Archive for the ‘National Trust Volunteering’ Category

The weekend’s roving reporter, made it to Morville on Sunday for the group’s last visit to the Hall whilst under the tenancy of Mel and Andrew.

Mel wanted to leave the garden looking pristine, so sharp edges and weed-free borders were the tasks of the day. There was also the small matter of several hedges to cut.

Such was the lure of the cakes, that seventeen members came prepared to tackle the numerous jobs Mel had lined up. The first logistical task was getting the large NT ladders from nearby Dudmaston. Thanks to Neil and Jackie with their caravanning expertise, for providing the means to tow the Dudmaston trailer – even if it was a smaller trailer than we all expected!

First to get working were John, Neil and Richard continuing with the task from last month trimming back the climbers and shrubs on the front right hand side of the Hall.

Soon on their hands and knees were Paul and Sharon weeding the flower beds in the White garden followed soon after by Jill and Lucy.

Gordon and Lisa got stuck into the rose bush whilst Russell tackled the weeds, brambles and cleavers on the bank at the side of the rotating summer house.

With Ann and Matt isolating themselves from the rest of the group, they took charge of the bonfire, ably assisted by Chris on delivery duties which lasted all day.

That left Joel, Jackie, Lucy #2 and your reporter to cut the hornbeam and laurel hedges around the White garden.

With all busy on a warm but not hot day it was soon time for cake o’clock. As usual Mel provided a choice of teas, cakes were victoria sponge or flapjacks, with an added glut of strawberries from Sharon and Paul’s garden to share.

With the workday leader cracking the whip, the break was soon over and work continued apace.

After lunch more workers moved into the White garden to weed the remaining beds. The front of house team took over the laurel hedge.

As time pressed on it was obvious the planned finish time was not going to be achieved on the laurel hedge and extra resources were added to complete a square, straight and consistent look.

By four o’clock all the tasks for the day were  completed, rubbish burned or stacked up by the bonfire site and tools accounted for.

Mel was again overwhelmed by the amount achieved and the final appearance of the gardens.

As she served the tea of lemon cake, ginger, chocolate brownies and flapjacks for our final time, Russell presented her and the family with a leaving card signed by all.

I think the gardens Iook much better now than when Mel and Andrew arrived – with a little help from the Group – at least that’s my opinion. What next we wonder?

Best wishes in your new Shropshire home from all at SSNTV!

Peter O.

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Saturday saw a one day event at Comer Woods called Hart of the Wood, with the aim of getting the public closer to nature and the woodlands in particular.

Your Chair put on  a volunteer yellow high-viz to get a backstage view.  Members Neil & Jackie, as suggested, extended their Saturday woodland walk to view the goings on; and the Treasurer with his wife, Pat acted as roving reporters to bring you this resume….

Back in November 2019 visual artist and film maker Benjamin Wigley appeared in the woods at Comer and took pictures of some of our volunteers at work during a workday. Some of these featured prominently in Saturday’s display. There were appearances by John and Eric along with Rangers Mike and Helen.  Neil and Paul were seen in the background of one of the videos, others may have been elsewhere.

The Barn at Heath Farm at Comer was hung with the photos.  There were also six videos, each between two and eight minutes long depicting scenes from the woods and characters from folk legends of various beliefs representing good and bad, wealth and poverty.

In the woods four zones had been created each representing one of the seasons through the year, within each of these there was an alter and also installations with interactive activities for the public.

The circuit started with a natural ring to pass through – either physically or simply metaphorically – to get in the mindset for communing with the wood – the mind boggles!

Summer included a large singing choir, with face painting with green and brown camouflage colours, to encourage you to get closer to nature.   Next was musical instruments – wind wackers – made from twigs and rubber bands that you swung around like a football rattle. When sufficient members of the public were gathered there was also a play between the Green man and Long Tom performed with The Green man representing greed from gambling lost to Tom.

Autumn was represented by The White Hart (~Stag).  There was a singer too on a separate stage and a two person performance with the White Hart asking  how he could regain equilibrium. (I only leant this from one of the videos as it was all mime -sometimes explanations were a bit thin!)

Winter including a spirit actor in costume; an opportunity to draw eyes on the trees; and for children in particular, to hang a selection of hand-finished pieces of wood representing bones from the branches of the trees.

Finally Spring was very colourful installation, with a musician / singer with a recording of a poem playing in the woods.

As you wandered the circuit you were given objects to represent that time of year, to make into a necklace.

In the Meadow, near the barn and on the woodland circuit two “kinetoscopes” (hand-cranked powered projector and sound boxes) had been set up.  These played images of the woods and characters from the performances.  Unlike the other installations which were a one-day event, these will remain in situ until 2023.

It was a fun day – especially for young at heart members of the public – you needed to suspend your disbelief!  Most of the time the sun shone – which helped! Lot of imagination was required and a few more explanations might have been helpful…..

PS: John did say he’d forfeit his appearance fee this time, especially since he was portrayed in such a flattering light in his photo!

A fuller and more professional synopsis of the event may yet appear (watch this space).  For those who missed it, you can see some of Ben’s imagery at

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Something unusual happened last Sunday on our first workday visit in some time back to Moseley Old Hall, Wolverhampton:…. 

Our workday leader David, having done the organising, delivered the tools, planned the task, then decided he was too poorly to continue pretty much as soon as he arrived, so we sent him home to recuperate.

Still as David later wrote from his sick bed, thanks to all for getting things done in his absence – good to know there is a crew he could rely on.  Too right since a large proportion of your committee were at the workday, you’d think they’d manage to get things done (…or perhaps not!)

Sunday also saw another new ranger to the patch meet SSNTV’s incredible team and see them efficiently put paid to all the tasks she had envisaged. Amy is the very new and first ever ranger dedicated solely to Mosley. She’s also a newbie to rangering herself.  She is also as she had to admit to the volunteers, not yet much of a gardener, so with that role empty at present she has her hands full, covering that job too.

By the end of day at least, she knew where to find some additional, capable resources!

Two primary jobs were identified for the Group for the day.

The first for which few volunteers could be found, was to turn and reorder the overgrown row of six compost bays. However Ian, with lots of home grown expertise and Chris, fresh from heap turning with Nick at nearby NT Benthall, gave Chair Russell suitable guidance on what should go where as they dug to find the good stuff and sorted the heaps to identify new green as well as well-rotted and therefore usable composts.  (Nick if you’re reading this, any tips for compost success would be well received by Amy!)

Job number two, which found more favour, was in the woods to the rear of the Hall, running alongside the road. Amy wanted the paths widened, removing overhanging green to provide a more welcoming feel and encourage more visitors to walk around these pleasant glades.  That meant the woods were to be cleared of most of the unwanted regenerative regrowth, pulling things out at the roots, and tugging out nasty brambles, roots and all. That way specimen trees and shrubs would be more visible.

In the woods, as the earth was exposed and more light fell on the woodland floor, numerous mounds of green cuttings grew at alarming rates. At first these were by the side of the developing rides, but unfortunately due to the Hall’s very close proximity to the M54 no bonfires on site are allowed to dispose of them – so what to do these unsightly distractions; the answer was to hide them away in discrete areas out of sight from the paths.

The compost team armed with rudimentary instructions, managed to sort and order the heaps, combining and splitting contents, whilst at the same time creating a sequence from fresh & new; to old & matured, with some economy of effort on what moved where.

By the end of the day the wood had been given a late spring clean and youngsters will be able to run and tumble amongst the trees without getting covered in scratches.

It wasn’t long after we’d left that Amy wrote to say…

I just want to say a HUUUUGE thanks to yourself and the rest of the team on Sunday. I’m still baffled at how much work you have all done! That area will now be set up for den building as it’s the perfect little clearing! I couldn’t believe how many people started actually walking around in that space when it was just a dead zone before.

Plans were already being discussed about how a return visit could be arranged in the next workday programme.  So yet again SSNTV impressed and our reputation of a team fond of hard work continues.

Thanks to all for their efforts, in unplanned organising; digging and Leela too, for some delicious cake at cake o’clock (correction, as Leela points out, it was David’s chocolate cake!)

…Oh yes, and David seems to have recovered enough at least to manage a holiday this week to Italy – perhaps he just needed more time to pack after all!

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Workday leader Matt reports:

Last Sunday saw the keen volunteers of the SSNTV head back to the group’s roots, as we had arranged another workday in the beautiful gardens at Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton.

Wightwick is the NT property where the group was formed 42 years ago and yes, we still have some volunteers coming out with us who were there all those decades ago! But coming back to the present, head gardener James had an interesting salvage operation planned for us.

Over 2,000 Spring bulbs had been planted in four of the formal garden beds, but now as Spring is well and truly over, James wanted us to dig out and collect the bulbs to hopefully re-use them next year, whilst simultaneously weeding and preparing the beds for the next amazing planting scheme.

All sounded very straight forward, – a nice sunny day, digging over some flowerbeds, collecting bulbs and no tricky plant identification for us to attempt, as James wanted nothing left in the beds at all. Easy-peasy so we thought!!

However once we started on our bulb treasure hunt, we soon discovered that there was one significant challenge that had been quietly left off the job detail. These monster bulbs had been planted very, very, verry deeeeeeep down, with most being a minimum of two spades depth below the surface. This wasn’t going to be a quick dig and lift job, it was going to need some major excavations!

Luckily most of the bulbs had the remains of their foliage attached, so we at least had an idea of where to start digging, adopting various techniques aiming to free the bulbs with minimal damage.

Lucy, Jackie, John, Neil and Ian were using the “target a single bulb” by direct burrowing method with great success.

David, Leela, Matt and Russell went for the “dig out a trench” option going after multiple bulbs per trench.

Paul and Sharon opted for the full on “open cast mining” approach collecting all of the bulbs while creating spectacular mounds of soil and cavernous pits.

As we took a well deserved break at Cake O’clock to recharge and enjoy Leela’s Super Sponge cake, we realized that these easy-peasy four beds were actually going to take us the full day after all!  

Working on through the day, the varying excavation methods were yielding significant numbers of good bulbs which we loaded onto the trailer for James’ garden team to sort out and store another day

With all of the beds finally free of their bulb treasure we tidied up, spreading the soil back to where it should have been, leaving the beds looking smart and ready for their next fantastic planting display

Obviously our hard work had not gone unnoticed, as while we were tucking into the second of Leela’s awesome cakes, we were treated to a special fly past by none other than the Red Arrows on their way to the marginally less exciting midlands venue of Cosford Air Show!

Red Arrows

Huge thanks to all of our fantastic volunteers for another enjoyable day’s work!

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Another FYI: ..Lost for something to do on a Saturday in June? Then I might have a suggestion….some of you who were out on a pre-COVID workday at Comer Woods might remember a photographer working with NT was also present. SSNTV’ers Eric H and John W got caught in his lens, along with NT’s Mike & Helen.

There’s a day now arranged (originally intended to be on an anniversary of Dudmaston coming into the Trust) where some of the photos and other visual and audio media will go on display. For anyone who wandered the arboretum at Shugborough in the past and saw some funny looking old style box cameras on legs – they supposedly have also now “walked” to Dudmaston.

So why not enjoy the woodlands on the newly refurbished paths – that’s what it’s all about after all – and perhaps see media stars John and Eric captured for posterity!

More details are on the Dudmaston NT website page – click here –

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Workday leader Dave explains:

It was with some trepidation that we drove to Hopesay on Sunday. Would we get there? – as the skies darkened menacingly and in places torrential rain fell, turning roads into rivers. The last day of the Platinum Jubilee long weekend was commencing in typical British summer fashion….

Well, yes we did… And, the rain stopped – before those volunteers who didn’t want to sit in front of their TV sets for a fourth day – all reached Craven Arms!

Gathering at our third different meeting place for Hopesay Common, our task this last weekend was a rescue. A rescue of the trees that we had helped plant earlier in the spring (see reports below) from their evil nemesis….Bracken! With all gathered, despite some dodgy, or was it soggy sat navs, we headed off to basecamp. Basecamp as always, is pitched at the bottom of a steep slope. This one was the slope on the side of the hill up to the Common, where new young trees had been planted over two previous visits by our Group and by other local volunteers, as well as some by contractors. Looking up we could see plenty of bracken and only a few trees protruding….

NT’s Pete C had decided that in order to give the young trees the best possible start in life, the surrounding bracken should be bashed down – encouraging more light for the saplings to develop and fending off some of the competition.

So all set to work following alleged lines of trees through the bracken with slashers, swishers and sawn off shears. Only tools beginning with “s” were allowed. I say alleged lines as some planting was definitely random – yes, we could tell where SSNTV had planted the trees by the excellent spacing and alignments! It was a very rare workday outing for the swishers which normally sit idle in the Wightwick toolshed!

Much progress was made as we got into the ‘swing’ of it and by the end of the day we had covered an area of around 0.9 hectares or 2.2 acres in old money, so much of the one lower slope.

In fact overall success rates for what was planted are looking good. Most protective tubes either had shoots of green still developing or in some cases, new young saplings popping out over the top. Dead ones / non-starters were definitely in the minority.

Did I mention the weather? Well, apart from a little bit of mist and drizzle it was a dry day overall. Problem with that is I think I have used up all of my luck for the rest of the year!

Now it’s just the small task of reaching the second patch of planting – further up the hill and over the top on our next visit, next month – but that’ll be next workday leader Russell’s challenge!

Thanks to all for turning out, I still think you are mad!

….Thanks too to Dave for his copious cake supplies to fight off the cold and NT’s neighbour Joe for the (nearly) onsite parking.

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On Saturday before THAT concert, SSNTV met up – coincidentally during Volunteers Week. However this time the chance to meet with Countryside Manager, Pete Carty wasn’t to do some work, but instead an opportunity for a stroll around some of the projects in the patch which the Trust are working on and learn a bit more about what’s going on – this time centred around the Dudmaston Estate.  Oh yes, and there was still time for cake o’clock!

We met at Comer Woods, at the tea truck & barn at Heath Farm. Here lots more people are visiting, using the many uprated paths to explore the wider woodland, and also cycle – that way also generating a sizeable stream of income for the property.   

There are plans to widen public access across the Estate even more, for example with paths linking up to the patch at Burf Castle where the Group has recently been planting trees.

We learned that there’s also a local plan to reduce arable farming across Dudmaston’s 3,000 acres, thereby reducing fertiliser usage and lessening the chemicals which will reach the Dudmaston watercourses, ultimately the Severn.  In terms of the soils this will also promote more of an acidic heathland habitat, intended to be similar to nearby Kinver.  Hence we saw some work on the edges of the woodland to increase flower-rich meadows.  We were also shown, a few years on, efforts to promote more heather, it being grown from transplanted seed and plants in the meadow-land acidic soils.

As well as in the Dingle – see below – there are plans, not sure there are funds yet, for work to reduce the silt in the ponds on the Comer Wood side of the A-road. The “land” between these now overflows with heavy rain, which isn’t ideal.  So improving the water control here will for example, also encourage more freshwater fish.

On another part of the estate the Trust is also changing the use of more arable fields, as it acquires land at Bonemill near to the river Severn, heading towards Quattford.  This space will be deliberately re-purposed for flood prevention control, as flood plains when the river is high, but which should also have the effect of encouraging more meadow wildlife.

In the Dingle in the last few months a flock of Hebridean sheep have been introduced to help control the green growth – like we’ve seen at Walcot.  They are now fenced in around the boundary – gardener Guy doesn’t want them in his formal garden – with their own special quiet patch.  

There’s plenty to do, since with fewer visits recently as a consequence of lockdown, things are starting to shoot up once again – so probably more cut, if not burn too, is likely in winter months for SSNTV. We saw the residue of the impact on the trees of some last winter’s storms. All that remained of a large, several -hundred-year-old beech (yes, that beech James…) were some 2m wide sections of trunk – so heavy that no estate vehicle can easily access to remove them.  

Then there’s the Clearwater project.  This is intended to better control silt and the flow of the water across the Estate and downhill through the Dingle towards the Severn, so that for example the dams at Big Pool and Mill Pool are not overwhelmed.  We were shown where the dam and weir at Mill Pool have been refurbished and reinforced.  With winter storms too much silt builds up in the wrong places around here, so contractors have helped to realign the flow of the water so that the man-made structures are not overwhelmed. There’s too much silt for volunteers – in fact the layout of the Dingle makes it difficult to move large amounts of silt too far without major disruption which for example a big digger would cause.

We also spotted unwanted Himalyan Balsam – oops! – which has probably also been washed down the Dingle – another workday beckoning perhaps?

For now, next another Pete C task – newly planted tree care at Hopesay, part of the Shropshire Hills…..more to follow on that!

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Did you know?

If yes, then you’ve probably seen lots of thank you’s from the NT team, recognising the efforts of all volunteers, including those from our Group. If not then read on….

An FYI: The Trust is also celebrating Volunteers’ week by inviting you all to a Midlands and East of England Regional Briefing via Webex hosted by the regional director Paul Forecast. The call will bring together staff and volunteers from all 31 portfolios in the Midlands and East of England to celebrate volunteering and share some of the brilliant things our volunteers do for us.

Join a Virtual Presentation & Thank you via Microsoft Teams at 4pm on Wednesday 8th of June.

You can use the following weblink to access the call:  

** Note: it’s actually a Webex (different virtual app) meeting not MS-Team but just click the link)

Another back up option is to dial in on a phone, but you won’t be able to see the presentations.  Contact SSNTV Chair if you’d like those dial in details.

PS: There will be a video recording available of what was shown if you were not able to join online, but would like to get involved. Contact the Chair for details.


Supporter group lead, Danielle Albracht added her thank you – seems she’s getting to know us….:

Dear all,

National Volunteer’s Week takes place each year during the first week of June (1st-7th) and is a time to recognise the incredible contributions of those who gift the causes they love with their time and expertise. At the National Trust, we are lucky enough to be supported by tens of thousands of volunteers, performing a wide range of roles.

As this year’s Volunteer’s Week draws to a close, I just wanted to take a moment to say, ‘Thank you!’ to our NTV groups for the role you play and for all your volunteering in support of the National Trust. Whether its constructing or maintaining footpaths, clearing invasive species or planting new trees, our NTV groups help our property teams tackle some of the big conservation jobs. And you do it with a sense of humour, a spirit of camaraderie and, from the sounds of it, a fair amount of cake!

Thank you for the time and skills you gift to the National Trust – we really appreciate it!

Best regards,


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Your editor, workday leader and pick-up truck driver reports:

Variety is the spice of life it’s said – hence last Sunday after two weekends of path works at Benthall and Dudmaston; followed by the novel, new task of willow-weaving at Attingham – it was gardening at Morville Hall near Bridgnorth for the group’s volunteers, as a large number turned out to help tenants Mel and family keep the gardens around the Hall in good order – especially with a Platinum Jubilee tea party on the front lawn imminent!

At the front of the Hall – where first impressions count – some super-sharp new tools saw their first use out of the packaging, where there was plenty of green to reduce in height, generally tidy and on which to practice topiary skills!

At the same time, the young ‘uns got a lesson in how to prune from the old ‘uns.  Whilst the energy of the young ‘uns effortlessly carried away the green waste others had generated – for now just out of sight over the haha!

For the more adventurous, with good balance, there were sizeable holly trees to prune and keep under control.  This necessitated suitable ladders borrowed from the NT team at nearby Dudmaston….and as it turned out, more long-handled loppers than we could muster.

For the more genteel and creative, there were bushes of box in various strategic spots around the garden in need of a good haircut – such as beside the former swimming pool and near the fishpond.  These all got very tidy short back and sides!

Heading to the veg garden there were more shrubs to cut back again – amazing, how they’d grown since last time.

There were borders to weed too, as we already started to pencil in the tasks for the next visit in about a month’s time (beech hedge, white garden borders and hedge,….bonfire!).  Gordon where were you?

…And all the time in the background there was a high pitch whine, as Dave donned the protective gear and strimmed grass edges & borders for all he was worth.

A very wet start to the day which encouraged us to postpone the brash-burning bonfire until next time, gave way to blue skies and sunny warmth by the afternoon.  Though until then breaks for homemade cakes, courtesy of Melanie were taken in shelter of the loggia – with teas and coffees thrown in too. Many thanks for those!

The end of a long day came following an afternoon break for scones with jam and cream, sitting out in the sunshine; and with Mel expressing (..the typical..) amazement about how much the Group had managed to get done in one day.  

Based on current plans, the SSNTV visit in June (reed-pulling aside) will be the last chance to work with the family before they move on.  Here’s hoping for one more Sunday sat out in the sunshine eating cake!

…Thanks to all for their efforts.

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Workday leader Mags reports:

I think this is a first. Definitely a first for me. I’ve not ventured out to the Field of Play before. Nor have I tried willow weaving. But this is where we spent the day (beyond the orchard, behind the walled garden for anyone who wasn’t there). The task, to give one of the willow tunnels its post-COVID haircut.

Photography was a bit hit and miss, as I couldn’t see the camera screen for the brightness of the day, but before and after photos show the huge impact we made in a day.

The first task, taking us up to cake o’clock, was to go through the tunnel cutting out any dead branches (and low ones that blocked the tunnel). There was quite a bit of dead wood to cut out, because it had been discovered that if the shoots were bent over too much (nice for an arch), the willow did not survive.

Fortified with drinks and carrot cake, the task moved onto creating teepee style tops to the growth above the tunnels. By leaving the shoots pointing (almost) skywards, it is hoped that they will not die off. Once securely bound together, the excess was cut back to about a foot (doesn’t this just show my age – 30cm to the young uns).

People on ladders inside the willow tunnel, creating new arches.
Being tall comes in handy sometimes!

Both of these tasks produced huge quantities of brash. Whilst some cuttings (of appropriate height and thickness) were saved to fill in the gaps in the tunnel walls, and other longer sturdier lengths were put aside to be used in the walled garden, the majority was reduced to trailer length, to be taken away (who knows where!!).

We had a very brief shower at lunchtime but, apart from that, it was mostly bright, and often sunny.

At cake o’clock in the afternoon, Ranger Karin also provided leftover chocolate eggs from the Easter Egg Hunt, some scoffed on site, others taken home to savour.

Although we didn’t complete the whole tunnel, there’s a clear demarcation point, and hopefully our (much appreciated) work will be carried on by other volunteers.

Looking across the willow tunnel from the ouside, our completed work on the left, untouched willow on the right - a height difference of about 10 feet.
Clear demarcation

After returning to the car park, gratefully handing over tools to next week’s leader (now tomorrow, as I’m always late with my writing up), I returned for the ‘after’ photos, helping Karin load the Attingham tools into the trailer, and discuss the difference I had already noted.

Concerns had been raised about the planted sticks for regrowth. After further consideration about the potential hazard, Karin had decided that whilst it was necessary to fill in the gaps, the height was where the danger lay, and had reduced them to small stumps, just above the ground. Back out at Attingham in July, it would be good to see how it all looks after a few weeks to ‘settle down’ and hopefully start growing all over again!

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