Archive for the ‘Shropshire Volunteering’ Category

HEADLINE: SSNTV fights Corona virus – far from the madding crowd in deepest Shropshire – with plenty of fresh air, exercise and social distancing

This Spring the weather didn’t prevent the Group from reaching the ancient oaks in the woodland between Craven Arms and Bishops Castle – unlike the recent snow and high winds, nor did the dreaded lurgy.

Area Countryside Manager Pete C also ventured out to thank all those attending for their efforts…and I think overall, he was very impressed with what we achieved over two days – almost as much as the praise he lavished on Leela’s victoria sponge treat at cake o’clock!

Spring’s mild temperatures this year meant that already between the bracken and brambles we spotted green shoots and early bluebells – testament to the cumulative efforts to restore the woodland pasture over a number of repeat visits and increase the light to the ground storey.

Coppicing was in full swing, clearing dead and damaged trees, slashing brambles…there was plenty to keep everyone busy across two full days – even Ian; and enough boughs too for John to saw! The forecast rain came overnight – which didn’t hinder even those who made it to the local hostellery in Clun.  The pheasants were out; so too the beef herd – who definitely have a penchant for silver-coloured cars and their polish; and it was the usual challenge to navigate the monstrous potholes to make it up to the farm; oh yes, and no one got stuck in the muddy ground.

For those who lingered on Sunday, Day Two ended with shafts of sunlight shining through the newly created gaps between the trees.  A reminder of why we all sit in our cars for ages to find these secluded spots and see the fruits our labours…..

…..and then there is that cake!

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Two weekends of cancellations on account of bad weather were probably the reason why so many made it out this weekend to our double-workday on the Edge, as Nigel reports:

Our two day task turned out to be removing gorse scrub from the ancient hillfort at one end of the sandstone ridge. 

A large area in the centre was cleared of gorse above waist height, debris raked off, and burned in situ in the moveable tumbril. The large gorse bushes are deeply rooted and damaging the remains of the ancient monument. The debris also increases the natural acidity of the soil. Hence opening up the site will benefit the heathland ecosystem and the small mammals and invertebrates for which the area is an important habitat.

Tom was our ranger for the task, deputising capably for Ewan; advising, chain-sawing, boiling up water for tea and coffee and joining in everything else.

The weather proved good, better than forecast – apart from some gusty winds which, as they fanned the flames and smoke in all directions temporarily halted the burning on safety grounds. We doubtless caught the eye, if not also the noses and much else of the day visitors to the site, as at times the moisture-rich greenery generated clouds of thick smoke across the hill.

By Saturday evening Ranger Ewan had broken off his holiday, as we enjoyed a superb BBQ under the sandstone cliff of the Rock Houses, comprising the famed longhorn beef burgers and delicious chilli, rice and salad, all cooked and served up by the ranger team.

As part of the special weekend, six of us took up the offer of an overnight in one of the Rock House dwellings sleeping between the period furniture – a real privilege and unique experience, if just a little chilly when the wood-burning stoves gave out!  This was followed by an excellent breakfast provided by NT in the tea room, which set us up for day two of the gorse bash. … That along with copious amounts of cake at elevenses, supplied by the Group’s expert bakers – thanks to all for that!  

Looks like this may well set a new tradition – given how successful the weekend was!

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So this weekend’s workday at Benthall Hall has had to be cancelled…Sorry Nick see you later in the Spring!

Everyone will have to make to with a bit of extra hedge lay…in….

…..or something like, from the extra day Dave and the billhook gang managed recently at Morville

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Workday leader Matthew tells the tale of a day spent largely in the orchard….

A good turn-out of 14 headed to Morville Hall for pruning the apple trees and hedgelaying around the perimeter of the orchard.

We were fortunate with the continuing mild weather.  The gardens were looking well-tended too, as we made our way to the orchard, noticing some very diligent gardening around the sunken pool.

The group split into three groups, with Dave leading the specialist hedgelayers. The idea was to bring some order to a stretch of hedge which was getting near overhead lines. We don’t want any uncontrolled chainsawing by the power company! Dave was pleased with progress and will return with some volunteers to carry on the task on an extra workday (…now planned for the 11th).

A second team helped Melanie by starting to prune some of the apple trees just off the long walk. There are some very attractive tree specimens here, full of history no doubt.

The rest of the volunteers concentrated on the trees in the orchard. Some wandering sheep had got in and caused damage, so more new trees will have to be planted to supplement those already added to the orchard to replace those lost to old age. We made reasonable progress in true SSNTV-style.

Thanks to Melanie for a warm welcome and the great cakes…. And thanks to all who wished me ‘Happy Birthday’ with a fine rendition of the well-known tune!

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Our billhook aficionado, Dave reports (very promptly) from a sunny Saturday on the Attingham estate….

As promised the Head Ranger provided us with a new, never before laid hedge. What an absolute joy!….Of course the sunny weather also helped.  

We managed to lay 20 metres of mixed hawthorn, hazel and field maple. For a first day, that is good for us. ….So I’m already looking forward to next winter, when we can really get our teeth into the remaining 170 metres.

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Workday leader Mags recounts the tale of last Sunday:….

The weather wasn’t kind, but the volunteers were out in force. Ten turned out on a rainy day, and achieved lots! We were again working over the Chinese bridge by the tennis courts. Remember the huge amount of brash that ‘we’ dragged and burned last time … This time it was digging over the border upon which the brash had been piled.

First, there were logs of all shapes and sizes. The rangers too were still in action creating more from felled trees.

Smaller logs made it over the bridge. Larger sections were rolled a short distance to where they later became seats and tables for alfresco lunch.

Other SSNTV’ers started on the day’s other main task – preparing beds ready for planting. Being careful of course to leave the emerging snowdrops!

The third task was to cut down the bamboo at the edge of the ornamental canal, opposite the Chinese House. Bags and bags were dragged to the next fire site for other volunteers to enjoy a huge bonfire. Chairman Chris decided I was hefty enough to climb into the bags to do the compressing – thanks for that!

Perhaps not a workday to “write home about” but despite the weather, we made a big difference. I’ll be back later in the year to see what has been “painted” on these blank canvasses!

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Not content with last weekend, those eager beavers with the billhooks made it back to Attingham again on Saturday – one more time than published in the programme – but for good reason as Dave reports:

Another hedgelaying day without rain!

FANFARE…..!!!!! With a good turnout we have finally finished that hedge, after four years. It is now laid with the heathering (binding) along the top.

There is still one more hedgelaying Saturday to go at Attingham, on 1st February. We will be starting a new ‘maiden’ hedge. That is, one that has never been laid before.

And then…for anyone getting withdrawal symptoms…..there’s more to do at the orchard at Morville (along with tree pruning) later in February

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It was back to gardening in the run up to Christmas, as the Group made the first of hopefully many visits to the new tenants at the Hall, in order to help Melanie and the family catch-up on some pruning tasks …

….. and were royally entertained with festive treats – thanks for those!

And as the sun shone for most of the time…..

the SSNTV’ers went home looking the same colour as when they arrived – not like in recent previous weeks!

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Workday leader Dave reports:

It was a day of two halves, glued together by mud …lot’s of mud it looks like (Ed!)

We were continuing a clearance project in the Stretton Westwood quarry, part of Wenlock Edge which last year resulted in the re-appearance of hundreds of orchids. Much cutting and burning took place removing elder, willow and diseased ash trees. With more light reaching the ground any dormant wild flower seeds will germinate. It will be interesting to go back in the Spring and so see what appears.

Rather than the usual cake o clock we had a cake decorating workshop instead! Or it may just have been cupcakes, gingerbread men, a bit of icing and some sprinkles.

Oh yes… and the day of two halves? It was lovely and sunny in the morning but began to rain at lunch time and then continued all afternoon! What fun we all had!!

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Christmas weekend saw the Group back at Dudmaston in Comer Wood clearing and thinning the largely, young birch trees, otherwise threatening to dominate the woodland.  There was much to go at, as both Head Ranger Mike and Helen followed the SSNTV’ers around with chainsaws over three days.

With Christmas dinner planned for Saturday day Two, day One, Friday was a chance for the early starters to bag the best beds and put up the Xmas decorations ready for a quiet Saturday evening.

Saturday, day Two proved to be the best weather day of the weekend as the chefs / cooking team made intermittent visits to the worksite; as well as peeled vegetables and put on the turkey.  With the main Christmas event getting nearer, there were few passing walkers and bike riders to observe the Group at work.  

Many of the birches and other small trees seem to self-seed so that there was much to thin.  As ranger Mike explained, when they reach a certain age, the trees also frequently get attacked by squirrels, damaging the bark and stopping the growth of straight healthy leaders.  So the work to let in more light would hopefully also promote a more healthy environment for different species to thrive.

Day Three of our weekend saw a great turnout of 14 members, plus Dudmaston D of E volunteer, Oliver, dodging the top-frequent showers. The numbers meant we successfully completed the thinning of the section of woodland by the end of the day, as light was fading.

Feature of the weekend was also the number of fires started to allow removal of the heaps of brash.  Such that by Day Three this became a four-fire foray.  Happily it also meant plenty of heat to keep us warm and to help us to dry off after the rain.

Having polished off Christmas and sticky toffee puddings, that didn’t stop day Three workers consuming the glut of cake, bread pudding and mince pies.  Thanks to all for those!

Not content with just destruction, by day Three a small group also started the replanting effort anew; managing to put about 50 oak trees back into the ground in the clearing created from the previous two workdays. 

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