The winds of winter

Fallen tree illustration by Sonia Hensler

Our regular visitors will no doubt have noticed that the sheep have returned to graze the private side of the Trelissick Parkland. Sheep do a fantastic job of helping us to maintain our grassland habitat without having to resort to mechanical means.

Unfortunately, the last couple of years have seen an increase in dogs slipping through the fence and worrying the sheep with the worst cases resulting in fatality. We are kindly requesting that dog owners observe our signs and please keep dogs on leads whilst passing through the Parkland if you are unsure of your dog’s reaction to livestock.

Sheep graze the parkland overlooking the Fal
Sheep graze in the private parkland at Trelissick, Cornwall
Sheep graze the parkland overlooking the Fal

Storms Ciara and Dennis along with all these high winds and incessant rain won’t have passed you by and so it will come as no surprise that we have had a fair number of fallen trees to clear around the Estate. These have ranged from old oaks blocking the main road, to fallen limbs and this enormous Beech tree that fell and completely blocked the South Woodland Walk. The Beech was fairly old and had been hollowing for many years. This is a natural process for trees as they age but unfortunately this one was also infected with Giant Polypore fungus which caused further decay in the base and roots. This rot, combined with soil erosion on the soft cliff where it was growing, seriously destabilised the tree and left it vulnerable to severe weather. We intend to leave the main stem and re-lay the path further back to allow for continued erosion of the cliff in coming years. The ‘brash-wood’ has been chipped and spread back on the Parkland to feed the roots of other trees whilst the branches from the impressive crown will be processed into firewood. These logs are sold to generate further financial resources for our woodland management whilst the main stem will be left for bugs and beasties to feast on for many years!

Slightly further along the South Woodland Walk, where it joins the Parkland, we have been doing a bit more tree felling. This part of the path was previously quite dark and densely planted which was not helping with the erosion problems that have been slowly eating away at the cliff edge. To combat this, we have felled several Turkey Oaks and laid the Elms that were growing here into a hedge. We hope the light that has now flooded in will encourage ground flora that will help to knit the soil and cliff edge together, potentially making it more resistant to erosion.

Looking towards the beach from the entrance to the south woodland walk
On the south woodland walk looking towards the beach at Trelissick, Cornwall
Looking towards the beach from the entrance to the south woodland walk

Continuing the theme of woodland management, this year (when not dealing with storm damage) we have been concentrating on the stretch of Oak woodland that runs along Lamouth Creek on the Tregew and Roundwood side. As ever, our work is intended to favour our native, Sessile Oaks and involves removal of non-native trees such as conifers and invasives like Rhododendron. We have also thinned Holly and Beech to give the Oaks space and increased light levels will encourage Gorse and Heather to re-colonise the woodland floor and provide an essential nectar source for birds and insects come spring.

Just above this stretch of woodland, we have also been busy in our young orchard at Tregew. All the plums and apples have been checked, re-staked if necessary and given guards to protect them from the somewhat rampant attention of our local rabbit population. We have also finished this year’s round of formative pruning on the apples which will hopefully help them grow into strong, well-balanced and fully fruit-bearing forms! Unfortunately, some of our Kea Plums (a speciality of this parish) have been infected with bacterial canker and so that too had to be pruned out and the cuttings burnt in an effort to get rid of the disease.

The burgeoning orchard at Tregew
Apple and plum trees planted at Tregew on the Trelissick estate, Cornwall
The burgeoning orchard at Tregew

Elsewhere on the Estate, the ranger team have been working alongside Cornwall Wildlife Trust to survey and control Pacific Oyster numbers. These large, non-native oysters were introduced to the UK from Japan (where they have been successfully cultivated for hundreds of years) by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1965. The intention was to supplement stocks of our own Native Oysters which had been severely depleted by dredging and disease. The molluscs were farmed by growing them in mesh bags around the coast and it was believed that our waters were too cold for them to breed naturally. However, with climate change and rising sea temperatures, that is no longer the case and the ‘Pacifics’ are now in danger of overrunning our coastline and threatening the very species they were intended to help. The large, non-native oysters readily form up into reefs and have the potential to radically alter ecosystems – something that could be disastrous to the Fal, one of the last remaining traditional oyster fishing grounds. As part of an initiative funded by Natural England, we are both recording the extent of Pacific Oyster numbers and controlling their spread along our shores.

- The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford

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