Although this year’s summer may be winding down, we thought that we’d take time to reflect on just how wonderful a haven for wildlife we have here in Shorwell and at Northcourt in particular.
Beginning with the village: Shorwell is a wooded enclave with a chalk stream, nestled at the foot chalk downs with a rolling, rural agricultural landscape leading to the coast. For those who are looking for tranquillity, escapism and inspiration, there are the elevated chalk downs, coastal landscapes which enjoy a lack of noise and light pollution and interestingly most of south-east England’s ‘Dark Skies’ are found in the area. The Island was given designated UNESCO biosphere status in 2019 and that makes it only the seventh UK destination to be awarded this very special award.
Closer to home we are constantly in awe of just what’s on our doorstep here at Northcourt, as are our guests who love nothing more to enjoy the peace and tranquillity and of being amongst nature. The gardens offers shelter and sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife including hedgehogs, badgers, stoats, dormouse, and red squirrels and is also home of little owls which you can hear calling throughout the day. Their larger barn owl friends also nest in the Stables and this year we had kestrels nesting in a box in the kitchen garden which thrillingly, reared three chicks. You will see buzzards and if you are very lucky, the more elusive sea eagle soaring high above. Keep your eyes peeled at night and you will spot pipistrelle and long-eared bats, or even one of the UK’s rarest bat, a Bechstein which was found here some years ago.
Northcourt’s grounds contain a spring, the Shor Well, which feeds a stream, one of the tributaries of the Buddle Brook and this not only provides the land with water but attracts insects (including humming-bird hawk moth), birds, small mammals and lush fauna to the fifteen acres of mature gardens. We have abundant trees, woodland, borders, and grasslands, all of which play their part in creating what is a foraging, roosting and nesting paradise for many species. On warm summer days there are wall lizards and slow worms sunbathing as well as glow worms to be seen on the terrace during summer evenings.
Whatever the season, there’s always plenty of life to be seen in Northcourt’s grounds and, we must confess, we do sometimes take it for granted. So, if you’re coming to visit, bring your walking shoes or wellies, your binoculars and your enthusiasm for all that a proper countryside holiday has to offer. You’ll be delighted that you did!
Image Andy Ames, Northcourt 2021