Summer work for our rangers on the Coleshill Estate

Dan Billington, Ranger Dan Billington Ranger

What a remarkable dry and hot summer! Nevertheless our ranger team at Buscot & Coleshill have been busy as usual keeping the estate maintained to a high standard and carrying out a variety of tasks across the sites, whilst doing their best to keep themselves cool and well-watered throughout the relentless heat.

To take some of the heavy workload off us this year, the grass cutting around the villages has been contracted out. This frees the rangers up from these tasks and allows us to do more towards the management of the wider estate and makes better use of our skills and talents for estate management and conservation - plus its a nice respite from the heat to not be out in the blazing sun cutting grass. Our work is always varied and we do still have our fair share of hedges to cut through this summer, as well as the upkeep of holiday cottage gardens, on top of the usual mowing and cutting of woodland rides and glades as well as some larger areas such as the grass in Buscot Weir field. 

Early in the summer I led a guided walk down the River Thames from Buscot to the Anchor Boat Club, near Eaton Hastings, and back. We were blessed by a bright but cool day, with a welcome breeze down on the river. The route taken was from Buscot car park, down to the Weir field and then taking the footpath at the corner of the weir field that takes you, by a winding way, down to the Anchor Boat Club about a mile as the crow fly, a tad farther on foot. The stretch down to the Anchor is across the farmland of Kilmester Farm, which was absolutely alive with bugs and butterflies as the grasses were long and the fields beautiful.  We crossed the bridge at the Anchor boat club, at site of the old pub that once stood, and then took the path back towards Buscot. This stretch of the walk is along the riverside and was an absolute delight at that time of year. The grassland by the river was teeming with Damselfly and Meadow Brown butterflies and we were also lucky to see several Dragonflies too-ing and fro-ing along the river. If that wasn't enough of a treat, we were also privileged, albeit fleetingly, to the metallic blue flash of a Kingfisher as he zipped by. As we made our way back to Buscot, we past the World War II era pill boxes put in place to defend against the possibility of a German invasion, to Buscot lock and from there back to the car park in Buscot, whilst I explained a little of the history of the site and its landowners. The route I took is basically the red river walking route that can be found on our website for Buscot, though I reversed the direction of travel. A really lovely walk and we will be running it again next summer, so do come along and join us next year. 

This year we have also started several habitat and wildlife monitoring programmes across the estate, with a view to continue and increase these over the coming years. For my part I, as well as a couple of local volunteers, have been conducting butterfly surveys on an area of the Coleshill Estate across Colleymore and Brimstone farm. It is being carried out as part of the National Trust Farmland Birds & Butterflies Survey. The surveys are being done approximately every two weeks throughout June, July and August. The sections surveyed have been dictated by the authors of the national survey and are going well. Over the one kilometre transects we've recorded the more common Meadow Browns, Large and small whites, as well as Peacock Butterflies, Ringlets, and Gatekeepers. Two more notable, and beautiful, finds have been the small Silver-studded blue butterfly and the majestic Silver-washed fritillary. As well as continuing with these surveys we hope to use the same methodology for these surveys to conduct more and wider monitoring across the estates next year. 

Another area of surveying and monitoring we will be conducting is into the presence of Water Vole on the River Cole. In early August our rangers and a couple of our volunteers attended a Water Vole surveying training course run by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) on a small stretch of the River Cole that runs through Coleshill parkland. There have been surveys carried out in past years but nothing has been carried out in-house in recent years. The training course was very good. An officer from BBOWT came out to us as gave us a very thorough and comprehensive talk on the habitat, behaviour, feeding habits, and threats to Water Voles. Tracks, scat and other field signs, and the best places to find them, were covered - as well as an overview as to other species that may be found in similar areas, namely Otter and Mink. We know we have Otters down on the River Cole as we have been finding Otter spraint along the riverside for the best part of the last 20 years and also a few sightings of Otters swimming in the river. Sadly we also think that the presence of Mink is highly likely, which is a major problem for our native Water Vole as the Mink prey upon them and are very aggressive predators. Using what we have learnt we will be conducting surveys along the riverbanks recording the quality of habitat as well as signs of water voles along our stretch of the river. As well as the water voles we will also be able to establish a better picture of possible Otter and/or Mink in the area and with this knowledge we can hopefully implement some improved management of the site if and as required. 

Coleshill Wildflower

I think that gives you a suitable snapshot into just a few of the things we have been doing over the summer here at Buscot & Coleshill. We'll provide another update shortly as to what we have been up to during the Autumn. I hope you enjoy the rest of this blistering summer and do come along to the estate to enjoy our beautiful estate and maybe come along to one of our events or guided walks - the details of which can be found on our website. We also produce a leaflet that can be purchased at the estate office at Coleshill with a selection of walks around Coleshill, ideal for short easy going walks for all the family.