Hunt begins for the fab four oil beetles

Members of the public are being asked to help with the first ever nationwide survey to map the location of the threatened and beautiful oil beetles.  The survey is being launched today by Buglife – The Invertebrate Trust and the National Trust in partnership with Natural England and and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Often found on the coast, and particularly in the south west of England, the number of oil beetle species found in the UK has halved in the last 100 years and the survey will help establish the whereabouts of the remaining four species and boost efforts to secure their future.

We are asking people to keep a look out for oil beetles this spring when they are out and about enjoying the countryside.  Visit the Buglife website www.buglife.org.uk for a free identification guide, more information about these brilliant beetles and to report sightings and photographs.

Buglife’s Conservation Officer, Andrew Whitehouse, said: “Oil beetles have been hit by the double whammy of flower-rich habitats disappearing from our countryside and a drastic reduction in populations of wild bees – upon which the beetles depend to complete their life cycles.

“With the public’s help we can get a better understanding of the distribution of four species of oil beetle found in England, helping our efforts to enhance habitats to secure their survival.”

There are four oil beetle species found in the UK: the Black oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus), Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus), Rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugosus) and Short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis).

All of these beetles are at risk of disappearing from our countryside and the Short-necked oil beetle was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered on National Trust land in South Devon in 2007.

Oil beetles are normally found between late March and June.  They can be found on wildflower-rich grasslands, heathland, moors and coastal areas such as cliff tops.

TV Presenter and Buglife Vice President Nick Baker is a huge fan of oil beetles.  He said: “They’re big, bold beetles with a lustre that would put any oil droplet to shame. They are also very unique in their highly complex life cycle and when you get to know them, it makes you realise what a miracle each and every beetle is.  Oil beetles are also one of our most charismatic insects and are an icon of our wildflower grasslands.”

“Look out for them this spring and if you are lucky enough to discover one ambling along, take the time to enjoy it and then pass on the details of your experience to Buglife as every record received will go a long way to helping us understand these beautiful beetles.”

Andy Foster, an ecologist at the National Trust, said: “Female oil beetles like to dig their burrows in bare ground on the edge of footpaths so they are easy to see, and this is a great opportunity for the public to send in sightings and help us understand more about them.”

“Buglife and the National Trust are erecting ‘don’t step on the beetles’ signs at oil beetle hotspots to remind visitors to look where they step and to send in their oil beetle sightings to the survey.”

To find out more about Buglife and oil beetle conservation visit www.buglife.org.uk.

Tour de Trust

We are one of the country’s biggest owners of outdoor spaces and this year we are working with a cycling team, Shred, in a new partnership for the 2011 season.

Throughout the season Shred, a well known UK mountain biking and road racing team based in the south west of England, will be wearing National Trust branded cycling kit and will be working closely with the us at a number of biking events over the coming months.

Jim Pascoe our cycling project officer, said: “We’re gearing up for a cracking year of cycling and the new link with the Shred team reflects the importance of getting more people on their bikes. We manage large swathes of stunning countryside and wonderful country estates and exploring these places by bike is the ideal way to experience the great outdoors and get that bit closer to nature.”

In the south west of England we are involved in the 1SW project and is in the process of creating a new mountain biking trail centre on the outskirts of Plymouth and planning another one in Cornwall.

Steve Toze, Team Manager for Shred, added: “Teaming up with the National Trust for the 2011 season made lots of sense as they own the land where we can do the things close to our heart – riding, surfing, walking and camping.

“Their greater focus on the fun side of cycling which appeals to everyone really chimes with what we’re about – a great experience in the outdoors.”

We’ve launched a mini cycling revolution  this year with a series of seven magnificent challenge rides (also known as sportives) starting with a ride through the beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside on the 1 May and visits the South West with a Dartmoor to Boscastle sportive on 2 October.

In late July (16-24 July) a cycling festival will see some of our properties open their doors for after hours riding and events to help kids get the bike bug.

The route for the Olympic road race in July 2012 was announced in early February, with the Box Hill Zig Zag Road, a National Trust owned site, the highlight. The men will negotiate the tactical hairpins and punishing climb nine times and the women’s race will do it twice. For the men’s road race, the Box hill loop is over half the entire distance. Olympic medals could be won or lost here.

Are daycations the new holiday?

The sun is shining (well it was) and we all need to grab the opportunity of getting away from it all once in a while.  But time and financial constraints mean we can’t always take that two week holiday our parents would have saved all year for.

So in comes a ‘Daycation’, which literally means a day trip where one visits a tourist destination or visitor attraction from his/her home and returns home on the same day.  So you get to return to your cosy bed at the end of the day at least!

Some research we’ve done has revealed that the number of people in the South West taking a two-week holiday has decreased by 22 per cent over the past five years with 54 per cent not planning to take a fortnight’s holiday this year, showing a new trend for us Brits taking multiple single day holidays throughout the year, rather than the traditional two-week break our parents worked towards.

30 per cent of the people we polled in the South West said they are planning to take at least ten single days holiday – or ‘daycations’ – this year and a further 36 per cent will take between five and ten.  53 per cent of those in the South West cite the cost of a fortnight’s holiday as the main reason for not taking two weeks off work, whereas 6 per cent of hard-working employees blame the inability to switch off from the job.

For us time-poor Brits in the South West the growing daycation trend means they can split their time into smaller and more frequent holidays or days off and 49 per cent of those polled cite this as the reason for favouring day trips.  A further 69 per cent said the daycation was a cheaper alternative to the traditional holiday and 58 per cent believe they are a lot more hassle free.

Our research reveals an interesting trend for Brits taking multiple single days off work, making the most of their spare time – and enjoying these daycations, as we’ve coined them.  Our visitor numbers for 2009-2010 also reflect this with over 17.2 million paid-for entries and over 50 million visits to enjoy National Trust places, from houses and gardens to the stunning coastline and countryside we care for.

The research revealed that daycations were not only convenient but time well spent with 84 per cent saying they were relaxing, 52 per cent agreeing that these days were calming and 45 per cent appreciating them as escapism.

With 32 million of us intending to take a day trip this year to help unwind we’re perfectly placed to help the nation enjoy their days off.  With over 300 National Trust places of beauty and interest to visit across Britain we have a huge choice of mental refreshment pit-stops and as you are never more than 40 minutes away from one of our beautiful places there is no excuse not to enjoy a daycation.

Top daycation destinations in the UK:

1. London and South East England (54 per cent) e.g. Petworth House and Park, West Sussex

2. South West England (41 per cent) e.g. Stourhead in Wiltshire or Killerton, Devon

3. Yorkshire and North East England (40 per cent) e.g. Fountains Abbey, Ripon

4. Wales (37 per cent) e.g. Powis Castle, Powys

5. Scotland (32 per cent) e.g. City of Edinburgh

6. East of England (27 per cent) e.g. Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire

7. North West England (25 per cent) e.g. Sizergh Castle and Garden, Cumbria

8. Midlands (24 per cent) e.g. Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

9. Northern Ireland (13 per cent) e.g. Castle Ward, County Down

10. Other (six per cent)

Killerton’s stunning new costume exhibition

Dressing up, dressing down Killerton's new costume exhibition

Why did our ancestors change their clothes so many times a day?  This week I managed to get a sneaky view of the new wonderful new ‘Dressing Up, Dressing Down’ costume exhibition at Killerton prior to its opening to the public this saturday.

The atmospheric displays and room sets for ‘Dressing Up. Dressing Down’ have been fashioned out of the 4,000 items in the Killerton costume collection which was begun by Paulise de Bush who saved many exquisite 18th and 19th century costumes from destruction during World War II.

What was the first thing an Edwardian child put on in the morning? What did Victorian gentlemen keep in their pockets? When would a Georgian lady put on her best jewellery and how would you get ready for a good night’s sleep in the 1920s? The answers to all these questions and the reasons behind our ancestors changing their clothing so many times during the day are uncovered in this new stunning exhibition.

Shelly Tobin, Killerton’s Costume Curator explained, ‘There was a huge amount of intricate work involved in creating our new exhibition. We had 19th– century silk afternoon dresses to measure and fit to mannequins, 20th-century jewellery to clean and we’ve delicately mounted a splendid hand-embroidered Chinese silk banyan (dressing gown).’

Visitors can also see rare and specially conserved pieces including a patchwork and appliqué coverlet made in 1810, fragments of printed textiles originally part of bed-hangings recently discovered at Godolphin House and a children’s nursery dating back to 1890.

‘Dressing up Dressing Down’ open daily from 12 February, 12-4pm and then 11am-5pm from 12 March. More details from our website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk

A stunning sign of spring at Overbeck’s

Overbeck's Magnolia

A stroll in any of our gardens at this time of year is always lovely but if you’re lucky enough to get to Overbeck’s nr Salcombe like I did this week, take a moment to go and view the stunning 110 year old Magnolia Campbellii ‘Overbecks’. This stunning tree year on year attracts the crowds and with a backdrop that includes the Salcombe estuary its almost overwhelming in its beauty.

The garden has undergone quite a makeover recently with the planting of 1000 spring bulbs, 300 rare endangered species. Combine a visit with a made to order picnic or a Otto cream tea (or maybe both) and there is no better place to relax and rejuvenate after the cold winter months.

Overbeck’s opens for its new season this Saturday 12th March. More details from our website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Magnificent Speaker’s State Coach to go on display at Arlington Court

A superb state coach – last used at the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – is to go on display at the National Trust’s Arlington Court in Devon.

The Speaker’s State Coach, a symbol of the power and status of the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been in use for state occasions since the early 18th century.

The loan of the coach by the House of Commons is the first in a series of exhibitions around the country where it can be seen and enjoyed by the public.

The coach will be the star attraction at Arlington Court’s Carriage Museum which houses a renowned collection of historic British carriages and coaches that were used for every occasion.

Still image from a film of the Speakers Carriage taken in 1953, reproduced by kind permission of British Pathe

The spectacular painted and gilded Speaker’s Coach – the work of a number of highly skilled woodcarvers – is believed to have been made in 1698 for King William III. It was presented to the Speaker a few years later by Queen Anne.  You can watch some historical British Pathé footage of the carriage here http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=60904

In the last three hundred years, the coach has been the subject of many repairs and refurbishments.

Last used by Speaker Thomas in 1981, the coach was then displayed at various venues in London before being removed for conservation work to begin.

The conservation now complete, the original and vibrant beauty and colours of the unique coach can be appreciated once more.

Ana Chylak, National Trust Property Manager said:

”Our historic carriages at Arlington range from those used every day to ones reserved for special occasions, so we are thrilled to be able to display the Speaker’s State Coach which is very special indeed. In its restored condition, its detail and decoration are absolutely breath-taking.

“I am sure that our visitors will be enthralled to see such a wonderful part of our country’s heritage in our collection.”

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:  “The state coach is a magnificent example of an early 18th century carriage and an important piece of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary heritage. Therefore I am delighted that now it no longer has any practical role in parliamentary life it can be passed into the care of the National Trust and viewed by as wide an audience as possible. The carriage museum at Arlington Court, with its extensive collection, was an obvious place for the coach and we hope it will be the first of a series of appropriate exhibition venues around the country where the coach might be seen and enjoyed by the public.”

The Speaker’s State Coach will go on display at Arlington Court, near Barnstaple, Devon, from Saturday 12 March. For opening times and further information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone 01271 850296.

South Milton Sands wins Sustainability South West ‘Planting Places’ Award


This week the National Trust’s South Milton Sands has collected another award for its work to re-landscape a popular beach in South Devon and challenge people’s perceptions toward coastal change

The Planting Places awards recognise projects which have had a strong and continued involvement with their local communities to work to promote and understand the benefits of green (and blue) spaces in supporting healthy lifestyles and providing valuable habitats for wildlife.

At South Milton Sands, the National trust has worked extensively over the last 6 years with local people to find and implement a shared solution for the long term future of the beach. As a result of climate change, South Milton Sands was identified as a high risk site to changes in sea levels and erosion within the next 20 years. The beach fronted car park was protected from the sea by an old timber coastal defence in need of replacement. The project sought to involve the local community to develop a sustainable approach to management of the beach that would work with natural coastal processes rather than against them. The result was to re-establish a soft and flexible sand dune system

The 4 year projects sought to openly and honestly, listen and communicate with local people through, events, talks, and the formation of a stakeholders group. As the project progressed more people got physically involved in shaping the beach landscape. A very successful programme of community marram planting resulted in over 16,500 marram grasses being planted across the new sand dunes. Participants now proudly return to inspect their work and watch the dunes develop.

National Trust Ranger Simon Hill said “This award is fantastic recognition for the National Trust South Devon Countryside who invested much energy and enthusiasm into the project, challenging people’s views on coastal change and involving them in the decision making processes.  I hope the award highlights how genuine, long lasting relationships can be forged through bringing people on a journey with us rather than delivering our solution.”

Never before had the property delivered such a significant project; re-landscaping a popular beach; challenging people’s views on coastal change and involving them in the decision making processes. SMS has become a blueprint of how we want to work in the future and involve communities each step of the way.

Building bridges at Trelissick

the new bridge at Trelissick

A voyage up the National Trust at Trelissick’s Lamouth Creek by oyster punt has led to a new bridge being built for walkers setting out towards Roundwood Quay.

Eighteen months ago the Trust’s Area Warden Neil Stevenson and timber frame expert Tom Beer travelled by water up the creek to hatch a plan for a replacement bridge for the rotting tropical hardwood structure that had lasted twenty-five years’ in the damp environment. The pair set out to use timber from local sources in the construction – preferably finding by-products of other forestry operations.

The majority of the bridge’s construction is green oak sourced from the Trust’s Lanhydrock estate near Bodmin. The oak tree providing the timber had to be felled due to tree safety and to provide better access. The remainder of the timber for the bridge is sweet chestnut from the Trust’s land at Turnaware, on the opposite side of the River Fal to Trelissick. The removal of the sweet chestnut also supports the management of the sessile oak woodlands at Turnaware which are a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). A generous grant from the Forestry Commission enabled the chestnut removal and subsequent timber supply to the bridge. The Commission also funded part of the actual bridge construction.

Tom designed and built the bridge in sections in an outbuilding at Pill Farm on the Trelissick estate, taking inspiration for its curving shape from the wheels of farm carts housed at the Farm. Its installation at the head of Lamouth Creek has been a source of great interest to walkers over the half-term period – with the added interest of heavy horses working in the woods around the bridge to extract timber from coppicing, pollarding and thinning activity.

Area warden Neil Stevenson said ‘Building this beautiful new bridge here has mixed a lot of different elements together into one really fulfilling project – high quality conservation of the SSSI sessile oak woodland at Turnaware through removal of chestnut trees, enabling better access at Lanhydrock through the felling of their unsafe oak tree which was used to make the bridge, employing local craftspeople and sawmills and adding a real source of beauty to this area of the estate at the same time as providing access. I’m incredibly grateful to the Forestry Commission for their financial support at many levels within this project – and hope that we’ve ensured most of the bridge lasts for many decades to come’

The new bridge is open for both two- and four-legged walkers and is part of the network of paths around Trelissick which take in woodland, open parkland and water-side parts of the estate. The full Trelissick walk can be downloaded from the Trust’s walking site: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks. In November 2010 Trelissick’s woodland walk was featured as the Telegraph website’s walk of the week.

Photographs of the bridge in construction can be found on Trelissick’s Facebook page ‘National Trust – Heart of Cornwall’. The walks at Trelissick are open all year with a £3.50 car parking charge for non-National Trust members.

See Tyntesfield unwrapped for spring

An impressive sight awaits you at the National Trust’s Tyntesfield in North Somerset when the Gothic Victorian house and chapel re-open today. For the first time in nearly two years you can see the spectacular Victorian mansion unobscured by scaffolding.

See 28 miles of scaffolding disappear before your very eyes on this time lapse film video. Now you can admire the dramatic Gothic architecture of the house and chapel in all its glory. For over 18 months the roof has been hidden behind one of the largest temporary free standing roof structures in Europe, the size of 10 tennis courts while repairs and restoration work were taking place. Keep up to date on our conservation activities by visiting Tyntesfield’s blog.

Stylish again for spring

Unwrapped, the romantic vista of turrets and pinnacles, chimneys and gables that make up the Tyntesfield skyline are revealed once more. Watertight and weatherproof the newly restored black and red tiles display the complex geometric pattern that had been unseen for generations; its bold colour scheme a striking contrast to the golden tones of the Bath stone of the house itself.

Fresh interiors

Inside, rooms that had been stripped of their contents, covered in dust sheets or used as storage during the renovation works have been unwrapped too. Objects that were carefully packed away and moved into storage by trained staff and specialists have returned.

Meghan Wilton, Acting House Manager explained:

“This colossal project has been a bit like moving house, but imagine a house with over 100 rooms and more than 40, 000 objects, ranging from Victorian cooking utensils and toys to rare and delicate pieces of furniture.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to see all the work complete as we begin to re-present the rooms, evoking the different ways all four generations of the Gibbs’ family used the house. The Main Hall, for example, with its chairs and jigsaw puzzles, recalls its time as a family living room in the 1890s, making it the perfect place to stop off and relax. I can’t wait to see the visitors’ reactions.”

Come and see us

Tyntesfield house and chapel opens on Monday 28 February 10.30am -5pm (Saturday- Wednesday; 01275 461900).

The garden and estate are open everyday from Monday 28 February from 10am-6pm.

Home Farm, visitor centre’s restaurant, shop and café are free to visit and open everyday from Monday 28 February from 10.30am-4.30pm.

Spring is here so get out and grab it

Well its happened! Spring has finally arrived with the usual great show of colour in our wonderful South Weset gardens.

Rhododendrons, Magnolias and Camellias all bursting out in glorious blooms. This week blue skies are forecast and this will be a perfect opportunity to see these spectacular plants against a backdrop of true clear Blue Sky.

Camellias and Rhododendrons appear to be particularly good this year but the good old favourite Magnolias are still providing wonderful value for money and the ‘ohs and ahs’ as only they can do.

The only thing is don’t hang around and miss this visit one of our National Trust gardens soon, and put a bit of natures light back into your life. Check our website for more details www.nationaltrust.org.uk