Southend on Sea
The house sparrow is one of Britain’s most well-known and best-loved birds. Males have a grey head and black bib with chestnut sides and white cheeks. The bigger the bib, the more dominant the male within its flock. A female sparrow has pale brown feathers all over with a pale stripe behind the eye.
Males live up to their name but, confusingly, females are brown, often with spots and streaks on their breasts. The bright orange-yellow beak and eye-ring make adult male blackbirds one of the most striking birds. They can often be seen hopping around lawns and foraging in leaf litter. Blackbirds are members of the thrush family and they have a varied diet, eating insects and worms in the summer and fruit in the winter.
The other site where the bee is doing well is the RSPB’s Rainham Marshes site in Essex.
The bumblebee is a priority species for conservation in England and Wales following significant declines since the 1950s.
Once widespread across southern England and Welsh lowlands, with localised populations in central and northern England, the species is now nationally scarce with populations restricted to five isolated locations in southern England and south Wales.
Like many of our bumblebees, numbers of this small, straw coloured bumblebee with distinctive black stripes, have suffered due to the huge losses of flower rich habitats since the end of the second world war.
Named after its high pitched buzz, the charismatic Shrill carder bee is part of our natural heritage and along with other species provides crucial pollination for crops that were conservatively valued at £430M by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment
Sinead Lynch, Conservation Manager at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “With the National Trust being one of the largest landowners of flower-rich grasslands, its involvement is crucial for the conservation and recovery of the species.
“Choosing champion sites in our ‘Back from the brink Shrill carder bee recovery project’ helps to highlight and celebrate where the species are doing well and gives us great case studies to help people to learn about the positive management of the species which in turn helps to secure its long term future.”
With 97 per cent of flower rich grasslands lost over the past 70 years including the wildlife, culture and history they sustained, the National Trust has had a particular focus since 2015 on restoring priority habitats such as flower rich meadows to our countryside, crucial for pollinators and the wildlife they support.
To date the conservation charity has created over 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of flower rich grasslands as part of its strategy for nature’s recovery that will be key to reversing the fragmentation of wildlife rich habitat in the countryside and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Mark Musgrave, the National Trust’s Lead Ranger at Lytes Cary Manor says: “The work we did with volunteers included the planting out of hundreds of plugs of white dead nettle and comfrey by volunteers.
“We have been propagating white dead nettle as it’s an important nectar source for adult bees. Over the winter our volunteer planted hundreds of white dead nettle and comfrey as well as a mixture of wildflowers from seed which will act as a wider source of nectar and pollen for foraging worker bees, including yellow rattle and black knapweed.
“We are looking at places where we can plant more comfrey, another fantastic nectar source, and will be protecting key sites with flowers known to be good for the bees.”
John Butler who has been a volunteer at Lytes Cary Manor since 2012 said: “It has been a fantastic project to be involved with. I really hope this work will inspire others to play their part.”
The origins and purpose of Britain’s largest and perhaps best-known chalk hill figure are shrouded in mystery. Theories range from ancient spirituality symbol and likeness of Greco-Roman hero Hercules to a caricature of Oliver Cromwell, with the club a reference to repressive rule and the phallus a mockery of his Puritanism. Local folklore has long held it to be a fertility aid; the earliest recorded mention of the giant dates from 1694.
Now, a century after it was gifted the giant by the Pitt-Rivers family in 1920, the National Trust, in collaboration with the University of Gloucestershire, is attempting to establish when the figure was first hewn into the chalk hillside.
Earlier this month, Trust archaeologists excavated small trenches to enable samples of soil to be extracted from points on the giant’s elbows and feet. Over the coming weeks Prof. Phillip Toms, Academic Subject Leader in Environmental Sciences at the University of Gloucestershire, will attempt to date the samples using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL).
National Trust senior archaeologist Martin Papworth said: “The OSL technique is commonly used to determine when mineral grains in the soil were last exposed to sunlight. It was used to discover the age of the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire in the 1990s, which was found to be nearly 3,000 years old – even more ancient than we had expected.
“We’re expecting the results of the tests in July. It is likely that the tests will give us a date range, rather than a specific age, but we hope they will help us better understand, and care for, this famous landmark.”
Chair of the Cerne Historical Society, Gordon Bishop, said Cerne Abbas villagers were eagerly awaiting the results.
“Although there are some who would prefer the Giant's age and origins to remain a mystery, I think the majority would like to know at least whether he is ancient or no more than a few hundred years old. Whichever may be the case, he is unique.”
The 55m chalk figure of a naked, club-brandishing giant that looks over the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset has amused and bemused generations . This spring, for the first time, the National Trust is undertaking tests to try to determine the age of the enigmatic Cerne Abbas Giant.
The National Trust Noticing Nature research, undertaken with the University of Derby, revealed that nature connectedness and simple everyday acts of noticing nature are linked with higher wellbeing:
The most nature connected adults (the top 25 per cent) felt that the things they do in their life were more worthwhile (19 per cent higher than the rest of the population)
The most nature connected adults reported higher levels of happiness (15 per cent more than the rest of the population)
Nature connectedness is associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.
For children we found that they were more likely to report feeling happy if they:
Had a higher level of nature connectedness
Engaged in meaningful activities linked to nature such as writing songs or poetry about nature or celebrating natural events
Relaxed in nature (e.g. sitting and relaxing in a garden).
A group of private landowners and nature conservation organisations are working together to help the white stork return home to South East England for the first time in several hundred years.
These large birds, symbolic of rebirth, are native to the British Isles and evidence suggests that they were once widely distributed. Whilst it is unclear why this spectacular and sociable bird failed to survive in Britain, it is likely that a combination of habitat loss, over-hunting and targeted persecution all contributed to their decline.
A contributory factor may be that it was persecuted in the English Civil War for being associated with rebellion. The white stork is a migratory bird species, and there have been many sightings in the UK over recent years, but conservationists identified that the species would need a helping hand to re-establish a breeding population in Britain.
The White Stork Project is led by a pioneering partnership of private landowners and nature conservation organisations, who are working together to restore a population of at least 50 breeding pairs in southern England by 2030 through a phased release programme over the next five years.
At least 250 white storks will be released at several sites in Sussex and surrounding counties. Initial releases aimed at establishing local breeding populations, as seen for the first time at Knepp this year, have already been undertaken and will be supplemented in late summer each year by the release of captive-bred juvenile storks reared at Cotswold Wildlife Park.
In a time of increasing disengagement with nature in the UK, bringing back white storks could be a means by which we can reignite our affection for the natural world and it could act as an emblem for environmental restoration.
The Bluebell spends most of the year as bulb underground in ancient woodland, only emerging to flower and leaf from April onwards. This early flowering allows it to make the most of the sunlight that is still able to make it to the forest floor habitat, before the canopy becomes too dense. Millions of bulbs may exist in one Bluebell wood, causing the blue carpets we so keenly associate with spring, and new plants are sometimes able to split off from these bulbs and grow as clones.
The Bluebell attracts the attention of plenty of pollinating insects.
How to identify
The Bluebell is, perhaps, one of our most famous and unmistakeable woodland flowers: look for long, narrow, drooping leaf fronds, and bending flower stems that are heavy with nodding, blue bell-shaped flowers
A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.