Archive for the ‘National Trust’ Category

It was back to Dudmaston’s Comer Wood on Sunday to carry on providing TLC to the new conifer and broadleaf saplings which we planted over multiple weekends last winter. It seems that once you adopt a tree at Dudmaston, you’re responsible for it for life – which could mean a lot of repeat visits!

Still, first task this weekend was to spot the green tubes (tree protectors) peeking out from the brambles and copious sycamore regrowth.  Ranger Mike professed himself happy with the development of the adjoining patch worked on last visit, however the passage of time and moist, warm summer meant that the new little trees were having to complete with all kinds of regrowth to find the light.

Pleased to report that the high success rate of our planting continued as most tubes contained developing or just emerging green shoots and failure rates were very low.

It turns out that where ever a sycamore remained from the contractor’s felling, if it is still in contact with the soil, it will start to reshoot.  Hence there was ample green to chop away and arrange in wind rows between the lines, as rows of green tubes gradually emerged during the day.

Rates of progress were a bit down on the last visit as a result, hence there’ll be plenty for next time.

Pleased too, to be able to report that master baker(ess) Maggie was on hand to keep the group sustained with a great selection.  But can you have too much cake, some were heard to ask? – as there were also contributions from Mike, John W and others throughout a sunny day! Thanks to all.

For those out on consecutive Sundays the consensus reached was that clambering through brambles and regrowth was almost as demanding as wading through mud to pull reeds – most reeds that is, except the ones at Benthall (see last week….but that’s another story)

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After recent water-based tasks at Morville Hall, Shugborough Estate (twice) it was now Benthall’s turn.  On a glorious sunny day (which made up for the very cold water – Ed!) workday leader Matthew reports:


Gardener in charge Nick was on gate duty next to the ‘Moon Pool’, a few fields down from the main Hall, as I swung the car onto the grass ready to start work…and what an exhilarating workday it proved!

An intrepid group ventured into the uncharted depths of the pool to start clearing several years worth of unwanted reedmace growth. The scene reminded me of the recent Army recruiting advert on TV – ‘Royal Marines – it’s a state of mind’, with the daring (all male) SSNTV’ers making their way through the sticky, smelly mud.

They didn’t need any make-up, with black splashes creating the ultimate camouflage. Although a distance from the Hall, this pool is the water reservoir for any significant fire-fighting and so it needs to be clear in order that the fire service can access the water.   Reeds were pulled and floated to the bank, whilst landlubber volunteers dragged them into piles – deftly avoiding the flying green mud bombs! 

….Such was the depth of the mud that at the end of the day, the man in charge admitted he may have to bring in a digger to help complete the task!

At the same time, another crack team unleashed havoc on the willow which had sprouted around the banks of the pool, with much felled in a short space of time.

Thanks to Nick and Heather for both “cake o’clock” treats and the on-site BBQ at the end of the day.  There were also more insights into the recent movie filming at Benthall.  We’re told Nick does not have a part in the film, but watch this space, as he was keeping a close eye on proceedings – he may be hiding in the background somewhere……!

Here’s to more great tasks over the coming months!

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SSNTV Chair and workday leader Chris reports:…

Well, with all the recent wet weather we came prepared for rain…but Gardener in Charge Nick’s sunny disposition kept the drops away.  We made a traditional start of a good chat, welcoming a new recruit to Benthall in the form of Jill Wells! Then gathered our tools and girded something (ed!) to begin the heavy work.

The tasks were varied; weeding the drive, gathering hay and mulching borders, but most effort went into relaying the gravel around the front of the Hall – which a special hush-hush project had recently had cause to remove – shovelling into a trailer and then back off again to lay outside the front door and all along the drive.  Everyone worked well, but special mention must go to Matt and Russell for sterling work on the shovels – Nick, do get that pneumatics fixed for next time!

Being front of house and strategic deployment of the SSNTV sign, provided the ideal opportunity for John and Chris(tine) to employ their natural nattering skills, engaging with two seemingly earnest potential new recruits.

The end of the day tea on the terrace at 3.30 was most welcome (even if it didn’t actually turn out to be the end of the day’s work…Ed!).  Maggie, unable to make the workday, had nevertheless kindly baked us a glorious victoria sponge.  I can confirm it arrived on site in one piece. But it didn’t live long, with its last crumbs finally mopped up by Russell who, by not liking a key ingredient (coconut), ruled himself out of the running for a piece of Shugborough Derek’s post-Fuggle leftover birthday cake thoughtfully brought to us by Lucy.

A job for next time may be the replacement of a roadside post we planted some years ago; it appears that a vehicle got the better of it (it was prostrate on the ground). But no doubt it will have made its mark before succumbing!

Sincere thanks to Nick for looking after us…..And for being the first to put up our new recruitment posters (….watch this space..Ed!).

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Workday leader David reports: Sunday saw a sizeable group of SSNTV volunteers at work in Dudmaston’s Comer Woods to clear around conifer and broadleaf samplings planted by the group over multiple sessions between January and March of this year.

Head Ranger Mike explained, as if it was not clearly visible from the amount of regrowth, if not tackled in year one the spread of bramble and sycamore developing over the last few months threatens the establishment of the new young trees by blocking out their light.

Fortunately the task turned out to be less onerous than first thought (at least that’s what your reporter thinks – Ed!). It proved very rewarding to see hundreds of the new trees emerge in their lines from amongst the undergrowth. The conclusion was that a high proportion of them, (over 9 in 10) have survived and in general look very healthy.

Mike was so impressed he would like us to tackle the area opposite next time; and doubtless the adjoing patch the time after that!

Thanks to cake bakers for their tasty offerings which kept us going in the rain showers.  Special mention should also go to newbie Neil who with a youngster’s enthusiasm, valiantly tackled the deep brambles, scratches and all, wearing his summer shorts!

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Chairman Chris reports from a hard-working Sunday (they always seem to get their monies worth out of us at regional HQ):…..

Well what a lovely day we had with Bob at Attingham, adding a fresh layer of “dust”, i.e fine gravel to the existing paths in the woods.  We were a mix of boys and girls, all taking on the roles of shovelling, wheelbarrowing and raking the “dust” into its final position.  Two good lengths of path were completed, at a pace and with some long barrow runs, by seven volunteers, Bob, and the long armed goose (!) before the rain set in and we retired for tea.

The task was helped no end by Bob’s wheelbarrow maintenance (note: it’s not just money, but pumping up the tyres which makes the wheels go round!), along with Maggie’s marvellous cake selection.  While the boys undertook most of the heavy wheelbarrowing, Lucy 2 kept the girls’ end up, and I fear must be two inches shorter for her trouble. Thanks too Leela for the photos.

Finally, it was pleasing to be able to celebrate John’s 73rd Birthday with him – tactlessly, the safety elf forbade a suitably candlelit cake!!!!

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Unusually, SSNTV worked on a Bank Holiday Sunday to help the garden team at Shugborough with the mulching, weeding and edging of beds in the Pleasure gardens between the mansion and the river.

There were teams laying bark chippings onto the plastic weed suppresser in one large bed, while others weeded four more and tidied them by trimming the edges.

After lunch one team moved on to meticulously cutting the edges of the tulip (former rose garden) beds after Gardener Derek had mowed the grass paths. 

Whilst sounding straightforward the jobs were surprisingly long-winded and needed us to persevere, despite backs and knees complaining at times! The consensus was that the end result was worth it as we could see the tremendous improvement we had made in the beds, and after the trimming of the edges in the formal garden the wonderful display of tulips looked even better – well at least that’s what we thought!

Derek was very pleased and promised to cut down more trees to provide the extra mulch needed to help suppress the likely weed growth in the coming months – so he or boss Caroline are sure to keep us busy!

….Thanks to Workday leader David

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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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