Firstly, I apologise for the lack of a blog over the last couple of months but, as ever, the spring and summer are a busy old time in the countryside, with events-a-plenty and the hedgerows and path edges growing like crazy. A slight re-cap on what we’re up to seems in order….
Truro River Rowing Club held their annual gig regatta at Turnaware bar on a sweltering Saturday June 4th. The concrete roads leading down to the beach, laid for tanks to use during the D-Day embarkation of WW2, make it a highly accessible, yet secluded site to launch a large number of gigs. On the day, around twenty gigs from all over the county attended, with over 200 competitors taking advantage of the glorious half term weather.
Previous to that, the end of May saw the Trelissick countryside team hosting a training day for countryside rangers, hailing from across Cornwall, Devon and as far afield as Somerset. There was a full program of informative talks on offer, specifically aimed at full time volunteers or new rangers, and delivered with the intention of inspiring interest in a wide range of countryside topics . The National Trust bio-survey team, consisting of three national specialists, were on hand to dispense information on basic field botany, techniques for surveying insects and an initiation into recognising bird calls.
Tim Kellet, from the Cornwall Ancient Tree Forum, was in attendance and spoke passionately about how to recognise and record veteran trees, with a brief overview of the specialised ways in which these venerable giants are best cared for. Cornwall Bat Hospital also entered the fray and led a walk around our old barns, demonstrating as they went, how to recognize bat roosts, favoured nooks and crumbly droppings – all valuable information when seeking out or surveying for these secretive, night-time animals. They also brought along a full complement of rescue bats which were a rare privilege to see so closely and clearly.
All in all, it was a stimulating and inspirational day, full of both substance and enthusiasm.
On a more conventionally ‘worky’ note, the first week of June has seen the ranger team turn our collective attention to the walled highway on which many of our visitors enter the estate by road. The walls that hem you in on either side of this road are very old and require annual maintenance to keep them in a safe and stable state. This often involves strimming and the removal of large patches of ivy, which is what Charlie (one of the rangers here at Trelissick) is doing in this photo above, watched keenly by a crowd of curious cows.
First up, and ever the conversation starter, we have the wonderfully named bastard balm (Melittis melissophylum). Bastard balm is an eye-catching woodland plant that is a rare British native, only occurring in a few isolated sites limited to the South-West (mainly Devon and Cornwall). Fortunately enough, one of those sites happens to be at Trelissick!
Exactly how this plant got its common name is apparently unclear but as a herb it is rumored to be an effective treatment for kidney problems and anxiety. The plant itself boasts buoyant, almost orchid-like, ivory white flowers that look like they are sticking out little pink tounges. This ‘tongue’ is actually a landing guide for bees who love to drink deeply from the nectar hidden within each flower. Unlike the strong, almost minty, aroma of other balms, the foliage has a light and sweet smell, not dissimilar to that of woodruff. Each plant can grow as large as eighteen inches tall and mature, year upon year, growing in size and substance….
Our woodland management along the South Woodland Walk is essential for encouraging woodland wildflowers like bastard balm. Over the last few years, and undoubtedly continuing for the next several, we are removing the vigorous, non-native turkey oaks which will favour our native sessile oak trees and allow their seedlings to develop without being out-competed. Sessile oaks allow a great deal more light to pass beneath them, creating ideal conditions for an enormous range of woodland plants such as wood sage, yellow cow wheat, gorse, heath, broom and, of course, bastard balm to develop.
Fauna now, and over the last ten years, roe deer have been recorded at Trelissick, including sightings of the covert creatures swimming across the river from the Roseland! These beautiful but elusive beasts seldom allow themselves to be seen up close but, to the alert and eager eye, evidence of their passing can be found in the quieter parts of the estate. It might be a clump of hair, snagged on some fencing wire or slot marks (the term we use for deer tracks) impressed into soft ground. Unfortunately, our hazel coppice within the worked plantations does suffer some damage from browsing but more established trees and those growing on Cornish hedges are unaffected.
Shifting to the smaller end of the spectrum, we managed to spot and snap a picture of this large and very impressive bloody-nosed beetle on the road to Turnaware. This flightless beetle is characteristically round and long-legged and can often be seen on footpaths during the summer months. It is one of Britain’s largest ‘leaf beetles’ and feeds on the leaves of lady’s bedstraw – its larvae can sometimes be spotted hanging from these plants. The beetle gets its memorable name from a particular defense mechanism: when threatened, the brave bug secretes a blood-red liquid from its mouth which is an acrid irritant to ward off predators. Rock on bloody-nosed beetle – we salute you! (We did pick it up from the road and relocate it safely to the hedgerow as a mark of respect).
Enjoy the sunshine!
– The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford.