Summer across the estate

Illustration of veteran tree at Trelissick by Sonia Hensler

Writing this update on a glorious day in July, it seems that summer has now truly arrived, after a slow start of cooler temperatures and frequent showers. Everything is growing like crazy but it’s time to put the strimming on hold for a moment and reflect back on the last month and re-cap on what we rangers (and our lovely volunteers) have been up to on the Estate.

On the woodland walks

During this time, we have extracted the very last of the winter’s timber from the North Woodland Walk. These beech trees were felled to increase light and space for our native, sessile oaks and their large, heavy stems required a tractor mounted winch to haul them up the steep banks that are such a feature of our woodland. The timber has now been brought back to the ranger base and is being processed into firewood which will generate income to re-invest in our woodland management.

Further along the woodland walk, we have been developing the quarry area as a kind of natural amphitheatre where people can sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the wood. To this end, we have left one of the beech trunks from our previously mentioned management to act as a large and characterful bench. Behind this, our Wednesday group of volunteers have helped use the dead wood from a previously fallen oak to create a ‘bug hotel’ as an invaluable piece of habitat for deadwood invertebrates and a resource for us to demonstrate and communicate the value of our deadwood policy (we like to leave lots of it lying around!).

Volunteers hard at work
Volunteers at Trelissick, Cornwall construct a fence on the woodland walks.
Volunteers hard at work

Ever industrious, these same volunteers have also been helping the rangers to install new sets of railings and replace old ones that had rotted over time. These posts and rails were milled out of chestnut and are also a product of our woodland management at Turnaware on the Roseland. It is a lovely thing to keep the timber on site and turn it into a feature that we can all enjoy for years to come. Keep an eye out for these new railings as we will even have a few more sets to build in the coming weeks.

In the parkland

This oak has overlooked the Fal for centuries
Veteran oak in the parkland at Trelissick, Cornwall
This oak has overlooked the Fal for centuries

Out in the parkland we have been working to preserve one of our best-loved and most iconic trees. This gnarled and twisted sessile oak was already a mature tree in 1750 when the parkland itself was created and used to sit atop an old hedge (hence the raised, stilt-like roots). Generations of children (and adults) have enjoyed climbing on this wonderful old character but the action of many feet and the attention of our cattle mean that this oak could do with a little rest as it appears to be going into decline. As such, we have erected a ‘post and rail’ fence for the next few years to protect its roots; giving them a chance to strengthen and re-establish. You might also notice in the future that we put quite a bit of deadwood and wood-chip in this fenced off circle. Over time, this will rot down, providing nutrients and re-invigorating what is actually incredibly shallow soil! Hopefully these measures will encourage this treasured tree to remain with us, in good health for many years to come.

Across to Turnaware

Marine surveys at Turnaware Bar
Trelissick's rangers and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust conduct a marine survey at Turnaware Bar
Marine surveys at Turnaware Bar

On the opposite side of the river, we have been working alongside Cornwall Wildlife Trust to monitor the shoreline with particular regard to non-native, invasive species’ (especially the Pacific oyster). Pacific oysters have been found in our waters since 1890 but historically have not been able to successfully reproduce owing to unfavourable habitat conditions. However, rising sea temperatures have meant that the these oysters now have a serious foothold and threaten to bring about unfavourable changes to protected marine habitats – in the Fal, their presence might well have a detrimental effect on the traditional, native oyster fishery that is such a wonderful (and sustainable) part of the regional culture. Sustained monitoring work such as this helps collect data so we can build up a reliable picture of what is happening and what type of management might be appropriate.

Over at Tregew

Wildflower surveying at Tregew
National Trust staff and volunteers learn to monitor and
Wildflower surveying at Tregew

Continuing on the educational side of things, we recently hosted a training day so local rangers could learn techniques to survey and monitor wildflower meadows and grassland. This is all because in 2017 the National Trust set itself an ambitious target to help combat the decline in British wildlife and seek alternatives to unsustainable land management and intensive farming. This will be achieved by creating 25,000 hectares of new, wildlife-friendly habitat by 2025. In addition we are aiming that at least 50% of our farmland will be classed as ‘high value for nature’ which means it will include protected hedgerows, woodland, field margins, ponds and other habitats that encourage wildlife to thrive.

This training, along with many other similar courses being held at NT properties up and down the country, is a way for our rangers to learn the system we will use to assess and monitor our habitats. In turn, the information collected will both allow us to check whether we are on course to hit our targets and provide invaluable records to inform future management.

- The National Trust Ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford