Tag Archives: National Trust

#SpeakUp Week of Action nature walk

Last week was the Climate Coalition’s Week of Action on climate change. People across the country got together to let their MPs know that they care about climate change. As part of it, I organised a nature walk for the Mole Valley constituency.

Organising a walk in October is rather risky, so Roger (who helped me promote the event) and I were both praying hard for good weather. And our prayers were answered: it was lovely and sunny as we gathered, and the rain held off until the end of the walk.

On our nature walk in the Surrey Hills
On our nature walk in the Surrey Hills

One of the ranger team at a nearby National Trust property had volunteered to lead the walk, which was great. Stu told us about the different trees we encountered, and how the rangers plan for the long term, planting trees now to replace those that will die in the next 100 years. I think we all learnt something, as well as having a very pleasant stroll in the beautiful Surrey Hills.

An example of Ash dieback: the top of this tree is dead
An example of Ash dieback – look at the top of this tree

Things I learnt:

 

  • beech trees have very shallow roots
  • stinking iris leaves smell of beef crisps
  • what Ash dieback looks like
  • you need to plan decades ahead when looking after an estate
  • one little pot of Rodda’s clotted cream was enough for my big scone, after all

Our MP wasn’t able to make it, but we knew that in good time, so have a plan. Three of us have an appointment to meet him at his surgery next week. We’ll present him with a big green heart with pictures people have sent me of things they care about that will be affected by climate change. The local Brownies have contributed, as have kids at church. We’ll also include some photos from the walk. We just need to work out what to say to persuade him to vote for action on climate change.

The intrepid walkers with the big green heart
The intrepid walkers with the big green heart

It was quite a lot of work, organising the walk, particularly promoting it to local groups and the local paper. I don’t think it played to my strengths. My efforts weren’t spectacularly successful, but the crucial bit will be meeting the MP.

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My new dormouse site

Now spring is here, my thoughts have turned to dormice. While it’ll probably be a while yet before they emerge, it’s time to make sure everything is ready for them. I got my dormouse licence at the end of last year, so this is my first season with a site of my own.

In preparation for the annual box clean, I visited my site last week, to work out where it is, and check I can find the boxes. The site is part of an estate owned by the National Trust. There are 30 boxes up at the moment (most dormouse monitoring sites have 50), but there’s only been one box check so far, in early December last year, where several active dormice were found.

My new dormouse site

Apart from dormice, they also get several types of deer (including red deer), foxes, badgers and other woodland mammals. On my recce I saw a woodpecker. The wood is still wearing its winter mourning, so it’s hard to tell what it will be like once the plants begin to wake up again.

A fallen tree marks the edge of my dormouse site
A fallen tree marks the edge of my dormouse site

I am excited, but also a bit nervous about being responsible for a dormouse site. With it being a new site, I’m not sure what to expect. Will there be stinging nettles as tall as me in the summer? Will lots of bumblebees decide dormouse boxes are a great place to nest? Do they get yellow necked mice or just woodmice? Will I see an elusive red deer? What about bluebells and blue tits? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Bat girl strikes again

At last some success with bats! In fact, 3 new species (and 2 old ones) in one night!

You may have noticed that I have been struggling with identifying bats. When I go out with a bat detector without expert help I detect new species, but can’t pin down which ones. And my previous bat walk with an expert found nothing but common pipistrelles. Still, I can persevere when needed, so I went on another bat walk.

This time I headed down to Winkworth Arboretum. This National Trust site is bat heaven, including woodland and lake, and is home to seven species of bats. And they weren’t all in hiding!

About 17 people gathered just before dusk, to listen to a short talk by an expert from Surrey Bat Group. Armed with detectors we then headed into the woods.

The first species to show up were common pipistrelles, feeding over our heads, silhouetted against the still light sky. Soprano pipistrelles soon joined them. As we walked over a bridge our guide was disappointed not to see Daubenton’s bats, and I worried I wouldn’t find any new species.

We then came out of the wood, to the shore of a small lake. That’s where things really got exciting. Soprano and common pipistrelles flitted over head. Skimming the water, Daubenton’s bats scooped up insects, emitting fast clicks. Then, tuning the detector lower, we picked up serotine bats at 25khz. Finally, we picked up the deep signal of Britain’s largest (and loudest) bat, the noctule. It’s just as well we can’t hear high frequncies, as noctule bats calls can be louder than a rock concert. Imagine the complaints from neighbours!

It was amazing seeing (through occasional torch flashes) so many different bats in one place, and watching their acrobatic manoeuvres. It was particularly satisfying being able to distinguish between the species, as they had quite different call patterns and frequencies.

So, five down, 11 more to go!