Archive for the ‘Shropshire Volunteering’ Category

Hello all

We have reached the end of our first working month of the year and it has been a busy one, with challenging working conditions.

We started the month on Saturday 5th at Benthall Hall. The task involved cutting down old fruit trees and sycamore and burning the evidence on a bonfire. This is perfect work for the time of year: gets us working hard from the outset with the promise of a bonfire to keep us warm. There was a good turnout and we were rewarded with a hot meal at the end of the day. We had our tea break and meals in style as we were allowed to use the Hall as our base – perhaps the scruffiest group to eat around the table since it was crafted in the 1600s?


Benthall Hall

The weather turned from mild to cold for our workday on Sunday 13th, where a hardy group headed out to Wenlock Edge where we continued to open up a viewpoint on one of the many walks through the woods. The immense size of our bonfire created spring like conditions where we were working, despite the fact that the temperature didn’t rise much above freezing elsewhere.

…and then it snowed…but we were not put off

After a two year break, we returned to Shugborough on Sunday 26th. Shugborough is home to “The Great Yew”, listed as the largest evergreen crown in Britain and Ireland. We gave the yew a trim, not a chop! With snow on the ground, there was also time for a little fun.

shugborough yew

Trimming The Great Yew

shugborough snow

Shugborough snow

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Crikey, it’s another year and we are off to a flying start. Two workdays under our belts already and a new programme waiting in the wings to take us through until the end of April.

2012 was an excellent year for the group. Our volunteer hours were up on the previous year and we added a new site, Benthall Hall, to our ever expanding Empire! We took on new challenges and welcomed volunteers, old and new, to a varied programme of workdays. We aim to continue the good work throughout 2013 and our current programme of workdays shows how busy we will be in the first part of the year. Legend has it that the group used to work on Sundays…as you can see, to fit in all the workdays we now do a lot of work on Saturdays, and even the occasional Friday. So there is no excuse for not coming out and doing some work in the great outdoors.

Would you like further details about the group or details about any of the workdays? Perhaps you’d like to tell us how good our website is (or not!). You can contact us via this website on our contact page.

We’ll leave you with a nice relaxing photo taken at our January 5th workday at Benthall Hall. We like to take our tea-breaks in style.

Benthall Hall

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hello….are you there? We’ve been Missing In Action for a couple of months. Sorry. Lazy. Been busy cutting things, burning things and eating cake (what else would would we be doing?!).

What’s been going on with SSNTV?

We’ve had 16 workdays since the last web update. We headed north to Biddulph Grange and south to The Weir, visited old favourites (Morville and Dudmaston) and found our way to a new property (Benthall Hall).

Benthall is a real joy and the work is ideal for our group. Our first project is helping clear an overgrown path which stretches from the Benthall estate, downhill towards Ironbridge and the River Severn. In the near future, it is hoped that the restored path will be designated as a bridleway.

As we now approach the end of October, SSNTV look forward to a busy autumn and winter programme. You can find details of all our workdays on the EVENTS page.

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Sunday 5th August 2012
Report from Peter Orme

The first Sunday in August saw six group members turn up at Biddulph Grange Gardens for the first SSNTV workday there for eighteen months.

We were warmly welcomed by Paul the Head Gardener and Big John one of the gardeners who was to be with us all day.

The work we were expecting to do involved opening up a path that had not been used for over twenty years leading to a garden feature. Unfortunately the work to restore the feature had been put on hold so the path was not to be opened for reasons we could not fully understand.

The alternative task was weeding a flower bed with a little light pruning of some willow plus mulching by the gate used by residents of the exclusive housing development next door to the gardens. The task looked small and not that inspiring for a team that had come for destruction but amazingly the work took all day. Despite John not having to use either a saw or loppers he actually commented at the end of the day that he had enjoyed himself. At lunchtime we were concerned we would run out of work but in fact were kept busy until 15.45 when we ran out of bark chippings. It was amazing how much we had achieved and it showed!

Big John and Paul were amazed at the amount of work we completed and as we had tea and cake in the tea rooms Paul came and told us one of the residents had already rang to say thank you for the improvements to the entrance.

Altogether another enjoyable rain free day with cake and friendly staff.

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July has been a busy month for SSNTV. We’ve partied and worked and met royalty….read on.

We started the month trying something new. It was the annual Garden Fete at Sunnycroft on Sunday 1st July, and help was needed…but we didn’t know what we’d be doing.

Fun and games at Sunnycroft

The Fete was a huge success and we put down our usual bowsaws and loppers in order to help out with various tasks including ticketing and running the Coconut Shy – who said we weren’t versatile?! We took the opportunity to munch a few cakes and have some fun too.

You might not have noticed a certain sporting event happening in the UK this year. Forget London 2012 Olympics, I’m talking about the lesser known (but no less spectacular) Jubilympics. This event was held by SSNTV on Saturday 7th July, the venue was Albrighton (Ed’s note: where else could it be?). This ‘Once In a Lifetime’ event surpassed all expectation. An ‘elite’ group of Jubilympians competed under the national flags of Kiribati, Nuara, Vanuatu and the Federated States of Micronesia (if you don’t know where these great sporting nations are, what do you think Google is for??). After a *cough* lengthy torch relay (down the garden and back), the Jubilympic flame was lit. Fierce competition ensued in such sports as the marathon, the pentathlon and the javelin. These were sports with a twist, the relay race may have involved straws and dried peas….

Judging of The Marathon

Lighting the Jubilympic flame

No rest for the athletes (Ed’s note: no recovery from their hangovers more like). Sunday 8th July was another first for SSNTV. We were helping out at the Wenlock Edge Half Marathon and Full Marathon. Organised by the National Trust as part of the the Much Wenlock Olympics, this off-road race was routed from Craven Arms to Much Wenlock via Wilderhope Manor. Fortunately we didn’t have to run, but we did have to leave our bowsaws at home again as we were marshalling the marathon route. The weeks building up to this event saw more than their fair share of rain so the ground was muddy and the weather forecast for the day was ‘more rain’. In fact it turned out to be a gloriously sunny day, but we hear that the ground was still muddy underfoot. The efforts of the runners was truly inspirational with phenomenal performances despite the tough conditions. Read more about the event here.

Much Wenlock Marathon medal

During the year we organise a number of working weekends. We often use the National Trust Mose Basecamp, on the Dudmaston estate, as accommodation. On Sunday 15th July we spent the day there giving the property and gardens a very late spring clean. We were rewarded for our efforts with a barbecue, supplied and cooked for us by Richard who works for the National Trust at Dudmaston. The Mose Basecamp and Cottage are available for hire, for groups and families – more details here.

Some of our group escape the Shropshire and Staffordshire boundary once a year. This years working holiday took place from Saturday 21st to Saturday 28th July. They head north to Northumberland, Cragside to be exact, where they work their little socks off all week with no time for fun. Or so I thought. It turns out that there is quite a lot of work done but there is also a bit of R&R in the form of trips to the seaside and the occasional pub or 3. They were in for a big surprise this year as their visit to the pub coincided with a visit to the same pub by HRH Prince Charles. Prince Charles is the President of the National Trust and he was interested to hear about the work of the group. He said he was “proud to be President”. Apparently the pub had brewed a special ale in honour of the visit – that is, the visit of Prince Charles, not the visit by SSNTV! The working holiday was enjoyed by all and they raced back down to Shropshire in time for the last workday of the month at Wightwick Manor.

HRH Prince Charles, President of the National Trust

While some of the group headed north, those left at home were making the most of a week of glorious sunshine. Neil led a workday by the lakeside at Dudmaston on Sunday 22nd July. The work involved path clearance and creating a drain across the path, fuelled by lemon polenta cake and whittington buttons (?).

Unconventional use of a National Trust wheelbarrow

The final workday of the month was at Wightwick Manor & Gardens on Sunday 29th July (read the story here). It was a fun day with plenty of hard work and ice cream!

Driveway after

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SSNTV web-writers have been a bit lazy during the last couple of months. The New Year’s Resolution (WILL update website at least once a month) has failed. We are sure that going-out-and-doing-stuff is a good excuse for failing to stay-indoors-and-write-webcopy. Are we forgiven? Good.

So, a month late (groan), there follows an update on our May 2012 activities and right on time (yay!) there is info on our June 2012 exploits.

May 2012

Dudmaston worksite – May 6th and 13th

The first two weekends of the month (6th and 13th May) saw the group return to Dudmaston, a favourite location. If you visit this NT property, it is worth knowing that the estate is far more than just a house and gardens – miles of paths are open all year round in the extensive woodlands. It is in the woods that SSNTV do the majority of their work. It’s hard to believe now (at the end of a particularly damp June) that we had two beautiful days of sunshine. Our May workdays involved tree felling and timber stacking. The wood will be used in the production of charcoal, which takes place at another location on the Dudmaston estate.

Timber stacked ready for transport to the charcoal production site

SSNTV at Dudmaston

Carding Mill Valley was the location for the workday on 20th May, helping to cut a firebreak through gorse, followed on 27th May with a visit to Whitgreaves Wood near Moseley Old Hall where fence repair was on the agenda.

June 2012

While sensible people were enjoying the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend eating cake, SSNTV celebrated by….what else but eating cake! Unfortunately the workday on 3rd June at Downs Banks was a bit wet and cold but spirits were raised by cake eating in great quantities.

Back to Dudmaston on 10th June. NT Ranger Mike Annis cleverly described the first task as ‘weeding the reed beds’, waiting until we were on site before revealing that the reed beds in question were part of the reed bed filtration system which deals with ‘liquid matter’ from the site toilets. It isn’t as gruesome as it sounds – by the time the water filters through the system we are told that it is almost up to drinking water standards…not that anyone wanted to test the theory! After lunch, we moved work to the Dingle to clear and burn brash from the paths.

Despite the rain, there was an excellent turn out on Saturday 16th June for a visit to Benthall Hall to walk around a potential new worksite with Benthall Gardener Nick Swankie and NT Ranger Peter Carty. The bridleway has become overgrown and SSNTV are planning to return for a series of workdays later in the year to open up the path. One of the benefits of a guided walk with local experts is that they point out plants and flowers that you would ordinarily walk straight past without noticing. Today’s highlights included the Bird’s Nest Orchid – rare in this area, but more common in the south of England.

Dudmaston was the location for a further workday on 17th June. This time, we were working around the gardens, whereas we normally skulk around the woods. Half of the group helped clear mossy overgrowth from the courtyard cobbles while the other half of the group helped prepare a section of garden boundary for installation of a rabbit proof fence.

To round off our June workdays, we visited Wilderhope Manor to help burn brash left over from hedge laying that took place during last winter. This clear-up helped get the site ready for the Wenlock Edge Marathon and Half Marathon, to be run on 8th July. Despite a month of rain, the sun shone for our work. At the end of the day, we were grateful for tea and biscuits provided by the staff at the Manor, which is now run as a Youth Hostel.

Making the most of the sunshine

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