May 2019 at Stackpole

Early purple orchids in flower above Broad Haven South

Another busy month has passed, with two bank holidays, a festival and a rare trip away from Stackpole to mingle with other countryside folk at the National Trust’s annual Wales Woodland Conference.

Aside from an opportunity to meet with other Trust staff usually found working in woodlands, the annual Wales Woodland Conference also gives us a great chance to reflect on what we are doing, whilst gaining inspiration and learning lessons from other properties.

Fencing, flowers and Festival of the Sea

At Gupton Farm, all hands were on deck setting up for the second Festival of the Sea where a range of stalls, activities and entertainment helped to tell important stories about conserving our fragile marine habitats. 

Around the farm at Gupton, wildlife is abundant as wildflowers such as cowslip, cuckooflower and ragged robin are appearing in the fen meadows along the valley bottom.

An inspection of the hedges planted this winter also show promising signs of life, with the vast majority of the blackthorn and hawthorn plants looking healthy and ready to form essential food, shelter and wildlife corridors.

Back at Stackpole a trip out onto the Warren – repairing a fence around a collapsed clifftop blowhole between Barafundle and Stackpole Head – afforded an opportunity to appreciate the amazing sight of carpets of spring squill. It’s the light blue coastal grassland equivalent of the bluebells which fill our woodlands at the same time of year.  

Further exploration of the coastline at this time of year will reveal many of the coastal specialist plant species beginning to emerge. On the headland above Broad Haven South, some great early purple orchids and spring squill can be seen to the backdrop of the beach below.

Fencing with a view
Rangers repairing fencing on the coast
Fencing with a view

If you go down to the woods today…

Stackpole’s woodlands are also alive at this time of year, with butterflies and wildflowers abound. 

The 5,000 or so trees that we planted in 2015 are all coming along well, but still need to be kept free from the strangling brambles that would quickly engulf them without intervention. So we have begun our biannual task of cutting carefully around each tree, a proving ground for any strimmer operator!  

A recent breeding bird survey of Castle Dock and Cheriton Bottom has revealed fantastic numbers of common woodland birds such as blackcap and wren, along with goldcrest, greater spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tits and two pairs of spotted flycatchers.

Explore our wilder spaces

Whilst this is a great time of year to visit our beaches and lakes, we are also launching some exciting new ways to explore Stackpole this May, as our woodland activity trails are officially launched this month.

Based from the small car park in Castle Dock, where our new sign and map will set you off in the right direction, we have created four new waymarked routes around the woodlands.  

A four-mile mountain bike trail takes in shared use paths and purpose-built single track to test intermediate riders and is the culmination of five years’ work and countless hours of support from volunteers and working holiday groups.

We have also established two short trail running routes, which can be run individually or linked together to make a longer loop, or can even be tied in to the miles of other woodland trails to explore.  

Finally, a family adventure trail provides a great alternative to a day at the beach, with self-led activities such as bug hunting and den building designed to encourage wild play along the way.