Fyne Court in the heart of the Quantock Hills is undergoing a quiet transformation and perhaps not in the obvious way.
Often referred to as a hidden gem, the large house and landscaped gardens have long been lost to fire and the wilds. Rather than opting to restore the garden to its former glory, the National Trust is taking a different approach, creating a wildlife corridor.
As Nigel Garnsworthy, head ranger explains: ‘There is always a bit of a management dilemma when looking after a property like this. The key thing is considering all the important features at Fyne Court whether they are ecological, cultural, historic or recreational and balancing all of these so that one aspect doesn’t impact too greatly on the others.’
Liz Hall, full time volunteer ranger is heading up the first phase of the project creating a wildlife garden at the entrance of the cobbled courtyard.
‘I wanted to create a visual welcome for our visitors, that was also friendly to wildlife particularly bees and butterfly.’
The planning of the wildlife garden was a collaborative one. In consultation with Butterfly Conservation, Somerset Wildlife Trusts, reptile and amphibian group (RAGS) and the head gardener at Barrington Court, Liz and a team of volunteers had a wealth of information on best practise and planting.
‘I’ve picked out flowers with all of this in mind. For example, the lavender hedge and buddleia that have just gone in will attract bees and butterflies whilst the honeysuckle on the back wall will be great for night fliers such as moths and bats. Plants like the shrub roses will flower for colour in the summer and the hips will feed the birds in the autumn. A willow roe deer sculpture acts as a finishing touch and means our visitors are bound to see at least one animal in the garden.’
The garden and additional feeders and bird and bat boxes that have gone up mark the start of a bigger picture, creating a wildlife corridor that runs to the dipping pond, on to the walled garden and beyond. We want the place to look cared for but in the spirit of wildness. We will be carrying out wildlife surveys later in the year to see who has made Fyne Court their new home.’
The plants were bought thanks to money from the Quantocks AONB sustainable development fund and the deer sculpture was funded from the generous donations people make in the second hand book stall located in the Fyne Court information area.