Our rare parkland wildlife
Our parklands are home to some of the country’s rarest wildlife. Next time you go out walking in your local park, look out for the unusual plants, insects and birds that live in parklands that haven’t changed for centuries.
Tansy beetles at Beningbrough, Yorkshire
Once widespread in Britain, the tansy beetle is now relatively rare, found in only three places in the UK, including Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire and it's most northerly home on an 18 mile stretch of Yorkshire’s River Ouse. The coppery beetle lives on the tansy plant and has been crowded out by changes in land use and invasive species like Himalayan balsam.
Our gardeners at Beningbrough Hall, near York, are working with the Tansy Beetle Action Group to boost numbers. Head gardener Sam Shipman says: ‘We keep an area along the river fenced off from grazing cattle and we regularly weed out the Himalayan balsam.’
The beautiful beetles were once prized as a sequin-like clothes decoration. But now its beauty is best seen on a warm day by the river.
‘They are the most amazing iridescent green,’ says gardener Sam. ‘There are a few hundred beetles at Beningbrough and numbers are slowly recovering after floods in 2012.’
Windsor weevils at Croome, Worcestershire
When some of Britain’s rarest beetles were uncovered inside 300-year-old oak trees at Croome, it came as a surprise to rangers.
The historic parkland, which was designed by star Georgian landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, became only the fourth place in the country for the endangered Windsor weevil.
It came after 20 years of work by rangers to restore the parkland. Katherine Alker, the parks and gardens manager, says: ‘Some of our oak trees in the park are hundreds of years old. When we took on Croome in 1996 most of the park had been ploughed up for oil seed rape and the heavy ploughs were damaging the trees’ roots.’
‘By reverting the arable fields to permanent pasture, grazed by cattle and sheep, we’ve dramatically changed the ecosystem for the better,’ she adds. ‘We leave the dead wood on the trees and the ground, creating the right habitat for these rare insects.’
Bats at Sherborne Park Estate, Gloucestershire
Nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, Sherborne Park Estate is home to 11 of Britain's native bat species.
Now, rangers are working with tenant farmers to restore the wildlife corridors that will help bats move across the estate. The partnership has also seen more wildlife-friendly areas of farmland, with uncropped field margins, woodlands and new hedgerows providing new feeding and roosting areas.
The bats are already making good use of the new habitat that's being created, rangers claim.
Simon Nicholas, countryside manager at the Sherborne Park Estate, says: 'The bats rely on them as navigational aids, using the hedgerows and woodland as features in the landscape to help them find their way to and from their roosts and feeding grounds.'
Viewers of the BBC's Springwatch can see the bats for themselves. The hit show is being filmed live from the Sherborne Park Estate this year.