Archive for the ‘National Trust Volunteering’ Category

As well as a Sunday workday, this last weekend was the time for a face-to-face (but not too close!) SSNTV AGM held at Wightwick Manor.

With a change in some of the Committee roles, it was a chance to say particular thank yous to Chair, Chris B for his efforts during lockdown and special thanks to long-server Dot, founder member, one-time Treasurer and most recently Secretary.

There was a special cake-o’clock….

Treasurer Peter, tried but failed to get Chris to accept his online banking token, it having stayed in the drawer all year….

And then what your member contributions added up to…an embossed swiss army knife….

….flowers and choc’s all around!

For the record, Committee now comprises:

ChairRussell B
Vice ChairMatt H
TreasurerPeter O
SecretaryChris(tine) B
Programme Helen P
ToolsDave M
HoursMags C
PublicityMatthew H
Web Matt & Russell

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Chairman Chris, one of our two workday leaders tells the tale of a two – or for some, three-day weekend – continuing the work started on our Kinver visit of 5th September …..

The Rock House at Vale’s Rock and Beyond ……..

Having never visited the rock houses at Kinver this was a chance to not only undertake some physical activity but also to enjoy an overnight stay.

The Trust are starting an archaeological survey of the tremendously overgrown site of some as yet unrestored rock houses at Vales Rock. These currently only attract people in search of a quiet, unobserved hidey-hole!  

In preparation for the archaeologists’ visit, 11 members turned up on a bright and warm Saturday morning to undertake the task of clearing and burning any material unlikely to have been part of life in the Rock Houses and surrounding gardens/allotment/orchard up until the middle part of the last century. This inevitably meant gathering up litter and, as this wag suggested, checking every discarded beer can for its sell-by date!

Including the debris from the previous workday, there was a huge amount to burn and the fire, held in a metal tumbril, almost kept pace but just kept getting hotter.  Come the end of the first afternoon, few things seemed nicer than the prospect of a hot shower, but for those staying, unsurprisingly, the Rock Houses had none! 

Ever resourceful, Ewan had arranged showers with a local farmer and after a short drive through a herd of docile cattle we found ourselves in the middle of a field with a portable shower unit and several sheep. Having switched on the shower, the farmer advised us to leave it running to avoid malfunction.  Three people managed to get through the process (ladies first, well 1st and 3rd, as I stopped the gap in the middle) before the malfunction turned up anyway; proved immutable to all efforts to repair it; and Neil ended his shower with cold water.  Our Vice-chair braved his, but the rest of the group baulked.  

The changing fortunes of the shower did, however, allow a discussion regarding the field itself, its numerous small brick structures (valves as it turned out) and nettles.  The farmer explained that the plot was used to dispose of sewerage for almost 200 years, initially from Stourbridge and then from Dudley as well.  The consequent heavy metal contamination means the field can only be grazed – not even pigs are allowed to root around.  Amazing what you can learn whilst trying to get clean!

Then it was back to base, to set up camp for the night in two of the public accessible rock houses at Holy Austin – the resident bats needing a whole house to themselves – a special treat for us for all our hard work to be allowed to stay! Spurning the idea of hanging from the ceiling, we elected for airbeds and camp beds; only one collapse. An extremely welcome supper was provided by Ewan with some fabulous local bangers and burgers all masterfully cooked over the BBQ, on the rock house café terrace. With a clear, mild and windless evening, we were able to enjoy the views and seclusion until bed called around midnight.

The next morning only the early risers had another cold shower – heavy rain this time! – as they made their way to the facilities. But on the upside, we were treated to more good food (bacon sandwiches, toast with jam) with lashings of delicious tea and coffee from the café, where we very nearly gained a new SSNTV recruit, as the weather brightened. 

Back to the worksite for Day Two – 14 volunteers this time – we were joined by NT archaeologist Viviana – the firepit taking only minutes to revive despite its overnight dowsing.  Getting the aching limbs going was helped by the thought of cakes – in plentiful supply unlike the previous day and the rewarding ability to increasingly see the site as gaps appeared between the shrubs and trees and sunlight streamed in.  

Lunch came and went with yet more cake (a home-made, marrow-based concoction) and then it was a matter of containing the fire ready for departure.

The weekend was a great success and thoroughly enjoyed by all – there is already talk of a repeat! As ever, many thanks to Ewan for organising, cooking & for cake (thanks too Mr Chair): to the catering ladies (and potential new recruit) in the café: and SSNTV Treasurer for co-ordinating it all.

Note: Some volunteers returned on Monday to help continue the burn. It’s been confirmed that all the cut brash has now been consumed by fire; and that seven bags of rubbish were taken off site; …and that all those above-mentioned sell-by dates had indeed expired!

All that remains now is to await the report of the external archaeologists to see what they find.  We’ll let you know….

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Because I saw that someone else wrote about this topic elsewhere, I thought I’d just make sure everyone is aware – at our recent anniversary bash we handed out “thank you’s” for volunteering efforts over time ( …ok, so perhaps not every Sunday.. )

These totalled ....345 years….

Quite an achievement – Well Done again to all those concerned, they know who they are (including our outgoing Chair)!

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So the first real cut and burn of this season’s workdays has come and gone!

All the group’s tools were out last Sunday (in joke) as, whilst ranger Mike was sunning himself on holiday, SSNTV ventured back to Dudmaston and Bonemill, Dudmaston Bank in particular near to Comer Wood to thin and help to regenerate the woodland.

It was a chance to see the impact of time away because of Covid too, as those who made it out to the last Christmas work weekend – now which year was that? – and were returning on Sunday, struggled to recognise the patch the group had cleared on the last visit. There was head-high himalayan balsam which had quickly taken the place of the previously weather damaged, felled trees and there seemed to be plenty more candidate trees to clear away.

Soon there was a sizeable fire eating up the damaged wood and hot enough to burn up the unwanted green shrubbery.  As autumn temperatures hadn’t quite arrived yet, during the day there was a gradual drift away from the strenuous tree felling and heat of the burning pyre, towards the slightly less demanding task of pulling the shallow-rooted balsam from the soil.

We were joined by new assistant ranger Sophie and one of the Dudmaston volunteer ranger team.  In fact Sophie managed a very passable impression of ranger Mike,  as she whipped round the site removing large stems at ground level with an argumentative chainsaw.

Thanks to Mags for some excellent bread pudding at cake o’clock – it’s amazing what you can do with leftovers (from our recent 40th anniversary bash).

By the end of the day the site almost looked like how we had left it the last time in 2019… oops, no, got my year wrong should read 2020!

Next up, back to Kinver for a weekend double-header amongst the sandstone rock houses.


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On Sunday eleven SSNTV volunteers headed out to Kinver Edge for the first of three September visits starting the new cutting (and burning) season, Yay!! However this time, writes workday leader Matt, we had even more extra special treats in store………

  1. We were starting work around the Vale’s Rock rock-houses in an area that is currently not normally open to the public!!
  2. We were going to be hunting for archaeology!!!!!
  3. Lead Ranger Ewan had organised an awesome cake for us!!!!!!!!!!

Working with Ewan and NT archaeologist Janine, our task was to start to clear through the dense undergrowth in front of the houses and seek out any lost garden features ready for a team of archaeologists and historians to investigate further in a few weeks time.

Janine had brought copies of a number of historic maps showing the position of the garden areas, but we had no idea what might still remain as the last residents had permanently moved out of the houses in the 1950s and the gardens left to go wild.

This time round we were cutting and stacking (burning next time!) , so we made good progress breaking into the undergrowth from multiple points of entry. By cake o’clock we had uncovered some rusting metal tanks and stone pipe work and by the time Ewan’s fabulous cake arrived at lunchtime we’d found possible garden terraces, a couple of walls, some steps and other stone and concrete remains.

For the afternoon we cleared further round the garden area, removing the Himalayan balsam, pruning some of the larger trees and cutting back more of the invading scrub. Having already made a vast difference to the area during this workday we are really looking forward to coming back and continuing this exciting work.


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Just been reading that the Exeter group also reached 40 this year:

They like cake too!

Read more here:

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The 40th anniversary of the Group’s founding at Wightwick Manor has fallen during the Covid lockdowns. After a couple of belated attempts a fairly small and intimate gathering was held in a field adjoining the grounds of – not the Wolverhampton manor house – but Benthall Hall, Broseley near Ironbridge on Sunday.

The sun shone, as duly expected on the righteous and a good time was had by past and present members of the Group who attended the festivities.

There was much cake, as expected, also more than a fair amount of sandwiches, pork pies, cheese, pink fizz, quiches, samosas, sausage rolls,…need I go on.

Check out this link again for more photos appearing on this page to record for posterity of all those who were there!

So here’s just a few….

Not just one but two special cakes ( much can you read? ….tip: link with the coloured sweatshirts below..)

Getting going…

People watching….

Food, food, glorious food….

There was a bit of speeches (thanks Mr Chair and Ranger Al from NT) and silly games (thanks Dave)

Reminiscing;… and just a few of the Group’s clothing variations over time on view on the day (check with that cake…)

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It was that time of year again on Sunday, to put away the heavy boots and find some very scruffy clothes that would survive the mud and smelly water of the ornamental canal in the grounds of Morville Hall, as the group set about removing two years of regrowth of weeds and bullrushes – and what turned out to be some sizeable overhanging shrubs.

NT waders on, the volunteers headed down to the water’s edge.  With no recent visit on account of you know what – there was a fair bit of regrowth of younger reeds to deal with, in continuing the task of keeping the waterway clear. 

The views from the garden were also increasingly being reduced by shrubby growth and young trees at the water’s edge.  Bowsaws in the water would be the tool for the day to prevent too much shade and shadow developing and so prevent algae growth – John was in his element!

The mass of material meant there was plenty to do for those who intentionally didn’t plan to get wet, as wood and wet reeds were piled up on the banks (to let any little creatures make it back to the water).  Special praise to Ann and Eric who dragged and stacked all day!…There’ll be a bonfire weekend needed here too!

They say the sun shines on the righteous – so we must have done something good, as the grey clouds lifted. There was no more rain. By cake o’clock, we were sitting in the sunshine which stayed with us for the rest of the day.

With no newbies in the group, all present in the water demonstrated high levels of skills in keeping their balance and staying upright, whilst slowing sinking into the mud.  In fact no one fell in / over all day!

By afternoon the vista looked great as the water surface was cleared and there were views restored all round.  With the sunshine warming things up, standing in the cool water was actually pretty relaxing.  So much so that the end of workday finish time was easily exceeded by more than an hour!

Such was the watery regrowth that only a bit more progress to the right was made on the multi-year task – note to our Helen and NT’s Pete – it was so much fun, perhaps let’s have two goes next summer!

…And on top of that some of the group’s more genteel members on dry land gave the Hall garden’s parterre a weeding once-over….And then for their afternoon workout, finished off the hornbeam hedge in the full sun – something not quite completed on the last workday (see 18th July)

With plenty of cake for energy (thanks Mags, Eric, Russell) it meant a good day was had by all.

Next up it’s the party weekend to celebrate the Group’s 40th anniversary founding – Yeah!!

…PS: NT’s Pete Carty got in touch to say thanks for the great job that was achieved on the day.

…PPS: Melanie has also been in touch from her holiday already, to say that she’s looking forward to taking in the new views over the water…….so well done all!

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On Sunday a merry band of nine SSNTVers headed over to Shugborough for a battle with marauding nettles, advancing grass and other organic invaders that had significantly encroached into the beds surrounding the historic Shepherd’s monument, writes workday leader Matt.

After having careful tuition from gardener Derek as to what was a weed and what wasn’t, we dived headlong into clearing out the beds and edging the naughty grass back to where it should be!

Following an awesome cake o’clock with yummy parkin and a rich and creamy choccy cake (thanks Mags and Leela!), we quickly cracked on raking the beds over and giving the proper plants room to expand and thrive.

After lunch we continued in the beds behind and to the other side of the monument until the invaders had been repelled and order restored once more.

However, despite our best laid plans and crossed fingers, we had a distinct feeling of deja-vu (see 4th July!!) when the black clouds overhead decided to give us a healthy downpour just as we were packing up!

At least next week we’ll already be wearing waders as it’s our annual reed-pulling workday at Morville!

Swampies…behind the safety fence!

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The wet weather during the week and the forecast for Sunday meant that we were unable to continue with the gravel path project, but Nick had plenty for us to do….writes workday leader Mags.

The first job is not everyone’s favourite task but, with the large turnout, the ragwort was gone from the meadow before lunchtime. (It’s perhaps safe now to let on that Nick had told me about this plan on Friday. However my response was ‘You haven’t told me that. So I can plead ignorance on Sunday.’)

Lunch, with a very welcome cuppa, was on the family terrace where we were joined by former members.

After lunch we split into three groups for the remaining tasks – slashing the weeds on the drive – turning the compost heap – de-mossing the cobbles in the rose garden.

I joined the team on the drive, so didn’t hear the fire alarm in the Hall. So I was surprised that the rose garden was empty when, just before 3pm, the team on the drive finished, in time for the committee meeting.

Arriving visitors were being kept in the car park, visitors (and volunteers) were assembled on the lawn, down the bank at the front of the house and the fire brigade were on their way.

Not us this time!! An alarm had gone off in the hall, though thankfully after a check it was found to be a false alarm. When I was allowed to go round to the compost bins, the team there had just finished, and leaving the tools by the barn, joined the rest of the group on the lawn.

Once released from our assembly point, those not at the committee meeting (which I think took place on the lawn) continued with and finished the cobbles.

Just time when everyone had finished for a final piece of cake (which saved me bringing it home, where it wouldn’t have lasted long)

… and the weather … not as bad as had been predicted.

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