wildlife at old lands

Sam Bosanquet, our resident naturalist & grew up at Old-lands and learnt his natural history in lost hours as a boy wandering through the fields learning the names of all that he stumbled across. He has been monitoring and recording flora and fauna found on land for the last 25 years and has written several books about his particular specialism, moss. He does weekly walks around the estate showing people what can be found there.

The Gwent Wildlife Trust has its head office in the yard here.  There are Wildlife Trusts throughout Britain, and together they are a powerful voice for nature conservation and wildlife protection.  The Gwent Wildlife Trust covers south-eastern Wales, including the counties of Monmouth, Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and part of Caerphilly.  Its work includes managing nature reserves, working with the public to protect and encourage wildlife, and explaining to local and national government why conservation is so important for our future wellbeing. Directions to their nature reserves and information on the wildlife that can be found on them are given here.

We are very excited that the Gwent Wildlife Trust have taken on management of one of this area’s most special habitats.  Old Lands is surrounded by 30 acres of parkland that was established in the late 18th century and holds Oak, Turkey Oak and Beech trees.  Many of these have dead ‘stag’s-horn’ branches that are home to an important array of parkland insects, including the Red Data Book beetle Lymexylon navale, which has not been recorded anywhere else in Wales, and the strikingly red longhorn beetle Pyrrhidium sanguineum. Although the insect fauna is rich and diverse, our rare species struggle to find nectar and pollen to feed on as adults (their larvae eat dead wood).  The management of the parkland aims to make it even better for insects: reverting the grassland between the trees from a species-poor mix of grasses to a flower-rich nectar source, and introducing clumps of hawthorns and blackthorns to provide pollen and nectar for the beetles.  Key to this conversion is reducing the fertility of the grassland – because most wildflowers are outcompeted by grasses when nutrient levels are high – by cutting silage (for the first few years) and then cutting hay.  When the silage or hay is removed from the fields, the nutrients go with it and the grassland is left more suitable for wildflowers.  They will also use ‘green hay’ from the flower-rich lawn of the big house and Caewern Triangle to introduce 100% local wildflower seed to the fields.  Already species such as Knapweed and Devil’s-bit Scabious have spread out from their relict sites, and you can help map their spread by marking them on one of our monitoring sheets.

Increasing the diversity of wildflowers will benefit the parkland beetles, and also many insects that feed on meadow grasses and flowers, including Essex Skipper and Marbled White butterflies, Six-spot Burnet, Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet and Burnet Companion moths, and a range of grasshoppers including Long-winged Conehead.  Small mammals including voles will increase, and their predators including Weasels, Stoats and Barn Owls should become commoner too.