A – Z of the Trelissick Countryside: an assortment of A’s

It’s time to begin a new feature on this ‘ere blog – drum roll, trumpet fanfare please – it’s the A-Z of the Trelissick countryside! These alphabet themed articles will run alongside our regular updates and hopefully draw together the more disparate and anecdotal elements of countryside management in a short, sharp and thrilling format that will leave you gasping for breath and speculating with your friends at what the next exciting installment could possibly be.

So, without further ado, let’s get started with an assortment of A’s:

 

… is for Archaeology

If you have taken a stroll – or maybe a faster paced jaunt on one of the Saturday morning ‘Park Runs’- through the woods to Tregew and Roundwood, you might well remember that you passed over a little wooden bridge. The creek that this bridge traverses is called Lamouth Creek and at its mouth is the picturesque Roundwood Quay – a solid and sizeable quay built in the late 18th century to facilitate the exporting of copper ore (brought via packhorse and most likely originating from the Gwennap Parish) and the import of coal to power the mine engines. Roundwood Quay’s significance as a mining port was brought to a halt by the building of the Redruth and Chacewater Railway to Devoran and Point but it still continued to be a centre of industry on the river. A lime kiln and malthouse existed on the Quay in the 1840’s and during the latter half of the 19th century, it was a significant base for shipbuilding.

Our woodland restoration work at Roundwood has increased light levels and allowed wildflowers such as the wood anemone and native bluebells (below) to thrive

In the oak woodlands above the quay are the remnants of a much earlier site – an Iron Age fort consisting of two substantial banks and ditches with an oval earthwork inside of these. Known as Roundwood Fort, this area is classified as a ‘promontory fort’ because of its situation between two creeks, and is one of only a handful of its kind in Europe. Local historians believe it to have once been a bustling centre of activity, dating as far back as the Iron Age (around 350BC). Comparable to a cliff castle in the way it uses coastal topography for defence, Roundwood is believed to have been the stronghold of the local warrior-aristocracy and a centre of tribal power. The coastal location of the fort has given rise to the belief that is must have also functioned as a trading hub, with feasibly metal, hides, hunting dogs and slaves being exchanged for luxuries (such as wine) from the continent.

In recent years, the ranger team here at Trelissick have been managing the woodland in and around the fort with the aim of preserving this fascinating archaeology for generations to come. This management revolves around the restoration of the existing woodland back to a pre-existent and characteristically Cornish assembly of sessile oaks with an understory of heather.

An aerial photo of the Roundwood promontory, clearly showing the quay with the woodlands above. To the right (from this point of view) is Cowlands Creek whilst, to the left, is Lamouth Creek

The composition of the woodland first deviated from this regional form in the early 1800’s when Ralph Daniell, who had purchased the Trelissick Estate (including Roundwood and Tregew) from the Lawrence Family in 1805, decided to plant beech trees (native to the South-East of England) throughout this area. These trees have now reached maturity and pose a very real threat to the archaeology within the fort – beeches usually have a significant sail area and wide shallow roots that, if they were to blow over in high winds (as several have) they would take a great deal of history with them! The dense, shade-casting canopy of a beech also inhibits all but the most determined rays of sunshine from reaching the woodland floor and so offer considerably less opportunities for woodland wildflowers and pollinating insects when compared to the ‘open canopy’ woodland offered by our native oaks.

For more information on the historical management of our woodland please take a look at our earlier article on the subject:

Woodland management at Trelissick – Part one: The past

Note: The above section is informed by and borrows greatly from the Fal Estuary Historic Audit produced by Cornwall Archaeological Unit.


Acorns

Happily, we can continue with the theme of oak appreciation by moving onto the subject of acorns. Over the last year the rangers have been gathering  acorns from some of our most prized trees and then planting them in pots back at our work-sheds where they will ‘grow on’ before making their way out onto the estate.  Despite this being a generally positive and enjoyable thing to do, there is also a very definite rationale with regard to why we have moved on to this approach to planting trees.As a habitat, our parkland and oak fringe woodland at Trelissick both offer very specific growing conditions, with marine exposure and shallow soil being just two factors to consider when planting young trees.  In the past, when some plantings have been carried out, the saplings have been ordered in from a nursery with the best possible intentions but they haven’t necessarily had the appropriate genetics to cope with the growing conditions on the estate. As a result, these individuals have struggled and often become very weak, stunted adults, susceptible to disease, branch failure or even dying before they reach maturity.

Each winter, much of our woodland work involves felling non-native trees and thinning dense plantations; both carried out to favour our native sessile oaks. As we remove trees from our woodland, it is our intention to plant oak saplings where required and where they have not had a chance to regenerate naturally over the years because of competition from other species’. Similarly, in the parkland it is critical that we establish a healthy generation of younger trees to grow beneath and succeed our magnificent veterans when they eventually die. To give this next generation the greatest chance of long-term success we have decided to start our own tree nursery and collect only acorns (and the occasional sapling belonging to other native species’) from some of our most beautiful and successful mature trees that have demonstrated they have the genetics to thrive in the conditions at Trelissick.


Apples/Apple Day

Apples from our mature orchard at Trelissick being loaded up before we take them to a local company for juice pressing

Apple day was first launched on the 21st October, 1990 by an organization called Common Ground. It was held in the old Apple Market in London’s Covent Garden, bringing fruit back to the market’s stalls after an absence of 16 years. The motive behind the event was to create a date on the autumn calendar that would both celebrate and demonstrate the diversity we are in imminent danger of losing, not only in apples and other foods, but in the richness of landscape, ecology and culture.

Apple Day has since gone from strength to strength and become a permanent fixture on the calendars of local villages, gardens and markets with over 600 individual events taking place across Britain. Since that first event, the day has played an enormous part in raising awareness of the importance of orchards for wildlife, public awareness of provenance and traceability of food and nurturing pride and respect for local tradition and distinctiveness. Apple Day has also been instrumental in developing the nation’s resurgent network of farmer’s markets and helping large numbers of people to re-discover the fundamental connection between food and land, between the resources we use and the resultant consequences for nature.

The first Apple Day at London’s Covent Garden Market. Photo taken from: Common Ground

Of course, many of you will know that we have joined in and supported this wonderful tradition for a long time at Trelissick, holding our own Apple Day each and every year. Several years ago we decided to go even further and, in the spirit of local distinctiveness, develop an area of Tregew (near Roundwood, on the Trelissick Estate) into a Kea plum and Cornish apple orchard. Our intention, as the orchard becomes larger and more mature, is for this to become a community project with school groups, events and wildlife walks taking place and a regular group of volunteers meeting to look after the trees, help with picking and learn new skills.

For more information on our community orchard project please read this earlier article we have written:

The importance of orchards

Or alternatively, you can visit the orchards’ very own Facebook page at:

Tregew Community Orchard


Many thanks for reading and keep an eye out for the batch of B’s coming soon!

– Ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

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