Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Geology training for our volunteers

Our hardy volunteers braved the snow on Saturday for a brilliant training day all about the special geology and fossils on Wenlock Edge. We started in the warm looking at different types of rocks and talking about how the Wenlock Edge was formed then went out onto the limestone ridge to hunt for fossils of silurian sea creatures. Thank you to Peter for leading the session!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Walking in a winter wonderland

Right now Shropshire is covered with a blanket of snow and Wenlock Edge it is no exception with about 12 inches of snow having fallen over the last 3 days. The roads are pretty treacherous so care should be taken if you do decide to drive to or over the Wenlock Edge. If you do visit the woods in the next few days though you will be met with truly magical scenery so if you can get here safely it is well worth a visit.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Halloween at Wenlock Edge

At Wenlock Edge we really get into celebrating Halloween. This is because the Edge is surrounded by myths and legends so Halloween gives us the perfect opportunity to tell people about the spooky side of our spirit of place.

Activities started on Saturday 28th October with a jam-packed day starting with decorating the woods near Presthope and Much Wenlock with cobwebs, fake blood, bats, spiders and more. In the afternoon we had our children’s event which was the most successful it has ever been. Children created little wooden bats before helping a downtrodden witch to rebuild and decorate her home. Then as a group we went exploring the woods at Presthope, listening to stories told by a cast of ghostly characters and last but not least we had our fancy dress competition and handed out ghoulish goody bags.

Later that evening, and again on the evening of Sunday 29th, as the woods went dark, we held our All Hallows Eve walks. These events were not recommended for children under 10 years old as attendees enter the haunted wood of Smokey Hole only if they dare. Walking through the woods at night means every snap of a twig and crunch of leaves makes you feel like you are being watched... and you are! We had an amazing group of terrifying monsters and ghouls to make our visitors jump out of their skins around every corner and some fantastic storytellers to tell the legends and tales in all their gory detail.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Nibbled nut project - We need you!

In October 2015 we started a dormouse feeding signs (hazel nut) project on Wenlock Edge. The project aims to survey the entirety of Wenlock Edge in National Trust ownership and will therefore be undertaken over a number of years on a number of occasions between September and December. The goal of the project is to see if dormouse feeding signs can be found in every area of Wenlock Edge where there is fruiting Hazel.

We are continuing with this project this year and it is the more the merrier when it comes to searching the leaf litter for nibbled nuts! The dates for the surveys are:
Wednesday 1st November
Thursday 9th November

Thursday 23rd November
Wednesday 6th December

Surveys run from 10am-2pm, you can leave early but it will be up to you to get back to your car. An email will be sent the day before with information on the meeting place and to confirm whether the survey will be going ahead (they will be cancelled if weather conditions are too poor). You will need to dress for adverse weather conditions, wear sturdy footwear and bring a packed lunch. Please be aware that on occasion we may be walking on a steep slope, off footpaths and through thick vegetation. Survey sheets, instructions, equipment and maps will be provided for you on the day and previous experience and knowledge of surveys and/or dormice is not required. If you are interested in taking part, contact Kate by email at kate.price@nationaltrust.org.uk
Nibbled nut volunteers

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Monitoring small mammal populations

This month one of our wildlife volunteers, Charlotte, has been undertaking small mammal monitoring in Blakeway Coppice. She has used ten traps along one 100m transect on three separate occasions, baiting the traps with seed and apple and providing hay, for any unsuspecting mammals to make a nest in for the night, then opening them up and releasing the mammals the next morning. She managed to catch 6 bank voles and 1 wood mouse which gives an overall success rate of 23%. This was dragged down by one very soggy trapping session but is still higher than the national average of 17%. We currently borrow the traps from Shropshire Mammal Group in exchange for records but we are planning to purchase our own so that surveys can be done earlier and later in the year. A huge thank you to Charlotte who has led on this project this year!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Summer holiday fun

There are lots of opportunities for play and exploration at Wenlock Edge especially around the Lime kiln walk which starts from our car park at Presthope.

Natural play trail
Our natural play area is set within our beautiful ancient woodland and includes balance beams, a willow tunnel, obstacle courses, den building area and more.  
Wenlock Edge is abundant with wildlife and you can get a closer look at some woodland birds from our bird hide. For those looking for more adventures we have children’s events such as shelter building and a wild woods adventure trail.

Things to do before you're 11 3/4
You can also complete some of the 50 things to do before you are 11 ¾ either on the natural play trail itself or out on the wider estate. Create your own adventures and make lasting memories. We also run den building events and a 50 things Blitz to help you tick off lots of your 50 things in one go! Visit our website for more information. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wenlock-edge/whats-on

Monday, 10 July 2017

An update on the bat project

The project has now been running from April and we have been out on 13 nights. Unfortunately due to poor weather many of our surveys have been cancelled as we can only go out when there's no rain or wind. However, in the past couple of weeks the bats have been out in force! At the start of April many of the nights were only just above 10*c, windy, and there was only a few passing bats but now that its getting warmer we are getting many more feeding above our heads.

The noises we are picking up are the bat's echolocation. This is when the bats emit sounds (usually at high frequencies undetectable to humans) and use the echoes from nearby objects to essentially "see" (through hearing) their surroundings. They use this to navigate the woodland but also to locate insects to feed on.

Emily and Alison recording and counting bat calls and writing down times.
We have picked up at least 3 distinctive types of calls so far. We believe they could be the feeding calls of a Pipistrelle and a type of Myotis bat as well as some communication calls (high pitch squeak sounds).

The feeding calls are a series of clicks and, due to the Doppler effect, we can tell when they're flying past as it get louder then quieter (like an ambulance or racecar). When bats are 'calling' to fly around objects their calls are spaced apart but when they are feeding these calls are closer together.
When the bats get even closer to the prey, the noise turns in to a raspberry/fart noise which when they make lots of rapid calls to give them a better idea of where the insect is. Their communication calls are quick high pitch squeaks that are very distinctive from the feeding calls. Check out this video for some of the calls we are hearing:  BAT VIDEO

We believe that many bats in the surrounding area, such as Much Wenlock, come to the woods to feed, and could be using the Blakeway hollow path like a corridor into the denser woodland as this is where the highest amount of bats have been heard.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Our Meadows in Spring

So far our meadows have been a sea of yellow!  Cowslips, Lesser Celandine, Buttercups and Dandelions have been covering the vast majority of the ground.
From Left to Right:  Cowslip, Lesser Celandine, Buttercups, and Dandelions.

In between there has been the occasional Oxeye Daisy, patches of Speedwells, Forget-me-not, Wild Strawberries and Red Clovers. And around the edges of the meadows there's been Bugle, Violets, and lots of Blossom from the Blackthorn, Hawthorn, and Elder trees. The Yellow rattle and Birds-foot-trefoil can also be seen adding to the yellow shades of the meadow with the upcoming Pyramidal orchids that will bring a pop of purple. 

Top Row(left to right): Oxeye Daisy, Forget-me-not, Wild Strawberry and Red Clover
Bottom Row (left to right): Hawthorn Blossom, Yellow Rattle, Bird's-Foot-Trefoil and a Pyramidal orchid

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Bird Box Monitoring

On Wenlock Edge we have a large bird box scheme, and every year, in April and May, we check these boxes for nests, eggs and chicks and count and record what we find. The large majority of boxes are used by blue-tits and great-tits and some boxes are used by Nuthatch and Pied-flycatchers. Sometimes bees, wood mice and dormice make their homes inside the boxes too.

Volunteers Linda and Miles checking a bird box
If there is evidence a nest box is being used by a bird it will be checked every week and its contents recorded. We record what stage it is in the nest building process, then how many eggs are present, how many chicks successfully hatch, what species they are and finally how many successfully fledged. When the chicks are only a few days old they are blind and naked which makes it very hard to identify species so we wait to see the parent return to nest and identify them. Depending on how old the chicks are we will ring them, with a licensed bird ringer. The ring goes on their leg causing no harm and can be used to identify how far they fly. The data from these box checks goes into a national database which informs population trends.

Top Left: An empty box.
Top Right: 4 white eggs with brown speckles in a nest made of moss and animal hair.
Bottom Left: 5 little chicks huddled together to keep warm. These are about 8 days old and have their feathers and are no longer 'blind' but cannot fly yet.
Bottom Right: These are 3 much older Great tits that are almost fully developed and will leave the nest soon.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Monitoring in April

April has been a busy month for our volunteers! Many of our monitoring projects have started this month, some of our projects are long standing (dormouse box checks has been running for 17 years) and some are brand new for this year (bat survey). There is something going on throughout the year but the monitoring season really kicks off this month because everything is starting to emerge, nesting, breeding, flowering and/or seeding. Surveys like the butterfly transects and small mammal trapping started last year so we are hoping the repeated surveys this year will come up with some interesting data trends. The data collected from these surveys helps us to identify range, condition and population health of our wildlife and habitats which inputs into our future property management.
Not all of these projects would be possible without the help of our wonderful volunteers – thank you all. We welcome more volunteer assistance with some of these projects, if you are interested in finding out more contact Kate at: