Archive for April, 2019

Head Gardener Cat nearly swooned as the group gathered at Wightwick on Sunday….”there are so many of you”.. she was heard to whisper. Luckily there were two tasks for us: with one group pruning high-reaching rhododendron and the other group creating a ‘dead hedge’ around the burn site.

There’s a wider plan to gradually thin and improve the rhodi’ in the gardens at Wightwick and it’s certainly working well, as today’s patch was left looking much tidier with daylight able to get through to the trunks to encourage strong new growth.  This will in turn produce lovely flowers at a height which visitors can best enjoy.

Before work started on the ‘dead hedge’ we were shown some reference examples to aim at.  So we pulled out all the stops, trimming and layering, with hazel stakes to hold it all together. So why build this hedge? A recent survey has revealed that a badger sett has been found on the burn site. In fact, Wightwick is a bit of a ‘des-res’ for badgers with numerous families, who obviously want to share in the high standard of living which Wightwick and nearby Tettenhall provide. It must be the post-code too! The hedge, comprising cut green matter, will deter humans and screen the patch which at times can look a little like work-in-progress.  The burn site may be re-located in future, but in the meantime the badgers clearly like a little central-heating!

We were spoilt for choice on the cake front – even if workday leader Matthew decided there weren’t enough breaks to deveavour it all (well almost!) – thanks to all.  With Wightwick’s victoria sponge – and perhaps another workday first – new volunteer Leela came bearing a lovely cappuccino cake – you can come again!  Oh yes, and the dead hedge passed inspection too!!

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Edge ranger Al, has a predicament…. he has a new tenant farmer for one of his fields alongside the A458 but the farmer wants a stock proof fence to keep his sheep in.

The livestock is due to arrive on 1st May and we are only two weeks away with 160 meters of hedge to be cut back so the new fence can be erected by a contractor starting on 23rd April.

What can he do?… Answer: Call in SSNTV!

Its Easter Sunday…will anyone turn up? (The group have not been out on a bank holiday for a number of years – they do need some days off to build up their strength after all)

Well Al need not have worried, eleven members and one member’s visitor all the way from London met up at the designated lane.  Al dragged assistant Kate along as well.

In no time fire number one was burning away. So off to the other end of the field for fire number two.  Both were blazing by cake o’clock, as the old fence started to appear from under the hawthorn and among the brambles.

The sun blazed down, the heat of the fires and the sweat pouring out of everyone, mean frequent breaks for water had to be taken as the hedge shrank in size and the bonfires got bigger.

Cue reddened faces and relief, as by the end of the day the task was complete, old hedge was removed and the group left Al and Kate to take down the old barbed wire ready for the next phase of work to start on Tuesday morning.

Workday leader – Peter O

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Apparently we’ve not worked at Benthall in April before. But that didn’t stop a great turnout and a good workout. The weather was fine, though quite cold.

The first task was to cut up a large bough which had come off a huge conker tree. This provided something for everyone … brash, bonfire, and the big bowsaw!

An early cake o’clock gave the fire chance to get going. After this, a few remained to continue with the fire. Nick took the rest of us to look at the second task.

On a large scale, this was like the beginning of one of those multi-square puzzles, where you move one square to create a space for the next.

From here …
via many, Many, MANY barrow-loads!
… to here …
… leaving what was once part of the pigsty clear to take plants from the cold-frame.

The final piece of the puzzle will be growing salads for the tearoom, in the cold-frames.

Finishing a bit early, Nick took us for a short tour around the garden, and back ‘in time for tea’!

(Much better than ‘raking grass’!)

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Spent an interesting couple of hours this evening with members of the public walking across the heath and up the ridge. As Ewan and the ranger team at Kinver, with portfolio GM, Marcus explained about their ten year plan for restoring heathland habitats across the Edge, encompassing Blakedown Common, the land recently acquired from the Council, so extending the area at Kinver. 

Take some time to read about what’s planned at https://bit.ly/2Cz46cv – see Ewan on Midlands Today – and feedback on the ideas, as well as Ewan’s TV presenting skills!

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The Programme team wanted me to remind everyone…….Why not try something more leisurely at the weekend this Saturday? (…As well as the usual more strenuous Sunday workday….!!)

Join Ranger Colin for a walk & talk around the Estate, c. 3-4 miles in length, some off the beaten track. Learn more about the northern properties on the Group’s patch, with topics to include future plans for Attingham, Lea Brockhurst & Sunnycroft.

Start: 10.15am meet by visitor reception. Return to the Stables Courtyard cafe for lunch or bring a picnic.

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We were back at Dudmaston Estate on Sunday, but not to plant trees this time  – instead it was just the opposite!  It had been talked about for some time by Area Ranger Mike, but there were a few gasps as with Workday leader Dave, we reached the Dingle and were met with some impressive new vistas.

As part of the restoration project for the Dingle a number of trees have been felled to let in more light. This is part of the project to return the valley and woodland to the original 18th century plan, aimed at creating more open views, compared with those to which we have recently become used.

Continuing the recent discussion prompted by Mike in Dudmaston’s “Dart”, about tree-processing machinery compared with the powers of volunteers with a bowsaw – today’s evidence was fairly conclusive in favour of machinery – as we surveyed the results of contractors having felled the large trees and dragged them up and out of the valley.  Things look quite different!

The task for the day was helping out by burning the brash left over from the felling – and what amounts there were!  Morning walkers in the Dingle might have struggled to admire the views, as the pine greenery started to smoke and burn, creating a haze of its own throughout the valley.

In the end two large and very hot fires were fed during the day (Dudmaston size record? – in particular for the amount burnt in one day!) The heat turned spring into summer, melted the afternoon cakes and meant that our volunteer efforts could not be missed by visitors!  By the time we had finished it looked as if parts of the slope – at least – had been hoovered. So all power to the bowsaw after all!

A good, if exhausting day was had by all!   Many thanks to all who attended and ranger Helen for arranging perfect weather.  Oh yes….and there was some talk of a bit left for next time’s visit….

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Sunday saw a group of volunteers at Morville to help Chris and Sarah with the gardens. The weather was lovely and warm, with daffodils in full bloom everywhere. We set about bringing the borders out of hibernation, clearing weeds and dead branches. The resident dogs were very inquisitive, but kept far enough away, leaving us to work. 

This was the last time we’ll work with Chris and Sarah as they are moving on, so watch this space for more details of the new tenants – a young family of five. We would like to thank Chris and Sarah for their hospitality during their time at Morville.  It’s nice to know that they are to stay in Shropshire, having fallen in love with the area.

Whilst we’re never paid in monetary terms for our work, we did have some chocolate coins today – along with very nice fruit cake, provided by our hosts!

A productive day, with plenty more to tackle on our next visit.

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