Mannington Estate

Nature Notes from the Summer at Mannington

And just like that summer is over for another year and what a busy summer we have had! New Countryside Ranger Emma Buck joined the team in June helping manage the conservation side of the estate along with Jerry Kinsley. June started with our annual school visit from Norwich School with 100 year 9 children over two days participating in a variety of activities including pond dipping, tree studies, owl pellet dissection and a nature walk. Next year we hope to have many more school visits here engaging children with nature and hopefully inspiring them to protect it. If you know of a school you think might be interesting in visiting Mannington please get in touch. June is a great month for insects and we were excited to find Norfolk Hawker dragonflies around the estate in good numbers. This species is listed as endangered on the British Odonata Red List but seems to be doing well and spreading in Norfolk at the moment. We set to work monitoring the wildlife around the estate with the help of trail cameras and discovered that our large Badger sett is still active, Water Voles are still using the fen as well as at least one Otter! Trail cameras are a brilliant way to study more secretive and nocturnal species around the estate. A single female Great Crested Newt was a lovely surprise to find and hopefully they are still breeding in our ponds, they have been on the estate since 2001. Butterfly numbers and species were fairly low in June sadly with Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell mainly absent, there were also very few caterpillars. This could just be a blip or more likely another sign of climate change. On a positive note to end the month Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff bred in good numbers all-round the fen in the scrubby vegetation.

After a very dry and hot June, July was the complete opposite with rain and much cooler temperatures. Around the scrape and on the fen the ground was alive with tiny toad and froglets who obviously had a very good breeding season. There were a few butterflies of note this month including Painted Lady, Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. We set to work clearing the ditches on the fen to make the habitat more inviting for Water Vole, it was a muddy job but we had some dedicated volunteers to help. Other jobs included replacing the worst sections of the boardwalk, this is a big and expensive job and will be ongoing until we can replace the whole thing. If you would like to sponsor a section of boardwalk let us know we would really appreciate it! We also started work trying to clear the over grown vegetation in the scrape removing invasive species and opening it out for the bird life. This year our Little Grebes raised two chicks, we had several Moorhen chicks which were very comical to watch running over the lily pads! While clearing we also installed some Kingfisher perches which worked immediately with visitors getting amazing photos of them eating Stickleback in front of the hide!! We also had a Grasshopper Warbler ‘reeling’ on the meadow on July 10th. In mid-July we had a moth expert, also known as a Lepidopterist, who came and did a survey overnight. He was really impressed catching (and releasing) 676 moths of 125 species. Interesting moths included Minor Shoulder-knot which is near threatened according to the IUCN red list, micro moth Orthotelia sparganella which has just 10 records for 2022, Dingy Shears, Roeslerstammia erxlebella and Slender Brindle. Next year we hope to set up a more regular moth monitoring schedule. We also started a bird ringing programme which is an excellent way to study the birds using the estate. Emma is a qualified bird ringer licensed by the British Trust for Ornithology, with her help we have started bird ringing demos and in November will be starting a winter monitoring project to further help the BTO. We have already discovered through ringing that Mannington is a stronghold for Marsh Tits which is a Red listed species in the UK. Mannington also seems to be a sanctuary for the quickly declining and also Red listed Spotted Flycatchers however no nests were found this year and we did fear this may be our first year without seeing them but on the 26th an adult was seen in Duffer’s Wood feeding at least two fledged chicks! Near the end of July the summer holidays started and we brought back our Nature Discovery Days for children which included lots of nature themed activities, quizzes and crafts. Butterflies did much better in July and we had some great counts from visitors during the Butterfly Conservations Big Butterfly Count period, thank you to everyone who participated.

The weather slowly improved again in August and began to warm up. We did some mammal trapping with the Nature Discovery children who were very excited to see mice and voles up close. It was extremely successful with lots of small mammals caught which is probably why we have so many birds of prey! We also did some Harvest Mouse releases as part of our captive breeding programme. The Grey Wagtails chicks bred near the moat dispersed and were seen around the scrape plus a Green Sandpiper feeding on the mud in front of the bird hide. Near the end of August our wonderful volunteers gave the bird hide a much needed lick of paint and we started on the big task of cutting the meadow which has to be done every year to increase flora biodiversity. We ended the month with a fruitful evening walk and dinner. After the delicious dinner we went for a wander around the boardwalk listening for owls hooting and deer barking then into the woodland and ending back at the hall where lots of bats were flying around the trees and moat, we were even treated with an amazing full moon rising over the hall and a shooting star!!

If you would like to volunteer with our conservation team please get in touch.

Look out for wildlife events on our website, socials and local press. If you would like to be the first to find out sign up for our mailing list.

Mannington Nature Discovery Days

July 25th to August 17th

This is our new programme of children’s event for 2023, booking is essential.

Click here for more information

Mannington Hall Exhibition

Mannington Hall Painting
Mannington Hall by Eleanor Walpole

July 5th to 21st

Many local artists have painted our unique medieval manor over the years and even more taken beautiful photographs; maybe even some have created 3-dimensional images, but often we have not seen the results of their work. This summer we are inviting you to send us your images and availability for loan for this special exhibition in our Stable Gallery.

Work can be offered for sale (30% commission) or not as you prefer, and selection will take place throughout June. Please send your images.

Norfolk Contemporary Craft Society

Norfolk Contemporary Craft Society

Wednesday 7th June - Sunday 25th June

Contemporary Craft from Norfolk Makers, as well as craft from the Mannington Collection.

Open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday 11 - 4
(closed on Saturdays)

For more info see the NCCS Website.

Invitation to view

Manningto Hall

We have a few tickets left for this special evening Hall Tour with Lady Walpole plus the gardens will also be open for guests to visit.

Tuesday 6TH JUNE, 6pm - 8pm - Starting with drinks and canapés

Tickets - £25.00. Book through Historic Houses Association.

Nature Discovery Days at Mannington

We will be running a number of Nature Discovery Days for children in the summer holidays. These days involve lots of wildlife related fun and learning and will involve hands on activities in the classroom and in the countryside and gardens at Mannington.

We are releasing the first three days now and more will follow in due course:

  • 10th August - Life Underwater
  • 17th August - Marvellous Mammals
  • 24th August - Minibeast Safari

Please email/phone and watch social media for further information!

Nature Notes by Jerry Kinsley

Having been such a dry and generally mild winter other than two cold snaps with penetrating frost Spring arrived wet and windy and as I write this in early April we are now having overnight frosts and clear sunny days.

The frog and toad-breeding season seems to have been very low key although there were good movements on two of the wet evenings. Some of the small pools in the Cut (wet woodland on the other side of the road from the hall) seem to have been favoured by frogs this year. Already much of the spawn is turning into tadpoles and will be less vulnerable to late frosts.

Butterflies have been slow appearing and I have only recently seen my first brimstones, small tortoiseshell and peacocks. Anytime now we should be seeing our first orange tips and holly blues of the year. It is going to be interesting to see what impact the hot weather and drought of last summer has on butterfly numbers this year. Whilst butterflies generally thrive in hot and sunny weather the same cannot be said for many of their larval food plants. The Spring generations generally did very well but we will have to wait and see what the impact was on the summer butterflies such as common blue, gatekeeper and ringlet.

Chiff chaff were a couple of weeks later to arrive than usual and I heard my first willow warbler today. Over the next few weeks the main influx of summer visitors will arrive and over the weekend I saw sand martins and swallows along the coast . If you visit the hide at the end of the boardwalk overlooking the Scrape you might be startled by a strange whinnying call. Seeing as there are no horses in sight, the sound can be somewhat confusing. What you have actually heard is the dabchick or little grebe. The pairs use the shrill, far carrying calls to set up territories. Little grebes may be overshadowed by their more flamboyant relative, the great crested grebe but still look very dapper in their breeding plumage, with their reddish brown necks and greenish- yellow bill spots.

The delicate snow –white blossom and contrasting dark twigs of the blackthorn are a classic combination of Spring . Wise foragers take note of where the blossom is most prolific, as it’s a useful guide to where the best sloes will be. Blackthorn blossom is at its peak as the earlier flowering cherry plum is coming to an end.

Already a handful of bluebells are flowering in Park Hill wood but the main flowering period is a few weeks away. One only tends to notice dog’s mercury when it’s flowering in spring woods- this member of the spurge family is hardly showy. But nevertheless it can be a bit of a bully and will carpet the floor in great swathes , squeezing out other woodland plants such as bluebells, wild garlic and even tree seedlings . It is able to thrive in shady places and spreads rapidly through the underground stems called rhizomes.

Today I saw my first bee fly of the year and for me that is just as much a sign of the arrival of Spring as the first summer migrant birds. Its high pitched hum may catch your attention before you see it . The dark edged bee fly is the commonest of the bee fly species found in the UK. They don’t usually fly in temperatures much less than 17C . While adult bee flies look very cute, a young bee fly isn’t quite as endearing. The larva is a parasitoid, meaning it is a parasite that will end up killing its host which is a solitary bee. Bee flies do not have a negative impact on solitary bee populations and parasitism is all part of a healthy ecosystem!

What to see in April

April is the month when the countryside at Mannington really springs into life. Every day brings new species and new stages in life cycles.


Among the birds, look out for the newly arrived summer visitors such as chiffchaffs and blackcaps. The hide near the Scrape is a good place to see and hear these species.

Several birds are performing their spring display flights now. Male greenfinches weave from side to side while beating their wings slowly and uttering, ringing canary like trills. You might not associate bluetits with aerobatics but spring fever inspires a floating butterfly display in which the male parachutes from a higher to a lower perch. This may serve to show off his fitness to a potential mate.


April really belongs to the orange tip butterfly (not the most imaginative of names and I personally prefer the French name L’Aurore) but the male does look as if the tips of his wings have been dipped in fluorescent pant, so startling is the contrast with the rest of their white wings. Females on the other hand have black wing tips. These butterflies like to lay their eggs on cuckooflower so keep a look out for them on any of our wet grasslands where this flower may be found. They have overwintered as a chrysalis in contrast to most of the early butterflies such as brimstones, peacocks and small tortoiseshells, which have overwintered as adult butterflies.


April is when the majority of bat species stir from hibernation and start hawking insects again in earnest. Some bats such as the highflying noctule may be seen hunting well before sunset.


Late April is typically the main flowering period for bluebells and the sea of blue created by the mass flowering of this plant may be seen from the permissive footpaths that run through Mossymere wood . The mass flowering of bluebells is very much a British phenomenon as although the plant is found in many other European countries it is particularly favoured by our climate and is not impacted by wild boar as it is in France and Germany.

Among the bluebells keep an eye open too for early purple orchids. This beautiful flower is one of the first orchids to flower and although usually found in woodlands may also be found on roadside verges and other habitats. This is very unusual for a British orchid as they usually have very precise habitat requirements. The flower spikes smell like a tom-cat and one theory is that this unpleasant whiff might deter grazing by deer!

The Little Vintage Lovers Fair

Our next event will be The Little Vintage Lovers Fair on Sunday 14th May. Following the Vintage Fair, the gardens will be open from Wednesday 17th May – Friday 1st September 2023 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays 11am – 5pm.
We look forward to welcoming you back to Mannington!

More info