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Monday, 11 May 2015

BBC Countryfile comes to Charlecote

As many of you know, I love volunteering at The National Trust's Charlecote Park. It is such an amazing experience to be out and about in the park with all the animals and wildlife, I find it so interesting and I have learned so much. The Charlecote team of staff and volunteers are one of the nicest group of people I have met in a very long time. It feels like one big family.
Being a volunteer photographer, my role is a little different from most other volunteer and staff members at Charlecote and one I feel very privileged to have. 

There are so many things I enjoy about my role, far too many to list but if you are a regular reader of my blogs, you will already know some of them. This week BBC Countryfile presenter Matt Baker visited Charlecote Park with his team to film a series of clips for an up and coming show with Paul Smith (Head Gardener) and Adam Maher (Head Ranger) both also share the role of acting Park and Garden Manager. BBC Countryfile featuring Charlecote Park and Charlecote Mill will be aired on Sunday 24th of May on BBC1 at 7pm and I for one can't wait!

                                       Adam and Paul make a great team.

My day started in Places Meadow with Matt Baker and Adam. Many of you will know Places Meadow as the Buttercup Meadow and I can tell you that the buttercups are starting to show already, it won't be long until the whole field is full again!

                                                This is a picture from last year.

 Matt and Adam walking along the River Avon which runs across the bottom of the Meadow.

This beautiful meadow has been seeded in the past with a mix of wild flowers but after being under water last Winter for around three months, all the seeds were washed away. As you can see below, the Meadow looked more like a lake at a nature reserve. The idea behind the new plants is to introduce flowers that would have grown in this field many years ago and also to encourage all sorts of wildlife, including bumble bees and butterflies.

 This year, to give the new wild flowers a better chance of surviving, it was decided that plug plants would be planted instead. By the time Winter comes, these plants should be well established and will not be washed away by the river. It is hoped that with time, these plants will reseed themselves and spread more naturally. It is a long process but it will be around for many years to come.

There have been lots of helping hands to plant these plug plants as there were 2,500 of them! Staff, volunteers and visitors have helped to plant them. There will be another square of 3,500 plug plants  planted later in the year so if you are happy to help, keep an eye on Charlecote's Facebook and Twitter because as they say, 'Many hands make light work' :)

Just a few of the many people who have helped plant the plug plants.

Adam explains what is happening in Places Meadow to Matt and his team.

Here Adam and Matt plant some of the plugs. Of course I made them stop for a quick picture or two! Things like this don't happen everyday so I had to record them in some way :)

Matt Baker with Nick and Adam. Nick is also a Ranger at Charlecote Park and has also planted some of these plug plants.

After Places Meadow and a bit of planting we headed over for a coffee break, then into West Park with Paul to see the deer and the heronry.

                                             Paul getting his microphone fitted.

A heavily pregnant doe.

The fawns are due from the end of May and through June.
Here is one of the newly born fawns from last year.

You can really see the change in the deer's coats now, some of them are still a little patchy but most are losing their Winter coats and the lovely warm colours of the summer coats are coming through.
Mixed within the does are last year's fawns and some of the prickets (1-2 year old males)

Matt and Paul out in West Park searching for the deer.

 Walking up through the Avenue towards the heronry.

 From in front of the heronry you have one of my favourite views of the house. I have a photo taken from here for every season and I can't decide which time of year I like best.

The heronry has 13 active nests this year and is one of the largest heronries in Warwickshire. For more on the Charlecote Herons, read my previous blog called  'Charlecote and the Reawakening of the Park and Gardens'

After a spot of lunch in the Orangery, Matt headed for the Parterre with his team to do some more filming.

I have to say Paul and his team of  staff and volunteer gardeners have done an amazing job on the Parterre. It has been a 'must visit' for me over the last few weeks. It really is beautiful.

 It was an amazing day and a real privilege to be able to tag along. I think Paul and Adam did amazingly, I felt very proud to work with them. Matt was excellent as always too :) I am so looking forward to seeing them all in the show on the 24th of this month and also Charlecote Mill which is where Matt and his team headed after leaving Charlecote Park.

A big thanks to everyone involved that day for letting me join them. An experience I won't forget. Thank you.

I have just spotted this video which I had to add to my blog. It was made by the lovely Ruth at Charlecote Park. Love it!


Copyright Jana Eastwood

Monday, 13 April 2015

Charlecote And The Reawakening Of The Park and Gardens

April already! Where did that time go? While everyone was busy hunting eggs and eating chocolate, new life in all shapes and forms was popping up around the park. It really is a time of reawakening and what a glorious time it is. I thought I would put my first Spring Watch blog together and show you some of what is happening around the park right now.

There is so much going on at the moment that I thought I would try to show you some of it. As many of you know, Charlecote is in the middle of lambing and there are some very cute Jacob lambs up in Polo field right now. If you would like to see them you can go join one of the organised walks to see the fluffy lambs until the 15th of this month.

They are very adorable. I can sit and watch them jumping around for a long time. They are so funny.

For more on the Lambs and lambing, see my previous blog.

There were also more new arrivals a couple of weeks ago. The Tamworth Pigs. The three little pigs. I believe they are around 11-12 weeks old now. Pigs grow very fast, you blink and they are the size of adults! A favourite with adults and children.

There are also organised walks to see the Heronry which was very popular on Friday. The next walks to see these amazing birds is on Friday 17th and Monday 20th of April, 1.30-3.30 pm . Please note that West Park is closed at the moment apart from Volunteer led organised walks.

 The viewing of the herons is from the avenue which is a safe distance away from the heronry not to disturb the nesting birds. Even though the nests are in very tall trees, they are still not safe from predators. If people get too close, the herons will fly away leaving their eggs or young alone for a few minutes but it only takes those few minutes for another bird to swoop in and snatch a spot of dinner.
This is why West Park is closed at the moment so that the heronry can thrive. If the herons lose their young while nesting in the Charlecote Heronry, they won't come back the following year.

Herons can start laying their eggs as early as February but most lay them a little later during March or April. They normally lay 3-4 eggs but can lay more. The eggs take around 27 days to hatch and then the young will remain in their nest for a couple of months before starting to explore for themselves. At the moment there are quite a few pairs of herons nesting and some of the eggs have hatched but they will be too small to see at the moment. I think they are magnificent creatures. something very prehistoric about them.

Grey herons do not migrate unless it is exceptionally cold but they do often move closer to the coast where there is plenty of fish to be had. There are a couple of resident herons that can be seen around the park from time to time, mostly along the River Dene close to the old stone bridge that comes into Charlecote Village.

There are also many changes with the deer at the moment. They are quickly losing their Winter coats and with that they will also be casting their antlers. The first buck to lose an antler has done so in the last couple of days. They always look so sad when they lose them and very strange, especially when they have only one left.

When I spotted a buck on his own, I guessed what had happened. Buck's normally stay together in a group as they are normally very sociable animals. Once their antlers drop, they wander off on their own leaving the main herd but it is not long before all the other bucks are in the same boat and stand firmly together again. Antler free, they look so much gentler and behave like it too. I think nature
is quite clever, the bucks lose their antlers and become all soft just before the fawns are born. It just makes sense.

The other bucks still with their antlers for now but are shedding their Winter coats fast.

I love watching the deer but mostly in Autumn and at this time of year as they go through so many changes and of course new life is coming very soon too. I am so excited about seeing the new fawns in a couple of months. I can happily wallow away many hours watching them.

This buck was a little cheeky! Guess he didn't want his photo taken! 

The gardens are also changing every week now. Every time I visit there is something new to see. The Tea Garden is looking very pretty at the moment with lots of colour coming up everywhere.

I also had a sneaky look inside the greenhouse so here is a little 'behind the scenes' look.  I found so many seedlings. I am so looking forward to see how the gardens change through the seasons this year. Lots of beautiful flowers for me to photograph.

These beautiful plants in the picture below which are also in the greenhouse, are replanted through time and sit on the windowsills inside the Orangery for you to see as they open.

There are beautiful colours popping up everywhere now. I love the ever changing gardens and I love tulips because their colours are so varied and vibrant.

                                       The red tulips just a week ago.

                                       Look at them now!

Tulips, Daffodils and new life is what Spring is all about and I love it !

                         These lovely tulips were in front of the Summer House.

The next flowers which everyone knows are always a sign of Spring. I found these at the beginning of the long border close to the Summer House. Daffodils and Narcissus I can never tell apart so I will not try to name them.  

I loved the blue in these next flowers, it reminded me that it won't be long until we have Bluebells.
It is called 'Scillia Siberica,' or 'Wood Squill', native to southern parts of Russia and Turkey. It's very pretty.

The beautiful tulips in the pots as you walk through the gates from the house into the garden.

The same tulips open a few days later.

The Garden really is waking up after its long Winter sleep and there will be no stopping it now.

Below is the beautiful tulips in front of the Summer house and the blue 'Muscari', commonly known as the 'Grape Hyacinth' which is a very old woodland plant.

The pots outside the Orangery are also bursting with colour.

Blossom on the fruit trees.

The Woodland Garden is also reawakening.



'Leucojum Vernum' which is also known as 'White Snowflakes' and 'Loddon Lily' and which I really like. They flower just as the Snowdrops fade and replace them in a way. This plant is native to central and southern parts of Europe.

The Snowflake as it opens.

This week I have also been checking out the wildlife in the Park.Here it is......
There are a couple of pairs of Swans that live on the Charlecote Estate. One of which normally nests in the middle of one of the islands in the lake. The second pair on the River Avon. This Swan below is one of last year's young, still with it's brown feathers.

Next we have a Chaffinch which is native to this country. The male's colours are much brighter than that of the female. The male birds have a very strong singing voice. The Chaffinch will normally lay around 4 eggs which will take about 13-14 days to hatch. The chicks leave their nest at only 14 days old which I think is amazing! They will carry on being fed by the parents for many weeks after leaving the nest but it always amazes me how quickly birds grow from the time they are hatched.  Last year I loved my time with the local Volunteer Ornithologists ringing group  and I am hoping to go back out with them again this year so watch this space. Which reminds me, the Barn Owls are back :)

 Canadian Geese are not so different to Swans in that they pair for life and both male and female look alike. The only way to tell a male goose from a female is when they are together. The male will be the largest of the two.

There are also Mallard ducks on both the lake and in the River Avon.

Egyptian Geese just passing through , stopping for a rest and a spot of lunch.

 There are normally a couple of coot nests around the lake and I have already spotted them nesting.

The Moorhens can be seen on the lake but you have to really look for them as they are a little shy. They also nest in the reeds next to one of the Islands on the lake.

The Redwing is Britain's smallest true Thrush. This one was spotted on the back drive along the River Dene. I only noticed it because it was singing so I looked to see where the noise was coming from. It was fluttering from one tree to the next.

Our lovely friendly Robins are here all year around and can be seen all through the woodland Garden.

This little Robin is often in the long border and the Woodland Garden.

I have also seen plenty of other wildlife as I have walked around Charlecote Park but they have either been too fast for me or my lens wasn't quite long enough, like for the hares on Camp Ground.  But I will get them one day! :) 
I am so looking forward to the coming weeks and photographing all that happens.

Hope you enjoyed the first of my Spring Watch blogs. More coming very soon.

For more on Charlecote Park

                                                       Copyright Jana Eastwood