Tyntesfield tallest Christmas tree on display


National Trust staff at Tyntesfield put the final touches to the tree decorations
(c) SWNS.com

One of the tallest Christmas trees in the National Trust has been set up inside Tyntesfield, the Victorian gothic mansion near Bristol.

The 8 metre (26 feet) high tree is the tallest to be brought inside the building – and one of the tallest trees in a National Trust property – and is the centre piece for a range of events this month. Continue reading…

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

This year, for the first time, we are giving you a very special Christmas present in the form of an on-line advent calendar. Behind the doors you will find a range of exciting Christmas recipes, gift ideas, films, stories, special offers, things to make and lots of suggestions for activities for all the family over the festive period.

 There will also be a daily free prize draw to win a special gift to help you get in the festive spirit. Each day there will be the chance to win something different – from rugs and jigsaws to tins of biscuits and Christmas decorations. 

 Visit Christmas advent calendar and get opening those doors.

Count down to Christmas with Dunster Castle by Candlelight

Dunster by Candlelight (c) National Trust 

Dunster Castle will be spectacularly floodlit for the annual Dunster by Candlelight event, with the medieval village also turning back the clock to light the streets by candle lanterns. In addition, for the first time ever festively decorated Dunster Castle will open every weekend from 7 December up to Christmas. 

Dunster Castle’s halls are decked out and decorated for Christmas and will be lit by candlelight for the annual Dunster by Candlelight event on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 December. 

The sumptuous historic interiors of the ground floor will be decorated for Christmas and atmospherically lit by candlelight. The dining table will be laid and for the only time all year the outside of the Castle spectacularly illuminated for the event, providing the perfect festive backdrop to the evening.

 Visitors can experience Christmas sights and sounds listening to carols sung in the main hall. This year we welcome a number of choirs including Taunton School(for the first time), Quantock Musical theatre Singers, as well as the Talholme Consort and Taunton Suzuki Violinists.

Hot drinks and handmade cookies will also be available from the house to help keep visitors warm.

‘It is a fantastic way for visitors to start the count down for Christmas and experience a festive evening of entertainment in an atmospheric and historic setting, whilst also having the chance to catch up on some Christmas shopping in beautiful surroundings.’ said John Lax, Visitor Services Manager at Dunster Castle.

‘The National Trust shop will be open late, together with a Christmas Market in our 17th Century stables. There will be plenty of unusual, local and regional gift ideas, so why not join us’ said John.

For the first time the Castle will also open it’s festively decorated rooms on the ground floor over weekends from 7 December in the run up to Christmas. Experience the impressive hall with 11ft Christmas tree and the elegant library also with a stunning 11ft Christmas tree.

Dunster by Candlelight is from 5:00pm until 9:00pm on Friday 7 December and Saturday 8 December. Price is Adult £3, Child £2, members free (plus an additional charge for refreshments, including members).

Have the chance to hear live carols sung in the Castle at selected times and days over the following December weekend dates; Sunday 9, Saturday 15, Sunday 16, Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 December.

More information is available on www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunstercastle.

Creating the Cotehele garland

Despite a very tough growing year, National Trust staff, volunteers and members of the public at Cotehele in Cornwall, are just starting the meticulous process of creating the longest Christmas garland at any Trust property in the country.

Although a really tough growing year has meant that only 25,000 flowers have been picked this year rather than the usual 30,000, the team involved are confident the garland will look as stunning as ever.

The flowers are picked and dried in the garden at Cotehele; usually flower picking begins in May but this year due to the poor growing season it didn’t start until July.  Each flower will now be added one by one to create a stunning 60ft garland – which forms an integral part of the Christmas display at the property.

Every November, the historic house opens to the public so visitors can watch staff and volunteers putting the garland together from flowers such as Ornamental Grasses, Everlasting Sand Flower, Straw Flower, Paper Daisy, Paper rose and Statice. Visitors are also invited to climb the scaffold and poke in a few flowers if they’d like.

Constructed during November by a team of staff and volunteers, the spectacular result can be seen daily through December, except 25 and 26 December.

Dave Bouch, Head Gardener at Cotehele, says, ‘Each year theGarlandis different, depending on which of the specially grown flowers have done well. It’s been a really tough growing year and this has affected the quantity of flowers to pick and the time it’s taken us.  However I’m confident it will still be a stunning display and we’re once again encouraging members of the public to help us create this magnificent garland. If you’ve not seen theGarlandat Cotehele, you must. A visit to the garland will undoubtedly become one of your family’s annual Christmas traditions.’

Elsewhere in the hall, traditional decorations include conifer and Mahonia around the door ways perhaps highlighted with some native berries from the garden. They’ll also hang Beech and hazel branches from the wall.

The Hall at Cotehele is now open for visitors to see the building of the garland which continues until 23 November, 11am – 4pm. Its then open for viewing until the 24 November – 31 December (except 25-26 December) 11 am – 4pm. £5pp entry; National Trust Members free.  During this time 18 different choirs and musicals groups will perform at various times under the garland during the holiday season. Antique weapons will be on display for close inspection on most weekdays before Christmas in December.  Check the website for more details.

Cotehele prepares to harvest their mistletoe

It seems hardly anytime since the team at Cotehele harvested their annual crop of apples in the orchards at Cotehele in Cornwall, earlier this autumn. But the property team are just finishing preparations for the second orchard harvest of the year, however the crop isn’t apples this time, but instead mistletoe and it looks like its going to be a bumper one.

The crop of mistletoe berries are making their transition from light green beads to the ripe pearly white translucent berries that we’ve come to love to use for decorating our houses at Christmas time.

But other than increasing your chances of getting a Christmas kiss, what else do we know about this mysterious plant?

Fancy a kiss under a parasite? Without wishing to take away the romance of a kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas, mistletoe is actually a semi-parasitic plant, so relies on a host to stay alive. One of its favoured trees is apples trees, so nationally, where there is a high density of orchards there tends to be a high density of mistletoe, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire are particular hotspots. Here at Cotehele the orchards date back to 1731.

The sticky berries are consumed by birds and deposited on branches where they stick and germinate. Its root system spreads under the bark of the host tree and ‘borrows’ some of the essential nutrition from the tree.

Mistletoe has an ecosystem of its own and a number of species dependant on it for their life cycle, without it they would not survive. From bugs that suck on its sap to the mistletoe marble moth and the mistletoe beetle. It is one of the few native plants with white berries, so its berries are often overlooked by many birds as a food source as they focus on more brightly coloured berries. As a result it attracts specialist feeders such as the Mistle Thrush and Blackcap.

Because of it’s value to conservation mistletoe should be managed and harvested sensitively to ensure that it can remain at a density low enough as to not affect the vigour of it’s host but sufficient enough to sustain these species. Some of these species have been recorded at the Old Orchard at Cotehele, and are amongst one of the few recording this far west in the country.

Druids have long held the Mistletoe in high regard and would pay mid-winter worship to it, perhaps because of its close association with the mid-winter solstice. Very rarely mistletoe will find an oak tree as a host and there is a tradition of Druidic ceremonies to harvest it from these sacred groves.

Chris Groves, Orchard Officer for the National Trust at Cotehele said: ‘The mistletoe at Cotehele plays a really important role at the property. Following its harvest in early December, the mistletoe goes on sale at the Cotehele shop from the 3rd December.  All the funds raised from this annual sale goes towards the protection and ongoing maintenance of the orchards at the property.  We also have an annual Wassail when visitors are encouraged to come along, wearing bright clothing and be prepared to help make a lot of noise all which helps to scare away the evil spirits from the orchard, ensuring we have a good harvest of both apples and mistletoe next year’.

Cotehele’s Wassail takes place on Saturday the 17th December, 11.30am.