November 2012 - Rob Coleman, Education and Learning Officer with the National Trust, spoke about The History and Wildlife of Sheringham Park

At our November meeting, Rob Coleman, Education and Learning Officer with the National Trust, spoke about The History and Wildlife of Sheringham Park.

Humphrey Repton coined the term “landscape gardener” having re-invented himself in that role in his fifties.  Repton was commissioned by Abbot and Charlotte Upcher  to design Sheringham Park in 1812. The Red Book includes plans with a description of the estate, the house, lavish illustrations of before and after, poetry and some artistic exaggeration.  It was a status symbol, a coffee table book, many such went no further but at Sheringham Park the work went ahead; in the event the house was built smaller than the design and it was the couple’s son, Henry, who was its first occupant.  Much of the Repton design remains today.

An addition is the wild garden which includes many cultivars of azaleas and rhododendrons, all those capable of growing there.  Ernest “Chinese” Wilson was a planthunter friend of later Upchers and he brought them a handkerchief tree, look for it today, white bracts fluttering in the wind..  Wilson in his twenties worked for Kew when he went to China with a list of plants to bring back, this particular tree was not listed but he brought it back anyway and it was successful.  Attempts to propagate the one at Sheringham Park have proved tricky.

Upcher’s Warbler was discovered at Sheringham Park and named for Henry Upcher.  There are pockets of the original heathland and creatures living there include a green tiger beetle, which Rob Coleman described to us as an ant eating voracious carnivore, and a parasitic wasp, Ichneumonidae, with a 5 inch ovipositor drills into wood to reach larvae.  Rare Earth Star fungi can also be found there.

In the woods are several types of bats including Britain’s largest, the noctule.  Brown longeared bats are just so, they have been observed sitting in batboxes with their ears tucked under their wings! (Perhaps a Gardening Club outing might be arranged to see them next summer?)

Butterflies include the White Admiral in early July, with a flap and glide motion, in dappled shade.  The Purple Hairstreak keeps to the top of oak trees but can be viewed from the Gazebo Tower on a still summer’s day.  Over 600 types of moth have been identified so far at Sheringham Park.

Some of the parkland has never been ploughed or enriched, quaking grass and crested dog’s tail grow there, rare plants now.  Glow worms still appear every year and are monitored.