Edwardian engine runs for the first time in 100 years

Engine awaiting restoration, Brownsea Island (c)National Trust/Phil Pickering

An exceptional example of British Edwardian engineering has been brought back to working order by a team of highly skilled and dedicated volunteers, working with the National Trust at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset. The engine dates back from around 1907 and it is thought to be the only one of its kind to remain in its original location in the former engine house on Brownsea Island.  Originally installed to supply electricity to Brownsea Castle, the engine sat derelict for decades, its glory of olden days stripped away and in pieces.

Members of the team involved in the restoration of the Engine at Brownsea Island ©National Trust/Adam Poole

Members of the team involved in the restoration of the Engine at Brownsea Island ©National Trust/Adam Poole

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Surveys reveals South West coastal wildlife jewels

godrevy-bioblitz17Thousands of nature lovers and wildlife experts helped the National Trust record more than 3,400 species (1,729 in the South West) at twenty five of its places (three in the South West) along the coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the charity’s largest ever wildlife survey.

From Brownsea Island in Dorset to Godrevy & Sandymouth in Cornwall, volunteers raced against the clock to record as many species as possible over either 12 or 24 hours as part of the South West Coast Festival.

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First trip of Brownsea Seahorse

Dennis Medlycott wanted to visit Brownsea Island. It was a simple ambition but, since he depends on his electric wheelchair to get about, he could not get onto the boats taking visitors to the island. When he heard that we were about to trial a new boat, ‘Brownsea Seahorse’, which would be able to take disabled visitors to the island, Dennis offered his advice and came to try out the first service. Here he tells his own story of that first trip to the island:

It’s a dream come true that I am actually here in my electric wheelchair on Brownsea Island.
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Autumn colour is a natural tonic to beating the winter blues

red squirrel at Brownsea Island

red squirrel at Brownsea Island

New research from the National Trust has found that the kaleidoscope of natural colours experienced on an autumn walk makes 87% of people in the South West feel happier, healthier and calmer.  More than 40% admit to feeling down as the nights draw in.

The conservation charity released the findings as part of its Great British Walk 2014, which launched this week with an invitation to enjoy a rainbow of walks. Shades of blue you find on walks by water or when the landscape is coloured by the evening’s darkening sky were found to help soothe away stress by 38% of people in the South West, while the greens of hilltops and pine woodlands leave 51% of people in the South West feeling more connected with the natural world.

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SW region star in tourism awards

Dickon Allen (right) receives the award from Travel writer Sally Shalam, with Andy Yeatman, from category sponsors, the Met Office looking on © South West Tourism Awards / Nick Williams

Dickon Allen (right) receives the award from Travel writer Sally Shalam, with Andy Yeatman, from category sponsors, the Met Office looking on © South West Tourism Awards / Nick Williams

The National Trust in the South West has had a winning night at the SW Tourism for Excellence Awards, coming away with two golds, two silver and a bronze award. Continue reading…

Brownsea Island voted nation’s favourite nature reserve

Birds silhouetted on the lagoon at Brownsea Island, Dorset.As birdwatchers and other visitors prepare to take up the chance of a rare winter visit to Brownsea Island, the National Trust owned property has just been declared the country’s favourite nature reserve.

The island, which will be open on weekends from 8 February, was nominated for the award by the BBC’s Countryfile Magazine and came out top of a public poll.

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Adventurous squirrels set twitter alight

(C) Hattie Miles

Twitter users across Poole and Bournemouth have been puzzling the discovery of toy squirrels lurking in the parks and streets of the two towns.

Each toy carries the hash tag #NTsquirrels and a web link to information about Brownsea island, home to a colony of rare red squirrels.

Messages have been buzzing around the towns logging the discovery of the squirrels with speculation about how many might be hidden away waiting to be found.

The squirrels have turned out to be part of a stunt organised by the National Trust, and each one has a luggage label with instructions on how to register the find via Twitter. Some of the toys carry a finder’s reward of free tickets to visit a National Trust place.

‘We wanted to celebrate our delightful colony of squirrels on Brownsea with a little bit of fun for our neighbours on the mainland,’ said Elaine Arnold, National Trust Development Manager.

‘Our squirrels are always particularly active at this time of year and more easily spotted by visitors. We thought it might be fun to let a few toys ones be equally active and make a break for freedom across the water.’

The stunt will continue until Monday 22 October, when any remaining red squirrels will be rounded up and taken back to Brownsea, so there is still plenty of time to find one.

The island’s red squirrels are one of the few colonies left inEngland, the isolation on the island having protected them from the squirrel pox brought by their grey cousins which have removed the red squirrels from most of the rest of England.

The National Trust has been doing work to ensure the squirrels’ long term survival, including removing wild Rhododendron to allow the natural re-growth of heath and pine trees –ensuring there will be a food supply into the future. Thinning some of the pine trees allows them to grow more pine cones containing the nuts the squirrels eat – as well as giving room for the trees to naturally regenerate.

At 500 acres, the island is large enough to sustain a thriving population of squirrels, and unusual in not having any natural predators for the squirrels – encouraging them down to the ground to feed where they can be more easily seen. It is estimated by conservationists that the island population is doing so well that it is currently at about the maximum the island can sustain.

‘This is a good time to see them when they are busy gathering food for winter which is why we have our red squirrel walks on the island. You are pretty much guaranteed to see one of them whenever you visit, especially at this time of year’ said Claire Dixon, Brownsea’s Visitor Services and Enterprises Manager.

Visitors to the island will get a chance to spot one of the elusive creatures on a series of red squirrel walks being held through the autumn, up until 4 November.

The walks are part of the National Trust’s Great British Walks with people encouraged to upload information about their favourite walks to the website:  www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greatbritishwalk

For more information about the stunt and the red squirrel walks, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/browseaisland

Red Squirrels’ busy autumn on Brownsea Island

(c) National Trust/ Bob JordanDespite the poor weather over the summer months one of Dorset’s nature success stories – the red squirrels on Brownsea Island– are continuing to do well. 

Although the wet summer has resulted in poor crops in many local apple orchards and affected some natural food sources, the pine nuts favoured by the Brownsea squirrels are available in good quantities.

 Brownsea is one of the few places left in England to see the native red squirrels who are currently very active as they spend a busy Autumn collecting food and storing it for the winter.

 The National Trust has recently been carrying out work to improve habitats for the native red squirrels. The invasive Rhododendron ponticum is being removed and some other work to thin dense areas of trees will allow in more light resulting in healthier trees producing more pine cones.

 The pine trees on the island have done well this year, in spite of the summer weather, and squirrel numbers are still doing well.

 Visitors to the island will get a chance to hopefully spot one of the elusive creatures on a series of red squirrel walks being held through the autumn.

 The walks are part of the National Trust’s Great British Walks with people encouraged to upload information about their favourite walks to the website:  www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greatbritishwalk

 Brownsea has a wide variety of walks, some downloadable from the Trust’s website. They include wildlife walks, a coastal viewpoints walk and one exploring the rare heathland in the interior of the island.

 The squirrel walks are guided walks led by experienced volunteers who know the best places to spot the wildlife on the island.

 “The prospects for the squirrels are looking good as they store food to ensure they can survive through the winter,” said Brownsea Head Ranger Reuben Hawkwood.

 “This is probably the best time of year to try to see them. They are easier to spot in the autumn when gathering food for the winter – in the summer they tend to hide away during the day,”

 “Our squirrel walks will run until the end of October and really offer the ideal chance to see these delightful little animals and learn more about them.”

 The red squirrels on Brownsea have been protected from the grey squirrel invasion by being on the island in the middle of Poole Harbour. The greys carry squirrel pox which kills red squirrels but the disease has never reached the island.

 The squirrels on the island have continued to thrive thanks to work by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust to improve their habitat.

 Reuben Hawkwood added: “In the long term, the work we have been doing will create clearings which will allow new trees to grow through ensuring the squirrels have a secure home for many years to come.”

 The Brownsea Squirrel walks run daily from 25 September to 25 October and are free, although normal admission charges for the island and boat fares apply.

 More information on the Squirrel walks on BrownseaIslandis available on www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea or call 01202 492161