“Yellowing trumpets heralding Spring…”

Late last year we acquired 3 Exmoor ponies from a scheme called ‘Flexigraze’ designed to promote conservation grazing, which in turn helps to create more diverse habitat for wildlife.  Since then we have acquired one more pony and a small flock of 23 sheep.  They have all settled in well to the parkland to the south of the main buildings. These animals are a welcome addition to our surroundings and have attracted a lot of interest.  We would like to extend the scheme to the parkland north of the main buildings, but before we can do this we need to replace the cattle grids. These were installed 40 years ago and are showing their age.  In addition to replacing the cattle grids we are planning to resurface the drive between the two cattle grids as this is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.  We expect the work to take place in the late spring or early summer.

As spring approaches we are conscious that the bird nesting season is beginning.  So, in support of our feathered friends we have just installed 31 nesting boxes for a range of bird species.  Each box is numbered and can be located on Google Earth.  We are going to monitor these boxes in the coming months to assess the level of use and range of species taking up our offer of free accommodation.  We are very grateful to Peter Downes of the Heritage Fund project ‘Land of Oak and Iron’ who put us in touch with Roland Ascroft and Tony Gibson both of whom are bird experts.  They in turn liaised with the workshop managers at HMP Durham who organised a group of prisoners to make the bird boxes.  Once Roland had obtained the boxes he and Tony spent most of Sunday 8th March, climbing ladders and installing all 31 boxes in our woodland.