New research into daylight exposure of historic spaces

New research into the distribution of natural light and its level of exposure in historic buildings has been carried out by Loughborough University on behalf of the National Trust.

smoking room

John Mardaljevic, Professor of Building Daylight Modelling, in the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University, has been using high dynamic range (HDR) imaging to measure where the natural light falls at different points throughout the day and over several months in the Smoking Room at Ickworth in Suffolk.

As a result of this research, which was conducted in partnership with Cannon-Brookes Lighting and Design, we’re looking into the feasibility of revising our daylight management guide for our historic houses, which takes into consideration the scheduling and use of shutters and blinds in each of our rooms.

You can read more about the research on light exposure carried out by Loughborough University here.

Dr Nigel Blades, Preventive Conservation Adviser at the National Trust, said:

“The research is enabling the National Trust to understand better than ever before, the fall of daylight onto light sensitive surfaces in historic showrooms. We are learning how the daylight received accumulates through the days and seasons of the year. This knowledge will enable us to understand the impact of extended opening hours on light exposure.

Based on the research, we will fine tune our use of daylight to minimise the rate of change in light sensitive objects, while providing sufficient daylight for visitors to enjoy our collections.”

The last 20 years have witnessed a marked reassessment of the function and evaluation of natural illumination in buildings. At the National Trust we’re keen to balance visitor enjoyment with the preservation of paintings, textiles and furniture that are vulnerable to light fading and ageing.

National Trust wins Heritage Lottery Fund support as it unveils major new project

The National Trust has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a new project, ‘Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo’.

Sutton hoo 1

Photo credit Justin Minns Photography

Thanks to National Lottery players, the £2.4m project will transform the experience visitors have when visiting the site of the world famous Anglo-Saxon burial mounds and release the full potential of the dramatic landscape and its fascinating story.

A Heritage Lottery Fund ‘first round pass’ grant of £150,000 has now been awarded to help us progress the project through its early development stages, which will see the overall plans take shape in consultation with National Trust members and the local community.

Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and the 7th century burial mounds, excavated from the late 1930s onwards, have revealed items including the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet that have helped shape our understanding of the origins of English history. The landscape has been cared for by the National Trust since 1998.

Luke Potter, East Suffolk General Manager, said:

“We want to enrich and enhance the experience people have when visiting Sutton Hoo. This special place is about so much more than the treasure, it tells the hugely significant story of how the first English people lived their lives. Their significance continues to resonate down the centuries in our language, our craft traditions and our connections to land and landscape.

The project aims to release the power and magical inspiration of Sutton Hoo’s history by untapping the human stories that reside within its landscape. We aim to create a layered experience that reaches out and appeals to diverse and new audiences, from the academic to the casual visitor.”

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said:

“I’m delighted Sutton Hoo has been successful in obtaining a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Creating a new interactive experience to showcase the story of this hugely important excavation is important for our national heritage and will attract many more visitors to Suffolk important for our local economy.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said:

“Sutton Hoo is one of the most important Anglo-Saxon sites in the world and it’s exciting that thanks to National Lottery players, Sutton Hoo will be transformed for visitors from near and far. This is a great opportunity to share this amazing place and its stories from the past 6000 years.”

Although still in the early development stage, ‘Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo’ will ultimately see visitors take a whole new route through the landscape, with the importance and setting of the burial mounds playing a central role.

Sutton Hoo 2

Photo credit Justin Minns Photography

Plans include building a raised platform to provide views over the entire burial ground and to the River Deben beyond, which itself played such a significant part in the Sutton Hoo story. It was from the river that the Anglo-Saxon ship was hauled up the valley before it was used in the burial chamber found in Mound One, where the famous treasure was discovered, and it is hoped that visitors will also follow in the footsteps of the final stages of this dramatic journey. New innovative interpretation will help bring both the landscape and the museum to life.

The aim of the project is to create an experience that will appeal to a wide range of visitors, whether they are holidaymakers looking for a family-friendly day out, local people who regularly enjoy the landmark, students studying the Anglo-Saxon period or people from around the world with an interest in archaeology.

The project will bring a wide range of inclusive learning and hands-on/participatory opportunities for all visitors to Sutton Hoo, including an enhanced formal education programme, an art and craftsmanship programme and a range of new volunteering roles.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2021. So watch this space.

New book: Landscapes of the National Trust

We caught up with Ben Cowell, Regional Director for the National Trust in the East of England and co-author of a new book that has just reached our bookshelves…

Felbrigg-lo-38Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk (photo credit Justin Minns Photography)

For me, no other word captures the National Trust’s mission better than the word ‘landscape’. It’s a word that implies many different things: the landscape paintings that hang in our mansion properties, perhaps, or the gardens and parks that surround many of our houses. Yet the word can also apply to the everyday landscapes of fields, farms, beaches, woods, heaths, villages, towns and city suburbs. Our job is to be true to the spirits that reside in all of these places, and which make them so enjoyable for people to live in, visit and explore.

A new book recently published by the National Trust, explores landscapes in all their complexity, and the Trust’s role in looking after them. Landscapes of the National Trust is richly illustrated by pictures of landscapes of all kinds and from all over the country. The book is the product of collaboration with academic researchers sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and affirms the importance of thinking broadly about the concept of landscape while also being mindful of the need to protect landscapes for future generations.

Sheringham-lo-14Sheringham Park, Norfolk (photo credit Justin Minns Photography)

As a charity, the National Trust has a unique mission: to preserve places of ‘historic interest or natural beauty’. These are the words enshrined in the Act of Parliament of 1907 that put us on a statutory footing, after we were first founded in 1895. The words are of their time, although it is perhaps fitting that we have one of very few acts of Parliament that seek expressly to promote ‘beauty’.

Landscapes are in a constant state of change, which means that to preserve them we need first to understand what it is about them that is special and in need of protection.

Here in the East of England we are blessed with a diverse canvas of landscape of all kinds. We are famous for being a farming region, and many of our places such as Wimpole and Blickling are surrounded by hundreds of acres of actively managed farmland. We work closely with our farm tenants to influence the way in which this land is cultivated, and at Wimpole we have one of the few in-hand National Trust farms in the country. Visitors there appreciate the chance to hear more about the practical business of farming in the 21st century, and the Trust’s role in looking after the quality of our soils and livestock.

Dunwich Heath-1Dunwich Heath, Suffolk (photo credit Justin Minns Photography)

The East of England region is also defined by its coast, from Norfolk’s golden sandy beaches and nature reserves to the unique coastal landscapes of Dunwich Heath and Orford Ness in Suffolk. This year we’ve been marking the 50th anniversary of our Enterprise Neptune campaign, established in 1965 to raise funds so that areas of coastline could be saved for the nation. Sea level rise and climate change are having a profound influence on these landscapes, raising questions about what we mean when we say we are here to protect places ‘for ever’.

The National Trust is looking to play its part in facing into the challenges of the 21st century, while also remembering what we are here for: looking after special places for everyone.

Landscapes of the National Trust by Stephen Daniels, Ben Cowell and Lucy Veale is published by the National Trust. ISBN  9781907892813. 

National Trust calls for urgent action to manage threats to our coastline

The National Trust is calling for urgent action from Government and agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure all coastal areas are ready for the enormous challenges presented by severe storms and rising sea levels.

Morston on the Norfolk Coast – photo credit Justin Minns Photography

Did you know that 12,500 new homes and businesses have been built in coastal areas at risk of significant erosion or flooding over the last decade despite a range of national guidance strongly advising against such developments?

And only one in three coastal planning authorities in England have the most up-to-date planning policy in place to deal with rising sea levels and more frequent storms.

In 2013 and 2014, you might remember how our coastline was battered by a series of storms and high tides which resulted in levels of erosion and flooding experts would usually expect to see every five to 15 years. And, in the coming years extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent, affecting people and natural habitats putting coastal wildlife at risk.

mg_3050bNorfolk Coast Path – photo credit CamroVision Photography

In our new report Shifting Shores – playing our part at the coast” we’re calling for a bold and imaginative approach to coastline management, involving an understanding of how nature works, moving towards adaptation and away from maintaining engineered defences, where appropriate, while being sensitive to community needs. This includes ending the ineffective cycle of continually rebuilding hard sea defences and instead relocating buildings, infrastructure and habitats to safe areas further inland at some of our more at risk locations.

Earlier this year at Dunwich Heath in Suffolk, we announced the acquisition of 36 acres of coastal heathland adjacent to the existing Heath.

Grant Lohoar is the Countryside Manager…

“The coastline is constantly changing in this part of Suffolk and erosion means the land is being lost. Re-named Mount Pleasant Heath, the acquisition demonstrates the Trust’s long-term planning approach which recognises coastal change and aims to ensure new habitats are created and secured for the future.”

Dunwich Heath in Suffolk – photo credit Justin Minns Photography

The Trust, which cares for 775 miles of coastline for the nation, will be putting this approach into practice with its commitment to have plans in place for 80 of the coastal areas it cares for by 2020.

Here’s what Phil Dyke, the National Trust’s Coastal Marine Adviser had to say…

“We know from our own experience how difficult taking the adaptive approach can be, despite all the good policy guidance that now exists. But action is now needed by all coastal stakeholders to manage the threats to our beautiful and diverse coast to prevent us drifting into a future where our coast is a rim of concrete. We need to actively transition from maintaining old defences to working with natural processes, where and when it’s appropriate, to conserve the beauty and wildlife of our coastline.”

Recreating a naturally functioning shoreline will free us from the sea defence cycle of construct, fail and reconstruct and lessen the impacts of severe weather.

At coastal areas at risk we also want to ensure there is space and land to help with a managed realignment; rolling back and relocating buildings, infrastructure, shoreline and habitats. For example, the National Trust has recently acquired Dunsbury Farm on the Isle of Wight to allow for the rolling back of Compton Bay to secure continued coastal access and for new wildlife-friendly habitats for any displaced species.

IMG_0429-EditBlakeney on the Norfolk Coast – photo credit: Justin Minns Photography

The Trust also favours a landscape-scale style approach, where large areas of the coast are viewed as a whole to create more joined up and better managed stretches of coastline.  It is also committed to working in partnership with a wide range of local landowners, communities and groups to deliver a joined up approach to managing coastal change, which works for all the parties involved.

This approach can be seen at Blakeney in North Norfolk. After the area suffered widespread flooding during the tidal surge at the end of 2013 we worked closely with the Environment Agency, Natural England, Norfolk County Council and other partners to find ways to evacuate saltwater from grazing marshes owned by us and other landowners and deal with the impact on the National Trail footpath whilst taking account of the wildlife that lives there. The legacy of this work is ensuring that we have active partnerships in the area where we are seeking the best outcomes for people and wildlife, for the long-term.

Peter Nixon, is our Director of Land, Landscape and Nature at the National Trust…

“The harsh truth is that our natural environment is in poor health – wildlife is in decline, over-worked soils are being washed out to sea and climate change is becoming an increasing threat. The Trust has always been about much more than simply looking after the place it manages. The complex and ever-changing challenges we face on the coastline can only be addressed by working in partnership with others. We can’t and won’t ever succeed on our own.

Above all we need to understand the forces of nature at work, so that we can all make well-informed choices about whether and where to continue maintaining hard defences or to adapt to and work with natural processes.”

In order to manage our coasts for the future, including the impacts of climate change, we need to work with the grain of nature and not against it.  A long term vision, with action to reduce risk and create new habitats for wildlife, will protect inland regions from flooding and ensure that future generations can enjoy the coastline as we do today.

Green champions celebrated at Environmental Awards

From reducing energy use and saving water to planning for a green future, work by National Trust teams to help create a greener region has been celebrated at an awards ceremony last night.

x8n6MBcuWWsGzkFJjdHKy2HKoO6u--pbnS0QkvyHECYPhotos courtesy of Paul Tibbs

With winners coming from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, the East of England Environmental Awards saw muddy boots, kitchen uniforms and blustery coastlines swapped for suits and evening wear for the ceremony at Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge.

National Trust teams from around the East were competing for prizes in ten categories, including Green Kitchen, Wise Use of Water, Holiday Cottage Hero, Best Energy Reduction and Green Team of the Year.


As the largest conservation charity in Europe, the National Trust is committed to reducing its energy consumption by 20% by 2020. Of the remaining 80%, half will be from renewable energy sources.

Speaking after the ceremony, the Trust’s Environmental Practices Adviser for the East of England, Miranda Campbell, said:

“We work hard to ensure our supporters see our places looking their best, but there’s also a huge amount of innovative work that happens behind the scenes to keep these historic places ready for the challenges of the future. Our teams are really encouraged to take steps to reduce impacts on the environment and these awards are a way to say thank you for work that is often unseen. We are determined here in the East to meet some ambitious environmental targets and it is great to be able to recognise all the contributions made towards those.”

The awards were sponsored by Adnams and Anglian Water and each winner received a unique wooden plaque made from magnolia sourced from Sheringham Park in Norfolk. The plaques were all created by Norfolk woodturner Keverne Dewick and engraved by the Bury St Edmunds charity, Workwise. Winners also received a framed certificate, and a bottle of bubbly from Adnams.


The categories and winners were as follows:

Green Team of the Year – for the team making the greatest overall impact
Winner: Green Living team, Felbrigg Hall Norfolk and Regional Consultancy

O9dSPtKaOhOldT0yV1UCyJvKBw1Av2kBCJ4T19znVRsFelbrigg Hall annually hosts “Green Build”, organised by North Norfolk District Council, but this year, the 6,000 visitors had the opportunity to visit the National Trust’s own Green Living stand. This was planned and run as a joint effort by members of the property and consultancy team. The focus of the stand was green living past and present, with a special trail developed around the property linking these aspects together and included the ice house, the donkey wheel, the dovecote, composting, the walled garden, rainwater harvesting, woodland and energy reduction measures.

Best Energy Reduction – for those making the greatest improvements in reduction of energy use in oil, electricity and gas
Winner: Ickworth, Suffolk3eTO3SZRYBgb_Y3IcNbKw6494H8usC8OC5JQG3H3fRs

Ickworth has made a clear commitment to installing energy reducing technologies including a phased LED replacement and significant draught proofing projects. Last year Ickworth achieved almost 26% reduction from baseline levels. Site management at the property has had a strong focus on efficiency and this has driven significant reductions. In addition the decision to take the catering function back in hand has put them back in control over their kitchens energy consumption and allowed the kitchen team to really get to grips with energy management.

Wise Use of Water Award – for the best at recycling, reusing and saving water
Winner: Nigel Houghton, Regional Building Surveyor, for a project based at Ickworth

newLeTyz8KQMxRuyavb08UjPoqo_OeVGXtHhtcJc7uoIckworth was, by some margin, the highest water consuming NT property in our region, but has now been relegated to second place! Over the last few years we’ve invested in a large project improving the infrastructure at Ickworth, with Nigel as Project Manager. He started with the more obvious repair work but, within the last year, introduced smart meters on each of the branches of our water supply network, so that consumption can be monitored on frequent basis (every 15 mins 24/7 if required). This allows us to react quickly to usage/leak issues as they develop, rather than months later when large water bills arrive. As a direct result, water consumption at Ickworth reduced in 2014/15 by 4,361m3 (‘or’ 4,360,580 litres) – which is over 40% reduction from that of 2013/14. To put that in to perspective, that’s enough to fill 1 & 3/4 of an Olympic-sized swimming pool; or just over 2.5 MILLION kettles full! This not only this is not only a significant saving in the supply of water, but has also reduced sewage cost, as around 30% of our wastewater flows to a main sewer.

Waste-not Winner – for the leaders in recycling and waste reduction
Winner: Peckover House garden team, Cambridgeshire

eth7o6nODL3IO3kouI9rCTr6h1vNDGb4YLnKa18FRykThe Peckover garden team are avid recyclers both in the garden and the office.
They save paper and envelopes to re-use in the printer or as note paper; compost fruit, tea bags and coffee grains from break times;  compost 99% of garden waste, shredding all woody material, used as a mulch and soil conditioner on the borders; collect autumn leaves to make leaf mould, a useful soil improver; re-use plastic compost, sand and gravel bags to store things or as rubbish bags; collect old plastic shopping bags to use on the plant sales trolley. All plants for sale come from the garden and are not bought in. They save plant pots and trays to reuse again in the garden and for our plant sales area; even re-use string if possible. They attempt to sell or give away unneeded items which are still useful and are working with the kitchen to gauge if it is feasible to start composting food waste. Even uneaten cat food is not wasted, but recycled by their very bold blackbirds!

The Acorn Award – Countering environmental impact in outdoor spaces
Winner: Keith Miller, Coastal Warden, North Norfolk Coast

fQbiOXfFWTdF6-SOTPAW_0hn2rFE7g1fNVdhTNTRIpwKeith is tireless in his care for the Trust’s coastline in North Norfolk. This includes his regular litter picks on Brancaster Beach, which he undertakes regularly throughout the season; coping with large quantities of (often unmentionably unpleasant) waste; the occasional excitement of unexploded ordnance scares; seal pups which need rescuing; and even being bitten on the nose by a gannet needing taking to the wildlife hospital! As part of Brancaster Activity Centre’s work he regularly engages with school groups doing their conservation task and is a fantastic role model for the children, enthusing about his work, and not shrinking from the harder messages of the impact of marine litter and the consequences it has for both the wildlife and his work.

Green Kitchen of the Year – for best energy reduction and waste management in our kitchens
Winner: Ickworth, Suffolk

DY-b23GjiKM0OZLhbsGmwLGbwrdCGXxPzvqUtwBQWXISince taking the catering function back in hand, they have reduced energy consumption of this function by at least 20% and water by at least 12%. From the beginning energy and environmental impact has been a priority for this team including observing previous processes and identifying high energy consuming behaviours so that they could tailor and fine tune their procedures. Working with our Energy Reduction Adviser, Jack Caldwell, the team examined a number of possible improvements and consistently showed willingness and enthusiasm to constantly improve and make things better.

Holiday Cottage Hero – for making the greatest difference in energy reduction with our holiday cottages
Winner: Alison Colton, East of England Regional Office, Suffolk

Z67HWHm9VowqushPsmMF8bpvP2gfGv9Z5RNLtf8BZcMAlison coordinates all of the region’s meter reads, including the 80-odd energy and water meters at holiday cottages. She has spent many hours resolving read issues as well as analysing holiday cottage energy use against size of holiday cottage and guest occupancy. This enables us to prioritise introducing energy saving measures. Alison also directly changed the lightbulbs at a holiday cottage at Ickworth over to LED.

Fit for the Future Award – for sustainability, helping to reduce pollution and enhance the environment
Winners: Wimpole Home Farm, Wimpole, Cambridgeshire

E6y8ULXxzXExD9shqmhGX8zgAZL2NTc3mufbkzfe7IUOver the last two years the farm team at Wimpole have been thinking, researching, learning, experimenting, testing and challenging respected industry thinkers to find a new way to work the organic arable system at Home Farm primarily to reduce energy use. One new way of working is to reduce the amount of time a tractor spends working in the field and to use shallow ploughing. The benefits are savings in an estimated 30-40% fuel , reduced carbon emissions and reducing risk of soil compaction. It will lead to better soil health, and therefore habitat to improve biodiversity, increase yields of healthy nutritious food.

Meter Manager of the Year – celebrating the unsung heroes who go out in all weather conditions and into some really tricky locations to read our meters
Winner: Peter Justice, volunteer Energy Manager, North Norfolk Coast

gYO6qzJvxnNCJP2JMpIZdWPzetyL5qAMndhj3j7P530Whilst the solution to fix the leak has not been quick or simple, finding it early has saved money literally being washed away. Peter’s role on the Norfolk Coast is unique. The property portfolio covers numerous and varied meter locations, an intrepid adventurous journey, including navigating across the river to Heigham Holmes and a boat trip across the estuary – at all times of the year – to the remote shingle spit at Blakeney Point. This is a trip of 70 miles end to end or nearly 2 hours of non-stop driving. And this is all done voluntarily, outside of Peter’s day job with BT. He has even been known to take annual leave to complete meter reads – dedication for sure. Peter’s commitment doesn’t stop at taking meter reads. He actually looks at the data and queries anything that doesn’t look quite right. This has led to him identifying the need for more efficient heaters, and spotting a major water leak on the supply across to Blakeney Point.

Neptune Award – for celebrating the Trust’s role caring for our coastline
National Trust Coastal Engagement Group (Alex Green, North Norfolk Coast; Alison Joseph, Dunwich; Sarah Barfoot, Essex; Helen Johns, Jemma Finch and Elysa Dale, Westley Bottom Regional Office).

EhzMwwzY9PuGmKyCkW8vyxwyQDMO7kt_fY_FjJEoAx0At the end of 2014 a group was set up in order to help shape and plan what the Trust’s Coast 2015 celebrations would look like in the East of England, celebrating 50 years of Neptune, the Trust’s national appeal to raise money and buy stretches of coastline so it could be protected for everyone to enjoy for ever.The campaign sought to: raise awareness of the National Trust caring for 775 miles of coastline in the UK; raise awareness of the climate change and our changing coastlines; increase the public’s connection to the coast and need to care for it; develop, plan and implement coast events such as BioBlitzes, Big Beach Picnics and regular Beach Cleans. The team’s work helped highlight the importance of the coast and the Trust’s role in looking after it.


Melford Hall in a different light

As we get ready to turn the clocks back this weekend, at Melford Hall we’ll be transporting you forward in time, by six hours to be precise! Quite literally see Melford in a different light. Whilst it’s light outside, inside the curtains will be drawn, the fire will be lit and the house will be bathed in candle-light.

1402801_438357792953908_1469854031_oPhoto courtesy of Amy Howe

Lorraine Hesketh-Campbell, who is a House Steward at Melford Hall explains…

On Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November, we set the clocks for an imaginary evening party and the rooms are prepared for the arrival of friends and guests. Dressed in their finery, our guides will explain the history of the house, its owners and how it has evolved over successive generations. You can really imagine what it must have been like to have dined or be entertained here.

When houses like Melford were built, the family and servants would have been used to the dark, using a few candles to light their way. It’s amazing how the house and atmosphere changes when we re-create these low light levels. The house has a completely different feel (or should I say glow) compared to when you wander around with daylight streaming through the windows.

Photo courtesy of Amy Howe

During the weekend, we will also look at how lighting has changed within the country house over four centuries. Standing inside the intimate and inviting rooms of Melford Hall, it is easy to visualise the flickering flames of a large open fire in a great Tudor manor, the glittering display of candlelight in a drawing room and how a ladies’ gown, embroidered with silver and gold thread, would glow and glimmer amongst the silver tea service laid out in a Boudoir.

At Melford the owners embraced new technology and we can still see evidence of early gasoliers along the Gallery banister that illuminates the art collection after dark.

Melford 1

Also in the Library, we will demonstrate a rare candle-powered night light clock. Made in France in the 1860s, this unusual time-piece stands at 21 inches in height and has an illuminated rotating glass globe which contains a night light. The time is then told via a static pointer. The globe is rotated through a long shaft and a set of bevelled gears. which are driven by an 8 day balance spring movement within the base of the bronze figure.  No maker has ever been found for the clock.

Today, lighting comes with its own set of problems and light damage is a fundamental part of our daily work. We’ll be explaining how we prevent light damage and how some country house practices have been passed down over the centuries throughout the weekend.

Why not come and experience Melford in a different light? And remember to turn your clocks back this weekend.

Remembering a natural history hero

George Henry Verrall (1848-1911) was an entomologist, who, along with his nephew James Edward Collin, dominated the study of British diptera, yes that’s the name for the scientific order containing flies. But did you know that Wicken Fen was part of his legacy?

Photo credit Justin Minns

Martin Lester, the Countryside Manager at Wicken Fen was recently on BBC Radio 4 talking about George Verrall, one of our nation’s natural history heroes…

George Verrall was an entomologist who loved his lists. In a time when his peers were busy chasing butterflies and beetles, he, along with his nephew, formed what today remains the most comprehensive single collection of British diptera.

Verrall’s love of wildlife and his concern of the British countryside, along with naturalist Walter Rothschild, led to them buying up the fenland around Cambridge. On his death, this land was gifted to the National Trust and in 1899, just a few years after the Trust was formed, Wicken Fen became its very first nature reserve.

Victorian entomologists, dedicated amateurs, many of whom had been collecting and getting samples from the area had recognised that the fen, which had once spanned around 3,800 square kilometres, was dwindling at a rapid rate. By the time the end of the 19th century came around, it was down to 20 square kilometres, or even less.

Verrall was no stranger to Wicken Fen – he had collected here as a child and as an adult. He realised the importance of habitats like this.

During his visits he would have had to wade through saw-sedge (Cladium mariscus) to collect his flies, a plant with vicious serrations, measuring 2 metres in height and densely packed. It shows his dedication to the cause. But this plant was important, the main constituent of peat which makes up the fen, up until the 19th century it was also one of the main stays of the local economy. Its presence is one of the main reasons why the land here wasn’t drained or farmed.

Wicken-Autumn-lo-14Photo credit Justin Minns

As you walk around the Fens today, you’ll pass Sedge Fen, which is still managed using traditional cutting rotations, which gives quite a uniform feel to the habitats. However, in comparison, Verrall’s Fen is grazed, and because of this it’s a much more dynamic and structurally diverse landscape, so there’s little bushes cropping up here and there and there’s taller trees in the distance. There are even some really nice lawns along the droves, where the animals seem to spend a lot of their time and then in between you’ve got the sedge, taller grasses and reeds.

Verrall’s initial list of around 2,000 flies from the late 1800s has been updated over the years and at the last revision, included over 7000 species. He described species he found at Wicken that were new to the country and new to science.

Only last year, the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) was discovered here at Wicken for the first time. George Verrall, way back in the start of the 20th century suggested this particular hoverfly would never be on the species list, so it’s quite interesting that climates and various other things have changed and forced this hoverfly this far north.

Today, Wicken Fen is one of Europe’s most important wetlands and supports more than 8,500 species of wildlife, including a spectacular array of plants, birds and dragonflies. I wonder what George would make of it?

Beach cleans reveal coastal rubbish really is pants!

From plastic bottles and fishing line to old furniture and even underwear, a series of beach clean events around the East of England have revealed the extent of rubbish that is blighting the region’s coastline.

Beach litter picture

Teams of volunteers joined National Trust coastal rangers for the beach cleans in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex throughout the summer, helping to keep beaches welcoming and safe for holidaymakers and protecting precious wildlife from the dangers of discarded litter.

Held as part of the Trust’s year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Neptune coastline campaign, which has raised money to help us protect and care for large stretches of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the beach cleans give a valuable insight into the kinds of rubbish left on our beaches and thrown into our seas.

At Blakeney Point on the North Norfolk Coast, 57 large sacks of rubbish were collected during two beach cleans, one in March and one in September. Whilst at nearby Brancaster Beach, 12 sacks were filled during one event in May.

Fishing tackle collected on Blakeney Point in 2014 & 2015 by Richard Porter. RFP.6750

Photo 28-03-2015, 13 36 58IMG_0465

Items found at the Norfolk sites ranged from plastic drinks bottles to more than 30 used five gallon drums, diving flippers and even a chaise longue!

The remains of many helium balloons were also found, often with just the string or ribbon still attached to a plastic collar. Oddly, the most common items found at the Brancaster event were underpants and gloves.

Ajay Tegala, North Norfolk Coastal Ranger said:

“Beach cleans are a vital part of our work to help keep our beaches clean and safe for visitors, whilst also doing what we can to protect wildlife from the dangers of so much of this rubbish. We find metre upon metre of discarded fishing tackle, which gets tangled around seals and their pups, old five gallon drums which could still contain dangerous liquids, plastic bottles and endless baby wipes. These things do not break down and instead make a visit to the coast less enjoyable, but also pose a real danger to wildlife. It’s alarming to see how many old helium balloons we still find as these can be a particular problem, with sea mammals mistaking them for fish or jelly fish and eating them.”

Four beach cleans were held at Dunwich Heath between April and September, with volunteers finding hundreds of pieces of plastic, including bottles and lids. The amount of fishing tackle found also increased as the year progressed.

A total of 31 large sacks were filled during the events, resulting in a huge pile of waste that has now been removed and disposed of.

Litter picking at Dunwich Heath and Beach, Suffolk.Richard Gilbert, Senior Ranger for Dunwich Heath said:

“Much of the rubbish we find has washed ashore after being dumped at sea by commercial fishing boats. We pick up an awful lot of small plastic pieces which have a very long life and when ingested by birds and mammals can cause great harm.  We would implore everyone to think about where their rubbish really ends up once it’s out of their hands.”

At Northey Island in Essex, a team of volunteers and rangers filled 14 large sacks with nearly 500 items of rubbish, including 263 plastic items found during just one day in July.

Photo 28-09-2015, 13 46 06

Joining the plastic mountain found on the site, which is a haven for breeding birds and home to saltmarsh habitats, was discarded carpet, toys such as bath-time rubber ducks, old for sale signs and even a dumped gazebo.

Stuart Banks, Area Ranger for the Essex Coast and Countryside was part of the team to lead the clean-up at Northey Island and said afterwards:

“We are really thankful to all the volunteers who came and helped with the clean-up, they made a really positive difference. But, every time we carry out these cleans we are shocked at the kinds of things that find their way onto beaches. Birds and sea life are really impacted by rubbish and we’d really prefer to see rubber ducks staying in the bath tub than arriving on Northey Island.”

The nation’s Ode to the Coast

Over the summer we asked you, the nation, to share your memories of what makes the coast so special and 11,500 of you answered our call. Today we can unveil the Nation’s Ode to the Coast – a poem written by Dr John Cooper Clarke, with verses inspired by your memories.  

NATIONAL TRUST - LOVE THE COAST HERO V13 MASTER 4KDr John Cooper Clarke at Dunwich Heath

The poem, launched in time for the annual National Poetry Day on 8th October, follows in Betjeman’s footsteps as he wrote the first poem for the National Trust in 1965 to mark the launch of the Neptune Coastline campaign.

To celebrate 50 years of the Trust’s coastline campaign, we asked you to help one of Britain’s most celebrated poets, Dr. John Cooper Clarke, complete the Nation’s Ode to the Coast.

Using #lovethecoast, over 11,500 members of the public submitted social media posts that summed up their love of the coast taking the form of words, pictures and even sounds. The contributions celebrated the beauty of the nation’s coastline and highlighted the wonderfully intimate moments that happen there.


Popular memories featured stormy seas, happy family seaside picnics and holidays from years ago. Fitting well with National Poetry Day’s theme of ‘light’ this year, this same theme was the most prominent throughout the contributions, with an overwhelming amount of people sharing memories of coastal sunrises, sunsets and beautiful pictures of day and evening light.

Dr John Cooper Clarke used the submissions as inspiration to pen the final poem on the public’s behalf and to thank the nation for their continued help and support over the last few months. The charity invited 17 of the contributors to appear in a short film alongside Dr. John Cooper Clarke himself to announce the final poem, each having the chance to read out a line. The end result is an incredibly emotive and compelling film which celebrates people’s love for the British coastline.

The collaboration between the charity, the poet and the public has resulted in inspiring and real-life lines which bring to life the sheer variety of coastal experiences this country has to offer. The release of the final poem aims to thank the nation for their support in helping the charity raise awareness for its conservation work on the coast.

Dr. John Cooper Clarke, who appears in the final celebration video, commented:

“I wasn’t surprised by the strong reaction this poem has triggered from the British public as poetry is such a brilliantly reflective and inspiring way to motivate humanity to act. The contributions I received were very inspiring, with some of my favourites being the actual lines of poetry that the public had written themselves. It’s great to see people using poetry to tell their story.

“It’s vitally​ important that the coast remains protected for generations to enjoy, and I only hope that the work I have been doing with the National Trust will encourage people to support the charity to protect these beautiful coastal places for another 50 years.”


So, here’s the final poem, we hope you like it and thank you for helping inspire it…

Nation’s Ode to the Coast – Dr. John Cooper Clarke

A big fat sky and a thousand shrieks
The tide arrives and the timber creaks
A world away from the working week
Où est la vie nautique?
That’s where the sea comes in…

Dishevelled shells and shovelled sands,
Architecture all unplanned
A spade ‘n’ bucket wonderland
A golden space, a Frisbee and
The kids and dogs can run and run
And not run in to anyone
Way out! Real gone!
That’s where the sea comes in…

Impervious to human speech, idle time and tidal reach
Some memories you can’t impeach
That’s where the sea comes in
A nice cuppa splosh and a round of toast
A cursory glance at the morning post
A pointless walk along the coast
That’s what floats my boat the most
That’s where the sea comes in…

Now, voyager – once resigned
Go forth to seek and find
The hazy days you left behind
Right there in the back of your mind
Where lucid dreams begin
With rolling dunes and rattling shale
The shoreline then a swollen sail
Picked out by a shimmering halo
That’s where the sea comes in…

Could this be luck by chance?
Eternity in a second glance
A universe beyond romance
That’s where the sea comes in…
Yeah, that’s where the sea comes in…

Oxburgh’s moat is more important than you think

Did you know that the moat at Oxburgh should never run dry, as the Hall’s stability is dependent on the moat being full of water? So last week, work started to re-point the brickwork in the moat to ensure it stays in tip-top condition.

Morgan Creed, from Oxburgh Hall filled us in…

The moat surrounding Oxburgh reflects the house and creates an attractive setting that leaves quite the impression when you get your first glimpse of the Hall. Although moats are often built as a line of defence, here at Oxburgh it’s more for aesthetic benefit. Rather less romantically it was also the place into which the latrines were discharged!

Here at Oxburgh, the moat is filled from a channel diverted from the River Gadder and has an overflow sluice which drains back into the river.  Last week we lowered the water level in the moat (which takes a few days) which enabled us to begin repointing the brickwork. The bottom of the moat is sloped, so all the fish move to the deeper half whilst the shallower half is being repointed.

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Repointing has to be carried out every so often, as the continual lapping of the waves coupled with attrition gradually removes the mortar.

Lime mortar is used as it the traditional mortar that would have been used in the period when the Hall was built. As well as this, lime mortar is better over Portland cement, as lime mortar flows and moves with the building in different environmental conditions. It has the ability to both take in and evaporate moisture, so essentially it ‘breathes’. This is very important when it comes to Oxburgh, as it’s situated in a moat, so the relative humidity will obviously be quite high and will fluctuate vigorously.

The work is a two man job and should take around two weeks to complete.

As of yet, there’s been no interesting discoveries object wise (no shopping trolleys) but the shallower water makes it great for spotting the fish. We have lots of carp, a few clams and quite a few pike. Including one very large monster pike; he’s about two foot long and I’ve named him Jaws!