Country Life Today: Summer’s most beautiful invader, and farewell to the model of the 21st century Duke

Today's round-up features wonderful news from a Somerset farm, a two-week project to clean-up the Cerne Abbas Giant and the elusive birds spotted in Britain in recent weeks.

Long-tailed Blue butterflies pour across the Channel

There are usually only a handful of Long-Tailed Blue butterflies spotted in England each summer, but this year — and for the third time in six years — they’ve been seen in huge numbers. Even Surrey, which hasn’t witnessed one of these butterflies in almost 30 years, has seen some, while they’ve also made it as far as Suffolk and South Wales.

Read more (Butterfly Conservation)


RIP: Guy Innes Ker, 10th Duke of Roxburghe

Guy Innes-Ker, 10th Duke of Roxburghe, pictured at his home Floors Castle near Kelso on 24th October 1980. Photo by Mike Lawn/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Guy Innes Ker, 10th Duke of Roxburghe, pictured at his home Floors Castle near Kelso on 24th October 1980. Photo by Mike Lawn/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Guy Innes Ker, the 10th Duke of Roxburghe, sadly died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by Virginia, the Duchess of Roxburghe, five children and five grandchildren. The Duke’s eldest son, Charles, the Marquis of Bowmont, will succeed his father as the 11th Duke of Roxburghe.

‘We are all deeply saddened that the Duke has lost his battle with an illness he fought with great courage and determination,’ the family said in a statement.

‘He was a wonderful and loving husband to Virge and devoted father to Rosie, Charlie, Ted, Bella and George and it is a desperate loss to us all. His family meant so much to him and he was always there to offer love, guidance and support.

‘He really was a Corinthian figure who was a great sportsman, a passionate fisherman who made a huge contribution to fisheries management on the river Tweed and a successful businessman who modernised and turned Roxburghe Estates into the successful business it is today.’

The Duke’s forward-thinking and modern approach in the management of his 52,000-acre estate — of which Floors Castle is the superb centrepiece — won him many admirers, as The Times notes in an obituary on Friday:

Roxburghe was seen by some observers as the epitome of the modern, commercially minded duke, putting in long hours to ensure the efficient running of an estate that includes 55 farms and two grouse moors. “Floors is a huge challenge and an extraordinary responsibility,” he said, explaining how he had transformed it from an Edwardian gentlemen’s estate to a commercial operation. “Every day there is something new to deal with, and that is what makes it very exciting.”

Read more (The Times)


Triplet calves defy 1-in-100,000 odds

Triplet calves are almost un-herd of… Credit: Yeo Valley (for the photo, not the joke).

A cow at Yeo Valley’s Holt Farm has given birth to healthy triplets, defying 1-in-100,000 odds.

Somerset farmers Tim and Mary Mead were shocked when their cow gave birth to triplets — one heifer and two bull calves — last week.

Five-year-old Lakemead Barbara 201 produced the healthy trio, who were sired by Skyhigh Lord. She had only had one calf previously and farm manager Jon Wilson had no idea that she was carrying triplets.

‘They were half the size of an average single calf and weighed about 15kg each,’ said. Mr Wilson. ‘She is a very special lady indeed.’

Full story (Country Life)


A giant makeover for Cerne Abbas

The Giant has existed since the 17th century. Credit: John Millar/National Trust Images.

Dorset’s giant chalk figure is undergoing a two-week makeover to preserve it for future generations.

The Cerne Abbas Giant has become discoloured since its last refresh in 2008, with weeds blurring its previously sharp outline.

17 tonnes of chalk sourced from a nearby quarry will be tightly packed in by hand to the 460 metre Giant to ensure it remains visible for miles around.

Full story (Country Life)


On this day…

British novelist Mary Shelley was born on 30 August, 1797.  The author of Frankenstein also edited and promoted the works of her husband, poet and philosopher, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher, William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft.

Did Mary Shelley really write Frankenstein (Country Life)


A busy summer for birdwatchers

Corncrakes are among the species enjoying a welcome boost.

The brown booby, Savi’s warbler and corncrake are among the unusual species of bird spotted in the UK this summer.

The good news comes as scientists carry out a survey into seabirds in St Kilda, Scotland.

It has been almost 20 years since birds on Boreray and Soay had been surveyed, due to difficulty in landing on the islands from a boat.

Full story (Country Life)


And finally… a flight for freedom