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Fruity fungi

December 16, 2014

Aleuria aurantia or orange peel fungus is quite a striking sight in late summer and autumn. Our very damp weather conditions have encouraged it to reveal it’s fruiting form above ground and indeed it does look like discarded orange peel, very bright and vivid orange.

Orange peel fungus. (Aleuria aurantia). A rare sight in the UK.

Orange peel fungus. (Aleuria aurantia). A rare sight in the UK.

Generally this fungus grows around dead trees where the soil is compacted or has been recently disturbed.

The striking beauty of this mushroom attracted Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1755-1837) to study fungi. Persoon is now regarded as the father of systematic mycology.

Many hands make…

December 3, 2014

There is a popular belief that once winter arrives it’s time to down tools and leave the gardens to their own devices. Not a bit of it. You may be surprised to learn that our intrepid and very dedicated volunteers and staff work 363 days a year to ensure our displays, borders, lawns, hedges, orchard and walled garden all look superb year in and year out. They work through rain, snow, hail and everything in between that the weather can throw at them.

Below the boys are planting tulip (Daydream) ready to dazzle our visitors in 2015. If you love gardens and the outdoors, please do pop by and have a chat. A short interlude will no doubt ease their backs and who knows you may learn a nugget of horticultural wisdom in the process. For those of you who are members of the National Trust. Did you know that every time you visit us you help contribute £3.55 to The Vyne? So, enjoying a day with us means you are supporting your favourite place.

The gardening team (Dennis, Pete, Alan) get stuck into the winter bulb planting.

The gardening team (Dennis, Pete, Peter) get stuck into the winter bulb planting.

Struggling for ideas this festive season?

National Trust membership is a gift that keeps on giving all year round and allows that special someone to enjoy all our places too.

Taking time to stop and stare…

November 29, 2014

The deck chairs are stowed, the gardens cleared, the crowds gone and the sounds of excited children stilled; returned to their studies.

The Vyne becomes a different place as the year slowly draws to a close. There’s a quiet serenity about the place as I walk it’s leafy paths and take in the early morning and stare across the lake. Autumns colours are glorious, leaves caught in rays of gold as the suns shallow angle plays it’s magic.

Connecting the past with the future. The Vyne's Tudor face glows in the autumn sun.

Connecting the past with the future. The Vyne’s Tudor face glows in the autumn sun.

In the fields the mist swirls and secretive deer move just as quietly from the woods shadowy safety knowing they largely have the place to them selves of a peaceful November morning.
Ripples traverse the lake as ducks, geese and many other migrants go about their business, preening, strutting and perhaps searching for that elusive mate to start the cycle again.

The mist rolls in a the sun goes down. A magical sight.

The mist rolls in as the sun goes down. A magical sight.

The days may be shortening and nature preparing for what is to come but this is nonetheless a time to take time and enjoy the autumn spectacle before the long winter slumber. Emerging toadstools and mushrooms, distinctive calls of the Jay, Jackdaw, Woodpecker, Kingfisher and gathering geese in formation overhead. All are frequent sights as I go about my day preparing for adventurous souls who, like me enjoy natures majesty in all it’s forms.

Natures jewels

Natures jewels

I’m thinking I’m glad to be part of Octavia Hill’s 1884 dream and that there are still places like The Vyne. Spaces to reflect on life and to enjoy the simple things away from our all too busy 24/7 world.

Why not take time to stop and stare too.

Did you know you can enjoy this beautiful place 363 days a year? Well, you can and it beats being sat in front of that box on the other side of the room. Discover a day out at The Vyne.

Grebes – Catch of the day!

November 16, 2014

Author: James Miekle

Two species of Grebe could be seen on The Vyne ornamental lake recently – Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. The former have bred successfully this year but the last time Great Crested Grebe bred successfully was in 2012. Last year a nest was built but abandoned and until late August this year, Great Crested Grebes were occasional short-stay visitors. Then a singleton took up residence and stayed for nearly 2 months before taking its leave. With luck it will return – hopefully with a mate and we will be treated to their elaborate and beautiful mating ‘dance’.

In both Little and Great Crested Grebe, sexes are indistinguishable but there is a considerable difference between summer and winter plumage. In spring, Little Grebes develop rich chestnut panels on their neck and face which disappear in winter while Great Crested Grebes develop black and deep orange plumes on their heads which again, disappear in winter.

At 25-29 cm. Little Grebes are the smallest adult birds on the lake: rotund and highly buoyant, they bob around like corks even in the slightest ripples. Their presence is betrayed by loud, pony-like ‘whinnying’.

Great Crested Grebes are elegant birds with long necks, held upright when they swim. At 46-51 cm. long, they can look quite large but are actually slightly smaller than Mallards. Less vocal than Little Grebes, they do make grunting and croaking noises during the mating season.

Great crested grebes and Little grebes

Great crested grebes and Little grebes – Copyright James Meikle

Thankfully now quite common, the Great Crested Grebe population plummeted in the 19th century through egg collecting and the use of feathers to make ladies’ hats. They were one of the first birds to benefit from the formation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Both Little and Great Crested Grebes dive for food and can remain underwater for 20 or so seconds, often surfacing a considerable distance from where they submerged. Their food consists of fish, aquatic insects, molluscs and other invertebrates. Both are capable of swallowing fish which seem disproportionately large, given their body size.

In the photographs, the Great Crested Grebe is swallowing a large Perch. The Little Grebe is eating a small crayfish – probably a Signal Crayfish – an invasive American species which has displaced our native crayfish in many lakes, rivers and streams.

Little grebe tucks into what appears to be a small Signal crayfish

Little grebe tucks into what appears to be a small Signal crayfish – Copyright James Meikle.

Reflecting on my time in the gardens

November 4, 2014

Author: Dennis Ward – (Seasonal gardener)

I love the outdoors and so having an opportunity to work as a seasonal gardener with the National Trust is something I consider a privilege and an honour. The Vyne sits in a quiet corner of Hampshire but a stones-throw away from the village of Sherborne St John.

Behind the scenes I’m mowing lawns, finely manicuring Yew hedges, pruning and tidying, attending to stubborn machinery, yes, we do have fun with this. However what’s really important is the people you work with, volunteers who come in despite the rain, cold, wind, snow and sometimes howling gales even when they are not feeling well. With aching limbs they still give their time to the ensure the gardens always look their best. This I find truly humbling and a reflection of their love of these special places.

All in a days work - Dennis Ward ensures the summer garden looks it's best.

All in a days work – Dennis Ward ensures the summer garden looks it’s best.

In my time here I have discovered friendships, camaraderie and wonderfully warm and sincere staff and volunteers full of enthusiasm, always willing to share their knowledge and thus I have learnt much in what is only a short time. The summer has rolled away once again and as I reflect on the months spent at The Vyne, I smile knowing that I have become part of its long and twisting history.
I know we are all here to conserve and preserve the past and that’s part of what attracts people who come through our gates. To enjoy the peace and tranquillity, to spy into the past and wonder at the many souls who have trodden through the gardens over the centuries.
Modern life is very busy so it’s good that there are places like these where you can switch off and enjoy the slow lane with friends and family, watch the wildlife, listen to bird song and let summer gently caress your cares away, even for just a short while.

Left: Dennis with Volunteer gardener - Victor Gardener...yes really. Right: The Yew hedge receiving loving care.

Left: Dennis with volunteer gardener – Victor Gardener…yes really. Right: The West garden  Yew hedge receiving loving care in good time before winter sets in.

I may have contributed my bit in the gardens this year but it’s a drop in the ocean to all the wonderful work that goes on every day from so many dedicated people. Seeing smiling faces young and not so young as they enjoy the sights and sounds of our gardens is the icing on the cake for me. It makes all the hard work in all sorts of weather worth every minute. I shall miss this place and especially the people who have made my time here so special.

Buses long past

October 23, 2014

The Vyne is a frequent attraction for coach tourists however it is rare indeed for us to host such a wonderfully preserved vehicle as the one that arrived on Wednesday this week.

Guernsey Albion 1958

Guernsey Albion 1958

Guernsey fleet number 77. This Albion bus from 1958 was supplied to Guernsey Motors and Guernsey Railway and licensed to carry 35 seated passengers and 7 standing.

Powered by a four cylinder Albion diesel engine it proved reliable, powerful for its size and economical (15 to 17mpg!!). The Guernsey Albions are a preservationist’s delight, apparently due to the limited use of wood in the interiors. This particular example has appeared on film sets starring David Suchet as Poirot. The driver recounted how David Suchet would during his filming breaks take time out in the drivers seat to eat his lunch onboard.

Medlars at The Vyne

October 6, 2014

Author: Keith Gillings (Fruit and produce volunteer)

Sadly this year has seen the demise of both of our medlar trees at The Vyne. They were in the wild garden and had succumbed to disease which has required them to be cut down. Medlars are part of the Rosacea family and therefore related to the apple and roses. It has a rather ugly appearance rather like a large, ugly rose hip and it has the unfortunate nickname of ‘dogs bottom’ (when viewed from the base you can quite understand why).



Harvesting is interesting in that you pick them just before frosts are about and when ripe they are hard and green. They aren’t edible until they’ve become half rotten or ‘bletted’, when they turn brown and soft. In Victorian time they were eaten by scooping out the brown mush, mixing it with clotted cream and adding a little fortified wine.
A very nice jelly can be made from them that sets well and makes a good accompanyment to cooked meat such as cold pork.


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