Spring days at Trelissick
May is upon us and spring has finally declared itself at Trelissick. April has come and gone and with glorious sunshine mixing it up with heavy rain, largely lived up to its reputation of being all months in one.
Swallows, one of the true heralds of spring, have returned from their astonishing odyssey over the Sahara and can be seen swooping and head skimming their way around our work-sheds. Nearby, the orchards around the farm grounds are brimming with pink and white blossom, abundant in its promise of sweet autumn apple harvests.
An amble through the park or a stank along the woodland walks in the coming days will affirm that all but the most reluctant trees are bursting their buds in a barrage of fresh green leaves, casting shade on constellations of celendines and primroses as they cluster along the footpaths, speared by the occasional spike of rust-tipped sorrel.
If you decide to venture further, across to the paths and tracks of Tregew, you will find them crowded with towering alexanders, cow parsley and hogweed, whilst spindly stitchwort and brazen patches of pink campion stand out defiantly from the seasonal dress code of green.
When walking in this area, please consider the skylarks that have returned to nest the ‘stubble’ fields. This species are one of the classic British songbirds but are becoming increasingly rare owing to habitat loss. Skylarks both nest and feed on the ground during the spring months, making it extremely important that dogs are kept on leads in this area. We manage the cutting of these fields to allow for nesting times and leave the stubble to provide plenty of food for the lean winter months.
If you are a regular reader of our ranger’s blog you might have seen our previous article on woodland management and how important it is that the trees we plant are from local provenance. Trelissick offers fairly challenging conditions for a young tree to establish itself but if we gather seed material from our existing veteran trees (which have already proven their ability to thrive in the locality) then the saplings will already have a genetic pre-disposition to grow and endure on the Estate. Over the winter, to better help us with bringing along our own sessile oaks, we have constructed a pagoda to protect our saplings as they grow and to stop the acorns from being stolen by mice and birds!
Over on the North Woodland Walk, below the zig-zag path that winds down into the woods from the Old Lodge, there are a series of ponds that flow through the valley and out into Lamouth Creek. Unfortunately, the dam that prevents these ponds from spilling over onto the path itself has sustained some serious erosion over the past few years, mainly owing to dogs accessing the water. During early spring we have been carrying out some essential stabilisation work to preserve the integrity of the dam and prevent it from being breached, which would result in a costly and difficult situation. To this end, we are constructing a willow revetment to strengthen the bank. Over the next three years we will be carrying out a program of restoration on these ponds to reduce sediment and improve the structure of the dams. These areas of fresh water are currently an important spawning site for frogs, toads and newts (species that are all sadly on the decline) and we would like to protect these amphibians from further disturbance. Please respect the fencing and keep dogs out of the pond. There is a ‘plunge pond’ below the waterfall that dogs are very welcome to use.
Spring wildlife to look out for
Out on the river, herons too have begun to breed for the season. Britain’s heron population are among our best understood birds, having been monitored since 1928 and we are very privileged to have a heronry here on the estate. These unmistakeable birds are a wonderful sight as they stalk or stand solitary on the shore at all times of the year and their breeding season is very long with the first eggs in mid-February and the last young of the year in early September. It will also take a young heron three months to learn how to fly!
All around the woods at Trelissick you can often hear the drumming of woodpeckers, reverberating through the trees. The unmistakeable sound of the woodpecker is a strong indication to the rangers that the breeding season is about to begin and we must relinquish our chainsaws and cease our woodland management for the year. These charismatic birds are actually using their famous ‘drumming’ to set up territories and partnerships and our population at Trelissick is a fantastic endorsement of our previously mentioned deadwood policy which supports the insects that, in turn, sustain these birds.
You can find out more about this by following the link to our previous blog post below.
- The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford
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