Monday, 27 July 2015

Life at the Long Nanny Tern Site

Here is a recent video of what life is like for our rangers at the Long Nanny Tern site near Beadnell, and why the site is so special. 

© National Trust

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Conservation On Chapel Woodwork

Our Conservator John Wynn-Griffiths, talks about one of the ongoing challenges the sea environment causes on the Farne Islands and our need to undertake some remedial conservation works.
© The National Trust

"One of our conservation tasks this year is looking in more detail at the woodwork in St Cuthbert’s Chapel on the Inner Farne. This is the suprising home of some important panelling and pews. Originally made for Durham Cathedral in the 17th century, they were moved to the island in the late 19th century as part of a restoration of the Chapel. When you walk in from the brightness outside, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the gloom inside the Chapel. When you can see properly the Gothic woodwork is a complete surprise.

© The National Trust

"It's when you look carefully you start to spot the problems. The iron nails holding decorative bits in place have rusted through and these bits are dropping off, to be carefully stored of course. Damp is beginning to show on the pew backs. As always with such projects, things are not straightforward. Damp is always going to be a chronic problem in a small unheated Chapel on a small island off the North East coast. And of course the island has limited electricity so easy solutions are out.

© The National Trust

"Towards the end of last month I brought several of the National Trust’s expert advisers across from the mainland in a small boat to visit the Chapel. This was the first time we have brought together the Trust’s experts to try to find a solution to some of the Chapel's conservation challenges. And with such an unusual building we will need to come up with something equally unusual."

John will be updating with progress on this project over the coming months

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

It's National Pollinator Week

It's National pollinator week - A week to highlight and share the importance of pollinators.  To celebrate, Vicky Knight,  shares some of her bumblebee encounters while working as an Assistant  Ranger on Long Nanny Tern site, near Beadnell.

"In the UK there are 24 species of bumblebee, all of which have seen a decline in numbers in recent years.  It’s said that 98% of our wild flower meadows have disappeared.  Intensification of agricultural practices has largely removed flowers from the landscape, leaving the bumblebees and other pollinators with very little to feed on.  Since 1940, two British species have become extinct.

"Being able to withstand weather that other pollinators would not dare to forage in, bumblebees are of huge importance, especially on the windy Northumberland coast! Buzz pollination is another reason bumblebees are important.  When visiting flowers, bumblebees will often buzz their wings while on the flower.  The vibration caused from this buzz dislodges pollen from the flower onto the bumblebee which is then transported to other flowers resulting in pollination.  Some flowers such as Woody Night-Shade (Solanum dulcamara) and Tomato flowers can only be pollinated by buzz pollination which is not done by other pollinators such as honeybees.

"Whilst walking around the flower rich sand dunes on the Long Nanny site, I have managed to identify nine different species.  6 of these include the more common UK species:
1. White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)
2. Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)
3. Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)
4. Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)
 5. Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum)
 6. Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

"These six species are bees which you are most likely to see in your gardens.  Being less picky with the plants they choose to feed on allows their numbers to flourish compared to rarer more specialised species.

"Two species include slightly more scarce bees:
-Moss carder bumblebee (Bombus muscorum) - a costal species
- Heath bumblebee (Bombus jonellus)- as the name suggests it is usually found in heath land habitats. 

© National Trust

"The last species spotted in the dunes includes a Cuckoo bumblebee species:
-  Hill cuckoo Bumblebee (Bombus rupestris)

"As the name hints, Cuckoo bumblebees show similar behaviour to the Cuckoo bird species (Cuculus canorus).  Cuckoo bumblebees may specialise in parasitizing one host species, or may choose a number of closely related species.   Cuckoo bumblebees often have to fight to take over nests so they are usually bigger than their hosts but they often resemble them superficially. (M,Edwards, undated). This particular species specialises on parasitizing the red tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). 

"When a female Cuckoo bumblebee finds a suitable colony, she creeps in and hides amongst the edges of the nest canopy for several days.  Once she has acquired the scent of the nest, and has been accepted by the workers, the Cuckoo then dominates or kills the queen to prevent any more of the host’s eggs being laid.  The female cuckoo will then lay all subsequent eggs and the workers, which were developed from the original queen’s eggs, help to tend to the young male and female offspring of the female Cuckoo bumblebee.  (M,Edwards, undated, pp17)."

For more information about bumblebees and how you can help them thrive, visit  

References M,Edwards., M, Jenner., (Undated) Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain & Ireland (Vol 1) pp17 & 75, Ocelli Limited

Monday, 6 July 2015

It's Amazing What You Come Across On The Farnes

During their work on the Farne Islands the rangers come across many unusual and interesting discoveries. If you visited a few weeks ago you may have been lucky enough to see (and smell) this lovely lumpsucker. 

© The National Trust

Rhian Davies, our of the islands' Assistant Rangers tells us a little more. "The lumpsucker (including its scientific name of Cyclopterus lumpus) is aptly named as it has a large sucker on its belly. This sucker is an adaptation formed by the fusion of the pectoral fins, allowing it to hold on to the sea bed in strong tides.

© The National Trust

"After discovering it on the jetty, where it had been providing breakfast for a Herring Gull, we did a little research into exactly what had been found. The vivid colours show this dashing individual is a breeding male. During the breeding season the role of the male is to guard the eggs the female lays on rocks in shallow waters. There can be up to 400,000 eggs which the male must protect from predators, typically other fish. He must also keep the eggs ventilated by fanning water over them, ensuring there is a continuous supply of well oxygenated water for them. 

"Once hatched, which can be up to 10 weeks after being laid, the young lumpsuckers live in shallow water, typically in pools close to the shore. Males can grow up to 50cm long with females being up to 60cm. They eat worms, crustaceans, fish eggs and young and some types of jellyfish. It’s not until around five years old that the lumpsuckers are fully mature and can begin the whole cycle again."

Newton in Bloom

Summer is officially here and the meadow at Newton Point is full of life! Home to Skylarks, Pippits and a multitude of butterflies, it is also home to a diverse range of wildflower species. At first glance it is a technicolour sea of buttercups and red clover, but look a little closer and you might be surprised at what you find.

© Kate Bradshaw

The Northern Marsh Orchids are still in flower, dotted between clumps of Mouse-ear and the bright blue of Germander Speedwell. The grassland is also home to at least five types of Vetch but let us know if you can spot any more.

© Kate Bradshaw

Yellow-rattle is in its prime. A vital meadow plant, it is semi-parasitic in nature, stealing its energy from the rich meadow grasses that surround it. Although this sounds rather aggressive, it plays a vital role in the meadow ecosystem. By reducing the nutrient levels in the soil, it reduces the competition posed by rich perennials and thick grasses, allowing the wild flowers to flourish. So we have a lot to thank this little plant for.

© Kate Bradshaw

Pop your head over the bank and down on the rocky shore line you will find a much more coastal community. Small clumps of Sea Campion and Thrift contrast with the deep yellow of Bird’s-foot-trefoil, creating a very different species set to the meadow above.

© Kate Bradshaw

So whether you want to admire the view or sit down with an identification book, it is definitely worth a visit.