Geology & Soils
The geology sets the scene with its origins from beneath the sea when dinosaurs roamed the earth, many small fossils like devils toenails and devils fingers can be found from this period on the ploughed land.
Heavy gault clay lies at the bottom of the hills, prone to water logging with its predominant Evesham soil series perfect for sweet pastures and ponds.
The chalky slopes of the Landwade and Abington soil series lead to the higher ground where ancient woodlands can be found on the poorly drained Hanslope soil series.
Lying at the centre of the Estate is the 300 acre ancient parkland once home to a herd of fallow deer. Now it has many rare breed cattle and sheep grazing among the veteran trees that cloak the park.
These trees are home for some rare deadwood invertebrates (insects) like the Golden hoverfly and Rusty Red Click Beetle which are of national importance.
The trees are also home for many bats and birds especially Jackdaws, Tree Creepers and Nuthatches.
If you are up early or going for a late walk you may also be lucky enough to see the handsome foxes or stoats that inhabit the parkland
Surronding the parkland are 300 acres of woodland belts, although a much more recent addition than the outlying ancient woodlands, they still support rich and varied wildlife.
Ranging from the lesser Woodpeckers, Marsh tits and Hawfinch to the very rare Barbastelle Bats for which the woodlands have been designated a Special Area of Conservation and SSSI. There are also at least eight other species of bat that use the woodland too.
During the summer months you may also see the Speckled Wood Butterfly and Green Winged Fritillary Butterfly fluttering along the woodland rides and woodland edges. If you are very lucky you can see badgers late in the evening, when all is quiet.
Of the 2500 acres on the Estate the vast majority is farmland and almost all of this is organically farmed by the National Trust. Grass and clover are used to put fertility back into the soil with the main crops being wheat, barley and oats. Without the use of chemicals many rare arable plants have started to make a comeback such as Broad Leaved Spurge, Venus in the Looking Glass, Weasel Snout and the Night Flowering Catchfly.
Insects abound which provides food for the growing English Partridge Chicks, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and Linnets. You should also be able to see some Hares and if you are lucky some of our Barn Owls.
Rivers, Lakes and Ponds
Although the River Rhee only runs through a small section of the Estate we do have otters visiting occasionally investigating the lakes. Water voles still survive here along with harvest mice in the reed beds and recently a heronry has been established.
The brook is home to many rare invertebrates but also fish such as the Bullhead, Pike, Eel and a healthy population of water shrews.
In the smaller ponds we find frogs and toads along with grass snakes, but most interesting of all is the large population of Great Crested Newts. All the water features are used by bats and you are always guaranteed to see them on a night walk.
Pastures and Meadows
Meadows at Wimpole are flower rich with plants like Yellow Rattle, Knapweed, Sulphur Clover and Cowslips, but where there are wet meadows you will see Meadow Sweet and Ragged Robin. On the drier chalk meadows you will find such plants as Fairy Flax, Pyramidal Orchids and Clustered Bell Flower.
All meadows have a profusion of insects and butterflies like the Marbled White, Ringlet, Skippers and Common Blues.
Pastures tend to have fewer flowers but are rich in clover along along with Yarrow and Selfheal. This is where you'll see our increasing flocks of birds like Starlings and Jackdaws and our large population of rabbits.
Buildings can be a host to a vast range of wildlife, in the attics you can find numerous species of bats from the very small Pipistrelles to the very large Serotine bats that hunt for dung beetles in the park at night.
Then of course there are the many hundreds of lichens that cloth the buildings in a rich patina, the Map lichen are more commonly found further west, but here seen on the roof slates of the Hall. There are also many species of moss and liverworts colonising every available ledge or dark recess, some particularly rare.
House Martins, Swallows and Swifts find a home under the eaves or in cracks and crevasses.
In the Spring there are many native flowering plants like the Common Spotted Orchids and Bee Orchids, Twyblades, Wild Primroses and Yellow Rattle. However the gardens also have an exceptional display of fungi in late summer and autumn but much will depend on whether there is enough rain.
Most notable fungi have been Devil's Boletus, Parrot Waxcaps as well as some of the more common species.
Many birds use the garden including the Spotted Flycatcher which can be seen bobbing from the wall to take insects in flight.
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