Returning to our scheduled post this week Crispin Scott, our Nature Conservation Adviser will be talking about what goes on in the natural world during the winter months.

Welcome to December. We are almost at the shortest day. Christmas and New Year are just around the corner and the weather has turned as cold and snowy as it has been for decades at this time of year. As the days are at their shortest and temperatures plummet, how is our wildlife coping?

People walking in the snow at Box Hill, Surrey

Nature has a number of strategies for dealing with the cold, dark days of winter, so I thought it may be worth thinking about what you might call “the opposite of summer”. Think of all those lovely warm days among the butterflies, birds and wildflowers in flaming June….and now fast forward to the present and imagine what is happening underground and after dark in Paul Simon’s “Deep and Dark December”. Actually, after dark it can be more like Jonny Rotten’s “Anarchy in the U.K” with death, destruction and violence. Oh, and a lot of sex.

 Cold and hunger are starting to take their toll, as the fight for food continues and the malnourished fall sick. In daylight I have seen sick looking pigeons and rabbits sitting in the open, almost motionless, looking as though they are the foxes’ next meal. But after dark I have also noticed a number of roadside deer, fox and badgers carcasses in the last week. Are these the animals more vulnerable as they have to search more desperately for food and become disorientated with hunger and disease?  It becomes survival of the fittest in these conditions and one of the “fittest” groups is the crow family. One of its members, the Magpie is being accused of damaging songbird populations with brutal attacks on eggs and young in the summer. But it is the fact that they can survive the winter by feasting on “road carrion” that keeps their numbers high – so there are more to carry out their nest-raiding in summer.

 In the meantime, underground, hedgehogs are conserving energy in the months when food is short by hibernating, buried under piles of leaves or even using rabbit holes.  Likewise, bats will be using underground sites and hollow trees – hoping for a constant temperature a few degrees above freezing. Any disturbance, or sudden temperature rise, can wake them up. If this happens they will probably have to feed – since they can use as much of their vital fat reserves in a couple of waking hours as they might use in two weeks hibernation. I suspect that our bats, and possibly other hibernating mammals, may be getting confused by the changing climate. There seems to be little predictability now and in most years in the last decade we have experienced mild winters. This leads to bats emerging from hibernation earlier in March, then having to find insect food during cool damp spring nights. And the females, having mated in autumn, have a delayed fertilisation mechanism, meaning that they do not actually become pregnant until some inbuilt mechanism (presumably linked to temperature and humidity) triggers the process as weather improves in spring.

And talking of sex…. One of the most evocative night-time sounds in our countryside is the call of an owl. In December (and I always feel that the “screech” of the Barn Owl and the “Twit-too woo” of Tawny owls sounds most haunting in mid winter) there is a good deal of territorial calling as they pair up and prospect for nest sites, to mate and lay eggs in February/March. You need to hurry if you want to put nest boxes up and expect success next spring. In the meantime, you may get a chance to see or hear Short-eared owls in southern England at this time of year. Both species tend to breed further north, but the often overwinter in woodland at the foot of the downs.

So if you want to get out and about, there are few more dramatic scenes than our countryside at dusk in the depths of winter. After dark is great, but do not disturb anything underground! And of course, you will see much happening in daylight. Barn owls are often visible in late afternoon in winter. They nest, for example, in fields at the foot of Leith Hill.  The scenery around Back Down and Hindhead on the Surrey/Sussex border is looking stunning and you may see buzzards looking for vulnerable prey over Petworth Park at the moment.  Nearly all our properties in London and South East have places you ca n walk and enjoy wildlife this December. Get out and make the most of it – even those “bullying” magpies look spectacular and, like Jonny Rotten, probably get a bad press.

Check back next week to find out more about the natural world.


In a change to our planned blog-post, Matthew Tyler-Jones reports on one of the things that goes on behind the scenes while a place is preparing to renew the way it presents itself to the public.

I was part of a tiny,  priviledged audience at Batemans on Friday 19th October. Jon Boden, of Bellowhead fame and BBC2 folk singer of the year, visited  the Sussex home to record two of Rudyard Kipling’s poems, set to music.

Jon Boden (with the fiddle) sings while Duncan Miller watches for faults in the wax

Doing without the acoustic baffling and digital technology of a modern recording studio, Jon recorded The Way Through the Woods and a few verses of The Smuggler’s Song by shouting down a horn. At the other end of the horn a tiny needle scratched a groove into a rotating cylinder of wax. Though as Duncan Miller, the wax cylinder record expert and ‘producer’ of the tracks explained, the wax of the cylinder is in fact a sort of soap.

One of the challenges of making a wax record in a historic house in the autumn is temperature. For conservation reasons, the interior temprature of the showrooms at Batemans is kept close to the outside temperature. On that clear, crisp autumnal day the temperature inside meant that the wax was in danger of being too hard. Luckily the small audience of local residents, volunteers and staff soon warmed the room up to operating temperature.

The recording is part of Batemans’ Voices project, started after the team there discovered an old VHS tape containing a clip of Kipling speaking at to the Canadian Writers association. Visitors can now see that clip on an iPad in Kipling’s study, but we also wanted a more appropriate, atmospheric way to let visitors hear Kipling’s work. We know that Rudyard’s son Jack was given some cylinder records, so we can assume that there might have been a cylinder record player in the house. Edison Phonographs are more robust than modern electronics, so we were able to buy a suitable early 1900’s model quite cheaply. Duncan Miller had some original contemporary cylinder recordings of two Kipling poems turned into song: Danny Deever and the Road to Mandelay, so he made replica cylinders for us.

The two poems that Jon sang were published in Puck of Pooks Hill and Rewards and Fairies, two books written when Kipling lived at Batemans and set in the sounding countryside, and so they are particularly relevant to the place.

After a few of attempts to make a flawless recording without wax gumming up the needle Duncan took two versions of each song away. He will chose which is the best version to take a mould from and produce a hard wearing plastic version of each for us to to play to visitors.

Next week Crispin Scott, our Nature Conservation Adviser will be talking about what goes on in the natural world during the winter months.

This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam concludes by looking at the memorials of the Great War and our links to them.

At eleven o’clock in November 1918 the guns finally fell silent on the western front as a ceasefire was declared.  The experiences of the war had left a collective trauma on the nations involved. In the years that followed, war memorials both public and private would be built in towns and villages across the U.K.

Among the memorials built was the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire. The chapel was designed by Lionel Pearson and commissioned by Mary and Louis Behrend. It was dedicated to Lieutenant Henry William Sandy, Mary’s brother, who had died in 1919 from an illness he had contracted during the Macedonian campaigns.

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 The Chapel is famous for the paintings it houses by artist Stanley Spencer who drew on his every day experiences of being a private soldier serving in Macedonia and the U.K. Spencer had served as an orderly in the Royal Medical Corp, before volunteering for overseas service in August 1916. Serving in Macedonia himself, he would transfer to the Infantry with the Royal Berkshires before contracting malaria and eventually being sent home.

The architect Herbert Baker designed the War Memorial at Winchester College.

Herbert Baker, the famous architect and owner of Owletts, was involved in designing memorials to the sacrifices made during the war. Baker designed the memorial at Winchester College and later the largest British War Cemetery in the World at Tyne Cot in the Ypres salient.

Kipling at the dedication of Etchingham Village war memorial

Following the end of the war Rudyard Kipling also dedicated large parts of his life to the War Graves Commission. It would be Kipling who chose the words ‘The Glorious Dead’ engraved at each end of the Cenotaph in London, the centre of the nations commemorations the Sunday nearest to armistice.  He would also select the biblical phrase ‘their name liveth for ever more’ seen on many British War Memorials.

A page from a signed copy of Siegfried Sassons Collected Works in store at Scotney Castle.

 Have you forgotten yet?…
    For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
    Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:
    And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
    Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
    Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
    But the past is just the same—and War’s a bloody game…
    Have you forgotten yet?…
    Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

 Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon March 1919

Next week Crispin Scott, our Nature Conservation Adviser will be talking about what goes on in the natural world during the winter months.

This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam continues talking about our places and their personal links to the Great War.

As war erupted across Europe, men answered the call to arms. Starting with a force of less than 250,000 regulars, the British Army would absorb over five million men by 1918. The war would eventually touch almost every family in the country. Many of our places have emotional stories linked with the Great War.

Kipling calls for recruits at Southport in 1915

Rudyard Kipling, whose family home is Bateman’s, saw the war at first as a sort of relief. He had long prophesised it, Germany’s rivalry with England had been an obsessive anxiety for Kipling since the Boer War. He proclaimed “We must demand that every fit young man come forward to enlist and that every young man who chooses to remain at home be shunned by his community”. 

“For All We Have and Are”

For all we have and are,
For all our children’s fate,
Stand up and meet the war.
The Hun is at the gate!
Our world has passed away
In wantonness o’erthrown.
There is nothing left to-day
But steel and fire and stone.

By Rudyard Kipling

John Kipling in his Guards Lieutenants Uniform, he was declared Missing in Action a the Battle of Loos 1915. It would take many years before his death was confirmed.

Among those who enlisted was Kipling’s son John. Despite John’s chronic short sightedness Kipling was able to use his influence to secure a commission for him in the Irish Guards. John was declared missing in action at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Only later discovering that John had been killed after having spent many years hoping that he had been taken prisoner, the news had a lasting effect on Kipling who wrote “and if they question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied”. John Kipling’s death also inspired the poem My Boy Jack.

The War was not only fought on the battlefield, but also at home. Lord Onslow of Cliveden Park enlisted in 1915 as an intelligence officer. During the course of the war he compiled all office instructions and orders he received about sending communiqués. This became known as ‘Onslow’s Bible to Intelligence Officers’. At the end of the war he was a colonel in charge of censorship and publicity in France, received the legion d’honneur for his work and was also mentioned in dispatches on three occasions.

Lord Onslow was mentioned in dispatches three times during the war

Lieutenant the Hon. William Reginald Wyndham, known as Reggie, of Petworth House also answered the call of King and Country in 1914. Having served in the Boer War, at 39 he re-enlisted as a Lieutenant with the 1st Life Guards serving with the 7th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division part of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe. Reggie was killed in action on the 6th November 1914, only 4 months after the start of the war.

Medals of Lieutenant Hon. William Reginald Wyndham top left: The Queens South Africa Medal with 6 bars, top right: the 1914 Star issued to those who served with the BEF between 5th August and 22nd November 1914, with narrow horizontal bar which represents the recipient was under fire during this time, bottom left: The British War Medal 1914-1918 and bottom left: Allied Victory Medal

Reggie was buried in Zillebeke cemetery near Ypres in Belgium. At the front of the cemetery there are two special memorials which commemorate soldiers whose graves were destroyed by shellfire. One memorial belongs to Reggie and a second belongs to Private William Stewart of the Royal Scots, who died on the 16th December 1915. Men from two extremes of the social spectrum, both who answered the call of King and Country, both making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Next week I will conclude by looking at the links our places have to memorials of the Great War.

This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam continues talking about the use of our places as hospitals during the Great War.


A painting of Cliveden Memorial Garden by Leonard Richmond

In 1914 it was the Canadian Red Cross which took up the offer by Lord Astor for the use of polo fields, tennis courts and Taplow Lodge for the duration of the war. A hospital was built on the site and named the HRH Duchess of Connaught Hospital. Cliveden Park contains one of the only titled ‘war cemeteries’ in Britain, containing the burial places of 28 Canadians including two nursing sisters, two Americans and others from Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The cemetery is laid out as a sunken Roman garden, with symbolic broken pillars, a large font, and an allegoric statue. The markers are the original, rather small plain stones still recumbent on the graves.

Cliveden is one of the only titled War Cemetaries in the U.K

 Morden Hall would also see use as a hospital during the war; its operations were run directly by London Hospitals. Polesden Lacey would become a convalescent home for officers; although missing from the Red Cross list for auxiliary hospitals it was probably offered for use directly to the War Office. Convalescent homes were not intended for soldiers with serious injuries and acted instead as a place to keep soldiers within military discipline whilst they recuperated.

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First Five Photographs of Patients and Nurse at Morden Hall

During the First World War, Clandon Park saw a total of 5,059 Soldiers admitted and 747 operations carried out. The HRH Duchess of Connaught Hospital at Cliveden Park treated over 24,000 casualties. In 1920 the then secretary of state for war, Winston Churchill, signed a certificate of thanks for the use of Polesden Hospital during the war.

The hospital at Clandon closed on April 1st 1919, having treated 5,059 patients from Flanders, France and Turkey.

A letter of thanks for use of Polesden as a Hospital during the Great War signed by then Head of the War Office, Winston Churchill


These words of individual thanks from a Belgian soldier treated at Clandon Park also bear testament to the important role each of these places had played in providing medical care during the war years.

A personal note of thanks from a Belgian Soldier at Clandon Park Hospital

“My noble and faithful heart always holds a memory of the good care that I received at Clandon Park Hospital. She welcomed me with gratitude and devotion I will always be grateful for this”

Next week I will continue by looking at the some of the personal stories linked to the Great War and our places.

This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam explains how some of our places were used as hospitals and highlights the work of the VAD.

As war broke across Europe many owners of large houses offered their homes for use in the war effort. Among these were Clandon and Hatchlands Park.

Image of Clandon Park During the Great War

A House at War, Outside Clandon Park during the Great War.


The Entrance Hall as a hospital Ward at Clandon Park

The entrance hall at Clandon Park being put to use as Hospital Ward. The Hospital would eventually have 128 beds in use.

 Clandon Park was offered by the Onslows for use at the outbreak of war.  The 1st October 1914 would see it ready for use as an auxiliary hospital for other ranks. The Hospital was fitted out with 100 beds; this number would later be increased by another 14 beds in the entrance hall and 14 in smaller rooms. 

A signed first page from an book of autographs of patients and staff of the Hospital at Clandon Park

October 12th 1914, the first patients who arrived at the hospital were Belgians as can be seen by the regiments they belonged to like the 13e de Ligne or 13th Line Regiment.

Among its first patients were 100 Belgians evacuated after their country was overrun by the Germans; an Englishman and a lone French Marine. One patient died the day after admission and two would die three days later but the rest recovered. It would not be until March 1915 that the first large group of British patients would arrive.

The Burial of a Belgian soldier at Clandon Park Hospital, October 1914.

"The Burial of Belgain soldiers who died at Clandon Hospital, October 1914" Three of the first patients at Clandon would die, the rest would recover.

Unusually for an Auxiliary Hospital, Clandon was used as a functional hospital with an operating theatre. Most Auxiliary Hospitals were used for coping with those with lesser injuries. The operating theatre at Clandon was located in Lord Onslow’s dressing room, due to its access to running water. In 1916, 251 operations were performed in the hospital.

A plaque marking the use as Clandon Park as a Hospital with operating theatre

Clandon Park unusally for a V.A.D Hospital had an operating theatre.


Three nursing sisters at Clandon Park

By 1917 the senior members of the V.A.D had been promoted to Nursing Sisters.


Lady Onslow in her V.A.D Comandants Uniform

Lady Onslow commented that the uniform of the V.A.D was much scorned at the outbreak of war, but in time this changed.

 Clandon and Hatchlands, as so many other hospitals throughout the country, were staffed by Nurses of the Voluntary Aid Detachments. In many cases these were local women who had volunteered; they were paid expenses but did not normally receive a salary for their work. By 1917 the senior members of the VAD units at Clandon had been promoted to Staff Nurses. Lady Onslow, who was commandant of both this and another two hospitals from December 1914, noted that the uniform of the VAD was scorned at the beginning of the war, but with time this attitude changed.

A certificate for a V.A.D Nurse from St. John's Jerusalem, Kent

A V.A.D certificate of Miss Charlotte Bell from St.John's Jerusalem, Kent.

A Silver Salt

Centre; A Silver Salt recieved by Lady Onslow on the discharge of the last patient to Woolwich, to commemorate her role and the use of Clandon.

A Certificate of Thanks from Army Council for use of Hatchlands as a Hospital

Hatchlands Park too was also used a hospital during the Great War. Voluntary Hospitals in Surrey would treat over 60,000 individuals in 1918 alone.

Next week I will continue by looking at some of the other historic houses which were used as Hospitals during the Great War.

If you want to find out more about Clandon and it use as a Voluntary Hospital and see some of the objects personally; Clandon will be hosting an exhibition “When War Came to Clandon” from 24th July – 25th August 2011.


Welcome to the first of our National Trust blog entries from the London and South East region.

Over the coming months a variety of experts from within the region will be blogging about their work and sharing their knowledge on a wide range of topics.

From wildlife experts to a historical paper specialist the National Trust in London and the South East has a wide range of specialist skills and we thought it was about time that we shouted about it.

Starting in November, as part of the annual armistice commemoration, Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War through items in our collection.

Britain declared war on 4 August 1914 and became involved in what became known as the Great War by the generation involved. Almost every family in the country was affected.

The war was not only fought on the battlefield but on the home front people were involved in the total war effort. It had a lasting effect on the memory of future generations.

Find out next week how two historic houses in Surrey, Clandon and Hatchlands, were used as auxiliary hospitals during the war and about the volunteer nurses of the VAD who worked there.