Archive for the ‘Shropshire 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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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 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: https://nationaltrust.webex.com/meet/paul.forecast  

** 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.


PS:

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,

Danielle

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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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It was Programme committee member Helen’s turn as leader for the workday this last Sunday:

There was a strong turnout for our workday at Dudmaston Hall in the gardens – a location the Group had not visited for a while.  I think everyone enjoyed a great day. There was a warm welcome from the Dudmaston team on the day, Gardener Simon and Ops Manager Gow; with interesting and varied work including repairing weather damage on paths in the bog garden and near the stables yard, as well as brute force required for some heavy gardening tasks.

Putting it simply there was too much membrane about!  Simon explained that when there are heavy rains water flows downhill through the borders towards Big Pool.  This means that several paths become awash and the gravel top doesn’t stay put, but slides off the membrane and washes downhill with the water.  So the task was to remove some of this webbing, allowing better drainage into the soil; and at the same time, tidy and remove the weeds.  Unlike recently at Benthall Hall, there was no machine to sort the gravel, so to save effort and to allow the visiting public to get access again as soon as possible, this meant removing just enough gravel to take up the black underlay beneath and then re-level the top, a wacker-plate would follow.

There were also, we were told, too many bamboo plants for the Gardens team’s liking!  Hence above the Ladies Bath feature, some of the group dug into the dry and hard-baked sandstone soil to remove self-seeding bamboo offshoots.  Thankfully tractor and trailer were on hand to remove the sizeable solid clumps that the pickaxes managed to lever out.

As the tasks were fast being ticked off, additional paths away from the Pool were added to the job list by Simon to keep the Group busy throughout the day. 

With more sun too than was anticipated and after the welcome overnight rains, the gardens at Dudmaston looked at their best. If you’ve not seen them, go check them out! There were beautiful displays of azaleas and rhododendrons in particular in full flower – so it was a delightful spot to work, as well as sit and enjoy the views at lunchtime.

Only as the end of the workday neared did the rain start to fall, which meant a very welcome opportunity for a reviving cuppa and more cake (after the workday leader’s home-made flapjacks for elevenses) – this time, courtesy of the Dudmaston team – indoors at the Gardeners Bothy.  So thanks to all for those. We will certainly be back for more! 

..

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Workday leader Mags recounts our last pre Easter sunday at Benthall, the second workday of the weekend:

A satisfactory day with a nice bonfire. The turnout was good, despite two events the previous day. Much was said about the previous day’s first aid course, but thankfully none of the skills needed to be put into practice.

The task list prior to the workday included some gardening tasks, but Nick decided, based on the number of volunteers out for the day to stick to one task – down in the wood, tidying up and burning leftovers from the contractors’ clearance of trees affected by ash dieback. The fire started off (as all our fires do) quite small, but as they say where there’s smoke there’s fire.

The place is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so the site of the fire had been carefully selected. The idea was for it to be ‘small’ (well it looked small from the viewpoint above) and overall it was well controlled.

For cake o’clock the workday leader brought out the mars bar crispie cake. All carefully divided up, in case the group were working across different sites.

With everyone around, Zorba needed little encouragement to help out with the destruction of the brash.

With a large area to clear, the trailer was put into action to bring brash from further afield. Some went directly onto the fire, with other loads being deposited to one side. How we’re expected to keep the fire small when it arrives in this quantities, I don’t know.

So, back to the SSSI. I quizzed Nick, and it’s a site of interest for both “flora and fauna” and its “geology”. Rare flowers (including the birds nest orchid) can be found in the woodland, though not this day. However, despite the heavy contractual work that has been undertaken, a number of interesting plants were found around our work site, including dog violets, wood anemones and toothwort, which grows near hazel.

We achieved a lot and made sure we left the fire is a safe state at the end of the day.

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Saturday’s workday leader Peter starts the weekend’s tales:

SSNTV members had a rare, if not unique choice of three events this weekend. On Saturday six returned to the classroom to obtain a new first aid qualification (let’s hope they never have to put what they learn into practice). At the same time, seven of us descended on Wightwick Manor to try to impress new gardener James with our work ethic. Sunday would be Roman Bank at Wenlock – oops, no correction – trees on the brain,….this time at Benthall Hall, Broseley!

On Saturday James made us welcome, as we were briefed on that day’s task: a repair of the path at the side of the large pool near to the overflow car park.  This had been closed as its condition was too slippery.  Looking at it, James seemed to think we would not complete it in the one day.  Little did he know…..

First was the removal of a membrane which had been put down as a temporary fix as the path had become gradually muddier. The pebbles on top were barrowed to the adjacent old burn site.

Next the poolside grasses had to come out and the large clumps were thrown across the brook for later replanting. Corms (of possible irises) were put to one side too. These were a surprise to James, as they had been hidden beneath the grasses.

All other green material was bagged so it could be taken off site, the bags being stacked on the new Wightwick trailer!

By now it was time for cake o’clock and with Easter approaching, Simnel bites were provided by the workday leader. No Easter chocolate bunnies this weekend – although bunny ears were being worn by some of the staff.

After the break, raking and weeding were the next tasks, as soil was taken off the surface to reveal an existing hardcore base. As the group moved along the path, the raking turned to scraping with spades and finally to digging as 50mm of soil covered the hardcore at one end.  We had now reached lunch time.

In February contractors had resurfaced many of the paths at Wightwight, taking off the old fine top layer which James had arranged to be dumped by the nearby car park. So now it was time to shovel, barrow, dump, rake and roll this very fine material into one good solid path beside the water. Just then the heavens opened and one heavy sharp shower of rain and hail came down, with most of us without our coats nearby!

However this didn’t stop the hardy bunch. But it did put paid to the rolling, as the fine grit was now sticking to the roller. With the job practically complete, there was just time to go and inspect the yew hedge (and peacock!) surrounding the rose garden which we had trimmed back in January.

James was impressed with the day’s work – so mission accomplished.  Thanks to everyone for all the hard work that went in.

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Even more about trees……..

A large, keen group of volunteers gathered early one more time at Roman Bank on Sunday for a last meet-up of the season (before the birds start to nest) with rangers Al & Kate at Wenlock Edge. Our task was to try to complete the ride clearance, widening the bridleway and removing dead and decaying woodland, back towards Wilderhope.

Happily compared to our last visit – see Matt’s report when we were nearly washed and blown away – this time the track was dry, making our long walk from the meeting point easier. Unexpectedly the sun also appeared which meant a fair bit of the early spring flora & fauna put on a display for us.

After more than a mile’s walk, the search for helpfully placed orange dots began, as we sought to widen the track and burn up selected overhanging branches, interspersed with a few big boys suffering from ash die back which succumbed to the rangers chainsaws – a three saw Sunday! 

Just in case we didn’t have enough branches to burn, Al had brought a half-filled trailer full of brash which he managed to squeeze down the track.

There was a lot to drag and as it turned out, the orange spots were fairly spaced out which meant that over the day only two fires sprang up to remove the unwanted material.  The few walkers and their dogs could dodge around the heat pyres to avoid getting melted.

There was a birthday treat for long-serving member David B – who managed the candles for his ??th birthday. Fancy that, celebrating by cutting trees down…but then Wolves did win the day before didn’t they David!

Ian created his own huge pile of brash to burn, so keen was he – after missing out on an extra possible Saturday workday – that he missed the birthday cake o’clock! John found enough to saw; and everyone dragged towards the fires for all they were worth. 

Richard got a botany lesson from ranger Kate, as she pointed out a rare rhodo’ species which the lopper blades needed to avoid (…and its name I hear you asking?…..perhaps Richard remembers better than I did!)

By the end of the day, enough space had been created for the trailer to turn around – and we reached the end of the patch of Trust owned land.  So job done!

As we trekked back along the trail the extra light finding its way to the ground was evident since our last visits, as around some of the larger felled trees left for habitat creation the wood sorrel was popping up around the stumps.

Thanks to all for their efforts, including the baker for his brownies; and Kate for the early Easter chocs!

Just the small matter of a double weekend of workdays next at Wightwick Manor and Benthall Hall before a short break for Easter and more chocolate munching…

Russell

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