THE owners of a historic Northumberland country estate will open its grounds for a family fun day to highlight the plight of red squirrels.
Emily and James Cookson, owners of Meldon Park, have organised a special event for this Saturday where families can hear about how they can help to save the endangered species.
Katy Cook, engaging communities officer from Red Squirrels Northern England which works in partnership with Northumberland Wildlife Trust, will host the walk and talk about the animal.
There will be lots of family fun, with competitions to win cuddly toy squirrels, and sweets will be handed out at Melody the Dragon, a sculpture in the grounds created by David Edwick.
Mrs Cookson said: “We’re delighted to welcome people to the estate and hope they will enjoy the opportunity to see some breath-taking countryside and have a lovely walk in the fresh air during springtime.
“It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about red squirrel conservation and the vital work we have been doing at Meldon Park, but in an informal way which we hope will be a lot of fun for everyone, especially children.”
Northumberland is one of the last refuges of the red squirrel, which is protected as much as possible by a multimillion-pound programme of feeding, as well as trapping and exterminating grey squirrels that have spread right across the UK since they were introduced from America.
Ms Cook said: “It is massively important that Meldon Park does this type of conservation work to protect red squirrels, and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to tell people about the work we do.
“To get big country estates and landowners involved in red squirrel conservation is absolutely crucial, as we need everybody working together.
“This is a great opportunity to get youngsters involved in the protection of red squirrels and educate them about the control of grey squirrels.
“If we want to look after red squirrels then we have to get the next generation involved.
“But we’re also going to have a lot of fun on the day at Meldon Park, and it’s a great chance for families to get active and have a walk.
“We’ll be looking for dreys in trees, showing them pine nuts, cones and hazelnuts that are eaten by squirrels and placing some feeders and bait. We might even be lucky enough to spot red squirrels. We’ll also talk about the other wildlife found on the estate.”
Entry is free and the event starts at 11am at Meldon Park’s Kitchen Garden Cafe, which is open to the public on the day.
The estate has been in the Cookson family since 1832 and it was featured on Channel 4’s Country House Rescue. It spans the Font River Valley and further south to the Wansbeck and Hart River Valleys. The house itself sits in the Wansbeck Valley.
It consists of 3,852 acres and 87 agricultural, commercial and residential leases. Today it is managed by Mr Cookson and has 13 miles of public access, farming, and a woodland management plan.
For more information about the site and its future events, visit its website: www.meldonpark.co.uk