Tiptoe through the snowdrops at Fyne Court

The unusually mild winter has brought out snowdrops earlier than normal at Fyne Court, the National Trust property nestling in the Quantock Hills.  The mild weather has led to early snowdrops being spotted in December, and throughout January clumps of the popular bulbs at Fyne Court have been seen.

Early Snowdrops at Fyne Court, Somerset (c) National Trust / APEX

Early Snowdrops at Fyne Court, Somerset (c) National Trust / APEX

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Trust survey confirms South West as a region of walkers

NT_Trelissick_012The South West is known as a top walking region, and new research confirms that the region’s residents are making full use of what’s on offer with 81 per cent of adults in the South West regularly walking. 10 per cent of South West respondents walk over 50 miles per month, increasing to 14% of respondents in Gloucestershire and in Cornwall, twice the national average of 7 per cent. Despite this, according to the survey’s findings, 60 per cent of people in the South West still wish they got out and walked more.

As walking makes 87 per cent of people in the South West happy (and 75 per cent describe a feeling of euphoria on reaching the summit of a walk or an amazing viewpoint) the National Trust wants to support people in their desire to get out walking more. To celebrate the launch of The Great British Walk annual walking festival this weekend, the National Trust has revealed the top ten secret trails that can only be accessed by foot, including one in the South West.

The top ten ‘secret discovery’ walks each offer something unique: In the South West, Trelissick in Cornwall has been chosen – a place that many know well, yet this walk takes people off the well-trodden routes.

The top ten secret discovery walks are:

1. Trelissick, Cornwall: This walk leads you much further into the estate than many usually venture to a secluded, iron-age fort.

2. The White Cliffs of Dover: The land acquired by the National Trust last year is now opened up to the public for the first time.

3. Minnowburn, Northern Ireland: The Giant’s Ring is the largest henge and stone circle in Ireland and lies near Belfast.

4. Erddig, Wales: A walk tracing the love story between two of Erddig’s family servants taking in rarely visited parts of the estate.

5. Sizergh Castle, south Lake District: Hidden and hard to find – the secret here is a 1,600 year old yew tree.

6. Sparrow Dale, Sheringham Park, Norfolk: Often overlooked by visitors, Sparrow Dale’s a hidden valley perfect for wildlife lovers.

7. Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland coast: Many visit the castle but few walk around the back to see the breathtaking views.

8. Malham Waterfall, Yorkshire Dales: The path leads to a magical waterfall where walkers will discover a secret cave.

9. Stowe, Buckinghamshire: Explore never before seen parts of the Stowe estate – including a secret garden hidden for many years.

10. Attingham, Shropshire: A path, newly opened up allows visitors to share a rare view of the front of Attingham House.

People in the South West stated the best things about walking are the places or things they discover en-route, and that it offers space to think. (84 per cent agreeing with both these points.) 93 per cent simply enjoy the feeling of being in the fresh air. 78 per cent say the best thing about walking are the memories made with family and friends – this is notably special for respondents from Dorset, with 91 per cent focusing on this benefit. 88 per cent of respondents from Devon picked the sense of being ‘revived’ as particularly important for them, versus 75 per cent regionally.

Nine out of ten (91 per cent) agreed that the majority of children walk less now than when the respondents were children, with just over half (56 per cent) stating they walked more as a child than they do today. A similar number (58 per cent) said they wished their children got out and walked more and 71 per cent said that they would like to go on more family walks together. This was particularly heart-felt amongst Cornish respondents, 83 per cent of whom wanted to go on more family walks together.

59 per cent of respondents in the South West said it feels like ‘cheating’ to not complete a walk. People in Somerset and Wiltshire feel this particularly strongly, with 72 per cent of respondents from these counties agreeing with this attitude.

The notorious British weather is a barrier for many in the South West. 29 per cent revealed they do not walk as much as they’d like due to the unpredictable UK weather. 41 per cent of respondents in Dorset and Cornwall focused on this. However people in Gloucestershire and Devon seem more resilient, as only 14 per cent and 19 percent of respondents respectively in these counties blamed the weather for not getting out walking.

Steve Burgess, Visitor Services Manager at Trelissick commented, “We’re delighted that Trelissick was selected as one of the top ten British Walks, and we hope The Great British Walk this year encourages people to experience new places on foot.  With 64 per cent of people keen to get out and walk more, and 89 per cent agreeing walking is one of life’s simple pleasures, hopefully our top ten list shows there is something for everyone to enjoy in the outdoors.  We’ve got hundreds of easy to follow walks around the country available to download so are hoping the public will join in and get exploring.”

Dr Katie Tryon, head of clinical Vitality at PruHealth, sponsor of the Great British Walks commented: “Walking is a wonder therapy that stimulates all the senses and can transform your life.  It’s a wonderful way to relax, relieve stress and help lift your mood as it encourages the release of serotonin, the natural feel good chemical, as well as endorphins, known as happy hormones.  It can also re-energise you and help you sleep better.  Most of all it’s just a great excuse to get outside and explore the world around you, discovering new surprises along the way and what’s more, it’s free.”

Following the success of last year’s festival, in addition to the ten new secret discovery walks there are now also 205 downloadable walks on the National Trust website with over 400 properties taking part in organised walks and over 2,000 walking events.

The National Trust is encouraging everyone to join in with the campaign, get out for a walk and share their walking photos on twitter, instagram and facebook at #GBwalk

Go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greatbritishwalk to find out more and download a walk. Join the thousands of others celebrating the Great British Walk with the National Trust this autumn.

Minchinhampton Commons mark 100 years of National Trust care


©National Trust Images/David Noton


An evening celebrating the centenary of Minchinhampton Common in Stroud being cared for by the National Trust will bring together commoners, conservationists and archaeologists to celebrate the open countryside.

The event “100 Years of Caring” is at the Subscription Rooms on Friday evening (17 May) and will raise awareness of the common’s unique heritage and to highlight how everyone can help protect it for generations still to come.

It is the start of a summer of celebrations which mark 100 years since the National trust first acquired part of the commons, to prevent further expansion of quarrying which local people feared with ruin the commons.

Today the commons are recognised as important for wildlife and for allowing people to get outdoors and closer to nature.

The evening at the Subscriptions rooms will be hosted by Simon Larkins, the National Trust General Manager for Gloucester Countryside. He will introduce Terry Robinson, Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons Advisory Committee Chairman and Peter Gardiner Grazing Committee Chairman.

Also speaking will be Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s nature conservation expert, David Thackray, former head of archaeology with the Trust and geologist Mark Campbell.

On show during the evening will be a selection of specially commission photographs of the commons today by professional photographer Ruth Davey from Stroud.

The history of Minchinhampton is currently being researched by the Amberley Archive Group and some early results of their work will be on show as well. Their research has uncovered details of the original purchase of the commons by the National Trust which acquired 600 acres of Minchinhampton Common for the princely sum of £1,250 in 1913.

The group will be displaying the full results of its work at its own exhibition at Amberley Parish Rooms from August 24-26.

Also later in the year celebrations will continue with a free Beating the Bounds walk on 26 August in which the community can take part. In October will be an art exhibition celebrating the commons.

Simon Larkins, the National Trust General Manager said: “The commons have so much value today for Stroud and Gloucestershire that we are indebted to the far sighted visionaries who saw the need to protect them 100 years ago. Whether it is for the wild life such as the rare plant species and the butterflies they sustain or simply for having such a valuable open space to escape to for the benefits of a walk in the countryside, we know that Minchinhampton is as important, if not more so, to the people who live close by than it was back in 1913.”

The volunteer Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons Advisory Committee helps the National Trust safeguard the common.

Committee chairman Terry Robinson said over 100,000 people visited the “fabulous and beautiful oases of green ground and fresh blowy air” every year.

“They are keeping up a tradition that has gone on for longer than the century we are celebrating,” he said. “The commons are imprinted on the minds of people who loved and romped on them as children.  They are precious to us all for the wonderful experience and refreshment we find there.”

Mr Robinson said the common was also home to some of the rarest and most prized plants and animals to be found in the Cotswold limestone hills.

Further centenary events will be a special display by the National Trust at Minchinhampton Country Fayre on September 14 and an exhibition of original artwork inspired by the common at the Subscription Rooms George Room Gallery on October 4 and 5.

Tickets for “100 Years of Caring” are available now at the Subscription Rooms box office on 01453 760 900 or www.subscriptionrooms.org.uk.

How much would you pay for a body like the Cerne Giant?

A novel way to let visitors contribute to the care of the country’s most famous chalk giant has been set up by the National Trust.

(c) National Trust Images

The Cerne Giant

 Visitors snapping photos of themselves near the Cerne Abbas with their smartphones will now also be able to text a donation to support the upkeep of the well endowed giant.

The fund raising campaign will help to pay for the care of the Giant – who has to be rechalked every seven to 10 years. The last time the work was done was in 2008 and it costs £1 for every metre of his figure to be chalked.

The 55 metre (180 feet) tall chalk giant is the most famous of his kind in the UK. Carved into the grassland of a hillside close to the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, there is some controversy over whether he is thousands of years old or a more recent creation – a youthful few hundred years old.

As well as looking after the appearance of the Giant, the National Trust looks after the wildlife on the chalk down which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The field is grazed with sheep for a few weeks in Spring and Autumn to keep the grass short but allow wildflowers to bloom and encourage butterflies which include Adonis and Chalkhill Blue, Small Copper, and Large Skipper. 

Rob Rhodes, the National Trust’s West Dorset Countryside Manager, said: “He is a hugely popular figure with many people stopping off at the car park to see him, take a few photos.

“We don’t have collecting boxes at Cerne Abbas but we wanted to give the Giant’s fans a chance to make an electronic donation, while they’re taking their photos. All they need to do is to text GIAN11 £1 to 70070 to make a donation of £1. It is a new idea for us and we’ll be interested to see what sort of response we get from it.”

The new scheme is the first of several being tried at different sites across the South West to give people the chance to support the National Trust’s conservation work through text donations. Another is being set up in a Bluebell woodland on the Kingston Lacy estate which is popular in the Spring.

It is expected to be a few years before the chalk on the Giant needs refreshing again. Each time a layer of the old chalk is removed and new chalk is brought into to be packed into the Giant’s body, refreshing and brightening his appearance.

The origin of the giant is still hotly debated. Some believe he resembles an ancient god and is over 1500 years old while another theory says he is a 17th century cartoon of Oliver Cromwell.

Some theories for his origins suggest he might be the ancient Saxon god Heil, the Iron Age god Cernunnus and most popularly the Roman god Hercules who is usually shown naked with a club in his right hand a lion skin draped over his other arm.

Others think the giant may be even older and represents a Celtic god who once clutched a severed head – a mound below the giant’s left hand may once have represented this.

The more modern argument is derived from the lack of references made to the giant in a wealth of medieval documents surviving from Cerne Abbey. He is first recorded in the Cerne Abbas church wardens’ accounts of 1694.

In 1774 Rev. John Hutchins published a censored copy of a drawing of the giant by William Stukely who, he said, he was told in 1735 by the local steward that the giant was ‘a modern thing’ cut by Lord Holles, a former owner of the hill from 1642 until 1666 and an ardent critic of Oliver Cromwell.

Dorset smugglers trail on smartphone app

A new iPhone app and audio guide will take walkers along a new Smugglers trail along part of the Dorset coast near Charmouth.

Aimed at families, the new trail explores the often turbulent darker history of the coastline from 200 years ago when smugglers and revenue men tried to evade each other in a battle of wits. Continue reading…

Penzance visitor centre opens its doors

Today (Friday 27th April 2012) marks the official opening of the Welcome to West Cornwall centre in Penzance. 

This groundbreaking project for the National Trust see’s the organisation focussing on more than just the places it owns.  By having a presence in the town centre we will help to promote the area as a destination.  The Trust is working in partnership with thePenzance and District Tourism Association, supported by Cornwall Council, Penzance Town Council and Visit Cornwall.

Ian Marsh, General Manager for the Trust in West Cornwall said: ‘It’s fantastic to see the project come to fruition after almost a year of planning.  We had been looking for an opportunity to raise our profile in Penzance, the key gateway toWest Cornwalland when the Tourist Information Centre closed last May this seemed the ideal location, so began a series of discussions with the town council and the tourism association on how we could help.  The Welcome Centre is really exciting as it is aimed as much at the local community as it is towards visitors, promoting what’s on the doorsteps of people’s homes and hotels. 

‘This is a new area for the Trust to get involved but we feel a vital one.  We are not just about owning places; we also want to get involved with our local communities and help promote the best of what there is to do in the area.  We believe that some of Britain’s children are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder, in other words alienation from nature.  Children and adults should be encouraged to play outside and re-connect with the outdoors, and where best to do that than in West Cornwallwhich boasts some of the most inspirational and exhilarating countryside there is. The visitor centre in Penzance will help locals and visitors alike with how best to get outdoors, or enjoy their holiday, providing accommodation bookings, advice and inspiration for amazing holidays or days out’, he added.

Malcolm Bell, Head of Tourism, VisitCornwall said: ‘VisitCornwall are delighted to see the West Cornwall Information Centre reopening and are pleased to be attending this occasion.  

‘It was with regret that due to operations and budget restraints that VisitCornwall had to close the centre and so it’s with double pleasure to see it reopening to meet the needs of visitors to wonderful West Cornwallas well as local businesses. VisitCornwall are pleased to be able to support the reopening and we will continue to support the centre as we do the other Visitor Centres throughout Cornwall’, he added.

Jaimie Sibert, Managing Director, for 20/20 Designers from Falmouth in Cornwall said: ‘Helping to secure a new lease of life for Penzance’s Tourist Information Centre through effective use of graphic and interior design and build, has been an exciting brief for us. We feel privileged to have been involved in such a critical project forPenzance, and hope that the Welcome to West Cornwall Centre is something that the town can be truly proud of.”

The Welcome toWest CornwallCentre will also provide general Tourist Information services through its newly recruited team of volunteers.  Sarah Talbot, Visitor Experience Manager forWest Cornwallsaid “We are delighted by the response from the local community to our call for volunteers to help us with this project.  We have a team of 20 people working with us so far with a fantastic knowledge of the town and surrounding area. Many people were very disappointed when the Tourist Information Centre closed, and see this as their way of putting something back into the town.”

The Centre will play a key role in promoting the business community ofPenzancethrough the Destination Management System which all Tourist Information Centres across the South West use.

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.