The Menagerie: Better Red Than Dead
When Thomas Brocklehurst introduced a pair of American grey squirrels into his new grounds at Henbury Park in Cheshire in 1876, he certainly didn’t intend that they would wipe out our native population of red squirrels. Today there are only around 120,000 of the indigenous species, from a population that once numbered between three and four million.
Historic house owners are helping to protect our precious remaining reds. They have long disappeared from much of England, but a pioneering project hopes to reintroduce them to protected areas of Cornwall. The thirty-acre gardens at Trewithen in Cornwall are a crucial part of this reintroduction programme. Trewithen has been breeding red squirrels successfully in the walled gardens since the first pair were introduced in 2012 by HRH the Prince of Wales, President of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. Now Trewithen squirrels will help repopulate protected areas of the county.
In Scotland, red squirrel numbers have held up better; many estates can boast large and healthy populations. If you want to see these little cuties for yourself, head for Scone Palace, Blair Castle, Cawdor Castle or Glamis Castle but you will need luck and patience – reds are not as brazen as greys.
The Duke of Argyll at Inveraray Castle sees a pair regularly in the gardens and visitors report sightings of red squirrels in the woodland gardens at nearby Ardkinglas. Inveraray is home to red squirrels in art too; they feature in the Rococo dining room murals completed in 1784 by Parisian decorators Girard et Guinand, making the castle perhaps the only historic house to boast red squirrels inside and out.
If you want to support cause of red reintroduction, contact the Red Squirrel Survival Trust
Main image of Red Squirrel at Trewithen House & Gardens © Bernie Pettersen