Monday 22 June 2009

Is The National Trust Pants?

Well it's never been my favourite 'charity' that's for sure, more of a massive money making organization I've always thought. Its original aim was apparently to provide free access to open spaces for the multitudes, but I know of one area locally where they lease land to a farmer who defaces and removes public footpath signs and puts barbed wire over national trust fitted gates on access land.

Anyway today they fell even further out of favour with me when I visited a site they manage /own in Dorset called Badbury Rings. Its a very impressive Iron Age hill fort with three circular ramparts. I was hoping to see a fine display of wildflowers and orchids because in my orchid book it states -"A wonderful site with a rich downland flora and a great variety of orchid species, on the hill fort itself Frog Orchid is a speciality, other species include Common Fragrant, Common Spotted, Common Twayblade, Early Purple, Green-winged, Pyramidal, Bee Orchid, Greater Butterfly and Autumn Ladies-tresses." Sounds superb no? When I arrived I immediately spotted Some Pyramidal and Bee Orchids on the grass verge of the driveway leading to the parking area. BUT when I got out of the car and approached the hill fort itself I was greeted by this sign, (which I had to re-fix to the gate as it was falling off and not immediately noticeable) My heart sank into my boots as I read. :(


I saw what I expected, a flowerless waste ground with guess what? Plenty of lovely scrub; brambles, dog rose, wild privet and hawthorn saplings all totally unmolested by the teeth of sheep, I mean what sheep are going to eat scrub when they can eat the lovely shooting tips and flowers of juicy orchids and other wildflowers? Absolutely anything growing over 2mm from the ground (which wasn't scrub) had been devoured. There were quite a lot of Marbled White butterflies on the wing but they had precious little to feed on!

Not a sign of Ragwort though, so that 's worked, call me a cynic but they are probably more concerned about eradicating ragwort than anything else because if they have ragwort on their land they cannot rent it to farmers for grazing, so can't make as much money. What's wrong with pulling it anyway? I used to hand pull all the ragwort from my horse's fields when I kept them. The National Trust has an army of eager volunteers for that sort of thing. Also using sheep to graze ragwort is against the advice of DEFRA who state " Sheep can be affected by ragwort and this technique cannot be recommended on animal welfare grounds"
I find it laughable that The National Trust can devastate this species rich grassland by over grazing when earlier this year they were spouting on about how the previous couple of wet summers have been so detrimental to wildlife, including butterflies and other insects. Matthew Oates (nature conservation advisor to the NT) stated in the Guardian " We're desperate for a good summer in 2009. The state of our wildlife is very dynamic. But a third bad summer could cause significant damage" Who needs bad weather when you can cause this much damage with some sheep. I know the NT says that it's for the 'greater good' but I fail to see how completely destroying the flowering spikes of every single one of up to 10 species of orchid, (two of which are vulnerable/threatened species) could be beneficial. If we do have a hot dry summer they may not recover!
Here are a couple of photos I took, it's still an impressive earthwork:

From Badbury Rings I could see these fields to the west.

The wheat fields right in the distance (beyond the pig sheds) are where calling Quail have been reported from recently, I stopped by for a listen on my way home but didn't here them.

Sssshh! Don't tell the National Trust I've posted these pictures of Badbury Rings in a public domain. They forbid it don't you know. They do really! They state on their website and in an e-mail sent to the forums of the Royal Photographic Society " The NT does not permit filming or photography at its properties for commercial use or for reproduction in any form. Images taken at NT properties must not be sent to photo libraries, agencies or on line providers, or provided directly to image buyers. The bylaw protecting the trust applies to all National Trust property, including non-paying property such as coastlines and landscapes" See more here. So stop posting those photos of Branscombe Beach on your blogs local bloggers, the National Trust says NO!

This isn't just sour grapes because I dipped an orchid tick, I'll see Frog Orchid elsewhere I'm sure. I know the National Trust won't be seeing the colour of my money again that's for sure.

One nice highlight today was a close encounter with a lovely Tree Pipit which landed on the ground singing just three or four feet from me. Not sure why - distracting me away from a nest perhaps?


Bob Hastie said...

Seems more like the National mis-trust to me

Karen Woolley said...


Nice to hear from you Bob :-)

Richard Powell said...

Hi Karen

If it wasn't for the Farne Islands then I would agree about the owd NT. Their photography policy seems odd though, especially with the amount of photos of Farnes seabirds you can find on t'internet.

Maybe those orchids can survive being nibbled for a year, I dunno?