Take part in the world bellyboard championships

On Sunday 4th September, the ever expanding community of traditional wooden ‘prone’ surfing enthusiasts will descend on the cosy location of Chapel Porth beach in St Agnes to take part in the 9th annual ‘World Bellyboard Championships’.

Organised and hosted by the National Trust and sponsored by Skinners Brewery, the event has grown from humble beginnings with just a handful of entrants, into a genuine World Championship competition which has gone truly global in recent years with entrants from Australia, New York, San Francisco and British Virgin Islands

National Trust Ranger and contest director Nick Holden says ‘This year’s World Belly Board Championships will be bigger and better than ever, and suitable for anyone and everyone of any fitness level with the minimum of gear; from 80 year old ladies to teenage boys.  It will be competitive, entertaining, inspiring, traditional, bucket loads of fun and the coolest event to take part in.’

The traditional art of surf riding has deep roots in the British Isles. First produced in Britain in the 1920’s and known as surf riding boards, wooden bellyboards are a direct descendant of the ancient Hawaiian paipo boards. The competition embraces all aspects of prone wooden boards and will showcase the work of an evolving low key industry, which produces wooden surf riding equipment.

English poet John Betjeman regularly used the boards at Polzeath and perfectly summed it up by declaring that ‘I don’t know if there’s anything so exciting as getting a perfect surf, timing ones shoot off from the waves, riding along the waves…’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whW5exlFoc4

One thing that makes the World Belly Board Championships stand out from all other surfing competitions is the lack of wet-suits. Belly Boarders are not allowed to wear them in the competition so rather than the sight of monochromed sleek surfers you are greeted with views of traditional bathing costumes from knitted all-in-one bathing outfits and structured bathing costumes giving more than a nod to times long since past.

The Museum of British surfing, based in North Devon will also be present with a great collection of wooden boards.  They recently discovered that the doyenne of crime writing, Agatha Christie, was one of the country’s first “stand-up” surfers – research has revealed she took up surfing in the early 1920s, when the sport was in its infancy.

‘If you have heard of the Champs and always intended to come along then this is the year. After nine years there are still untold stories, un-seen boards, un earthed talent, inspiring people and wonderful memories out there that can add even more depth to this brilliant event’. The fascinating stories of surfing described by the colourful characters who take part has helped the competition develop a reputation as providing one of the most enjoyable, inclusive and friendly atmospheres you can encounter in the surfing world’, added Nick Holden.

All ages, abilities and experience are welcomed at this free to enter bellyboard extravaganza. Not only is the coveted World Title up for grabs but competitors can also walk away with trophies for best vintage board, best artwork, best swimwear and many more. The “WBBC Bake Off” cake competition provides an opportunity to be involved without getting wet, or you can simply soak up the atmosphere as a spectator.

Take a look at the bellyboarding website for more details and to register  at http://www.bellyboarding.co.uk/


– National Trust immortalises Nick Baker as a talking bench –

Today we have unveiled eight benches across the country voiced by celebrities including national treasure Stephen Fry, comedian Miranda Hart and petite presenter Claudia Winkleman.  These first ever talking benches are inspired by each of the celebrities and capture areas of natural beauty with their own personal audio odes and anecdotes.

The Nick Baker bespoke bench, at Cotehele in the South West, is part of the national collection, which will sit across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, giving listeners a five-minute audio commentary or personal story that brings the surroundings to life – so that visitors can listen to the country’s best-known voices as if they were sat next to them. http://audioboo.fm/boos/361904-nick-baker

“As a naturalist my fascination lies with the great outdoors and the things that live in it and here in the South West we are spoilt with that.  The National Trust is not just about old buildings… and here in the South West we have the most convoluted coastline, it’s incredibly beautiful, it’s windswept, it’s wild, it’s everything you want from a natural environment”, said Nick Baker.

The wooden works of art have taken over six months to produce and are designed to individually reflect each of the celebrities – each engraved with three words their muse has used to describe the setting and subtle carvings that reflect either their masculine or feminine voice.

The National Trust was inspired by research that suggested that just half of the country take the time to appreciate the great outdoors and Britain’s natural beauty.  The Bench Mates are the perfect companion to help visitors enjoy the scenery at some of our properties.

The National Trust cares for over 300 historic houses and gardens, over 700 miles of coastline and over 617,500 acres across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  A selection of the individual audios, plus a behind-the-scenes preview of the project, is available from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/benchmate.

Isn’t she gorgeous…

On Tuesday 24 May this beautiful spotty foal was born at Wembury Point, South Devon.  This is the second year running where unusual spotty foals have been born on National trust land at Wembury. The herd of 13 ponies were brought down off the moors this winter to Wembury Point to help manage the landscape by limiting the re-growth of Blackthorn and gorse which then allows native wild plants to thrive. The mares that were pregnant give birth on site and all foals that we are expecting have now been born.

Lorna Sherriff, National Trust Ranger explains ‘there are 4 foals now at Wembury point but this most recent addition stands out from all the rest. He is a truly beautiful foal who posed perfectly for the photo’s before going for a 5 minute mad capper around the meadow. His mother is a Dartmoor pony and his father is a Native British spotty stallion. Everyone who walked passed and admired him where amazed that his mother was just a completely brown Dartmoor pony’.

Why not come and have a walk around Wembury Point and see if you can spot this gorgeous foal up in the top meadow.

Pioneering National Trust farm launches partnership

In 2008, the National Trust, with the help of the Tubney Charitable Trust, acquired Trevean Farm near Morvah in Cornwall – a coastal farm with strong nature conservation potential, consisting of 73 hectares of marginal farmland. By managing the farm in-hand for the benefit of wildlife, animal welfare and biodiversity, whilst attempting to maximise economic returns, the Trust hopes to learn much about the true cost of conservation management.

The main management tool for the farm is a herd of pedigree Red Devon Cattle.  These hardy, Freedom Food assured cattle perform a vital role at the farm in providing not only the financial returns needed but also performing the low intensive, heathland grazing and trampling required in this harsh landscape increasingly dominated by gorse, bracken and dense scrub.

The meat from these cattle, slaughtered at approximately 30 months old is now available (from 12th June) for purchase at the Buckfastleigh based ‘Well Hung Meat Company’ www.wellhungmeat.com

The success of the cattle on the farm is not just economic, their grazing of the fields on the farm are helping the upland areas of the fields to slowly revert back to heath and semi-natural grassland.  In other areas more intensive grazing is producing the insect rich dung and shorter grass necessary to aid the Chough, which is once again gaining a foothold in the area.  The Chough’s and other birds species are further catered for by an area of arable land being left un-harvested each year as a source of winter bird food.

The cows, which are kept in family groups, are fed almost exclusively from feed produced on the farm heavy horses have been used for the sowing of the arable crops and new grass leys, helping not only to provide a vital source of food for the cattle but also helping to keep alive traditional skills and practices used for hundreds of years.

Guy Clegg, National Trust Trevean Farm Manager said: ‘We are delighted to announce our partnership with the ‘Well Hung Meat Company whose values and ethos match our own of understanding where you food comes and how it reached the table and how it was reared, I’m delighted that the success of what we are achieving on the farm means you can eat the meat from our Red Devon Cattle with a clear conscience.

Simon Wood from the Well Hung Meat Company said: ‘It is great to find a farm where every aspect of livestock production has been considered and planned. This makes our job as butchers much easier.

‘The conditions in which animals are reared can have a massive impact on the quality of the meat produced. The best meat comes from coastal locations where the land undulates and the climate is mild and wet. Grass, the key ingredient for any grazing animal, grows all year round and the salty sea air produces meat which is both rich and flavoursome. What’s more, the Red Devon breed ensures a perfect fat covering on the meat, with wonderful creamy white marbling. This is essential for fabulous flavour as the fat melts during cooking to make the meat tasty and juicy. We hang all our beef for a minimum of three weeks to ensure an intense concentrated flavour with a delicate tenderness. With more awards than any other online butchery, we know what we are talking about. We deliver nationwide in insulated boxes (which keep the meat fridge cold for 48 hours) and you don’t need to be in to receive a delivery. With a 100% guarentee on all products the partnership between Trevean Farm and the Well Hung Meat Company could not be more perfect.’

Trevean will also be taking part in Open Farm Sunday on the 12th June.  This annual event organised by LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) gives everyone the chance to meet the farmers who grow their food and care for the countryside. The farm will have heavy horses ploughing demonstrations and visitors will get chance to meet a family of bats an owl amongst more usual four legged residents.

This land is your land

The National Trust on the Lizard peninsula is pioneering a community-style approach to some of our decision-making about the landscapes we look after, starting with asking people for their views on Tregullas Farm.

Tregullas farmland lies south of Lizard village from Bass Point to Lizard Head, and includes over 200 acres of farm and cliff land, fertile soil, footpaths, rare plants and breeding choughs. Our tenant here has left to concentrate on his own holding, but instead of routinely selecting a new farm tenant to carry on with beef and arable farming as before, we decided to stop, and ask people what they thought was special about this place and to hear their ideas for how the land and the buildings might be used. Meanwhile, the farmland and house will be let on short-term tenancies.

After two meetings, over 70 responses, and input from Natural England, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall AONB and the National Farmers’ Union, some clear priorities are emerging: a working farm, preferably livestock and arable; local food production and availability; wildlife; views, access, tranquillity; any redundant buildings converted to craft workshops or business units.

Opportunities like this don’t happen often – maybe just once in a generation – so this is your chance to get involved. Even if you don’t live on the Lizard but you know and love the place, we want to hear from you too: visit Visit tregullasfarm.org.uk and come along to the next farm open day on 12 June, which is being run in conjunction with the LEAF national Open Farm Sunday event.

Take a trip back in time on the Dunster Castle Express

A new partnership between Dunster Castle and the West Somerset Railway is expected to bring a tourism boost with visitors to Dunster Castle able to arrive in vintage style on a steam hauled train with a special coach link between Dunster Station and the castle.

The Luttrell family, who owned the castle for 600 years, were instrumental in the coming of the railway and many of their visitors arrived by train. Today’s visitors can repeat the experience on the hour long journey.

“Taking the steam train ride through the foothills of the Quantocks and along the coast is delightful and prepares the traveller for the drama of Dunster Castle, perched high on its mound,” said Seamus Rogers, Property Manager at Dunster Castle.

The Dunster Castle Express leaves Bishops Lydeard station, near Taunton, at 10.25. After a leisurely visit to the castle, gardens, and medieval village, visitors are returned to the station for the return train, arriving back at Bishops Lydeard at 17.21.

Seamus added: “By working together to create this full-day itinerary we are offering something quite unique to visitors, and hopefully we will attract new visitors to West Somerset.”


New mates for lone asparagus

New young wild asparagus plants have recently been planted at a site on the Lands End Peninsula, to help save this rare species from extinction in the area.

Wild asparagus is closely related to that which is grown for its tasty succulent spears, but the wild plant is far too rare to be on the menu! Wild asparagus tends to grow horizontally, hence its alternative name of prostrate asparagus.

Only one male plant was surviving on the cliffs near the Minnack Theatre owned by the St Aubyn Estate. However, his fate is now looking more rosy, thanks to the efforts of conservationists, as he has been joined by 10 females grown from plant material collected from Pen Olver on the Lizard Peninsula where there remains a more healthy population.

The planting was carried out by Rachel Holder, National Trust Ranger for the Lizard site, with help from a team of volunteers.

The plants had been grown on at the National Trust’s Plant Conservation Programme (PCP) which is based at Knightshayes Court in Devon and returned to Rachel’s care a few weeks ago.

Rachel said: I took cuttings from the plants at Pen Olver several years ago, and popped them off in the post for propagation. It’s been great to see them again as healthy young plants, and know that they will be put to good use bolstering a population that is at risk of extinction.

Although still comparatively widespread on the Lizard Peninsula, wild asparagus has become very rare elsewhere in the UK and is now only found in a few other coastal localities in Cornwall, Dorset and South Wales.

To meet UK Biodiversity Action Plan targets there needs to be at least 10 plants in a well balanced sex-ratio within all known populations.

Rachel said: We’re hoping that the females we have planted out will be pollinated by the one surviving male. We’ll be thrilled if we find red berries on the females in the coming years, as this shows seeds have been set. We hope this will be the start of a natural increase in the population in Penwith, and a valuable contribution to how this rare species fares nationally.

The National Trust is coordinating the UK Wild Asparagus Group, whose other members include Natural England and National Museums and Galleries of Wales. The partnership has been working on developing innovative techniques for the conservation of the plant which is classified as “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Growing Spaces for the community at Kingston Lacy

118 allotments for the community have been made available on the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset.  40 allotments for members of the local community; 26 for school and community groups and a further 52 subsidised plots for individuals referred through local housing associations.

The new allotments are the culmination of two years work by the gardening team at the Kingston Lacy estate. £102,000 in funding has been provided by the National Lottery Local Food Scheme as well as £30,000 from Local Action Group, Sowing Seeds.

They lie between the formal gardens and Home Farm, in an area formerly used as the kitchen garden, and never before open to the public. Work has involved creating access tracks, paths and fencing for the six acre site and making old garages into a kitchen and rest room.

There is also an area set aside for a further six raised beds – there are six already – for special needs groups and people in wheelchairs, and in the future it is hoped to recreate an orchard and pond to one side of the garden, including a sensory area.

“It’s great to be able to get involved with people who live near Kingston Lacy and to really help people in our community. We’re giving people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, the chance to grow their own food, to get out into the fresh air in a place like this and meet other like-minded people,” said Andrew Hunt from the National Trust, who has been leading the Growing Spaces project.

“Not only can people save money, they can gain real satisfaction from sowing seeds, nurturing plants and harvesting the fruit and vegetables of their labour. There are also physical and mental health benefits from being outside, gardening, especially in such a social environment.”

Queen Elizabeth School is one of the schools involved. Linda Farley, who is leading the project, said: “We are lucky to be very close to the site which means that we are able to bring pupils to the allotment to work for as little as an hour.

“We were involved in the pilot scheme last year and the benefits to pupils are very evident. This year we are growing as many vegetables as we can fit into the time and space!  In addition an area has been reserved for growing flowers which we hope to be able to arrange in reception. We have big plans for the future. “

The Dorset ME Support Group is just one of the community groups involved and has plans to grow everything from courgettes to strawberries, and from herbs to kale.

Service co-ordinator Wendy Rideout said: “There are so many benefits to our members, from providing them with nutritious vegetables through to giving them an opportunity join together and contribute to a rewarding group project. It’s great to be able to provide a group activity in an environment so beneficial to our health and happiness. We’ve already made plans for the plot for the next four years.”

Other community groups involved include Age Concern, Poole Housing Partnership, the Dorset Blind Association and many more. Other schools involved include Canford School and St Aldhelms Academy.

The Kingston Lacy allotments are the latest to be created by the National Trust as part of an initiative to get more people outdoors and growing their own food. It plans to create 1,000 new allotment plots on Trust land by February 2012.

In the late 1940s there were 1.4 million allotments in the UK. By the height of the ‘Good Life’ era in the late 1970s there were around 500,000. Today there are around 300,000 allotments.

Fund raising will continue to pay for the running costs of the project and donations of tools and gardening equipment even seeds and plants will be welcomed.

Visitors can keep up-to-date with progress on the Kingston Lacy facebook pages or at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingstonlacy

Look out for the 3 cornered leek…

Our gardening team at the much loved holiday home of Agatha Christie, Greenway, are currently engaged in a battle to protect the stunning bluebells of this romantic woodland garden from an aggressive weed, threatening its habitat.

Unwelcome and very invasive, the Three Cornered Leek, or Three Cornered Garlic as it is also known, is similar in appearance to a white Bluebell, but with a distinctive smell and a narrow green stripe down the centre of each petal.

Andrew Midgley, Gardens Manager for the National Trust English Riviera says ‘Pretty as they are, the three cornered leeks are a very invasive and just a very unwelcome guest in our gardens. We are trying to contain them through careful management such as strimming.  Although they look very nice at the moment; this is only for a short period of time, after that they revert to their tired looking leaves and strong onion or garlic smell. Greenway’s display of bluebells this year have been praised by visitors as one of the best in the South West.

Greenway is particularly rich in colour at this time of year with a magnificent display of rhododendrons and azaleas coming into flower due to the warm spring weather, it’s a great time to visit’, so when you do keep an eye open for the dastardly 3 cornered leek!

Chasing butterflies

A powerful symbol of freedom and beauty, nothing quite sums up the British spring and summer like the butterfly. This spring, National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates has picked some of his favourite spots to see these colourful creatures as they gently fly through the countryside and gardens in the South West.

Matthew Oates, a butterfly fan for more than 40 years, said: “Butterflies are fascinating in the extreme. They take you to the most captivating of all places – woodlands, mountains, grasslands and the coast – and the more you learn about them, the more you realise there is to be learnt, and the less you know.

“Over the last two decades a minor social revolution has occurred: butterflies have become cool. They have found their way into all aspects of our life from advertising to diaries and notebooks.

“Butterflying is now as popular a hobby as it was in the heyday of collecting, back in the 1890s, with the big difference that enthusiast are only armed with cameras.”

A new book by Matthew Oates, Butterflies: Spotting and Identifying British Butterflies will be published this June.  It will help both beginners by explaining the key points and fundamental principles of butterfly spotting, and more experienced butterfly watchers in need of expert tips and sharpening the focus.

Containing lots of identification tips, the book is a guide on how to get yourself into the right frame of mind when looking for and observing butterflies. It includes chapters on the history of butterflying and on the English and scientific names of butterflies together with useful summary chapters on photographing butterflies and gardening for butterflies.

Mathew’s five top tips for spotting butterflies:

  1. Master the easy species first and leave the difficult ones till later. Feel unabashed at lumping Small and Essex skippers together and treating the Large and Small Whites as ‘cabbage whites’ – instead enjoy your easy Marbled Whites and Peacocks.
  2. Concentrate on the brighter, showier and more prominent males. It is wise to ignore the female blues at first, for example, and get to know them through observing the mating pairs.
  3. Learn the habitats, food plants and flight seasons. They will provide general guidance.
  4. Use binoculars. It also makes people think you are a birder, and not a weirdo.
  5. Seek help. Join a wildlife group and attend some field meetings.