Join Bill Bailey & Monty Halls to support the Coast Path Challenge

Fancy a challenge? Join Bill Bailey and Monty Halls this month by taking part in the South West Coast Path Challenge to help protect the coastline. By registering your challenge and pledging your support on social media, you’ll be supporting a cause that is close to many people’s hearts and you could also win a Go Pro Hero4 camera – the ultimate tool for recording your adventures.

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Stourhead celebrates the first hints of Autumn

Stourhead autumn colours on a misty morning

A warm September and unremarkable summer could hold the secret to one of the most spectacular autumn colour seasons at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

The National Trust gardeners at Stourhead are hopeful that the trees and shrubs have benefitted from the gentle British summer this year and are set to put on a beautiful display around the lake at Stourhead.
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Views from Wellington Monument to be re-established

Wellington Monument

Wellington Monument on the Blackdown Hills in Somerset.

The National Trust plans to re-open spectacular views across the Taunton Vale by removing trees from the upper slopes of the Wellington Monument site in response to local opinion.

Nigel Garnsworthy, Countryside Manager, says: ‘The most frequent comment we get about the site is that it’s a real shame people can no longer benefit from the views that reach across to Exmoor and the Quantock Hills.  We’re really pleased now to respond to what local people want.’

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Coast Path Challenge gets underway on the Exmoor coast from Minehead to Porlock Weir

Autumn on North Hill by Bob Small

Autumn on North Hill by Bob Small

The South West Coast Path Challenge in October 2015 is a new fundraising event, which aims to set a new record for the number of times people can walk or run the Coast Path in one month. Participants can create their own challenge or join one of four organised 10 mile challenge walks – every miles counts!

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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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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.

Winter weekend opening at Prior Park

This winter, Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath is open on weekends for those who want to enjoy a beautiful walk and wonderful scenery before or after the busy festive period. The weekend winter openings allow visitors to see the garden whilst it’s changing visibly as it enters a new season and there will also be a winter trail to keep the kids entertained.

The tea kiosk will be open on weekends throughout November and December, offering hot drinks, soups and snacks. There will be a cosy chiminea to welcome visitors to warm up next to in the seating area near to the lakes, and blankets to borrow for those that are still feeling the cold.

For those that fancy a warming walk, why not join one of our free guided walks this winter. We have our City to Garden Winter walk on Saturday 15th December, which takes in local history and beautiful views, please meet outside Bath Abbey at 10am; the walk lasts around two hours. For those that fancy a bit more of a challenge, we also have our City to Countryside Winter walk on Saturday 22nd December, which covers the six-mile Bath Skyline walk, from 10am – 2pm, again meeting outside Bath Abbey. Please do bring a packed lunch for this longer walk. There is no need to book for these walks, simply turn up and enjoy.

Visitor Experience Manager, Katy Smith says: “The garden is quite magical at this time of year, from the autumn hues to the wintry wonderland. For the first time we have the tea kiosk open in the winter, a perfect stop half way around the garden for a warming cup of tea or soup, these are amongst many of the delicacies on offer. As an extra winter warmer help yourself to a blanket or choose a seat near to the chiminea, then complete your walk taking in the beautiful landscape”.

Prior Park is an 18th-century landscape garden, formally owned by Ralph Allen, which has been brought back to life by the National Trust. It offers amazing views of Bath from the Skyline but also boasts the Palladian Bridge across the lakes, one of only four in the world. It offers visitors a tranquil setting to escape to and enjoy.

The garden opens at 10am and visitors can enjoy the garden all day, until dusk.

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

Creative Walking

We all know that going on a walk and getting some fresh air has its physical benefits. However, Dr Sowden, at the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey has been exploring the link between walking and creativity and explains his findings.

Everybody knows that walking is good for you.  But the benefits of walking may be more widespread than the obvious gains in physical fitness.  For instance walking may help our creativity, that is, the almost universal human capacity to think up new ideas that sometimes surprise others, and even ourselves, and that result in something of value.  It might be a great work of art, but equally it might be something ordinary like a better way to do our shopping, wear our clothes or amuse our friends.  So convinced am I of the benefits of walking that I choose to park my car a couple of miles from work each day.  On the walk in I find myself considering the day ahead, often with no specific point in mind but just a general awareness of what I want to achieve, and by the time I arrive at my office I usually know how I am going to make things happen. In contrast, on the way back to my car I naturally find myself mulling over the events of the day and how things have gone.  These two processes reflect the creative thinking cycle, the process of finding problems and generating new ideas and solutions on the one hand and then evaluating them on the other.  Creative thinking often entails effective use of both these modes of thought.

Interestingly, recent psychological research suggests a number of ways in which walking might help this creative thinking process.  Walking has been shown to improve our ability to shift between modes of thought, and to improve our attention, memory and recovery from mental fatigue, all of which are important for thinking creatively.  Further, exercise, such as walking, elevates our mood and this has long been associated with enhanced ability to generate creative ideas.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, walking exposes us to the constant flux of a changing environment providing us with an endless array of new and unique experiences, which combined with our past memories may, through serendipity alone, provoke new associations and give birth to new ideas.  Indeed there may be a bit of a twist in this tale of serendipity, walking and creativity.  In a recent study, researchers compared walking a free route to walking a repetitive route and found that the free walking was more beneficial for performance on a creative thinking task.  Perhaps I may have to start varying my walk to work a bit if I am to reap the full rewards of serendipitous creativity!

Find a walk and be inspired on your next Great British Walk and share any great or big ideas that you’ve had whilst out on a walk.

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