. Cover with cold water and then bring slowly up to a simmer; the slower this process happens the better really, it all depends on how much time you have. When the stock has reached a gentle simmer, keep at a medium temperature and skim off any impurities that have risen to the surface. You can continue to simmer [and skim every now and again] for anything from one to four hours, depending on how chicken-y you like your soup. Strain it through a sieve. This stock would keep in the fridge for up to four days or, if you are making a big batch, divide it up and freeze it in meal sized quantities.

I find it most convenient to make a chicken stock after we have had a sunday roast. Just throw the carcass into a pan with any root veg and/or herbs you may have left over and proceed as before; it really is very little hassle this way and totally worth it, both in terms of flavour and nutrition.

Vegetable stock recipe

Most vegetables are great for stock although I don’t trust courgettes for this purpose – they just seem wrong. A base of onions and leeks is needed; carrots and celery are good and in Europe they swear on including celeriac, for increased vigour and health. Chop them or grate them into a large pan. Include peppercorns, thyme, garlic and bay leaves for greater depth of flavour. Bring slowly up to a simmer and skim off any impurities that have inevitably shown themselves. Simmer for 40 mins – 1 hour. Leave all the veggies to cool in the stock then strain through a sieve. If you have time, leave all the veggies in the stock overnight and then strain it in the morning; this will give you a far more pronounced vegetable flavour.

Ramsoms/wild garlic [Allium ursinum]

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Allium ursinum, also known as ramsoms, wild garlic, buckrams and bear’s garlic is a wild relative of chives, native to Europe and Asia. The plant is so called because of the fondness the brown bear [Ursus arctos] is said to have for its bulbs.

These plants can be found, often in large, carpet-like quantities, growing in shady deciduous woodlands with moist soil. In Britain, ramsoms are frequently associated with bluebells [Hyacinthoides non-scripta] and are considered to be an Ancient Woodland Indicator [AWI] species.

Ramsom leaves are edible and can be used as a salad, herb, cooked as a vegetable, in soup or as a replacement for basil in pesto. In Cornwall, there is a variety of Cornish Yarg wrapped in wild garlic leaves.

Ramsom [wild garlic] butter

In my opinion, ramsoms make a far superior garlic butter to the one you can make from bulbs. It is more delicate, fresh and assumes a wonderful bright green colour that is ultimately correct to serve in the spring.

A handful of ramsoms [more or less is just preference]

A block of softened butter

A food processor

Method: Blitz it until bright green. If mix becomes too ‘liquid’ then chill for 20-30 mins before serving. Delicious spread thickly on slices of crusty baguette.

 Common sorrel [Rumex acetosa]

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Common sorrel [Rumex acetosa] is a perennial herb in the same family as dock leaves. It has been cultivated for centuries across Europe and used in soups and salads.

Sorrel has a zesty, sharp flavour that is often compared to kiwi fruit. This taste is because the plant contains oxalic acid.

Sorrel and nettle risotto

Serves two

Around 100g young nettle tops
About 900ml vegetable (or chicken) stock
30g butter, plus extra to finish
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
175g risotto rice, such as arborio
Sorrel leaves – up to half the quantity of nettles – finely shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g finely grated matured goat’s cheese, parmesan (or vegetarian parmesan) or other strong hard cheese, plus extra to serve

Wash the nettles, pick them over and discard the tough stalks. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to a boil, throw in the nettles and bring back to a boil. Blanch for a couple of minutes, then drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the nettles to extract as much water as possible and chop finely.

Heat the stock until almost boiling, then keep warm over a low heat. In a large, heavy-based pan, melt the butter over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and sweat for eight to 10 minutes, until soft and translucent but not browned. Add the rice, stir to coat the grains, pour in a third of the hot stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring, until almost all the stock has been absorbed, then add the chopped nettles and a little more stock. Keep adding stock a bit at a time, making a new addition when the previous one has been absorbed, until the rice is nicely al dente (you may not need all the stock) – around 20 minutes in all – and the texture is loose and creamy. Stir in the sorrel, and season to taste. Dot a little butter over the risotto and sprinkle on the cheese. Cover, leave for a few minutes, then stir in. Serve straight away, with more grated cheese on the table.

 

I hope I have encouraged you to try some of these delicious, very nutritious foods that grow wild and in abundance throughout our hedgerows and woodlands in the spring and summer.

– Joe Harris

Woodland warden, Trelissick and North Helford

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