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Countryfile cameras visit Pensthorpe park

The Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham, has been named one of Britain’s most beautiful gardens by The Times newspaper in the same weekend that the nature reserve’s conservation work was highlighted on BBC TV’s Countryfile.

John Craven and the Countryfile team visited Pensthorpe Natural Park to find out about the important work that Pensthorpe Conservation Trust (PCT) is doing to protect one of Britain’s most endangered birds, the corncrake.

Pensthorpe is Britain’s only breed and release programme for corncrakes and the Wensum Valley area is now one of the few places where people can still hear their rasping noises, a sound that was lost for almost a century. PCT has bred around 500 corncrake chicks to date, feeding the newborn chicks around the clock, and Craven helped release some young corncrakes into the wild at a secret location.

Pensthorpe Natural Park Gardens and Trail. Photo : Steve Adams (15503252)
Pensthorpe Natural Park Gardens and Trail. Photo : Steve Adams (15503252)

PCT works closely with the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group to protect areas of grassland full of vegetation, which is an important habitat for these secretive species to thrive in before migrating to Central Africa.

Countryfile also found out about Pensthorpe’s new approach to the programme, getting adult birds to rear their own young.

Pensthorpe Conservation Trust’s work with red squirrels and the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group was also highlighted and three of the red squirrels born at Pensthorpe in May were even named by presenter Margherita Taylor. To follow the stud book, the red need to be named after the letter I and Countryfile chose the names Idyll, Indiana and Ignatius.

The population of red squirrels in England is thought to be as low as 15,000 and many of Pensthorpe’s kittens have been released on the Isle of Anglesey as part of a managed release programme.

The Times also named Pensthorpe’s Millennium Garden as one of the ‘top 20 most glorious gardens in the UK to see right now’.

The garden is most notable for having been designed by world-renowned leading garden designer and plantsman, Piet Oudolf. Launched in 1999, it was the first public garden to be designed by an emerging Oudolf, still relatively unknown in the UK at that time.

Ten years later, by which point he was recognised as one of the world’s most foremost plantsman, Oudolf returned to oversee the redesign and replanting of his original garden with a decade’s more experience under his belt.

The Millennium Garden notoriously shows off his famous naturalistic perennial drifts of sub-alpine, steppe and prairie plants. An image of the Millennium Garden also made the front page of the national newspaper.

Pensthorpe Natural Park recently celebrated its 31st birthday and the 700-acre reserve has around 1,000 different species of birds, animal and plants. It is open daily all-year round.

Pensthorpe has recently heard from Clocaenog Red Squirrel Trust in Denbighshire, who were sent a Pensthorpe breeding pair, Domino and Fizz, that they have successfully bred in the wild, with the hope that the project will replicate the success of Anglesey.

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