National Trust Festival of Nature
PUBLISHED: 12:45 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:08 20 February 2013
For the first time, the National Trust is organising a festival of nature across its properties nationwide to offer visitors of all ages a window on the wildlife which is very often right under our noses.<br/><br/>By Simon Ford
For the first time, the National Trust is organising a festival of nature across its properties nationwide to offer visitors of all ages a window on the wildlife which is very often right under our noses. In Gloucestershire and North Wiltshire, a number of the Trust's properties will be organising Hidden Nature Week events (24 May - 1 June) but if you can't make it to one of them, do make the most of what our countryside has to offer at this rich wildlife time of year.
May and June are perhaps the most exciting months of the year for wildlife enthusiasts. Our broad-leaved woodlands are still fresh and green, with bluebells and wild garlic in profusion. The meadows are a riot of colour and buzzing with insects, while birds busily collect for their broods.
The limestone of Gloucestershire provides wonderful conditions for many species. The county's beech woodlands, such as those at Woodchester Park, are amongst the best in Britain with many special plants such as Solomon's seal, lily of the valley, herb Paris and the spooky looking birds nest orchid.
The grasslands are home to some of the richest ecosystems in Europe with a multitude of orchids such as bee, pyramidal, common spotted and fragrant.
Rodborough Common is one of the best places to see many wild flowers and you may also find juniper and see butterflies such as marbled white, grizzled skipper, and even the Adonis blue which has recently colonised the area. Both Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest on account of their extensive areas of unimproved limestone grassland, with Rodborough being of international importance and designated as a Special Area of Conservation. The Trust acquired its own herd of Belted Galloway cattle in 1999 to restrictively graze previously under-grazed areas of Rodborough Common throughout the year. This helps improve the sward, and consequently the wildlife value of the grasslands.
Also near Stroud, Woodchester Park, with its series of lakes and lovely walks is a great spot for wildlife. The beech and ash woodland hosts a nationally important colony of great and lesser horseshoe bat, one of the best and longest studied in the UK. It also has a number of rare invertebrates and freshwater species.
At Chedworth Roman Villa, there has been a colony of Britain's largest snail, the Roman snail, for 1700 years. Helix Pomatia was introduced by the Romans as a food supply and in almost two millennia, they have not migrated more than a few miles up the road. The snails, which can grow up to 5 cm across, appear out of hibernation in late Spring.
The Sherborne water meadows are particularly special at this time of year and abound with dragonflies. Kingfishers and the rare water vole may be seen on the River Windrush.
Dyrham Park in the south of the county is one of the oldest deer parks in England, notable for ancient oaks, ash and wych elm, badgers and fallow deer. The recently created wildflower meadows at Hidcote Manor and Snowshill gardens are encouraging ever increasing wildlife.
During Hidden Nature Week, visitors to Trust properties in Gloucestershire and North Wiltshire will be able to follow wildlife trails, meet wildlife experts, join a bat walk, hear from the Trust's nature conservation advisor or handle big bus
We will be encouraging our younger visitors to look under stones, in rock pools and see what is hiding beneath tree bark. To think about what happens when we go to bed as a whole new world comes to life - moths, badgers and bats - feasting in the moonlight.
Did you know:-
- A massive 95 percent of National Trust buildings (grand country houses, barns, cottages) have bats living in them
- There are 300 species of bee in Britain alone
- Toads drink by sitting in water and absorbing it through their skin
- Hedgehogs can walk up to 2 miles a night looking for food
- Of all the rare or scarce species listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, 41% occur on Trust land.
- The Trust is the single most important landowner for bats in the UK with roost sites, or other records for all 17 British species.
- The Trust owns many of the richest butterfly sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including most the remaining sites for five of the rarest.
Hidden Nature Week events
Chedworth Roman Villa
Hidden Nature Week
Sat 24 May to Sun 1 Jun 10am - 5pm.
There will be a range of wildlife activities this week with our Wardens.
Telephone 01242 890256 for details
Wildlife in Wessex
Fri 30 May 6.30-8pm gates open 5.30pm
To kick off our Wildlife Conservation Weekend we are hosting a lecture by the National Trust's Regional Nature Conservationist Simon Ford
Booking essential on 01179372501
Tickets 5 to include light refreshments.
Wildlife Conservation Weekend
Sat 31 May and Sun 1 Jun 11am-5pm
Meet local conservation societies who will be available for walks talks and information. Normal Admission
Tuesday Nature Trails
Tuesdays 8 Apr to 28 Oct 2-3.15pm During school holidays only
Trail the Parkland with a Warden finding and exploring exciting facts about the trees and wildlife at Dyrham.
Heelis - NT central office, Swindon
Crafty Urban Wildlife
Sat 24 May-Sun 1 Jun 11am-3pm
Children's simple craft and colouring activities, to help local urban wildlife
Under 8 years should be accompanied by an adult. All tickets 1
Hidden Nature Trail
Sat 24 May to Mon 2 Jun 11am-5.30pm
Discover how and why various animal and plant species make Lacock their home on this self-led trail. Normal Admission
Tue 27 May 8.30-10.15pm Meet at the Abbey gates at 8.15pm.
A chance to learn from experts about these fascinating creatures who make their home in the tower of the Abbey.
Adult 7 Child 4 Booking Essential 01249 730459
Little Bug Activities
Wed 28 and Thu 29 May 11am-4pm
Children's art and craft activities with a creepy crawly theme.
The Big Bug Show
Wed 28 and Thu 29 May 11am-12noon, 12.30-1.30pm, 2-3pm, 3.30-4.30pm, 5-6pm
Meet at the Manger Barn, High Street, Lacock
Tickle a Tarantula or cuddle a Cockroach as you discover more about the fascintating world of Big Bugs in this hands-on interactive show.
Adult 9 Child 4.50 Family 24
Booking Essential 01249 730459
Discover the Wildlife
Wed 28 to Thu 29 May 11am-5pm
Come and discover the wildlife and visit our exhibition.