Monday, 12 June 2017

SPRING HAS SPRUNG: SHERBORNE PARK ESTATE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE



Normally my pieces about Britain on the small screen centre around locations featured in TV dramas and suchlike.  However, this time I have decided to feature the location of this year’s Springwatch, the eternally popular wildlife spectacular which has the whole nation cheering on fledging blue tits and cooing over playful badgers and fox cubs among other engaging creatures.  More often than not the series comes from an RSPB reserve or similar, but this year’s Springwatch HQ is Sherborne ParkEstate, a swathe of beautiful Cotswolds parkland and farmland adjacent to the former hunting lodge at Lodge Park, all run by the National Trust.

The area covered by the estate includes a variety of habitat for the wildlife.  The woodlands provide a home for birds such as jay, chiffchaff and the obligatory Springwatch blue tits, as well as raptors in the form of buzzard and red kite.  The series also features a kestrel family which has set up home in the church in the nearby idyllic village of Sherborne, and other stars of the show include the magnificent barn owl.  Chris Packham explains that these raptors manage to co-exist due to the fact that they eat different things and employ different hunting methods.  For example, this part of the Cotswolds has a plentiful supply of rabbits for the red kite chicks to gorge on. 

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Sherborne Church and Sherborne House. Photo by Philip Halling, via Wikimedia Commons

The farmland on the estate is a perfect habitat for birds such as skylark and yellowhammer, and hares can also be found there.  The hedgerows provide shelter for a variety of birds including the gorgeous bullfinch, and stoats find the typical Cotswold dry stone walls perfect for their dens, although the mother stoat regulary moves her offspring from place to place as the dens become a bit whiffy from all the prey consumed there.  The diversity of flora on the estate attracts insects including a range of different butterflies.

During the spring, the water meadows of the estate’s tranquil River Windrush are the scene of a mass emergence of mayflies, providing a feeding frenzy for the resident trout.  This incredible event was shown during the first week of this year’s Springwatch.  The river looms large in the series, looking magnificent in the evening sunshine, with gently sloping sheep pastures rising from it.  

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Photo by Philip Halling, via Wikimedia Commons
The estate is located just off the A40 between Cheltenham and Oxford.  Visitors to the area where Springwatch is being filmed can park at Ewe Pens Barn, from where there are a number of walking trails, including one down to the water meadows.  There is another car park at Northfield Barn, but if visiting during the filming of Springwatch you will not have access to that one.  Lodge Park is some distance away on the other side of the A40 and the former hunting lodge can be visited for an entrance fee (free to NT members).
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Photo by John Menard, via Wikimedia Commons


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