41. Plant it, grow it, eat it

PlantitgrowiteatitJust like you, fruit and vegetables need a bit of time to grow but they’re definitely worth the wait.

What you need: 

  • Fruit or vegetable plant seeds
  • A pot to plant them in
  • Peat-free compost


Make sure you plant the right thing at the right time. Visit www.eatseasonably.co.uk for all the information you need to grow your own.

Child watering on the Community Allotments at Minnowburn, Co Down, Northern Ireland.

Whether you want to start big and get yourself an allotment or think smaller and use a tub on the windowsill, there are all sorts of fruit and vegetables that you can plant and grow yourself. The RHS have some really great advice about growing your own Fruit and Vegetables including location, watering, weeding and sowing.

Lots of National Trust places in the South West have Kitchen Gardens and / or allotments that provide food to the property and local area – take a look on the National Trust website for more details but 2 of the best in the South west are:

  • Knightshayes Court:
    Step back in time and immerse yourself in Knightshayes’ two and a half acre walled kitchen garden with fairytale turrets, specialising in varieties of produce grown in Victorian times. It offers a unique chance to see a vast collection of crops which are now almost extinct – including 102 varieties of heritage tomatoes.
    The Outside In garden is a 100 foot long poly-tunnel dedicated to growing heritage vegetables, fruit and flowers – the seeds from which are saved to ensure their survival.
    The kitchen garden supplies the restaurant and Tiverton town market all year round, providing rare vegetables such as oca, mashua and achoccha, alongside treats like Knightshayes chutney.
    Younger visitors can enjoy the pizza making workshop, where they are shown how to harvest and top their pizzas with freshly picked vegetables.
  • Trengwainton Garden:
    The 200 year old walled kitchen garden at Trengwainton was built to the dimensions of Noah’s Ark, but instead of saving animals its cargo seems to be full of organic produce instead.
    There’s a section entirely devoted to pumpkins – black, red and orange. There’s also an allotment section, where vegetables and salads are grown in meticulously straight lines, and a container section where you’ll find fruit plants growing out of old wellington boots.
    For little ones, the kid’s community garden helps young visitors see the process of plot to plate.

Our knowledgeable staff at our places would be more than happy to offer help and advice about growing your own produce but you may also be interested in our ‘Kitchen Garden Estate’ book:

kitchengardenbookSelf-sufficiency. Inspired by country house estates of the past. This beautiful book by Helene Gammack offers a glimpse over the kitchen-garden wall and into beehives, farmyards, orchards and allotments through the centuries. Readers can glean tips from the information on historic gardening techniques and husbandry, whether they own acres of land, an urban vegetable patch or a window box.

Buy online from the National Trust shop for £12.00

40. Go on a nature walk at night

GoonawalkatnightSome creatures only come out at night so this is the only chance you’ve got of spotting them!

What you need:

  • A torch
  • A grown-up who can show you where to look
  • Trainers or boots – leave your slippers at home!
  • Warm clothing (pyjamas don’t count!)


Only use your torch when you really need to. These animals aren’t afraid of the dark. They are afraid of noisy humans though so be as quiet as a mouse.

You don’t have to head right out into the countryside to go o a nature walk – you could go to your local park – but choose somewhere there are no street lights.

Some National Trust places in the South West hold organised events in the evenings where you can be led by our expert staff to search for all sorts of nocturnal creatures. Here’s a selection of a few coming up, please contact the property directly for more information or to make a booking:

  • Saturday 14th September, 5:30p.m. – 8:30p.m:
    Family Bat Walk & Twilight Ramble – Saltram House, Devon. (Booking essential)
    Come along to make your jam-jar lantern and bat-related crafts before we join the wardens and hunt for bats around the estate.  Bring a torch and dress warmly.  Sorry, no dogs.
    Adult £5, Child £3, Family £14
    More Information:     Admin Office, 01752 333500, saltram@nationaltrust.org.uk
  • Fridays, 6 dates between 20 September 2013 and 25 October 2013 6:00p.m. – 8:45p.m:
    Trerice by Night – Trerice, Cornwall.
    Soak up the atmosphere of the house lit by candlelight and enjoy the music of the Hammer dulcimer in the Great Chamber. See volunteers in Tudor costume in the house.  In the Barn there will be the offer of a simple rustic dinner as well as hot drinks.
    More Information:     Beth Nash, 01637 839917, beth.nash@nationaltrust.org.uk
  • Saturday 14th September, 7:30p.m. – 9:00p.m:
    Bat Detective Walk – Cheddar Gorge, Somerset (Booking essential)
    Join us to explore the different species of bats living in the gorge and discover more about how the gorge is cared for.
    Adult £5, Child £2.50
    More Information:     Carole Elliott, 01643 862452, somerset.countryside@nationaltrust.org.uk

Tonight (Wednesday 21st August) Cotehele will be offering an evening wildlife walk, departing from Cotehele Quay at 8:30p.m. Led by the Ranger Team, you can discover some of the night time inhabitants of the property. The walk is free and there’s no need to book but please do make sure you wear suitable clothing and footwear and you take a torch. For more information please Telephone: 01579 351346 or Email: cotehele@nationaltrust.org.uk.

If you can’t make it along, the Cotehele team will be live-tweeting from the walk, as well as updating the Cotehele Facebook page. They’d love you to join in online and ‘virutally’ walk with them:

The walk also coincides with a Blue Moon – a term usually used to describe a second full moon in a single solar calendar month, which happens every two to three years, so the conditions for the walk should be perfect!

If you head out tonight, please let us know what you spot via our Twitter and Facebook pages.

39. Catch a crab

CatchacrabWith the right bait and a piece of string it’s easier than you might think.

What you need:

  • String or crab line
  • A good spot by the sea to get settled
  • Scraps of bacon or fish for the bait
  • A bucket of water if you’d like to take a closer look before they go back in


Tie the stone and bait to the end of the string so it sinks properly. When you feel it tugging pull the string up at a good pace – too fast and the crab will fall off, too slowly and it will eat all the bait. Be very careful when you pick them up (they’re not afraid to use those pincers) and then put them back in the water.

Harry’s having a great summer ticking off the 50 Things activities and this time we asked him to see if he could manage to catch a crab. Armed with his net and some lovely ham he managed to catch a great crab!

There are some great spots in the South West to go crabbing – here’s our top suggestions:

  1. Brean Down, Somerset – Grab your crab lines and head down to Brean to see what you can catch.
  2. Bude to Morwenstow, Cornwall – There are some perfect beaches where you could find a crab to catch. Try looking in the rock pools at Sandymouth.
  3. North Helford coast, Cornwall – Porth Saxon beach is a good place for catching crabs
  4. South Devon Countryside – While walking the coast path, pop down to any cove you discover to hunt for crabs. To help catch a crab use a bit of bacon on string – they can’t resist!

If you do decide to go crabbing – please think about making your crab line eco-friendly. Instead of the hook, tie on a washing detergent tablet bag – the crabs will cling on to the bag to try and get the bait without getting hurt on the hooks:



38. Bring up a butterfly

BringupabutterflyOnce a caterpillar makes its chrysalis, it may become a beautiful butterfly in less than 6 weeks.

What you need:

  • A caterpillar
  • A large plastic tub with small holes in the lid
  • Leaves from one of the caterpillar’s favourite plants
  • Slightly damp soil or sand to line the bottom of the tub
  • A twig or two to lean against the side of the tub


Avoid hairy caterpillars as some can sting.

It’s likely you’ll see lots of different butterflies when you are out in the countryside but do you know your Adonis Blue from your Painted Lady? Download a free butterfly identification sheet from the National Trust website by clicking the image below:


This activity isn’t one that you can complete today – it’ll take a little while (around 6 weeks) for your caterpillar to turn into a butterfly but it’s fun watching the changes happen. We asked Harry to have a go for us:








It looks like Harry managed to bring up a Painted Lady butterfly – see if you can guess what yours will be…

Here in the South West you can see 51 of the 59 annual British species, and it’s great for immigrant butterflies too – making it the richest region in the country for butterfly wealth.

Top butterfly spots:

  • The cliffs and sea coombes of West Penwith, the Lizard, North Cornwall and South Devon offer many hours of wonderful butterfly walking, with frequent colonies of Grayling, Dark Green and Small Pear-bordered Fritillaries.
  • The sand dunes of Holywell, in North Cornwall, are great for the Silver-Studded Blue.
  • The delicate Wood White occurs along the South Devon coast around Branscombe.
  • The downs and coast of Purbeck are the only part of Britain where you’ll see the Lulworth Skipper.
  • The Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire downs are rich in butterflies like the Adonis and Chalkhill Blues and the Duke of Burgundy.
  • Exmoor is a national stronghold of the very rare Heath Fritillary, occurring in numbers in Trist-owned combes around Dunkery Beacon.
  • The rapidly-declining High Brown Fritillary is thriving in Heddon Valley.
  • Ashclyst Forest on the Killerton estate in Devon is great for fritillaries and White Admirals.
  • Collard Hill, a unique butterflying opportunity on the Polden Hills, near Street in Somerset, is the only place in Britain which people can readily visit to see the once-extinct Large Blue.
  • Sometimes you need to walk a bit further for your reward. Calstone Coombes, on the north Wiltshire downs and Hod Hill in north-east Dorset are just two of these escaped pieces of paradise where you will get butterfly payback in spades.

37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool

CheckoutthecrazycreaturesWhat’s the weirdest looking thing you can find?

What you need:

  • A clean plastic tub or bucket to scoop the water out
  • A small net to help you catch things
  • A low tide


Keep your hands out of the pool or you might feel a little nibble or pinch! These crazy creatures like where they live so don’t forget to put them back.

The National Trust looks after over 700 miles of coastline throughout the UK and there’s no shortage of places to go rock-pooling. Before you head off you’ll need to check the tides at your chosen beach otherwise you might turn up only to find there are no rock pools because they are covered by the sea. You can check the times online or, if you regularly go to a stretch of coastline you could buy a local Tide Times book.

Here’s our top 5 National Trust places in the South West to check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool:

  1. Brean Down, Somerset – there’s lots of beach to explore and find some crazy creatures.
  2. Roseland, Cornwall – Porthcurnick beach is brilliant for rock pools. Make sure you visit at low tide.
  3. South Devon Countryside – Two of the many beautiful beaches Wembury and South Milton sands are famous for their rockpools, Wembury is also a Marine Nature Reserve. Go at low tide and be amazed at the range of sea creatures you can discover.
  4. St Just & Cape Cornwall – Park at Cape Cornwall for Porthleddon beach.
  5. Polperro, Cornwall – Portnadler Beach is superb for rockpooling.

David from Devon told us about rock-pooling with Seb, his 9-year-old son:

In blustery spring weather, Seb and I are racing across the sand towards the rocky foreshore, picking our way through seaweed to the best rock pools. Crouching over the incredibly smooth sides  of the pool that has been carved out of the rock, we watch for any signs of life. Suddenly a group of prawns chase across the pool and into the weed on the other side. Right down in the depths, a hermit crab picks his way through the stones. Then, as we taker a closer look, we disturb a Long-spine Bullhead fish, which also goes by the wonderful name of ‘Sea Toadfish’ or ‘Clobberhead’

Moving to a shallower pool, one side is covered with anemones with their red hair-like tentacles waving in the water. Above them in a wide crevice, Seb can’t resist touching the sea squirts, but he quickly jumps back and his attention is grabbed by a velvet swimming crab.

Striking out further, we come to a huge rock pool open to the sea. As we sit on the side, our legs dangling in the water, talking about going to get the rods to try a bit of mackerel fishing in the afternoon, Seb suddenly calls out excitedly, leads me to the other side and reaching over, with his t-shirt soaking and me praying he doesn’t fall in, he lifts a stunning spider crab, bright pink with various bits of seaweed cemented to its shell for camouflage. A couple of sharp nips and he’s quickly returned to his hideout, where he angrily waves his claws at us.

On the walk back up the beach we allow ourselves a handful of winkles each, and after cooking them we spend a happy hour picking them out of their shells and relaying stories of how we wrestled with a giant spider crab, which at least doubles in size each time the story is told!

If you wanted some help identifying the creatures in a rock pool, you could head along to The Lizard and Kynance Cove on Wednesday 21st & 28th August and join in the Beachcraft days. Timings vary so if you’re interested please contact Claire Scott, Telephone: 01327 291174, Claire.Scott@nationaltrust.org.uk for full details.


36. Make a home for a wild animal

MakeahomeforawildanimalIt’s not just dogs, cats, hamsters and fish that need homes.

What you need:

  • Bits and pieces that you will have in the garden, such as moss, twigs or stones
  • String or glue to help fasten it all together
  • A flat, dry and sheltered surface to work on


All sorts of animals need homes. You could try making a bug hotel, hedgehog house or even a bird box. Once it’s completed, think about the best place to put it. Some animals prefer sunshine and some shade.


The big hotel pictured above was made by volunteers at a National Trust place using recycled materials. You might want to think about creating something smaller to start off with and work your way up to a hotel!

An average garden could be home to up to 2000 different species of insect so you’ve got a lot of potential residents.  They’ll all prefer slightly different homes so you’ll need different materials. A simple bug hotel can be made from a collection of hollow stems packed into a plastic bottle with the end cut off. Several hotels could be placed in different positions such as on the ground amongst vegetation, fixed on top of a post, next to a wall, half way up a hedge, in a tree, under a bird table. These are likely to attract different minibeasts to live in them. You can download a free information sheet from the RSPB about creating a perfect wildlife habitat in your garden.

Hedgehogs need somewhere to hibernate in winter, so here’s your chance to provide them with a cosy home. A hedgehog house should entice them away from bonfire stacks and ensure they stay in your garden ready to feast on slugs in the spring.


The team at Max Gate in Dorchester are currently looking after 2 hedgehogs so if you visit keep your eyes peeled to see if you can see them.

Throughout the summer you can join in at various National Trust places to help make a home for a wild animal. Contact the property directly to find out more:



35. Discover what’s in a pond

DiscoverwhatsinapondMurky pond water is full of life. Scoop some out into a tub and check out what lurks beneath.

What you need:

  • A clean, empty plastic tub
  • A fine net
  • Somewhere you can stand or sit for a while safely
  • A grown-up to go with you


Scoop the net 3 times in a figure of 8 to pick up the littlest creatures and empty the contents into the tub. If you don’t spot anything at first, take a closer look. Pond life tends to be quite tiny. Remember to return the mini-beasts to their homes.

Ponds support numerous species including aquatic plants, rushes, dragonflies, invertebrates and amphibians so there should be plenty of things for you to find. If you fancy heading out to see what you can discover in a pond and you don’t have one in your garden you can search for a pond on the Pond Conservation website.

Alternatively, here’s our list of the top 5 National Trust places in the South West where you can discover what’s in a pond:

  1. Cotehele, Cornwall – The pond is full of wonderful things, frogspawn, newts etc and the equipment to dip in and out is available for public use.
  2. Hidcote, Gloucestershire – Hidcote has its very own wildlife pond where you will be able to try and spot all sorts of different creatures.
  3. Coleton Fishacre, Devon – Go pond dipping with the rangers and gardeners every other Wednesday in the summer holidays.
  4. Barrington Court, Somerset – Barrington has a great circular lily pond which always has newts in it, as well as goldfish and some hefty snails.
  5. Knightshayes Court, Devon – During the summer you can take part in a whole host of pond dipping activities in the parkland- so why not grab a net and see what you discover?

If you would like to join in an organised event, join the ranger team at Cotehele today (Friday 16th August) for a Pond Dipping activity:

11:30a.m. – 3:00p.m.
There are all sorts of nets for you to borrow. Dip into our pond and discover all the stuff that lives in it. The ranger team will be there to help you identify it.
Normal admission charges apply (NT members Free) For More Information telephone, 01579 351346 press 0, or email: cotehele@nationaltrust.org.uk




34. Track wild animals


Animals are easy to find if you follow their footprints, feathers, fur and poo.

What you need:

  • Sharp eyes
  • Trainers or boots so you can track down animals wherever they roam


Remember, animals don’t wear shoes so their footprints don’t all look the same. From a horse’s hoof to a rabbit’s paw, learn what you’re looking for. Whatever you do, don’t touch the poo!

You can find wild animals almost anywhere – even in your back garden. You might get squirrels or foxes that visit when it’s quiet to see if they can find food. If you have a pet dog or cat the wild animals might be more likely to stay away though.

For a handy guide as to which animals make which tracks, download the free pdf from the BBC Science & Nature website by clicking the image below:


If you want to head to a National Trust place in the South West to hunt down some wild animals, here’s our top 5 suggestions:

  1. Castle Drogo, Devon – There are lots of interesting animals living on the Castle Drogo estate including badgers, dormice and deer see if you can spot the signs and follow where they have been.
  2. Brownsea Island, Dorset – See if you can spot the elusive Red Squirrels or track down a colourful peacock.
  3. Lanhydrock, Cornwall – There are all sorts of creatures to track at Lanhydrock, from beetles and bats to dormice and dippers.
  4. Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire – Follow the “Poo and Paws” trail and discover which animals have made their home at Snowshill.
  5. Leigh Woods, Bristol – Leigh woods is home to many wild animals including Deer and fox, so is ideal for tracking animals.

Many of our places including Killerton House, Studland Beach & Woodchester Park have organised activities where you can track wild animals too. You can search for events on the National Trust website.


Bristol youngster to star in The Beano

It is the dream of many youngsters but for one 11-year-old from Bristol the ambition of starring in a Beano strip has come true.

The full page from The Beano featuring Harry Wilson from Bristol © D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd. 2013

The full page from The Beano featuring Harry Wilson from Bristol © D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd. 2013

Harry Wilson, from Henleaze in Bristol makes an appearance in The Beano, on sale Wednesday 14 August.  In the issue Harry leads a bike ride with Dennis the Menace along the winding pathways of Wimpole on the border of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. The strip is based on an adventure from the National Trust’s list of 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ – part of its campaign to get kids outdoors and closer to nature.

Harry is one of the National Trust’s Kids’ Council members and its ambassador for riding a bike.

He said: “I like going on a really long bike ride because when you go along at high speed the wind goes through your hair and you feel like you have accomplished something. It’s also always great to go really fast. I like cycling on National Trust cycle paths because there aren’t many people or cars to bump into.”

Anna Russell, the National Trust’s General Manager for Bristol, said: “It is great to have the support from Harry and The Beano in showing other children how much fun they can have outdoors this summer. We know there are great bike trails through Leigh Woods, good trees for climbing and Tyntesfield is good for kite flying, rolling down a hill, stargazing – and host of other fun things. We love seeing kids getting outside and having fun this summer.”

50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ was launched by the National Trust last year in a bid to encourage more children to play outdoors. The move came in response to the Natural Childhood Report, a report commissioned by the Trust which highlighted evidence of a long-term and dramatic decline in children’s relationship with the outside world. The report called for urgent action after revealing fewer than one in ten children regularly play in wild places, compared to almost half a generation ago, while a third have never climbed a tree and one in ten can’t ride a bike.

The campaign was developed this year with the help of Harry and nine other youngsters on the Kids Council who suggested many of the activities on the list for this year. The Council also advises the conservation charity on what matters to kids.

This summer the National Trust in the South West is running 50 things in 50 days festival – trying to see how many of the 50 things can be completed during the summer holidays. Details of the summer campaign are on www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southwest.

To sign-up for the 50 things challenge visit the website www.50things.org.uk

33. Catch a falling leaf

CatchafallingleafIt’s harder than you think.

What you need:

  • A tree with lots of big leaves


Leaves start to fall in Autumn so it’s the best time of year to try catching them. If it’s a windy day, stand so the wind blows into you – it will help bring the leaves towards you.

Child playing in the autumn leaves at Rowallane Garden, County Down, in October.Although Autumn is the best time of year to catch falling leaves, there are plenty of leaves on the trees at the moment and you’ll often see them floating about on the wind.

There are lots of superstitions about catching leaves – some people believe it’s good luck to catch a falling leaf, others that you should make a wish if you catch a falling leaf. There’s another that says if you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter!

We like the ‘make a wish’ idea – what would you wish for if you caught a falling leaf?

If you do catch a leaf you can use this handy leaf identification guide from our friends at the Woodland Trust to find out what sort of tree it came from:


You could use the leaves you catch to create some wild art and tick off your 50 Things activity number 18 too!