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A Week on the Estate: Soft Fruit, Red Kites & Summer Solstice

We’re well into summer and the growing season is going nicely, boosted by a useful amount of rain. This weekend will bring the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. We can expect 16 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on the longest day. Six months on, that will be down to about 7 hours and 50 minutes. Looking around the estate this week, it’s hard to believe how cold, dark and thoroughly wet it was last winter.

In the Walled Garden, abundant rain after a sunny spring has allowed our cherries, pears, apples, plums and damsons to thrive. Elsewhere, the news is a little less bright. One of our ash plantations is showing clear signs of ash dieback. Even at this late stage in the growing season, there is little sign of new growth.

Since the alarm was sounded in the South-East in 2012, Chalara’s wind-borne fungal spores have been slowly spreading across the UK. The Woodland Trust estimates that over time, 95% of UK ash trees will die at a cost to the rural economy of £15 billion. We’re working hard to mitigate the loss and bring our woodlands back to their former glory. Some cleared plantations have already been mulched and re-planted.

Wildlife around the Hall continues to thrive. We’ve seen 25 greylag goslings so far this year. Red kites have been glimpsed surveying the grounds from a high tree-top, and a kestrel inspected the lawn from just outside one of the Hall’s windows.

The red kite (Milvus milvus) is a large and handsome bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 2m. Once widely persecuted and confined to parts of Wales, it was saved from extinction in the UK by one of the world’s most persistent protection initiatives. Now thriving, the red kite is expanding its range year on year. A now familiar bird in Wales, central England and south-west Scotland, we’re thrilled that the red kite has a toehold in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Feeding mainly on carrion and worms, and occasionally predating small mammals, kites compete with their closest rival, the buzzard – another raptor that was once persecuted but now thrives.

To mark National Martini Day, Tristan Jørgensen devised a new cocktail – the Tangerini. To begin, take 60ml of Burrell’s Dry and add 10ml of dry vermouth, the juice of half a fresh tangerine and a pinch of ground black pepper. Pour into a stirring glass or a shaker with a little ice. At the same time, chill a martini glass. Shake or stir (take note, Mr Bond), then double-strain the mixture into the martini glass and serve with a twist of tangerine peel. Enjoy!