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
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.

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:

Friday, 21 April 2017

Our Spring events

We had a great turnout and great weather for our wild garlic walk yesterday! We strolled through the woods taking in the fragrant smell of wild garlic and spotting spring flowers before popping out onto the crest and into the sunshine where speckled wood butterflies were basking. Then everyone tasted some of our very own garlic pesto and took an 'all things garlic' recipe sheet home. We hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did!

On the 13th April we had a great day den building, lots of families joined us and made some really impressive dens, flags and crowns. The Presthope area is full of little tepees now and with the wild flowers out it looks truly magical.

 On the 20th April we ran our wild woods adventure trail event at Presthope. Children came and followed the clues on our trail to answer questions all about Wenlock Edge. There are some very clever children out there who got lots of answers right and all walked away with a prize at the end. There were lots of birds to see from the bird hide including the nuthatch and a great spotted woodpecker but children also saw a little bank vole happily tucking into seed that had fallen to the ground. We had a great day and we hope everyone who came had a great time too! 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Signs of Spring

Early Purple Orchid
Right now the woods look wonderful because everything is starting to wake up and many things are starting to think about flowering - if they aren’t already. Some of the first flowers to come up in the woods are early purple orchids and we have spotted their distinctive spotted leaves showing in good numbers in Longville Coppice and on Harley bank. In Blakeway Coppice the wild garlic is bursting out of the ground, it smells delicious and you could already easily and quickly collect plenty of the young leaves for cooking. White wood anemone flowers are out and open up wide on a sunny day: they are said to look like a galaxy of stars on the forest floor and are scattered throughout the woods at Wenlock. At the woodland edge common dog violets are out in force and will continue to flower through to June. In our meadows, particularly Ippikin’s meadow and in the fields bordering Longville Coppice behind Wilderhope Manor, we are expecting to see a good display of cowslips anytime now.

Left: Wild Garlic
Middle: Wood Anemone

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Storm Doris

On the 23rd of February storm Doris hit Shropshire. The biggest gusts were 68mph which is more than we have had for years. We adhered to our high winds policy which includes putting out warning notices at various access points to the property to advise visitors not to enter the woodland during the severe weather. We also took to Facebook to warn people as well.

Fortunately, we only lost two trees on minor roads, which we promptly cleared away. These were perfectly healthy trees; their failure was due to them being completely uprooted by the sheer strength of the winds. 
The week after the storm we will be searching Wenlock Edge checking for any more damage and potentially hazardous situations such as hanging branches, leaning trees and fallen trees over the tracks. Just like with dead trees, any damaged trees close to the paths are a health and safety concern, but trees fallen in the middle of the woods are usually left to provide habitat for fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Hart's Tongue Fern

If you've walked along the Hollow ways or around the old quarries you might have noticed these ferns growing on the side. It is called hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) which is a widespread evergreen across Britain preferring shaded locations. 

It's name comes from the medieval word Hart, meaning deer, and the frond shape resembling their tongues. It's striking appearance means that even in France it has the same common name "Langue de Cerf"!

The 'scolopendrium' part of it's name is also Latin for centipede which refers to the little marks on the underside of it's fronds which look like centipede legs. It is an unusual fern due to having these un-divided fronds.
Left: Underside of the fronds showing the pattern 
Right: a closer view of the fern

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sheep checks and the Wilderhope Yew tree

Yesterday we loaded up the Landrover with the tools needed for the day and then drove down to Ballstone quarry and Ippikin's meadow to feed and count the sheep. Our hebridean sheep are part of the RSPCA freedom foods scheme which means they have the highest standard of welfare. We check on them every day and as it is particularly cold at the moment we give them some sheep nuts, which they love! 
As soon as the sheep hear us calling and see the bucket they come running over
Our sheep never enter the foodchain, they are purely used for conservation grazing and therefore get to live out their whole lives happily grazing our meadows for us.
Placement student Emily feeding the sheep at Ippikin's meadow
We then headed to Wilderhope to remove the lower branches on a Yew tree in the grounds of the manor. This was to enable the tenant farmer to graze cows underneath where it had become overgrown. Yew trees are poisonous to livestock so it had to be trimmed so that they couldn't reach it. 
Left: From far away it looks like one tree, but it is actually two very large old trees close together
Middle: The view of the tree from the manor patio
Right: The litter underneath the tree
But before we could start we had to do a quick litter pick underneath. After filling a few bags worth of recyclables and litter it was time to select the branches to be removed. By using a harness for safety, the branches were cut one by one until they could no longer be reached from below.
The stone wall provides a good step to reach slightly higher into the canopy.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Hazardous trees

At the moment we are following up some of the actions identified in our tree safety reports. Every two years we formally inspect all the trees to look for signs that they may be ‘hazardous’. It is carried out in late autumn so that leaves and the crown can give away clues and so fruiting bodies of fungus are showing. 
The sort of signs which we look for are; yellowed leaves, a sparse crown, lack of fine branch ends (twigs), excessive dead branches, peeling or split bark, fungal fruits, exudes weeping from the bark, splits or tears in the wood, pockets of decay or roots pulling from the ground. Other signs include mammal damage, badly balanced, tightly forked, excessive road salt, soil compaction or soil erosion around roots and impeded rooting due to wet ground or rock. As we informally survey and act day to day, not too much remedial action (felling, reduction or pruning) is required from the survey. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

Yellow Meadow Ants

During winter time when the sheep have nibbled all the grass down it become much easier to see the mounds in our fields. They may look like very small hills or large mole hills but they're home to another animal. These structures are the homes of our Yellow Meadow Ants!
Yellow Meadow Ants have many benefits to our meadows - they open up the soil and keep it porous, their dropping fertilizes the grass roots, and they can eat other small insects that could damage the grass. Each colony contains around 5,000 ants but they are rarely seen due to living underground. At Wenlock we have to use sheep to graze these fields as machinery will damage their structures.