Countryside news – Early Spring 2017

Work

Our countryside work at Trelissick is very woodland orientated and so winter is often our busiest time of the year. With the absence of nesting birds, we can get into the woods and carry out our management with the minimum of impact on the dormant trees or the feathered families that may come to inhabit them. Now, because spring has arrived and brought the woods back to life with bursting buds and birdsong, it is time to relinquish our chainsaws and have a re-cap on what we have been up to over the cold months.

The South Woodland Walk was closed for two weeks in January for resurfacing. No work had been done on the footpath surface for many years and hopefully you will see that it is now much improved. Unfortunately, adverse weather conditions curtailed the work somewhat, so there remains a short section of the path to be completed in late spring.

Whilst this area was closed, we took the opportunity to work alongside contractors and remove several large turkey oaks as part of our ongoing woodland restoration project. The felling of trees is rightly a contentious subject, but this long term project was undertaken to benefit our SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) sessile oak woodland and all its inherent wildlife. A turkey oak is faster growing than its native counterpart, the sessile oak, and does not support as rich and diverse a range of wildlife. Over time, the ‘turkeys’ bust up through the canopy and shade out the woodland floor, making regeneration nigh-on impossible for our native oaks. Once these towering trees are removed, light floods in and our young sessile oak seedlings are in with a chance! Gorse, broom, madder and yellow cow wheat all follow suit to create a dynamic, nectar-rich and native woodland composition that will support a whole host of woodland wildlife, from pollinating insects to rare birds and bats.

As you can see in the picture above, we have also opened up some cracking views of Carrick Roads and Turnaware Point!

For similar reasons, we have continued removing silver fir from the oak woodland on the Scheduled Ancient Monument at Roundwood. With these dense, shade-casting conifers out of the way, the characteristically Cornish understorey of heather has a greater chance to claim its rightful place beneath the oaks.

Meanwhile, further down the creek, our management of Tregew for wildlife continues with a bit of a late-winter tidy up. A slight issue has developed in one of the fields over the last few seasons with brambles growing in large patches and starting to encroach on the grassland. Owing to the bird nesting season and the overall conservation aims of the Tregew site, it is sometimes difficult to cut as regularly as would be required to supress the bramble growth. At the tail-end of this winter however, we have been able to come in and mow this field which will hopefully help to the brambles from spreading any further! Cutting so late requires careful timing but does ensure that the valuable stores of wildflower seeds in the field can be thoroughly taken advantage of by birds and mammals through the lean, cold months of January and February.

Bramble illustration

Please don’t assume that the countryside team are opposed to the presence of brambles in general – Oh no!, far from it…. we’ve even written a blog to show our appreciation of one of the plant world’s true survivors. You can read it if you like by clicking the link below:

Brilliant brambles – one of nature’s unsung heroes

In another field at Tregew, some of our visitors may have stumbled across an unexpected sight during early March, where horses were being used to work the land with a traditional Cornish balance plough. The Trelissick countryside team had the pleasure and privilege of employing David Jones and his team of cobs (a type of smaller heavy horse) for approximately 1 ½ weeks to carry out some ploughing. This method works brilliantly for us in the archaeologically sensitive fields around Roundwood because, although time consuming, the horse-drawn implement ploughs shallower furrows and causes less impact when compared to a modern tractor.

For more information on horse ploughing and David himself, please see our previous blog:

Horsepower

Wildlife

All around the estate the first signs of Spring are stirring, with flawless flower heads of celandine and primrose freshly opened for business. Queen bumblebees; the first of the new season’s clientele can be heard buzzing diligently, preparing for the busy season ahead.

Out on the water, a big shoal of mackerel in the Carrick Roads has tempted many sea birds further up the river, taking leave from their usual haunts to make the most of a fishtastic feast. The ranger team have spent a couple of pleasant lunch breaks watching the gannets hunt with effortless elegance and sudden violence.

All of these wonderful things conspire with the first rays of sun to banish our winter gloom.

  • Ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford
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