Wildlife has been enjoying empty gardens and estates managed by the National Trust throughout the UK, since the conservation charity closed its properties to restrict the spread of coronavirus.
Rare sightings and uncharacteristic behaviours have been noted by staff at the Trust, who say the absence of visitors appears to have emboldened wildlife, with birds and mammals spotted venturing out of their usual territories.
Reports from rangers and gardeners include peregrine falcons nesting in the ancient ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset, English partridges wandering in an empty car park near Cambridge, and a cuckoo calling at Osterley in west London, having not been heard there for 20 years.
David Brown, National Trust ecologist at Corfe Castle, said: “This is the first time peregrines have nested here since the 1980s. With the site the quietest it has ever been, the great curtain walls are an ideal spot for these powerful birds, which look for isolated and inaccessible places to build a nest. Amongst all the uncertainty, it has been heartening to see nature colonising the landscape in our absence.”
At Plas yn Rhiw, on the Llyn Peninsula, stoats, weasels and hares have come in from the woodland to explore the gardens, usually filled with visitors, while in the Peak District, rangers report being able to hear the otherworldly call of the curlew in areas that are normally much busier.
In London, little owls have been making their presence felt, with gardeners at Ham House noticing the birds venturing further into the garden from the adjacent river meadows.
Plants too are taking advantage of the quiet, with delicate forest floor species like bluebells and wood anemones flourishing.
Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “It has only been eight weeks but wildlife seems to be enjoying the breathing space.
“With less traffic and fewer people, we’ve heard deafening levels of birdsong and seen famous monuments and formal gardens colonised by wildlife.
“Nature’s recovery is still a long way off, but the fact that people are noticing what’s around them is something to be celebrated.
“We hope this renewed sense of value for the outdoors will continue, with people making the most of their urban and rural green spaces and supporting their local conservation projects.”
Image Credit: National Trust/Emma Marshall
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com