The Wallington Red Squirrels

21.10.2016 | category: General
Red squirrel at National Trust Wallington in Northumberland
Red squirrel at National Trust Wallington in Northumberland

Red squirrels at Wallington would be a familiar sight to the young Lancelot Brown as he walked several miles to school in the Wallington Estate village of Cambo each day from his home in nearby Kirkharle, and as much part of the landscape as the trees, lakes and streams he was later to manipulate to create the ideal of the English landscape we see in his work today.

Red squirrels have in fact been here since shortly after the last ice age, and generations have loved their antics and admired their gorgeous colour. In the late 1800s, it became fashionable for wealthy landowners to import what they saw as exotic species onto their estates, and in the South, several brought in grey squirrels from America.

Unfortunately, the grey squirrel brought with it the seeds of the red squirrel's destruction by out-competition and a virus which it carries, harmless to itself but lethal to reds. In large parts of the country, red squirrels have been completely lost. At Wallington however, it was decided to save the red squirrel, and a unique position in the National Trust was created of a Red Squirrel Conservation Ranger, whose job it is to defend the reds from the greys and to increase the red population back to natural levels.

From a mere handful of reds remaining and over 700 greys having come on the estate, in 4 years Wallington, with the help of visitors' donations, have turned this around. Red squirrels are back again in every wood on the estate, leaping from tree to tree and chasing each other with those antics so loved by everyone, just as Brown would have known them and as much a part of the history of the place as the very stones the house stands on.

Wallington is committed to continuing to be a safe place for red squirrels where people can come and see them, and it is fair to say that almost every day, someone sees their first ever red squirrel there. Why not come and see them too?

About the author: Gillian Mason, Wallington. Twitter: @WallingtonNt