Countryside news - Spring 2021

Swallows flying in front of Trelissick House

It has been a slightly irregular start to the season. On the one hand, spring is undoubtedly here, with lengthening days, buds bursting and the birds in full voice, but on the other, the seemingly interminable chilly winds, cool temperatures and a distinct lack of rain have meant a slow start for many plants and wildflowers.

These same dry conditions mean we have covered up the fire sites down on Roundwood Quay and are asking visitors not to light fires owing to the high risk of wildfire.

The sheep have come and gone, doing a fantastic job of grazing the private side of the Trelissick Parkland. The grass was given some time to grow again and we have now welcomed the cows back to continue grazing both sides of the Park. As ever, if you are unsure of how your dog will react to livestock, please keep them on a lead whilst walking in this area. Having mixed grazing such as this, with sheep and cattle both behaving and feeding in different ways is an effective and natural way to maintain grassland habitats, keeping them open and promoting a greater diversity of plants and wildlife.

Cows grazing in the parkland
Cows grazing in the parkland
Cows grazing in the parkland

The winter saw a significant amount of woodland management within the Iron-Age fort at Roundwood where we focused on removing the last of the silver fir trees in the area above the quay. However, now that the birds have begun to nest once more, we have finished our forestry work and turned our attention to extracting the timber from the trees we have cut down and – on a somewhat inaccessible Scheduled Ancient Monument – this can prove trickier than usual. This year, a more innovative approach was required so our lead ranger, Neil rowed his punt up-river from Trelissick and we tied the lengths of timber to the boat. He then rowed them round to the quay where we could safely load them onto a tractor and trailer.

Lead Ranger Neil rowing and towing timber up the river
Lead Ranger Neil rowing and towing timber up the river
Lead Ranger Neil rowing and towing timber up the river

Many of you will be aware that this has been an ongoing process over many years and will have noticed the changes in the area on your walks through the fort. What was previously a dense, dark expanse of woodland has been opened up to allow a good deal of space between the established, veteran trees. Bluebells, wood anemones and heather have colonised these newly opened spaces and you can now see many young oak saplings that finally have the light required to grow on from acorns.

A good deal of the fir trees removed were right on the edge of the quarry that is next to the fort and this opened access to the cliff edge and a sheer drop that we were certainly not very comfortable leaving. As a solution, we have purchased a selection of granites from a local quarry and fitted them with small, metal posts and a chain to create a barrier to forewarn visitors that might not expect to find a cliff in the woods! Again, lack of vehicular access meant that these had to be carried into the fort individually by wheelbarrow and then welded in situation. We think you’ll agree; the effort was worthwhile, and they have increased the safety of the site without compromising on appearance and appropriateness.

Up the road from Roundwood, in our wildlife fields at Tregew, the ground has been ploughed and the annual crop of barley has been sown and, despite the dry conditions, it is now starting to grow. We also welcomed the wildflower charity Plantlife back onto the Estate to sow another area with small-flowered catchfly, an endangered wildflower that was very successful when they planted it at Tregew last year. This means the time is at hand when ground-nesting birds, such as our resident population of skylarks, are starting to make homes and raise chicks within the shelter of the crop. For this reason, we ask that you please keep your dog on a lead and stick to the mown paths whilst walking in the area.

Wildlife - Spring 2021

Butterflies

We have already recorded the traditional spring-time signifiers of orange tips, brimstones, holly blues and whites. The winter-hibernating red admirals will surely be next, along with commas, peacocks and painted ladies! The warm spring conditions of the last few years have been fantastic for butterfly spotting so let’s hope the temperatures pick up soon!

Comma butterfly
Comma butterfly
Comma butterfly

Wildflowers

Perhaps the most famous spectacle of the season is the wonderful array of British wildflowers that we all enjoy along footpaths, hedgerows, woodlands and meadows. From the early twinkling of star-like celendines on the Woodland Walks and the carpet of primroses and daffodils that can be seen in the New Lodge Plantation, to the luminescent green of road-side alexanders and the vivid, hot pink of campions, there are plenty of great places to enjoy the wildflowers at Trelissick.

Lesser Celendine
Lesser Celendine
Lesser Celendine

In the shade of the woodland, look out for bluebells, wood anemones, wild garlic and enchanter’s nightshade or, during May, the parkland plays host to swathes of golden buttercups.

Wild garlic
Wild garlic
Wild garlic

If you feel like venturing a little further, our fields at Tregew offer corn marigolds, flax, scarlet pimpernels, vetches and bistort among the barley crop as well as dead nettles, lady’s smock, marsh thistles and bird’s foot trefoil in the meadow above the orchard.

Birds

Spring is the time when birds begin to sing and the countryside bursts into life. Of course, birds are also building nests and raising chicks and it can be fun to watch them collecting twigs, moss, lichen and thistle down (amongst many other things) from which to build them.

Goldfinch
Goldfinch
Goldfinch

Trelissick Beach and the creeks of the Fal River are great spots to bring out your binoculars and look for wading birds. We often spot herons, curlew, oystercatchers, grebe, teal, redshank and many others whilst working near the water.

Out in front of Trelissick House, you can see house martins and swallows, swooping and dive-bombing like stunt flyers over the insect-rich grassland and homing in especially on the cow pats that have been colonised by dung beetles. This year we saw our first swallow on the 1st April, which is almost two weeks earlier than usual!

Elsewhere, Tregew is the place to go if you want to see birds that favour fields and hedgerows. The area is rich with goldfinches, linnets, stonechats, and watching our resident buzzards, sparrow hawk or kestrel hunting in the long grass is a riveting – if slightly visceral – way to pass the time.

Spring blossom

The flowering of trees is a real spring-time spectacle and can be enjoyed across the Estate from as early as February, throughout spring and into early summer.

Early on, there are dense clusters of snow-white blackthorn blossom, nectar-rich willow catkins that attract bees, butterflies and birds as well as kea plum blossom in our orchard at Tregew. These are followed by pink and white apple blossom, the creamy (but deathly-smelling) hawthorn flowers and the famous cherry blossom that gave rise to ‘Hanami’, the Japanese cherry blossom festival. Look out too, for musty scented rowan and elderflowers from late May.

Apple blossom
Apple blossom
Apple blossom

- The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford