Thursday, 18 April 2013

Spring is springing... sort of

Spring seems to be forging its way in, despite elements of wintry weather still trying to hang in there! The signs are popping up everywhere round the Dunster estate, including the first glimpses of the bursting buds of its pink flowers that appear on our giant magnolia (the tallest in the country no less). The photo attached was taken in a previous year, but gives an idea of what a sight this is when in full flower, so we are getting the word out early so that people get a chance to see this spectacular giant, pink tree! To see the giant magnolia, head for Nutcombe Bottom Car Park to the south of Dunster, and you will find it along our tall trees trail. Hurry though as this spectacle only lasts a couple of weeks.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Swaling 2013

Following the relatively dry, cold weather recently we have finally been able to carry out controlled burning- or swaling as it is known locally- just in time to avoid birds nesting season. The site, which is managed directly by The Crown Estate, is called Hopcott Common, to the south of Minehead and is one of the country's last refuges for the Heath Fritillary butterfly. This year, through the Exmoor National Park 'moorkeeper' project we, and the other landowners on Wootton Ridge have pro-actively cutting scrub and burning to keep it from encroaching further in order for the food plants of the Heath Frit to be able to grow more easily. As a result the populations of Heath Frits are doing well on Hopcott, but it is an ongoing effort to keep the scrub at bay. Though it may look destructive, Swaling if managed correctly can be a very effective way of controlling scrub, and the desired vegetation, such as heather and bilberry, will soon recover, and even be re-invigorated as a result of the overlying scrub being taken back.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Forests For the Future Launch

On friday the 22nd March, 60 children and teachers from Westover School, Brigwater and Alison Nimmo, The Crown Estate's Chief Executive joined us for an afternoon of forest fun to celebrate the national launch of the Forests for the Future education pack and online resource. Despite the weather we had a great time building dens, seeing how many 'hugs' wide the tallest tree in England is (12 if you were wondering!) and using all 60 of the visitors to measure out the length of the tallest tree on the ground- it was pure chance that 60 people joined us, and that the tree is 60m tall! Now we have officially launched the pack we are looking at further promoting it, and so will be looking to work with Local Education Authorities to train teachers on how to use the pack and work through the activities. Please feel free to contact us for more info.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Tales from Withycombe wood- early march

Dunster Estate volunteers have been coppicing in Withycombe Wood again, after a brief visit to Three Acre Covert near Watchet at the end of feb to undertake raking of cut grass to encourage the extremely rare Hairy Mallow, which exists there and virtually nowhere else! Today we continued with the work of coppicing the overgrown hazel stools and generally opening things up in there- it is really starting to make a difference and we will soon be seeing how the coppiced stools regenerate. The spectacular bluebells in Withycombe Wood aren't quite there yet, but as you can see from the elm shoots in the picture the first signs of spring are on their way- despite the biting wind!

Friday, 15 February 2013

tales from Withycombe Wood

The Dunster estate volunteers have been working hard coppicing hazel and elder in Withycombe wood again, continuing the process that is now underway to improve habitats in what is arguably one of the most biodiverse woods on the estate. They have now been armed with some new toys too, thanks to Exmoor National Park Authority and Natural England- in the form of new bilhooks and saws- further helping them to do this important work in the traditional way. Coppicing is really starting to open the lower canopy up, and light is able to get in, so it will be interesting to see how this helps the bluebells that are so spectacular here in the spring- not long now! We will also soon start to see how well the coppiced stools put up new shoots- and if there is any browsing from deer. Watch this space for further updates.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Bad Weather update- possible disruption to walking trails:

Due to the extremes of snow and high winds we have a number of fallen trees and blocked paths. We are in the process of surveying the damage and dealing with the issues, but be aware that you may encounter delays or need to divert from your intended route- particularly on those routes that are further from Nutcombe Bottom Car Park. If you wish to report an issue please contact us here, or call the estate office on 01643 821309

Friday, 18 January 2013


It has been time to 'wassail' Dunster Buttercross Community Orchard for the second time since it was planted in 2010 as part of The Crown Estate's 250th anniversary. Wasailing is a traditional blessing ceremony that dates back to saxon times. The aim of it is to drive away bad spirits and encourage good spirits in the hope of a good harvest of apples each year. Children from dunster 1st School joined us for a mini wassail in the morning, singing the traditional wassail song and making lots of noise (it was clear what was the most enjoyable bit!) to scare away the bad spirits. They then brought their parents along for the evening main event, where mulled cider was served to keep everyone warm, and the trees were wassailed again for good measure!