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.

Badger vaccination project on the Killerton Estate

A four year badger vaccination programme that will pave the way to the widespread use of vaccination as a way of tackling bovine TB in cattle will start this spring on the Killerton estate in Devon.

The programme will demonstrate vaccination as a viable alternative to culling as a means of controlling the wildlife reservoir of the disease.

Bovine TB has blighted cattle farming in the UK for decades and costs the taxpayer in England tens of millions of pounds each year in destroying cattle and compensating affected farmers.

Mark Harold, Director for the National Trust’s South West region, said: “In many areas of the UK there are clearly practical problems in implementing an effective cull of badgers to reduce bovine TB in cattle.

“In these instances, vaccination of badgers would appear to be the most effective ways of controlling the wildlife reservoir of the disease.

“With the advent of oral vaccines, this approach could be significantly cheaper too.

“This programme will show how badgers vaccination can be deployed over a large area, and will pave the way for more widespread use of vaccination as an effective alternative to culling.

“We’re in a unique position as a major landowner to help find a solution to the blight of bovine TB that costs millions and affects farmers’ livelihoods.

“We recognise that both cattle to cattle transmission of bovine TB as well as badgers infecting cattle need to be tackled.

“Whilst a vaccine for cattle is someway off, and there are wider regulatory issues making this difficult, giving the badgers a vaccine to stop the spread of bovine TB is a practical way forward and the recent evidence is that it works and is effective.”

Over a decade ago the National Trust supported the Krebs Trials to investigate whether culling badgers would help tackle bovine TB. Evidence from this study showed that a cull could reduce TB in cattle in the same area.

However, the research also showed that there was an increased risk of bovine TB associated with land bordering on cull areas. This was attributed to ‘perturbation’, in which culling disrupts the social structure of badgers and the surviving individuals on the periphery of the cull area widely come into contact with cattle and badgers, spreading bovine TB.

There are relatively few places in the UK where the challenging criteria for an effective cull and especially avoiding ‘perturbation’ can be met.  Developing the ability to vaccinate badgers and cattle is therefore vital for the eradication of bovine TB in the long term.

Eighteen tenant farmers will be involved in the vaccination programme and work will begin in May.

The programme will last until 2015 and covers an area of 20 square kilometres on the Trust’s Killerton estate, in the heart of cattle rearing country, in Devon.  It is also one of the real hotspots for bovine TB in the county.

The administration of the vaccine to the badgers will be carried out by trained and licensed experts from the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA).  This programme will cost £80,000 each year.

Badgers will be caught in live traps, without being harmed, injected with the vaccine and then marked so that they are not given the vaccine twice during a trapping operation.

Mark Harold added: “The evidence to date suggests that a vaccination for badgers should be one of the tools we use to tackle bovine TB.  As it doesn’t result in the ‘perturbation’ effect it will not expose our tenants to the increased risk of bovine TB breakdown that comes with culling.”

‘the loveliest place in the world’…

Agatha Christie said Greenway, which nestles beautifully on the edge of the River Dart, was ‘the loveliest place in the world’, and although I probably shouldn’t admit it, it’s one of my favourite places to visit.

Our most beloved queen of crime made this typically Georgian house her holiday home from 1938 until 1959, and since being opened to the public for the very first time in 2009, visitors have been able to the view the many personal collections and mementoes of our best-loved mystery writer and her family.

Here is a house that portrays the spirit of a holiday home in its 1950s heyday. Agatha Christie gathered with her family and friends here for long summer days together, often to celebrate a novel just completed for publication.

Agatha Christie’s family gave Greenway to the National Trust in 2000 and for several years visitors were able to enjoy the beautiful woodland garden, with its romantic pathways that lead down to the Dart estuary.  The house however, as the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Rosalind and Anthony Hicks, remained closed to the public for their quiet retirement.  Following their deaths in 2004 and 2005, the house passed to the Trust, along with the generous gift from Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, of the majority of the contents.

One of the most frequent comments made about Greenway is its ‘informality’, ‘it feels just like they are visiting Agatha and her family, with some coming to visit again and again throughout the season because each time they visit they learn something new either about the house or the history of its infamous family.

Visitors to Greenway are once again strongly encouraged to visit the property via the most scenic route, via ferry from Dartmouth.  During its first year over 55% of visitors reached the property via a green transport way.

In addition to the rooms open to daily visitors, part of the house is available as a holiday apartment, continuing Greenway’s legacy as a holiday retreat, accommodating up to ten.  The holiday apartment can be booked via the National Trust Holiday Cottages Website on www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk

Due to traffic restrictions in the lanes leading to the property all visitors are encouraged to arrive by green ways to Greenway.  However, visitors wishing to arrive by car can do so by prior booking only at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway or by telephone 01803 842382 (during normal office hours).

You can also find out more about Greenway at its facebook site and also follow them on twitter.

England without bluebells?

…it would be like cancelling spring and going straight to summer! Can anything actually beat walking through a bluebell wood on a warm spring day with all your senses in total overdrive?

Wander down to a wood in April or early May and it’s likely that you’ll be confronted by a wonderful sight. A carpet of blue will stretch out into the distance with a scene full of delicate, fragile flowers. A bluebell wood in full flower is a true assault on your senses.

For generations bluebell woods have captured the public’s imagination and they have become the perfect symbol of the beauty and seasonality of our world. They are emblematic of new life and remain a real crowd pleaser: a time for celebration and joy.

Bluebells are usually at their best during mid morning, making it a great time to visit when you get the softer dappled light on a sunny day and their scent wafting through the air. Look also for the changes in colour from the rich dark blue when they are at their youngest and freshest, to the softer almost pale blue as they begin to fade away as the summer months draw nearer.

This is nature at its best and a quintessential sight in the spring months. It’s a sign that the days are getting longer and warmer.

As our climate has gradually become milder the first bluebells began to get earlier every year. In west Cornwall they could even be spotted in March thanks to frost-free winters and the milder nature of the west country. It would be late April or even early May before the rest of us could marvel at these lovely bluebells as they force their way through the soil stretching tall and proud towards the warm spring air.

The bluebell starts growing in the previous autumn, its sole purpose to flower before other woodland plants. This means that it’s free from competition, attracting the early spring pollinators. But cold weather can slow its clock down. Not only will the bluebell then have to compete with other ground flora but also shade from above in the form of trees coming into to leaf, preventing sunlight reaching the forest floor.

To help us keep up to speed with the bluebell season, the National Trust has set up Bluebell Watch as a way to provide updates on when the bluebells are at their best. Wardens and gardeners are sending in their sightings of the first bluebells as they appear and will be keeping a close eye on the peak time for bluebells; they’re normally at their best for one week.

The blue haze of bluebells has also begun to appear at National Trust woods from the gardens at Agatha Christie’s former holiday home on the banks of river Dart in Devon.

Woods in the UK really do matter globally for bluebells. Half of the world’s population of English bluebells can be found on these shores but their future remains uncertain.

Climate is important for bluebells but they are also struggling to cope with another threat so common for many different species of British wildlife – invasive species.

Spanish bluebells, a more cultivated form of bluebell, are normally found in our towns and cities in gardens and parks. Yet this welcome splash of colour in urban areas is putting the future of native bluebells at real risk. A blend of the English and Spanish bluebells has created a virulent hybrid that is difficult to distinguish from our own true bluebell.

In the meantime, use the arrival of this year’s fleeting bluebells as the perfect excuse to spend time in a nearby wood – and share the resulting photographs with the rest of the world.

From Booby’s Bay to Slapper’s Rock; our guide to silly walks…

Today we’ve launched some new walks taking in some of the most unusually named places on our land.

The ten ‘Silly Walks’ have been created at places such as Kiss me Arse Steps in Cornwall and Scrubby Bottoms in Pembrokeshire.

The walking guides will be available to download for free from 1 April 2011 from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks and have been launched as part of a wider initiative to encourage the nation to get outdoors and closer to nature.

Jo Burgon, Outdoors Programme Director for the National Trust, said: “The National Trust looks after a hugely an extremely diverse range of places from green urban spaces to remote islands and for too long these places have been one of the Trust’s best kept secrets.

“We’re finding that more people want to get out into the great outdoors but often need to be pointed in the right direction. Part of the joy of being outdoors is having a great experience and these silly walks are designed to tap in to the British love of a real sense of humour.”

The walks vary in length from one to four miles and anyone taking part will be invited to share their experience by uploading photos of the walk to Twitter with the hashtag #NTsillywalks.

The English Places Names Society based at Nottingham University would also like walkers to get in touch to report on the state of more remote spots around the country.

Paul Savill, Editor of the Journal of the English Place-Name Society, and former Principal Research Fellow for the Society, said: “Place-names in England and Wales are often the product of long evolution. Swine in East Yorkshire has nothing to do with pigs, Nasty in Hertfordshire is not a comment on the living conditions, Snoring in Norfolk has nothing to do with sleep and Trevor in Wales is not the name of a man.

“Most names describe the geography or ownership of the land, so finding out the meaning of place-names may be particularly useful to walkers. As place-name scholars work on interpreting documents containing names, information about the physical appearance and condition of the places named is vital which is why we want to hear from you.”

Limited edition commemorative t-shirts will be given away to the first ten people who complete each walk and tweet their photograph of it as proof. The t-shirts feature the iconic National Trust omega sign specially created with the silly place name underneath.

Last year 350,000 walks, or one every one and a half minutes, were downloaded from the National Trust website.

The ‘silly’ walks in the south west are:

Booby’s Bay, Cornwall
A booby is a seabird closely related to the gannet and can be seen diving off-shore in stormy weather which might explain the name. This four mile walk takes the walker popular stretch of the north Cornish coast offers walkers stunning views across Constantine Bay and onwards to the lighthouse at Trevose Head. There is the chance to see some rare species of bird and plant life, and hidden coves. For more information call: 01208 863046.

Slapper’s Rock, North Helford, Cornwall
The rock may well be named after the sound of the sea hitting it and slap in Old English meant a ‘slippery muddy place’ that could well have an influence on its name. The four mile walk runs east of the valleys of the National Trust’s Glendurgan Garden, and next to Helford River, is a mixture of woodland and cliff-top, wildflower-rich fields. You can spot wild thyme, heathers, orchids, dog violets and sea campion growing here and a variety of wartime structures as during the Second World War the Helford River was the base for operations against German-occupied Europe. For more information call: 01872 862090.

Kiss me Arse Steps, Lansallos, Cornwall
The origins of the name are somewhat mysterious but it is believed to have been coined from the steep steps which on ascending would result in the person in front you having their posterior close to your face.

This walk of three miles takes the walker along a magnificent stretch of coastline with the natural splendour of secluded coves and beaches. Slightly inland, the soft rolling hills separate the coast from farmland and the sunken lane at Lansallos Cove conjures up images of smugglers and wreckers hauling carts laden with contraband. For more information call: 01208 265212.

Scratch Arse Ware, Dancing Ledge, Dorset
The meaning behind the Scratch Arse part of the name are unclear and the National Trust would love to hear theories on this and land for rough grazing is normally known as ‘Ware’. This four mile walk along the spectacular Jurassic Coast has been shaped by the quarrying industry and the ever-changing backdrop of the sea. In spring this area has many wildflowers such as cowslips, chalk milkwort, horseshoe vetch and the rare early spider orchid. Butterflies such as chalkhill and Adonis blue, and the local Lulworth Skipper also thrive on the short turf. For more information call: 01297 561900.

Mass south west beach clean

Going to the beach for a walk with my dogs is about the most enjoyable and relaxing thing I do but I was really shocked to discover that there are two pieces of litter for every footstep I and you take on beaches in the south west.

It seems this tide of litter on our beaches is on the increase and not only can it be a  health hazard to us and off putting for our much needed tourists, its estimated that over 100,000 marine animals die every year from entanglement or ingestion of plastics, discarded on our beaches or at sea.

An annual event for us in the Trust and our energetic band of volunteers is our annual spring beach clean, and this year from the 2nd of April, we have 27 beach cleans taking place from Cape Cornwall to the top of Dorset.

Beach cleaning not only helps to improve the coastal habitat for plants and animals but also to ensure beaches that we care for are clean and ready for the first visitors of the season.  But its a big job as we care for over 700 miles of coastline in the south west and each beach costs approximately £400 to clean each time.

If we stood all the skips we fill with beach rubbish side by side, it would stretch as far as three Jumbo jets parked end to end.  If stacked on top of one another it would stand as high as 20 London double-decker buses .

Marine environments are also hugely affected by litter pollution at every level – from tiny microscopic organisms through to the very largest animals such as whales and turtles. Even the most remote beaches are affected by litter blown or brought in on the tide. Litter comes from many sources – the public, fishing activities, sewage pipes and shipping, but it is all preventable.

Previous beach cleans have revealed a number of items from the grounding of the Napoli on Branscombe Beach including BMW parts.  Parts of an old cooking range probably from old cottages washed away in the early 1900’s were discovered at a beach clean on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall, a scaffold clamp from a WW2 beach defence barrier an unbroken light bulb and a telegraph pole weighing 1 tonne, were some of the other items.

Rangers in charge of the beach cleans are anticipating that various plastics will form the greatest volume of litter, and these can present some of the greatest hazards to wildlife, both on and offshore. Plastics can be ingested by turtles, seabirds and cetaceans (whales, dolphins etc) and noxious contaminants can also poison wildlife.

All our teams involved will be reporting on the volume of rubbish found on their beaches, and documenting the stranger or more surprising items found!

Below you’ll find details of beach cleans taking place over the next week or so, otherwise contact your local National Trust place for more details of how you can get involved.

Devon
Ayrmer Cove – Ringmore 2 April, 10am
Woolacombe Beach at Mill Rock 5 April 10am
Mansands 6 April,  10am
Scabbacombe 6 April, (following mansands clean)
Wembury Beach 13 April, 10am
Cornwall
Trelissick 6 April, 9.30am onwards
Turnaware 6 April, 9.30am onwards
North Helford 6 April, 9.30am onwards
Gunwalloe Church Cove 9 April, 10am – 1pm
Cape Cornwall Car Park 9 April, 2pm
Godrevy Beach 2 April, 10am
Porth Curno 9 April, 10am
Penberth Cove 9 April (following beach clean at Porth Curno)
Polzeath 2 April, 10-12 noon
Holywell 6 April, 1-3pm
Crantock 6 April, 10-12
Northcott 10 April, 10-12
Poldhu Beach 2 April, 10am
Porthcurnick 4 April, 10am
Strangles 5 April, 10 – 12
Dorset
Brownsea Island 16th March
Seatown 17 April 11 -1
Burton Bradstock 17 April 11 -1
Cogden 17 April 11 -1
West Bexington 17 April 11 -1
Ringstead 17 April 11 -1
Studland Heath (Poole Harbour side) 13 April, time
Somerset
Porlock Beach Clean up 15 May, 10am
Brean Down 13 April, 9.30 – 3pm

Lets revive the great British Picnic


It seems we are in danger of losing our sense of adventure when it comes to eating outdoors and are at risk of forgetting a national treasure – the great British picnic.
Some recently conducted research has revealed that although the majority (91 per cent) of parents and their children say they love eating outdoors, over half (58 per cent) are put off eating al fresco food because of unpredictable weather.

While 41 per cent of families decided to picnic in August last year, only 13 per cent ventured outdoors for mealtimes in March – a time of year when people are afforded beautiful spring views, birdsong and glimpses of newborn farm animals.

Apart from the weather, people are put off eating outdoors because of wasps and other insects (62 per cent) and getting dirt and sand in their food (26 per cent).

So we are encouraging a revival of the proud and stoic British tradition of the picnic, whatever the weather, to help people take advantage of the stunning views across its 250,000 hectares of amazing countryside that includes 200 gardens, 100 orchards, 700 miles of coastline and breathtaking hills and mountains.

The top spots for a ‘picnic with a view’ in the south west are at Kynance Cove in Cornwall and Stourhead in Wiltshire.

Layla Astley, Visitor Services Manager in Cornwall said: ‘Its a special place which looks spectacular whatever the weather. When you reach the cliff edge the Cove reveals turquoise water and clean white sand woven between rocky pinnacles to shelter behind on a windy day. During the spring and summer it’s not too affected by bigger swells, which makes it the perfect family beach to enjoy a picnic’.

Fiona Reynolds, Director General at the National Trust said:  “Picnics are something we’re well known for in this country, but we don’t need to wait for the summer sun to arrive.  Spring is finally here and we have our extra hour’s daylight – it’s a great time of year to head outdoors and enjoy food with a view.  Spending more time outside is also the perfect way to refresh and re-energise both body and mind.”

Our poll also reveals that 48 per cent of families regard eating outdoors as a welcome change from meals indoors, with 60 per cent saying it is part of a fun day out and 47 per cent saying it’s a great way of getting fresh air.  However, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of parents are unclear about where they are allowed to picnic.

“One in four families feels restricted about where they are allowed to eat outdoors and 10 per cent of families haven’t eaten outside in the last year at all.  We want people to join us for a food adventure, to pack up mealtimes and come to eat outdoors at one of our beautiful places,” Fiona continued.

The Trust has also produced a delicious range of seasonal ‘food on the go’ recipes to counter spring chills and make picnic packing lighter and less messy – a welcome relief as nearly a third (31 per cent) of families said they find it difficult to create varied and exciting meals to eat outside because they don’t want to carry too much. Over two thirds of people (68 per cent) rarely or never take hot food to eat outside.

Brian Turner, the National Trust’s National Food Specialist, has created seasonal stews and soups for flasks, and also recommends some simple tips for planning picnics – such as cooking sausages for hotdogs warm by placing them straight from the pan into a warmed wide-mouthed thermos and carving out a cottage loaf of bread and filling with dips to make an on-the go edible bread bowl.

Willie Harcourt Cooze, food writer and chocolate entrepreneur, said:

I love eating outdoors – it’s a simple pleasure that really makes you feel connected to the land you’re walking on. While walking in the hills and mountains fruit is easy to carry, refreshing and delicious – and you don’t even need to worry about waste because it’s bio degradable.

“My top tip for outdoor eating is if you’re making sandwiches, carry the salad ingredients separately and assemble at the moment of feasting, especially when a dressing is involved, as it keeps things crisp. Taking large salad leaves to wrap your whole sandwich in is a great way to keep it in shape and avoid losing any of the best bits.”

To find out more about our top 10 ‘food with a view’ sites, seasonal picnic recipes and what to look out for this spring when you’re eating outdoors, please visit: www.foodgloriousfood.org.uk.


Celebrating spring Bristol style

Spring walks at Tyntesfield, nr Bristol, North Somerset

Spring walks at Tyntesfield, nr Bristol, North SomersetAs dappled sunshine peeped out across the South West, we celebrated the arrival of spring (and the weekend) in Bristolian style at Tyntesfield.Time for a squiz at the new Home Farm visitor centre and a carefree walk around Tyntesfield’s sprawling grounds before a spell in the city.

A mighty fine soya cappuccino and gluten-free shortbread (spot the girl with special dietary requirements) from Tyntesfield’s Home Farm set me on my way. It was lovely to see lots of families striding about and breathing in the fresh air. Strolling past the picnickers and kids having a kick about was a splendid way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Have a peek at our pictures.

I glowed with a little vicarious pride as I overheard lots of positive oohs and aahs coming from fellow explorers of this grand Victorian estate.

‘This is a gorgeous, gorgeous place’ – sighed one Bristol resident.
Another remarked ‘Everywhere smells lovely after the grass has been cut.’

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Seas of narcissi and daffodils under the trees, pots of purple hyacinths and freshly sewn seeds in the kitchen garden added to the spring in my step.

And with Tyntesfield‘s turrets and pinnacles standing proud and free from scaffolding for the first time in two years – what a lot of eye candy on show.

The Spring Festival

Continuing Bristol’s seasonal celebrations required a stop at The Spring Festival in the city centre. It was great to see a fellow National Truster – roving recruiter Emma – setting up her stall among local lovers of the outdoors and moreish morsels.

Find her there tomorrow (Sunday 27 March, 11am-5pm) at Brunel’s Old Station (next to Temple Meads). She’ll be joined by the Tyntesfield crew who promise lots of inspiration on getting outdoors and closer to nature just outside one of Britain’s greenest cities.

Why not stop by to find out more about fun things to do in the fresh air from yoga on the lawn to growing your own veg. Simple pleasures, hey?

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.