Countryside news – Summer 2017

Work

Early summer is always a curious sort of time in the countryside for us rangers. Of course, there is considerable relief that the cold, wet weather is behind us and those first, warm weeks of sunshine are most definitely savoured by everyone on our team. Work-wise however, there is a bit of a lull – this time of year, bookended as it is by the intensive forestry work of winter on one side and the virtually continuous maintenance of footpaths and hedgerows that comes with ‘true’ summer on the other– can be a time for knocking off all the odd jobs that have been building up on our lists!

One of these jobs is to spend some time nurturing the beautiful, veteran trees that preside over the Trelissick parkland by scattering mulch around their roots. The mulch we use comes from the woodland management that has taken place at Roundwood and must be at least a year old. Usually we would leave as much wood as possible behind to provide habitat for woodland wildlife, but at Roundwood Fort the importance of the archaeology dictates that we must remove any material that could encourage a potentially destructive fire.

You can clearly see the halo of mulch we have given to this veteran oak. It is spread so far from the main stem of the tree so the nutrients can be taken up by smaller, feeding roots.

For the uninitiated, mulches are made up from decomposing organic material (wood chippings in our case) that are scattered around the base of trees to retain moisture and improve soil conditions. Trees growing in a woodland environment will usually have their roots deep into a rich soil full of nutrients and essential microorganisms and wouldn’t normally require mulching. In contrast, our parkland at Trelissick is a harsher environment with very shallow soil and a good deal of marine exposure so our older trees can sometimes benefit from a little help.

May is also the time when the cattle come and graze the parkland for the summer months. These cows are essential for our sustainable grassland management because their selective grazing keeps the grass in check; eliminating the need for mechanical cutting and allowing an extensive carpet of buttercups and other wildflowers to truly flourish at this time of year. We ask our visitors to respect the working animals and please keep dogs on leads if you are unsure of their reaction to livestock.

The carpet of buttercups, grass and other wildflowers that we all enjoy in May each year is made possible through the grazing activity of our parkland cattle

In the Lodge Plantation you might see some areas, amongst the bluebells and campions, which have been strimmed out. These were large clumps of winter heliotrope, a highly successful non-native plant that was introduced from North Africa as an ornamental and has since spread out into the countryside, especially in the South and West of England. Our strimming is an effort to control the spread of this plant so that it does not begin to impact on the population of native bluebells and other wildflowers in this area of the estate.

The two new granites that mark the entrance to our community orchard and the fields of Tregew beyond

Elsewhere, since launching the Park Run at Trelissick on Saturday mornings, the weekly event has gone from strength to strength with increasing attendance and great feedback from the runners. The start line for the 5km trail begins at the King Harry Ferry end of the North Woodland Walk and we thought it would be good to mark this in a more permanent fashion with a twin set of granite posts.  Further along the trail at Tregew, we have pulled out an old field gate and installed two more solid, sizeable granites that certainly make a ‘proper’ entrance to our community orchard and the fields at Tregew.

Within the orchard itself, we have finished our planting for the year with twenty five more fruit trees going into the ground. These include Cornish apple varieties, several vintage cider apples, more Kea plums and five Manaccan plums to keep them company!
Many of these trees still need cages to protect them from deer that will nibble on the leaves and shoots. If you would like to get involved with volunteering in the orchard then please get in touch at: joe.harris@nationaltrust.org.uk

Wildlife

Wildlife-wise, spring has sprung into abundance with its traditional envoy, the swallow arriving over Pill Farm of the 16th April. If you are walking down through the park, also keep an eye out for their larger cousins, the house martins who make a home of Trelissick House over the summer. They can be seen darting out from between the pillars of the mansion to hunt for insects and indulge in a fair bit of aerial acrobatics in-between!

Orange tip butterfly

Another, lesser-known emissary of the warmer months has been glimpsed fluttering about the hedgerows and woodland margins on the estate – the orange tip butterfly. This species are one of the first to emerge, bar those that have over-wintered as adults, and so are often considered emblematic of the changing seasons. The bright orange wingtips that give the butterfly its name are only present on the males whilst the females are commonly mistaken for one of the ‘whites’.

Lesser spotted woodpecker

Meanwhile, within the woodland, there have been sightings of the rare, lesser spotted woodpecker. These elusive, sylvan characters become more visible during the Spring months as they set up territories and make preparations for the breeding season. Listen out for the drumming of its beak as it looks for insects and larvae within the dead branches of trees.

Hedgehogs

The breeding season for the European hedgehog is in full-swing by May and their noisy courtship, usually carried out at night, can sometimes sound like the two animals are having a fight! Often called ‘the gardener’s friend’ owing to their diet of slugs and snails, hedgehogs are another species of British wildlife that are suffering serious decline because of over-tidying, predation and pesticide use. Why not try and feed a hog by leaving out a bowl of cat food or dog food overnight? For information and more great ways in which you can help these fantastic creatures within your own garden please e-mail: operation.hedgehog@cornwall.gov.uk

Oil beetles

The large and impressive oil beetle is an incredible bug to find but they too are also under threat with three of the UK’s native species’ now extinct and the remaining five all suffering serious decline. Oil beetles have one of the most extraordinary life-cycles of any British insect because they are actually totally reliant on solitary bees for their survival! To this end, an oil beetle larva has specially adapted hook-like feet and, after leaving the nest, will climb to the top of a flower stem and await the visit of an unsuspecting bee. The larvae then quickly hook themselves on and hitch a ride on the bee’s back, travelling all the way to the burdened creature’s burrow where they raid the stores of pollen and nectar! These larvae will remain in the bee’s home, feeding on stolen victuals, until they emerge as adults to find a mate and begin the cycle again….

Enjoy the sunshine!
Ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

 

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