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200 year old Tree blows over and reveals a family of Stoats

PUBLISHED: 01:44 23 June 2012 | UPDATED: 10:36 21 February 2013

200 year old Tree blows over and reveals a family of Stoats

200 year old Tree blows over and reveals a family of Stoats

"Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first"? Find out more about the sad loss of an old walnut tree and how it lead to the discovery of a family of stoats, which in turn solved some mysteries of its own...

It is always such a dilemma when someone poses the question: Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first?

If you choose the good news to start with, then will it be spoilt by the bad news? Or, or vice versa, bad news first followed by good news which might hardly cheer one up at allif the bad news was very upsetting. However as I cant ask my readers for their opinion on this point I have decided to give the bad news of this theme in this article first and then end with the really lovely news.

A great loss happened at Sudeley in the high winds in January when our beloved 200-year- old walnut tree blew over just in front of the Castle. We were lucky that it fell eastwards, as if it had gone south it would have smashed right into the building and probably done immense and irreparable damage. I couldnt believe my eyes when I returned from a sunny week in Spain, turned into the castle drive and saw it lying prostrate with its huge roots in the air exposing a dark cavernous hole beneath and met my grandson running to me with tears in his eyes to relate the tragic news. It reminded me of how close children are to nature and Lucien, after so many hours playing beneath its expansive protective branches, not to mention all the fun collecting the fallen fruit every year, hadmade a close friend of the walnutas had we all.

It lay in its miserable fallen state for many days, until the branches were all chopped upand carried away and the tree specialist came to plank up the vast trunk to go into storage to season. We hope some beautiful pieces will emerge from the old knotted wood as a fitting memorial to this wonderful gift of nature which our family and so many others had loved and enjoyed.

However, the fall of the walnut solved a big and ugly mystery at Sudeley. I had always wondered why my dog Kola and others of her species had spent so much time sniffing around the gnarled base of the old tree, and now I know. A family of stoats had lodged in its depth, probably for generations, and over the previous few weeks had been mounting murderous nightly raids on our pheasantry.

One by one, seven of our rarest and most beautiful birds had been found the next morningunspeakably slaughtered. The assassin was thought to be the usual suspect, the fox, but curiously ever since the walnut fell with anearth- shattering bang, there have been no more assaults on the pheasantry. Of course, mystery solvedthe stoats were the perpetrators all along, and thinking the end of the world had come, fled the scene in terror and have mercifully not been seen in the vicinity since. So its an ill wind and looking on the bright side we hope peace and tranquillity will soon return to the pheasantry.

The really good news is that following such devastating losses in our bird collection we have decided not only to replace the lovely pheasant varieties that were lost but also to add to the collection, and we are expecting delivery of a pair of the most adorable, enchanting, and extraordinary of wild birds to arrive shortly. Snowy Owls! We had Snowy Owls in the Sudeley collection years ago when my children were growing up and there has never been anything quite so delightful as they are, with their exquisite markings, white feathers that you can hardly feel they are so soft, and huge wise yellow eyes. Hailing from the Arctic Circle, but I am assured perfectly happy in warmer climes, they have few predators and are equipped to defend against any kind of threat towards them or their offspring. So be off with you foxes and stoats, do not darken our bird sanctuary again and lets welcome our new residents when they have settled inand along with the rest of the birds in the aviary, will be receiving visitors from April 1.

Sudeley opens on April 1 for the 2012 season, celebrating the life of Queen Katherine Parr with a Quincentenary Festival. Highlight events include talks by Dr David Starkey, writer, creator and director of the TV series The Tudors, Michael Hirst; Tudor Family Fun Days; literary events with Tim Porter, Linda Porter, Susan James and many more. Check the website for full details www.sudeleycastle.co.uk or call 01242 602308.

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