Monday, 28 June 2010

Plym Peregrines take to the air

The peregrine chicks have been showing of their newly discovered wings at the National Trust Plymbridge Woods estate. The public viewing platform on the Cann Quarry viaduct gives some spectacular sightings.

"Look At My Beautiful WIngs!"

At 7 weeks old and with only a week and a half’s flying practice under their belts, they are already showing themselves to be accomplished fliers. Landing on the other hand is not so easy! The juveniles have been learning the hard way that some branches are too small for a peregrine to land on, braking is necessary before landing and it can take several attempts to land on a small ledge on the quarry face. So our young peregrines have a lot to learn before they can fly and hunt with the same grace and elegance as mum and dad. In the meantime, we are lucky enough to watch as the young find their wings and test their abilities.

Catch Me If You Can

Peregrines are, however, very fast learners so it won’t be long before the juveniles are able to fend for themselves.

We are still seeing the kestrel parents going in and out of their nest site. We are expecting to see chicks any day now. Stay posted for news!

Thanks again to Steve Waterhouse for the beautiful photos.

Exeter NTV strike again!

You may have read on this blog about the Exeter National Trust Volunteers efforts to help us tidy up Whiddon wood in the Teign valley.

Well the other sunday they were back, helping us with some footpath work at Fingle bridge.

As you can see they did a grand job helping us to lay a new gravel path over our recently piped stream, following the line of bare ground created by the public using the crossing over the last few months (called a desire line). They will be back later in July to finish the job. If anyone is interested in joining the Exeter NTV, E-mail Susan at

Friday, 25 June 2010

Castle Drogo Awarded Dartmoor First

Today we received the wonderful news that Castle Drogo has joined our sister properties at Finch Foundry, Lydford Gorge, Parke Estate, Plym Bridge and Widecombe Cottage in being awarded Dartmoor First.

This award, which is presented by the Dartmoor National Park Authority, is for everyone associated with Dartmoor to recognise their commitment to sustaining Dartmoor and its special qualities.

If you would like to know more about this award please click on the following link

Thursday, 24 June 2010

In the thick of it.

Well, it's that time of year again. Here in the Teign Valley summer can mean only one thing- Bracken. Whilst in some of our sites bracken is looked upon in a rosy hued way as habitat for Frittillary butterflies, not far away in Whiddon Deer Park it is just invasive vegetation- just one of the many such variable attitudes one has to adopt as a conservationist.
So this week we don't want bracken- at least not in the Deer Park. To that end we have been cutting bracken with the help of Silvanus services and also rolling it with our brackenbruiser. Cutting or bruising bracken 2-3 times a year quickly weakens it and makes it much less prolific, allowing other species to gain a hold. Bruising works by bending and crushing the stem, leaving the frond connected to the rhizomes but causing the stem to bleed and dry out, severely weakening the plant. The roller/bruiser can be towed behind a tractor, landrover, ATV or even a horse and is merely a series of steel bars that flatten the frond and bend it sharply. When we've finished this period of bracken control there's only a couple of months before we do it all again.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Taking science to new heights

If you had wandered up the drive at Castle Drogo last week, or do so tomorrow (24th June) you will see an unusual site- scientists climbing up trees.
This is group from Plymouth University who are carrying out an OPAL funded survey of the amount of carbon that different trees remove from the atmosphere (called carbon sequestration).
They have come to Castle Drogo to conduct their experiment on our evergreen Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex) and English Oak (Quercus robur) as this is one of the highest places in this part of the world in which both species are found. Volunteer climbers assisted the team with accessing the canopies of our trees with rope and harness.
OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) is a lottery funded organisation aiming to make science more accessible to everyone, we have been involved with them before undertaking Lichen and Pond surveys which are designed to be done by anyone and are particularly suitable for school and volunteer groups- for more info visit

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Classic Day at Drogo

The weather certainly couldn't have been kinder to us today as families visited us, from far and wide, in order to celebrate Father's Day.

Our main attraction this year was a display of more than 100 classic cars. The photos here showing just a few of the immaculately maintained vehicles available to view - something for every taste.

Strike up the band!

Last night we were delighted to play host to a Summer Concert by the Crediton Town Band. In spite of there being a bit of a nip in the air the attendance was fantastic with the audience largely made up of residents from Drewsteignton and neighbouring parishes.

Although the final figures are not yet out it looks like the event raised a good sum of money which will help support local amenities.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Bioblitz at Plymbridge

To celebrate 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity, a Bioblitz event was held in Plymbridge woods. Experts from Plymouth University and 'Buglife' the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, as well as a number of local amateur naturalists, helped to record more than 200 species of wildlife over the two day event.

Members of the public were encouraged to join in and help with the recording. Activities included a 'big bug brolly bonanza', guided walks, bat detecting and a moth trap.

It is hoped that the species data set will be built on in the future with a similar event already being suggested for 2011.

Working on a different kind of network

Yesterday a group from British Telecom came to the Teign valley to work for a day as part of a team building exercise. Seven plucky volunteers turned up and spent the day bashing bracken in the name of butterflies.
First they cleared areas to allow Violets to flourish, these are the foodplant for the caterpillars of Fritillary butterflies.
They also cleared networks of narrow channels through the thick bracken to allow the butterflies access to both violets and the warm litter layer- a change from administering the countrys telecommunications.
They were fortunate to see a variety of butterflies, Fallow deer and an Adder.

It's Fayre grand

Last Saturday the team at Teign Valley attended the Bicton college Country Fayre.
This is normally our first show of the year and enables us to try out any new ideas.
We offered badge making, beeswax candle making, bird boxs (made on site by the purchaser with the help of the Wardening team) and our own homemade charcoal for sale.
The shop at Lydford always brings along a good selection of products for people to purchase and this day was no exception, they even had a good selection of local foods

Geoff our roving recruiter brought his van along and had a good day making 7 new members.
As always we did a bit of green woodworking and offered people the chance to have a go themselves, trying out the Shave horse and our big cross-cut saws.

The flag is flying - but why?

The Devon flag has been raised, above Castle Drogo, in celebration of St Nectan's Day.

St Nectan, who was born in Wales in the 12th Century, spent his adult life in and around both Hartland and Tintagel, for much of the time living as a hermit.

It is said that he was given 2 cows by a swineherd, who's lost pigs he'd helped recover. These cows were stolen and, having tracked them down, Nectan tried to convert the thieves to Christianity. The robbers attacked him and cut off his head but Nectan still managed to pick up his head and walk home, before dying.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

There is a new buzz about Castle Drogo

A nice sunny spot, not too close to the main visitor routes, was found in the new orchard area at Castle Drogo.

A good well drained site was prepared. Two new stands were constructed using oak sawn from timber off the estate.

All was ready for the arrival of about 20,000 new visitors.

On Monday night we met a beekeeper from Buckfast Abbey home of the famous Buckfast bee bred by Brother Adam. The Abbey is cutting back on the number of bees they keep so we were able to purchase two colonies to start our apiary at Drogo.

The hive entrances were blocked with foam and each hive strapped down tight, so there would be no unfortunate slippage, before loading them into the back of the land rover. The hives are collected late in the evening so that all the foraging bees have returned home.

The hives were then driven carefully back to the Castle and installed in their new site just as darkness was falling. Next day the bees were all out and about checking out their new home and their new foraging area in the Teign valley.

The bees are currently in a type of hive called a Dadnant this is not a common type so the first job we will have is to transfer them into nice new National hives. My next blog will show this process.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Secret Garden

Not all industrial heritage is dirty and smelly. It comes as a surprise to many of our visitors, when they walk through the dirt and dust of an old foundry into the peace and tranquility of an English country garden where they can relax over a cream tea.

Vintage Motorcycle Gathering at Finch Foundry

On 22 May, Finch Foundry's annual vintage motorcycle gathering was supported by a large number of classic and vintage motorcycles. The main attraction this year, was a display by the Vincent Motorcycle Club who had arranged for all models of Vincent motorcycles to be gathered together in one place, probably for the first time ever. A great day that was enjoyed by everybody and we're hoping for a repeat in May next year.

Royal Oak Visit to Dartmoor

Yesterday both Parke and Castle Drogo were visited by board members of the Royal Oak Foundation, a US based organisation that allows Americans to become involved with the work of the National Trust.

The board make an annual trip to the UK and we were delighted to be offered the chance to welcome them to Parke, for a tour of the walled garden, and then to Castle Drogo, which had been selected to host dinner for them during this year’s visit.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Woodland Vascular Plants as Indicators of Ancient Woodland

Wood anemone (Anemone nemerosa) at Hembury Woods SSSI/SAC.

A (fairly) faithful indicator of ancient woodland across the country.

Conservationists have long known that the older a habitat, the richer its wildlife is. Thus the more species it supports the more important the site is in terms of nature conservation.
This importance of continuity of habitat is most vividly illustrated in woodland, and, more specifically, in ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW).

All species of ASNW can in effect be used as 'indicators', or as 'barometers' of the health of a habitat. But how can you properly find out how many invertebrates or fungi are present without years of detailed survey? Birds are too mobile and mammals too elusive. Lichens and bryophytes are excellant indicators but are extremely complex organisms and require great expertise to properly identify. Moreover, many coppice woods are known to be of ancient origin but this system of management eliminates larger, lichen bearing trees and allows for large fluctuations of light which is sometimes not conducive to lichens. Air pollution exacerbates the problem in using them reliably in areas such as the south-east of the country.

This leaves the vascular plants, that is, the flowering plants, trees, ferns and native conifers. Easy to identify and locate. But of course, as with everything, there are limitations.
There is now a tendency for certain woodland plants to be used as proof that a wood is ancient. This was never the reason for the creation of the 'indicator' lists. They were originally to 'indicate' the richest woods, and, coincidentally, happened to 'indicate' that such woods were often those of ancient origin.
We will come back to these limitations after a brief trip back to the 1980's when the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) set out to identify and map the nations ancient woodland for the now famous Ancient Woodland Inventory. The ultimate objective of this inventory was to secure appropriate management of the nations remaining ASNW by first identifying and mapping it. This was the practical aim of the NCC, and whilst their surveyors became well versed in the documentation and clues as to a woods use in the past (clues discussed in the blogs 'Finding Ancient Woodland' and 'Reading the Wood') they needed biological clues, a way of evaluating the richness of ASNW as a habitat in the present.

It has long been known that many woodland vascular plants are restricted to old woods and that they are slow and ineffective colonisers of new woods and plantations. This has been exacerbated by the isolation of many old woods, and thus the further isolation of many ancient woodland plants.
Following on from studies by George Peterken in the native limewoods of Lincolnshire, and from Oliver Rackhams work on Oxlips in Hayley Wood in Cambridgeshire (both in the 1970's), Francis Rose and Richard Hornby set about compiling lists of ancient woodland vascular plants for the NCC. They needed to restrict their lists to species which showed a strong affinity for ancient woodland and were typical members of botanically rich woods. Refinements occured as work progressed, and as Rose illustrates in Indicators of ancient woodland: The use of vascular plants in evaluating ancient woods for nature conservation in British Wildlife (Vol 10, No 4, 1999), by 1978 they had refined the lists so that the species they identified :

' a) seldom occur outside woodland, or
b) even if they do, are nonetheless indicative of long continuity of woodland cover, or
c) seem to be reliable indicators in at least part of the region. '

Extemely rare plants were transferred to a separate list, and different lists were drawn up for different regions, so that each region of southern Britain had a list of 100 Ancient Woodland Vascular Plants (AWVPs) and a list of 52 Rare Woodland Vascular Plants (RWVPs), spread across these regions. These RWVPs were defined as either occuring in very few sites (ie fewer than 10) or were confined to a very localised area.

Over time these lists have been extended to the rest of Britain with minor adjustments here and there dependant upon locality and improved field data, but the general consensus on which plants constitute as reliable 'indicators' (broadly) remains.

Limitations of the AWVP lists
As Rose notes in the aforementioned article 'While the wide use of AWVP lists as a surveyor's tool is obviously gratifying to its originators, their sometimes apparently uncritical use leads us to remind users that they should be regarded only as a tool, and not as an infallible guide. The lists should be used intelligently and in combination with other information.'
The 'other information' is that such as covered in earlier blogs, 'Finding Ancient Woodland' and 'Reading The Wood', that is, looking at old maps and documents, and seeking other clues within the wood itself as to its antiquity. Only then can the presence of certain AWVPs contribute to the overall picture as to the possibility of a wood being of ancient origin.

George Peterken in Identifying ancient woodland using vascular plant indicators in British Wildlife ( Vol 11, No 3, 2000) highlights the risk of reading too much into lists of plants through an analysis of the data he collected in Lincolnshire in the 1970s.
Between 1972 and 1981, aided by several local botanists, he collected plant lists for 362 woods of which, through documentary evidence, he knew 89 were ancient woods and 273 were secondary woods.
Through these lists he attempted every variable to actually test the reliability of AWVPs as reliable 'indicators' of ancient woodland.
First of he tried using single species that were strictly confined to the ancient woods in Lincolnshire (the commonest of which were Common Cow-wheat, Bird's-nest Orchid, Pendulous Sedge and Herb-Paris), but found that they were absent from the greater majority of ancient woods.
He then considered possible indicators collectively, by tallying the four most frequent species confined to ASNW in Lincolnshire (those listed above), and the four most frequent species that were almost confined to ancient woodland (Pale Sedge, Great Woodrush, Sweet Woodruff and Greater Butterfly Orchid), and found that '62 ancient woods would have been correctly identified as ancient, but 27 ancient woods would not have been identified, and 6 secondary woods would have been incorrectly identified as ancient.'

In his usual meticulous manner he tries every variable, including trying to identify the species that most closely conforms to a pattern that would be shown by the perfect ancient woodland indicator. In central Lincolnshire such a species would thus be present in all 89 ancient woods and absent from all 273 secondary woods. The nearest species was Wood anemone, found in 81 ancient woods but also in 14 secondary woods. This meant that it would have misled in 22 of the 362 woods. Other species would have misled even more frequently.

As Rose points out ' We do not claim that all, or indeed any, of the AWVPs are strictly faithful to ancient woodland. Where secondary woodland abuts directly onto older woodland, it will acquire species much more rapidly than do isolated woods'.

Peterken's studies backed this up, with the majority of secondary woods containing AWVPs in close proximity to ASNW, though, it must be stressed, not all.

Many woodland plants behave differently from one soil type to another (hence why an indicator plant in the south-east may not be so in the south-west) or it may be confined to ancient woodland (such as Oxlip) because other habitats it frequented (such as wet meadows) have been ploughed up and destroyed.

Futhermore, many AWVPs adorn our hedgerows leading some to question the validity of that plant as an 'indicator'. Such hedges may be 'ghost hedges', that is, all that remains of an area that was formerly woodland but is now pasture, or it may simply link up to an ancient woodland.

Equally, many ancient grazed wood pasture sites which are known to be sites of great antiquity are not renowned for their AWVPs, but are for their 'Old Forest Lichens' (an index of which similar to AWVPs Francis Rose has produced). Conversley, coppice woods renowned for their rich displays of AWVPs are largely bereft of 'old forest lichens' as mentioned earlier.

Some wild flowers are also grown in gardened landscapes and may be escapees, so unless they occur well within a wood they should be discounted.

The key here, as Rose notes, is that 'the sum of the lists of AWVPs is more valid than their constituent species'. That the more AWVPs can be found in a wood is more important than individual species as of themselves. As he goes on to say:

'Notwithstanding these limitations, which need to be understood when evaluating sites for nature conservation purposes, we believe that the regional lists of AWVPs do provide a broad framework in which one can place individual sites. For the identification and evaluation of diverse woods, rich in vascular plants, they should be perfectly adequate. To establish a wood's probable age and origin, however, they should be used with due care, and preferably in combination with historical information.
Our basic thesis is that any one (or even several) AWVP species may have little or no significance. The whole concept is concerned with statistical probability. We believe that as the number of AWVP species that occurs in a site increases so the statistical probability of the wood being ancient also increases. Our AWVP species form a continuum from the very rare (too rare to use in the tables) that are certainly characteristic of, and faithful to, ancient woods, to those that are widespread in old woods, but not always confined to such woods.'

Regional variation
If we accept the limitations noted, we have an invaluable tool (alongside others) in determining the likelihood of a wood being of ancient origin, but, even more importantly, of assessing its value for nature conservation, and of being able to prioritise our activities around these flora rich woods.

The great value of British woodlands, as hinted at in previous 'Woodlands' blogs, is its great variety due to topography and past management. Thus we have regional 'Types' of woodland which further enables us to focus our woodland conservation management. AWVPs aid us in this focus and also reflect this great variety.

The south and south-east of Britain contains more ASNW than anywhere else in the country. It also maintained traditional woodland management practices (such as coppicing) for longer than elsewhere in the country (thus allowing in the light many AWVPs need to flourish), and then reinstated these practices quicker than anyone else. Such lowland woods have thus been less modified by the ravages of forestry (though not untouched) and are generally seen as the priority in terms of woodland conservation. Consequently the AWVP scores for woods in this part of the country are generally the highest. Much of this is also down to geology.
As Rose notes:

'The richest woods are usually those on varied topography, often on inclines, which combine acid and lime-rich soils, with moist, heavy soils on the lower ground. Without this necessary diversity, even the most historically stable, undisturbed wood is unlikely to have a AWVP score exceeding 30.'

Such points as have just been made are very important to bear in mind for when we turn our attention to a National Trust wood on Dartmoor such as Hembury Woods. This will be a blog of its own with a list of its AWVPs and other woodland vascular plants.

To put all this into some context, some of the richest woods in Hampshire and Sussex have AWVP scores of 74, with the average being around 44 to 53.
In the south-west, for the woods known, the highest score for a wood in Somerset is 41, with the average being around 33.
In Cornwall they seem to score from around 23 to 34.

In understanding these scores in light of the limitations noted, it has to be stressed that these are scores for known ASNW, and the context i am trying to illustrate is of the richness of ASNW in the south and south-east of the country as compared to western woods (which are largely on acid soils). Conservationists have long known this, and, in effect, the scores for AWVPS 'indicate' this to be so.

Here, of course, it must be noted that western woods are fantastically rich in lichens and bryophytes. This is where their value lies. Thus, i suppose, a blog on woodland epiphytes must follow.

To sum up, from all of the above, it must be clear now that AWVPs are a useful aide to ascertaining the possibility of a wood being of ancient origin as long as it is in conjunction with other information.
The key to remember is that AWVPs indicate the great floral value of ASNW due to its age, but they are not proof of its age.
It's real value to woodland conservationists goes beyond this and is ably summed up by George Peterken who i am more than happy to give the last word to.

' Ancient woodland indicators' should really be used in reverse: rather than deduce history from plants, we should use our knowledge of woodland history to learn about the responses of species to habitat change, and thus their likely responses to future management.'


1) The Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) morphed into English Nature who then morphed into Natural England.

2) The accepted AWVP lists for most of Britain is that collated by K.Kirby in 2004, which can be found in The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose (Revised Edition 2006).

3) Other AWVP lists, for Wales and Scotland, and some northern counties of England, are accesible from the Countryside Agencies or in specialist journals. A full list of the counties and where their relevant AWVP lists can be found is in Field Surveys for Ancient Woodlands: Issues and Approaches - A Report to the Woodland Trust (2009).

Now Parke's going wild

Last week saw more than 60 kids (followed by their parents!) visiting the National Trust Parke woodland to learn about life in the wildwoods.

They completed a woodland trail encouraging them to use their senses whilst out in the woods. This led them to the bushmans camp deep in the forest.

Having survived the walk and answered all the questions they learned the skills of firelighting and campfire building under the watchful eyes of wardens John and Pete and volunter wardens Dan & Emily.

They then helped to prepare delicious ransoms (wild garlic) bread, washed down with mint & nettle tea. Other not-so-wild treats were campfire popcorn and toasted marshmallows. For some this wasn't enough so they built shelters and took part in games such as Giant Pick-up-Sticks.

In all they had a great time, even the adults wanted to stay longer!

Monday, 7 June 2010

New apprenticeship scheme

The National Trust have created a major new Apprenticeship Scheme in a bid to tackle the severe building skills shortage in the heritage sector.

The programme, which is aimed largely at 16 – 19 year olds, will train young men and women in traditional skills including stone masonry, carpentry, joinery, lead work, plumbing, painting and decorating.

The unique full time three-year programme, which begins in September, will offer 16 positions at National Trust properties across the country where apprentices will train alongside staff due to retire within that time. The aim is to provide continuity of valued skills by enabling those who are retiring to teach and mentor the next generation.

We currently employ around 130 direct labour staff across the country with an average age of just under 50. With nearly 19% of those staff due to retire within four years, rising to 25% in six years, the need to recruit skilled people in their place is a priority.

Rory Cullen, Head of Building at the National Trust, said:

'The severe shortage of people with heritage building skills has made it extremely difficult for the Trust to recruit appropriate staff and this situation is common to the industry as a whole. We have responsibility for the upkeep of more listed and historic structures than anyone else, so we are in a prime position to generate awareness of the issue and take action to address it.

However, the Apprenticeship Scheme will not only be of considerable benefit to the conservation of our own buildings but to the Heritage Sector as a whole.'

Philip Venning, Secretary, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, said:

'The National Trust has a huge range of different kinds of building, and this scheme will give the apprentices a unique chance to learn from some of the best in the field. Well done the National Trust for an initiative that will have a wider benefit for the nation’s architectural heritage, both now and for many years to come.'

The Apprenticeship Scheme will be funded by the Trust’s own funds and places will be offered on a three year contract basis. Each apprentice will be paid £12,000 a year and college and tuition fees will also be covered.

To apply for a place on the Apprenticeship Scheme, beginning in September, visit or telephone 01793 817799.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Plant invaders - the video

Simon Ford - the National Trust's Nature Conservation Advisor in Wessex explains what the problems are and what we are doing about it

NT - Plant Invaders Week from National Trust on Vimeo.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Drogo vs the elements

As part of our on-going battle with the elements here at Castle Drogo we are currently undertaking work to some of our beleaguered windows. In order to slow the amount of water that pours into the Scullery every time it rains, we have just replaced the steel framed windows with perspex. These sheets of perspex will remain in place whilst we restore the steel window frames which had become buckled over the years. Since the new windows were installed we have had a day of heavy rain and, fingers crossed, no water came through! The effect of the new windows is rather stylish (in a 'Grand Designs' kind of way) and I think that perhaps if Drogo were being built today Lutyens would have put in big expanses of glass throughout the Castle.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Modern plant hunters help weed out threat to British wildlife

Seven days of unprecedented action to tackle the threat from non-native invasive plants starts today with 10 sites in Devon & Cornwall (70 across the country) taking part in the first ever Plant Invaders Week (5-12 June).
Simon Ford, National Trust Nature Conservation Adviser, said: “Even though only one in a thousand non-native species are a real danger to our wildlife their impact is second only to the impact of habitat loss.

“If we sit back and do nothing there is a real possibility that a few non-native invasive plants will survive and we will lose the beauty and diversity of our landscape. That’s why we’re making a commitment in the International Year of Biodiversity to have a decade of action to control non-native invasive plants and highlight the challenges that they pose to our native flora and fauna.”

This week of mass action will see hundreds of volunteers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland helping to remove plants and carry out surveys to establish their true extent.

There will be a wide range of hands-on activities that people can get involved from pulling out Himalayan balsam from the Valency Valley at Boscastle and Lanhydrock to pulling and digging invasive Montbretia at St.Agnes Head and the Beaconon to helping staff clear pink purslane from woodland at Lydford Gorge near the river, allowing native flowers to re-establish and we hope to improve habitat for rare butterflies.

Today also sees a commitment by the National Trust to control four particularly damaging non-native invasive plants – Rhododendron ponticum, giant hogweed, Hottentot fig and Japanese knotweed – on its land by 2020. The Trust will work closely with fellow landowners to help control the spread of these non-native invasive plants that have such a major impact on the countryside and wildlife.

This significant move, the first of its kind in the UK, will involve working with specialist contractors, and where practical volunteers, to make a big difference in the next decade.

Rhododendron ponticum spreads like wildfire and can colonise entire valleys in a matter of years, leaving little room for other wildlife to flourish. Work is well underway on sites such as Lundy Island and in Snowdonia to control Rhododendron by cutting plants and pulling seedlings. This normally happens during the autumn and winter and involves working with volunteers.

Giant hogweed can spread far and wide along waterways. Its sap can cause burns on the skin when exposed to sunlight. This plant can be found along river valleys over much of the lowlands of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is controlled by spraying before it starts getting tall and forms a rosette shape on the ground.

With Hottentot fig we are in beauty and the beast territory with stunning flowers masking this plant’s ability to choke out native plants on the coast in places such as the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, famous for its population of choughs and rare flowers that live on the cliffs. Tackling the ‘fig’ is tricky – you may need climbers to get at it by abseiling down cliffs, but the reward is the return of sea pink, sea campion, buckshorn plantain and lots of other flowers, plus a better habitat for Cornwall’s choughs.

Japanese knotweed remains number one on the non-native invasive plants wanted list and is very demanding when it comes to the clearance needed to control its spread. Japanese Knotweed needs fairly intensive management with cutting and stem injections. It can be found across the UK and on National Trust is found on properties from west Cornwall, and west Wales, all the way up Northern Ireland.

Work already carried out on National Trust land has shown that the clearance of invasive plants can make a difference.

In one valley in Cornwall the removal of Japanese Knotweed has seen the return of native species like bluebells, and wetland flowers, such as purple loosestrife, marsh marigold and bog pimpernel.

In the next ten years, as our climate becomes milder, there will be a host of new non-native invasive plants that are inadvertently imported to the UK from warmer countries that start to thrive here. These will provide a real challenge for conservationists and land owners.

Some non-native invasive plants such as three cornered leek and Bermuda buttercup have been restricted to coastal sites because it is cooler inland. But with the climate warming, they are spreading inland and represent a major threat to lots more habitats in the next decade.

Simon Ford, continued: “Invasive plants have the potential to move into a rivers and valleys smother everything else and leave little room for other plants to flourish and wildlife struggles as a result.

“That’s why it’s so important that our work in the next ten years focuses on controlling plants such as Rhododendron ponticum and Japanese knotweed and keeping a close eye on the arrival of new and equally problematic species such as red oak with the changing nature of our climate.”

More information about how you can get involved and help make a difference can be found by visiting (click on ‘find an event’ and then ‘select the type of event’ and look for ‘Plant Invaders Week’) or calling 0844 800 1895.

Drogo Azaleas

For just a couple of weeks each year the azaleas at Castle Drogo, that line the path leading from the croquet lawn to the fragrant terrace, explode into flower. We are now nearing the end of that period for this year so, if you would like the chance to see this spectacular array of colour, now is the time to come and make the most of it.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Widecombe shop art exhibition for June

What a success! 8 pictures sold at the private viewing of 'Tractors, a moving experience' exhibition here at Widecombe National Trust shop last night.
Put a date in your diary to come and view the exhibition of 23 painting including the ones already sold.
Exhibition on from 1st June to 30th June during shop hours - 10.30 - 5.00 pm daily.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dartmoor and Castle Drogo

Today saw the merger of the Dartmoor and Castle Drogo properties into one.
Over the coming days and months expect to see posts appearing here on Castle Drogo and its gardens along with a lot of other things too.

All very exciting

Adrian Colston
General Manager
Castle Drogo and Dartmoor

Castle Drogo's bushcraft treat.

The Bank holiday weather gods were kind to us for once, so with sun shining and the beech trees casting their green hue, the good folk of Wild Woods 'n Willow set up camp just outside the grounds of Castle Drogo for their family bushcraft day. These guys bought their wealth of experience to provide four different activities throughout the day. These included: Fire making, a wild food foray, cooking at the campfire and weaving using willow and rush. As the flow of cars on the drive increased our first eager people arrived with the boys making haste for the fire starting with Charlie whilst the girls tended to follow the more sedate art of weaving with Linda.

Our families were soon into the swing of things, gathering nettles apace for a cup of tea or ready to make some pesto which would be used to stuff dampers (dough cooked on a stick over the fire) and eaten whilst picking Son or Dan's brains about what else could be gathered from surrounding area. The day turned out to be a fantastic experience for the people who came and they were given an intimate and thorough introduction to bushcraft and living off the land. If you want to check out their webiste here it is:

Keep an eye out on the blog for the possible return of the bushcraft experience in August.

Finally a big thank you to Linda, Charlie, Dan and Son for all their hard work and for making everybody's experience a positive one.