Wednesday, 28 March 2018

School Children set to visit Bedgebury to help save Endangered Trees

Children from four local primary schools (Goudhurst, Lamberhurst, Sandhurst and Downe) will visit the Forestry Commission’s Bedgebury National Pinetum, near Goudhurst, Kent on 18 and 19 April 2018. Each of the local schools have links to schools in Malawi through the work of the charity Starfish Malawi, and during the visit to the Pinetum they will learn about the lives of children in Malawi, hear about their critically endangered national tree, the Mulanje cedar, and tour the pinetum to learn about the tree conservation work of the pinetum and meet some rare trees.

The Bedgebury National Pinetum tree conservation team and learning team, together with representatives from Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the local charity, Starfish Malawi, will welcome the children to the Pinetum where they will learn about the plight of the Mulanje cedar before planting wild-collected seeds from the critically endangered trees in the Pinetum nursery. The seedlings will form part of the propagation trials for the “Save Our Cedar” project, which Bedgebury National Pinetum is supporting.

Bedgebury’s Collection Manager, Dan Luscombe, said:

'After visiting Malawi to collect the seed from the Mulanje cedar myself (as part of a 3-year international tree conservation project to help save the critically endangered Mulanje cedar) it is wonderful to be able to educate school children about the importance of our trees and let them know how some, without our help, are at risk of extinction in their natural environment if action is not taken soon.'

The project in Malawi will map the mountain, identifying remaining cedar trees and the best planting sites. Local community members will receive training in nursery techniques and enterprise development and will be supported in setting up nurseries around Mulanje Mountain.

The Mulanje cedar (scientific name: Widdringtonia whytei) is endemic to Mulanje Mountain in Malawi. This unique tree produces valuable timber that is durable, termite-proof and used for construction and wood-carving. Its value has led to overexploitation and very few Mulanje cedar trees now remain on the mountain. This has resulted in a loss of income for communities living around the mountain and increased soil erosion and floods due to rapid water run-off from the mountain during rainy seasons.

Previous efforts to replant the cedar populations on Mulanje Mountain have had limited results, but the Mulanje cedar grows well on Zomba and in other locations. The reasons for this are not well understood. This project will work with geneticists, foresters and botanists to improve propagation results and planting success. Alongside the restoration project, work will be conducted across Malawi to test and promote the Mulanje cedar as a sustainable timber resource that can be grown from household to plantation scales. These efforts will develop a long-term market for cedar seedlings, ensuring the survival of this tree as well as a sustainable income for nursery workers.

Forestry Commission staff travel the world to collect seeds from rare and endangered species for propagation and are supported in this work by the Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum

Friday, 23 March 2018

First look inside Marwell Zoo's ‘Energy for Life’ Tropical House powered by 'zoo poo'

Marwell Zoo has unveiled its new immersive and sustainable ‘Energy for Life’ Tropical House which will become the first in the UK to generate energy using waste ‘zoo poo’.

Spanning two levels with fantastic vantage points, guests can experience face-to-face encounters with a diversity of wildlife and exotic plants in a tropical climate, while learning about the flow of energy through life.

Its lush canopy, cascading waterfall and bustling forest floor are home to a charismatic sloth, Javan chevrotain (mouse deer), pygmy marmosets, tortoises and free-flying birds. There is also a 70,000-litre aquarium with 2,500 fish, a crocodile monitor lizard and examples of nature’s environmental managers: a colony of leaf-cutter ants.

Supported by a £1.5million Local Growth Fund (LGF) investment by Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the exhibit is part of a 10-year, £17million investment plan to create improved habitats for animals, more immersive experiences for guests and to help the zoo achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020.

James Cretney, Marwell Zoo’s Chief Executive, said:

'We are thrilled to open this groundbreaking new exhibit which marks a very proud and important moment in our history.

'The LEP’s involvement has itself been catalytic and in addition to their grant, has allowed us to understand and support a wider regional strategy of economic growth, STEM skills development and low carbon technology, all of which ‘Energy for Life’ will deliver upon.

'The unique combination of visitor experience and innovative green-technology creates a compelling story, throwing a spotlight on promoting alternative, renewable forms of energy. We hope guests, both young and old, can learn more, and feel inspired to join us in doing their bit to make a difference too.'

Leading the way in sustainability, the zoo realised a significant untapped energy resource in some of its 700 tonnes of animal waste (dung, soiled bedding and leftover hay) that could be used for renewable energy within the zoo.

The groundbreaking project with cutting-edge technology features a woodchip boiler that will be supplemented by a specialist boiler capable of burning straw-based animal manure later this year.

This will provide heating for buildings across the zoo and enable the charity to reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels.

The contemporary exhibit’s curved roof is built using the latest ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) technology. This insulating roof canopy allows natural light to shine through, creating ideal conditions for 650 individual plants from 65 different species to flourish and form a lush habitat for the animals.

Rainwater from the roof is harvested in two 50,000-litre tanks to provide water inside for the aquaria and plant watering, making the building self sufficient.

This unique combination of visitor experience and sustainability creates a compelling interpretation story and educational opportunities for 'Energy for Life' Tropical House.

Through the Tropical House experience, Marwell aims to encourage interest and understanding of the flow of energy through life, raise awareness of how the energy we need to power our modern lifestyles is generated and the consequences for the global environment. The exhibit will highlight our changing climate, the measures Marwell is taking to reduce carbon emissions and how guests can make a difference.

Dr Mike Short CBE, Chairman of Enterprise M3 LEP, added: 'We are delighted to see this facility open and working to boost our economy. With apprentices already employed and learning, delivering full economic benefits will only be a matter of time. This project helps us on our journey to establish low carbon technologies and make the Enterprise M3 area become more sustainable. This sustainability and with great apprentices the exhibit will ensure healthy animals and strengthen the visitor attraction in our area.'

Marwell Zoo, home to more than 150 species, is owned by Marwell Wildlife, a global conservation charity leading programmes in the UK, Africa and across the world. The charity engages with over 40,000 schoolchildren through curriculum-based education programmes and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year to its 140 acre site.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Make a Wish request sees seven year old become a princess at Hever Castle

Lea-Rose had her dream come true when she came to Hever Castle & Gardens to eat chicken wraps ‘like a princess’.

The seven-year-old from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland is back at school after undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy for stage 3 non hodgkin’s lymphoma last year. At one point she spent 9 weeks in hospital.

She loves Disney princesses so her family applied for her to have her dream come true to become a princess for the day through the Make a Wish Foundation.

Lea-Rose Officer-Hamilton arrived at Hever Castle with her mum, Amy Wells, grandmother Kelly Sloan and her brother, Jai (4), and sisters Katelyn (6) and Olivia (1) on Monday (19 March).

The family enjoyed a horse and carriage ride around the grounds of Anne Boleyn’s childhood home before going into the Castle to meet ‘Ariel’ (Grace Liston from Melody’s Princess Parties) to play some games and learn about becoming a princess.

Lea-Rose had her very own throne in the spectacular Castle dining hall to enjoy a feast of chicken wraps, crisps, special glittery princess shoe biscuits and ice cream cupcakes.

Her mum Amy, 24, said: 'She thinks she is a princess and wanted to be a princess for the day. For me it’s good to see a smile on her face, for her to get that experience.'

Friday, 16 March 2018

Week dedicated to tourism gets under way as England prepares to celebrate English Tourism Week (17-25 March

VisitEngland is shining a spotlight on the country’s tourism industry in a week devoted to travel and exploration during English Tourism Week (ETW) 17-25 March 2018.

Now in its seventh year, ETW raises the profile and showcases the benefits of the tourism industry to local communities and the economy.

In the lead up to ETW, VisitEngland is working with television presenter Julia Bradbury, to encourage more Brits to explore the country and discover all there is to see and experience on their doorstep this spring. Julia has selected a few of her favourite things to do in springtime in a short film to be launched across VisitEngland’s social media channels. To see Julia's film on things to do this spring click here.

Julia Bradbury television presenter & co-founder of The Outdoor Guide said:

'Springtime in England is such an exciting time with our beautiful countryside leaping to life as it stirs from its winter slumber. From wildflowers to new-born animals, from heritage buildings reopening to mouth-watering seasonal food, it’s one of the best times to blow off the cobwebs, get outdoors and explore the amazing landscapes, experiences and activities on your doorstep.

'Whether I’m exploring the Wainwright Fells in the Lake District, tasting local scallops in Rye or wildlife watching on the Dorset coast, I’m always amazed by the hidden gems I find. I’d encourage everyone to take advantage of the great savings, offers and events being held this English Tourism Week and discover more of the country for themselves.'

VisitEngland Director Andrew Stokes said:

'English Tourism Week is all about celebrating the value and quality of tourism in England, and there are many great reasons to explore what’s on your doorstep. The range of activities, from our quiet and cosy countryside to our roaring and vibrant cities, gives our nation a rare flare you would struggle to find elsewhere in the world. And all steeped in our rich and wonderful heritage. The whole industry comes together during English Tourism Week to showcase the variety of tourism products across the country engaging locals and encouraging them to be tourists within their own area.'

This year the spring equinox falls during ETW and VisitEngland is asking people to share their favourite spring moments using #Springland, #ETW18 and #VisitEngland.

Latest VisitEngland statistics show that from January to November 2017 Brits took more than 44 million domestic holidays, spending in excess of £10 billion on staycations, up five and six per cent respectively compared to the same period in 2016.

To promote tourism during the week VisitEngland has created an events website for people to find out about, and book, activities with many offering discounts and incentives to encourage visitors. For a selection of the best offers see the blog here.

VisitEngland is also planning a country-wide ‘Instameet’ to celebrate ETW. More than 450 Instagrammers are expected to attend 10 Instameets during ETW showcasing England at its springtime best. Attendees will share ‘grams’ using the hashtags #Springland, #ETW18 and #VisitEngland with VisitEngland rounding up its favourite #Springland posts in a blog. To find out what's on during ETW click here.

English Tourism Week 17-24 March: Stay surf sail along the coast with the most

English Tourism Week kicks off this Saturday 17 March and the resorts of Bournemouth and Poole are getting in on the action with offers to stay, surf and sail along their award-winning coastline.

Combined, Bournemouth voted the UK’s best seaside town in the British Travel Awards 2017 – and nearby Poole offers 10 miles of soft golden sand, eight Blue Flag beaches and Europe’s largest natural harbour. Known as the ‘coast with the most’, this stretch of the South Coast attracts outdoorsy adventurers and thrill seekers looking to surf, sail and cycle.

To celebrate English Tourism Week (17 – 24 March), local accommodation providers and attractions are running special offers to welcome visitors to the area.

Learn to cruise the waves by surf or paddleboard with Surf Steps. The teachers at Surf Steps will show visitors the ropes and have them carving up the surf in no time, use the code ETW25 when booking online to receive 25% off.

City Cruises are offering a two-for-one cruise around Europe's largest natural harbour. Home to the town of Poole, the golden beaches of Sandbanks and Brownsea Island. From either open deck seating or comfortable saloon visitors will see stunning views of the exceptional landscape that surrounds it.

Visitors to Bournemouth can enjoy a discounted stay by the sea at Bournecoast self-catered accommodation during English Tourism Week. More information can be found at

Hot on the heels of topping the list of TripAdvisor’s best beaches, Bournemouth is also offering a special discount at catering outlets along its award-winning seafront. Customers get 10% off their bill at the Prom Café and the Prom Diner by quoting the promo code ETW18.

Nicola Goode, Marketing Manager at Bournemouth Tourism said:

'We’ve had a wonderful year so far here in Bournemouth – we’ve scooped two major awards and together with our neighbours in Poole we’re proud to boast a 10-mile playground for anyone who enjoys watersports and outdoor pursuits. English Tourism Week is the perfect opportunity to showcase our coast with the most!'

The two resorts have also produced a joint welcome guide in partnership with the Daily Echo. Available from tourist information centres and selected outlets in both resorts, the guide contains all of the information tourists to the area will need to make the most of their stay. See it online at under brochures and guides.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Easter at Emirates Spinnaker Tower

Spring has sprung at Emirates Spinnaker Tower! The Portsmouth based attraction is delighted to be hosting a selection of Easter treats for all of the family.

Easter Trail
30th March – 15th April
Standard admission prices apply

A special Easter trail encouraging youngsters to explore the iconic 170 metre viewing tower in search of egg-shaped puzzle pieces. Keep an eye out for the Easter Bunny who will be hopping around the tower over the bank holiday weekend.

Peter Rabbit™ Meet & Greet
7th and 14th April
Standard admission prices apply

The most mischievous and adventurous rabbit around is coming to Emirates Spinnaker Tower! On Saturday 7th and Saturday 14th April, Peter Rabbit will be making personal appearances at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm! Advanced booking highly recommended.

Easter High Tea
Sunday 1st – Sunday 15th April
£55 for 2 people

Do something extra special this Easter. Easter High Tea combines the finger sandwiches and scones of a traditional afternoon tea with sweet treats such as miniature hot crossed buns, carrot cake and mini egg cupcakes! High Tea experiences are bookable for two people and are served in The Clouds café, 105 metres above sea level.

Emirates Spinnaker Tower is open daily from 10.00am to 6.00pm (excluding Christmas Day). See or call 023 9285 7520 to book in advance or to find out more.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Marvellous May at Borde Hill Garden

Rhododendrons bloom to celebrate 125 years of horticultural history at Borde Hill Garden

Borde Hill will celebrate their 125th anniversary this spring with a stunning display of rhododendrons, many of which were collected by the plant hunters of the Edwardian age.

Borde Hill near Haywards Heath in West Sussex was purchased in 1893 by Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke with the express intention of creating a magnificent garden.

An enthusiastic collector, Colonel Stephenson Clarke was one of the sponsors of the great plant hunters of the early 1900s.  He filled his garden at Borde Hill with rich and diverse trees and shrubs from all corners of the world including China, Tibet, Burma and South America.

In his book of 1932, Colonel Stephenson Clarke says of the rhododendrons:
"Borde Hill may be said to possess a more or less representative collection of these beautiful plants including most of the fine species introduced by Wilson, Forrest, Rock and Kingdon Ward...a large number of which have been raised here.”

Visitors to the garden near Haywards Heath can see these shrubs grown to trees from Rhododendron seeds collected by intrepid explorer George Forrest on his 1924 expedition to China. Forrest's contribution to natural history in western China was unrivalled.  He discovered 1200 plants species new to science.  He has been called the Scottish Indianna Jones of the plant world and was given the Royal Horticultural Society's Victoria Medal of Honour in 1921, and the Veitch Memorial Medal in 1927.

This relationship between sponsor and plant hunter is still in evidence today at Borde Hill as the current guardians - Eleni and Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke remain committed to introducing new and interesting species to the garden.  The couple will unveil the newly designed Round Dell (by RHS medal winning designer Sophie Walker) in July.  This area of the garden features plants collected by the modern day plant hunters at Crûg Farm and is surrounded by fantastic chusan palms planted by the Colonel.

Eleni and Andrewjohn are also keen to underline the horticultural pedigree of the garden and keep the Colonel's legacy alive.  As part of their 125th anniversary celebrations they have arranged for writer and historian Caroline Holmes to deliver a fascinating talk on the Edwardian garden.

Caroline Holmes says: "The Edwardian Garden can be described as the original www for a glorious array of hardy and exotic plants for gardens, large and small, its extensive plant palette is one to celebrate not fear. The evocative history and contemporary setting of Borde Hill is both golden and delicious.

Other treasures to enjoy in May at Borde Hill include; the deciduous Knapp Hill azaleas which provide a kaleidoscope of colour in the Azalea Ring, Kornus kousa over 80 year’s old, late flowering magnolias like Magnolia obovata, Magnolia fraseri and Magnolia officinalis, other flowering trees include davidias, stuartias, halesia and many bulbs.
Borde Hill’s Liriodendron chinense will also be one to admire as it celebrates its 115 birthday this year. The Italian Garden will be in full colour thanks to 3,000 tulips and the woodlands will provide magical colour thanks to giant rhododendrons and a carpet of bluebells.

Special events in May include:

16 May    (10.30am - 1.30pm )     The Edwardian Garden, Golden and Delicious.  Caroline Holmes will evoke memories of a golden afternoon, glimpsed in black and white photographs and nostalgic cottage paintings with architecture inspired by the Mediterranean. Includes Refreshment on arrival, Talk and garden walk; Tickets: £24.00 (RHS Members/Friends of Borde Hill), £30.00 non-member

23 May     (10.30am – 2.30pm)    My Garden is my Sanctuary.  Join this one day course to improve self-awareness and confidence skills in this relaxing and peaceful setting. Workshop activities will include exercises using nature as a backdrop and resource, story, sensory awareness exercises, solo reflection time and sharing with others. Please see website for more details and tickets.

Borde Hill Garden’s prices and opening times:

The garden is open seven days a week from 20 March – 1 October, plus 20 – 31 October 2018, 10am to 5pm with the last admission one hour before closing. 

Day Tickets for Individuals and Families
Adult – £9.50 [£8.55]
Concession* – £9.00 [£8.10]
Child (aged 3-16) – £6.35 [£5.70]
Child under 3 Free
Carer Free
*Concession rates apply to visitors with a disability, students with ID and 60+ claiming a pension
Family Day Tickets
2 Adults + up to 3 Children – £28.50 [£25.65]
1 Adult + up to 3 Children – £19.00 [£17.10]