Monday, 27 October 2014

Explore the Orangery

This week 27-31st Oct, we are testing a new short trail.  This is a chance to learn more about the Shrubbery and Orangery here at Gibside, learn a little about it's history and an insight into our planting today.

The trail has been created by our trainee historic gardener, Lisa who is taking part in the National trusts 'Passport to your future' programme.  Funded by the Heritage lottery fund it has five trainee Gardeners and three trainee Rangers at various properties across England.

If you would like to try out our trail and help us evaluate it, then please let one of our conservation team know.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

A Day Out At Aukland Castle

Aukland Castle: 9th October 2014

We didn’t recognize most people on the bus. There was Maureen and some of her pals from the Walled Garden, Andy the residential volunteer, our leader Vicky, and a handful of us from the Wednesday Conservation Group. And there were lots of other people, all volunteers. Gibside and many places like it – National Trust or not - depend on volunteers. This was the Gibside volunteers’ annual charabanc outing. Our guides at Aukland Castle last Thursday were of the familiar breed of volunteers: well-informed, enthusiastic and entertaining.

The Entrance to Aukland Castle
Castle Buildings


Carved wooden panel behind altar
Aukland Castle, home to the Prince Bishops of Durham for eight centuries, is quite an impressive place. Its chapel – converted from the Castle’s great hall - is stunning, inside and out, and full of detail – both decorative and historical. We give no further account of it here; go and see it. And whilst you’re there, have a wander in the Deer Park. We did; we saw no deer, but we did see the English Heritage cared-for Deer House, which is an extraordinary, extravagant affair – built to give shelter to deer and provide somewhere comfy for the bishop’s visitors to watch them. It’s hardly surprising that the deer keep away from the tourist bits when there’s so much shapely parkland to hide in.
The Deer House

Aukland Castle Grounds
On a day out, the coach ride matters. For those of us not familiar with north County Durham, our return journey by our driver’s scenic route - in order to avoid the rush-hour mayhem of the A1(M) - was a revelation and a delight. Tony isn’t a proper grumpy coach driver, not like they used to be in the olden days. Throughout the day, Tony was helpful, smiling and pleasant, interested and interesting. That makes a difference on a day out.
Phil Coyne & Steve Wootten

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Autumn's Bounty

Autumn is a bountiful time of year for Gibside's wildlife with trees and bushes laden with nuts, seeds and berries.  Acorns from the Avenue oaks (these are mostly non-native turkey oaks but there are a few native oaks as well) provide a feast for squirrels and jays (a colourful member of the crow family) and much time is spent by both of these caching away the surplus in readiness for leaner times ahead.  Roe deer will also take advantage of such a feast and in quiet times will visit the Avenue to fatten up on the acorns. 

Jay on Avenue searching for acorns

Female roe deer on Avenue in search of acorns

With the good summer we had this year many trees and shrubs have produced good crops of berries and these will provide food for both mammals and birds.  Badgers take advantage of this alternative food supply and many are busy gorging on yew berries.  Look out for their latrine sites (there are a number on the Avenue) and you may see some of their droppings contain mostly yew seeds.  Birds, such as thrushes, also feed on berries and can strip a bush or tree bare within hours.  Look out also for the first of the year's fieldfares and redwings arriving to join in the feasting.

Badger dropping containing undigested yew berries and seeds 

Redwing a common winter visitor