Countryside news - Summer 2021
It has been a very busy few months in the Trelissick countryside with plants, trees and hedgerows all suddenly growing like mad.
This means trimming, strimming and mowing to keep all our footpaths and gateways open and prevent our visitors from being snagged on brambles or stung by nettles. We do tend to be highly selective with our trimming until well into the summer; keeping flowers heads, avoiding notable species and generally leaving things for as long as possible. This can mean that we suddenly have a lot of work to do all at once, but it also means we don’t deplete the seed bank or deprive our pollinating insects of important food and habitat. It hasn’t all been strimming and trimming though….
Elsewhere, the fine, dry weather has meant we could get on with housekeeping jobs such as refurbishing the boat that doubles as a roof for our bird hide down on Trelissick Beach. The elements had really begun to take their toll on her old timbers (it was not a seaworthy vessel when it was first hoisted up there) so we stripped her right back, filled the gaps as best we could, and then began the process of painting again. She looks rejuvenated, and a little bit of t.l.c. has taken years off the old girl. She might not keep you dry in a blizzard but she more than makes up for it with character and individuality!
At the beginning of summer, with the easing of restrictions, we were delighted to welcome back our regular team of Wednesday volunteers after having not seen them for 18 months or so. This joyous reunion, accompanied by the usual jokes and banter, has already seen ‘The Vols’ begin to replenish our dwindling firewood reserves and join in on the housekeeping front. The bridge that connects the ferry landing to the pontoon, allowing visitors to arrive at Trelissick by boat, had become quite green and dirty. Over two days, they have helped us scrub it back to a brilliant white with barely a complaint and plenty of amusing stories…. it’s nice to have them back.
Meanwhile, down at Roundwood, we though it proper to instate a sign that befits such a unique and intriguing historical site. Therefore, we have taken all the smaller signs that were previously dotted around and mounted them on a large piece of granite to stand sentry over the entrance to the Iron-Age fort. The slab of granite was very heavy and had to be lifted into place using a tractor whilst two rangers on the ground manoeuvred it into position with metal bars. Take a look next time you are walking down that way!
Next door to the fort, we have been busy in the orchard at Tregew. With the pruning of apple trees all done over the winter, we have begun to mow the area. Again, we leave it as long as possible before cutting to allow the likes of bird’s foot trefoil, buttercups, various vetches, marsh thistles and early purple orchids (which were recorded again this year for the second time in the orchard) to flower and set seed.
It was also lovely to see the branches of our young trees bowing with quite a few apples this year. As more trees are planted, the chances of successful pollination are increased, and we are starting to see the fruits of our labours!
Wildlife - summer 2021
If you brush against this plant whilst walking in our wildlife fields at Tregew, you might hear its seeds rattling in their little pods and realise how the plant got its name. Yellow rattle thrives in grassland meadows and was once seen as an indicator of poor nutrient levels by farmers. This is because the plant is semi-parasitic and feeds off the nutrients in the root of various grasses, reducing the overall dominance of grass. Conversely, this is why we are delighted to see it come up in great abundance at Tregew! In these fields we are trying to lower nutrient levels, deplete the more vigorous grasses and help allow a greater diversity of plants and wildflowers to thrive. Yellow rattle is helping us with our work!
This uncommon plant is very localised in England and rare in Scotland. Until it flowers, it can be difficult to distinguish from other grasses, so elongated and grass-like are its leaves. However, once it unfurls its tiny, vivid pink flowers it gives itself away! A member of the pea family, but highly distinct from other types of vetch (which are much more pea-like in form) Tregew boasts one of the largest areas of this plant in the South-West. It is currently unclear whether this proliferation of grass vetchling is here to stay or whether the composition of the field is going through a phase, before reverting to equilibrium.
The barley crop that we sow in two of our fields at Tregew is the ideal space for many threatened arable plants to thrive. This year, there has already been lady’s smock and it looks like there will be a good deal of corn marigolds (always nice to see). As July creeps up on us, we expect to see species’ such as scarlet pimpernel, flax, bistort and hopefully, a good amount of small-flowered catchfly, which was introduced to Tregew by the wildflower conservation charity Plantlife.
As summer proper starts to happen, we generally notice butterfly numbers picking up. We have already noticed more meadow browns fluttering about the parkland. Summer is also the time of the Big Butterfly Count which, since 2010, has become the world’s largest butterfly survey! At Trelissick, we play our part by taking out groups of intrepid butterfly spotters from mid-July to the first week of August and learning some simple skills to identify butterflies. If you would like to get involved, then keep your eyes peeled for signs, posters and social media posts which will let you know when we are going out counting. See you there!