Archive for the ‘Staffordshire Volunteering’ Category

What an epic weekend it’s been….

  • Exciting man versus machine – Silvesterstone
  • Enthralling, long-lasting racket against racket – SW19
  • Last gasp victory in bat versus ball – from central London
  • Last but not least, a few men versus a lot of Himalayan Balsam – Comber Road, Kinver Edge, Staffs….

Whilst some lounged all day in front of their TV’s, a very small and thus very determined group met up with ranger Ewan to pull up Himalayan Balsam from the slopes of the sandstone ridge at Kinver (whilst other members of the Group holidayed with the NT in Northumberland).  The increased light from previous woodland thinning activities (see as long ago as December last year), coupled with moist conditions means that there are plenty of pink and white flowers; and after that seeds starting to appear. These need to be prevented from spreading, which calls for manual labour!

Ewan explained how the plant will root / find a home, even in loose leaf litter and still reach up to 2m.  Hence if you pull from the root, it’ll come out easily.  Then comes the additional tasks: separate the root from the plant, otherwise that’ll refix itself; break up the stem; and finally separate the flowerhead from the plant, so that that part too has no reserves of energy to call on.

If things go to plan, there will soon be some cattle on the property, tasked with keeping down the scrub, who will in no time reduce this plant’s abundance – so message to all those members who didn’t turn out this Sunday….the days of this task are hopefully numbered!

Still – roll on paddling in the water at other NT properties later this month and into August!

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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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Back at Benthall Hall on the day of the Cosford Air Show. Would we see any of the planes? But it was not a day for reaching up into trees, eyes on the sky. No, we were down on the ground, weeding brick paths and gravel in the rear courtyard (and by the church and lychgate). These were the main tasks of the day.

The other tasks (which you could stretch the description ‘some general gardening tasks’ to cover, but were not so photogenic) were clearing up some of debris from the last visit, and turning the compost heaps.

So, back to the courtyard … cake o’clock on the tea terrace – a delicious lemon/lime cake and a lovely mug of tea. Then back to work – looking like an army of ants!

Following lunch on the lawn in the kitchen garden, back to those bricks … or the compost heaps, from where we could see the smoke trails of the Red Arrows – away in the distance over Cosford.

The working group shrank as the Committee meeting started on the family terrace – but we didn’t let the side down, and finished with excellent results.

So to the BBQ treat, as the threatened rain held off!

And yes … some of the Air Show planes (including the Spitfire) came overhead just as we were winding up…and as menacing grey clouds circled.

At the end of a long day and lots of backbreaking work, a lazy evening? Not me! I got side-tracked by my own front garden and finally put the tools away as the fading light defeated me around 10pm.

Wow, what a day! Thanks everyone.


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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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Edge ranger Al, has a predicament…. he has a new tenant farmer for one of his fields alongside the A458 but the farmer wants a stock proof fence to keep his sheep in.

The livestock is due to arrive on 1st May and we are only two weeks away with 160 meters of hedge to be cut back so the new fence can be erected by a contractor starting on 23rd April.

What can he do?… Answer: Call in SSNTV!

Its Easter Sunday…will anyone turn up? (The group have not been out on a bank holiday for a number of years – they do need some days off to build up their strength after all)

Well Al need not have worried, eleven members and one member’s visitor all the way from London met up at the designated lane.  Al dragged assistant Kate along as well.

In no time fire number one was burning away. So off to the other end of the field for fire number two.  Both were blazing by cake o’clock, as the old fence started to appear from under the hawthorn and among the brambles.

The sun blazed down, the heat of the fires and the sweat pouring out of everyone, mean frequent breaks for water had to be taken as the hedge shrank in size and the bonfires got bigger.

Cue reddened faces and relief, as by the end of the day the task was complete, old hedge was removed and the group left Al and Kate to take down the old barbed wire ready for the next phase of work to start on Tuesday morning.

Workday leader – Peter O

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Our EVENTS page has been updated with new dates for your diary.

If you have volunteered with us before…., then you know how to book onto the workdays.

If you’re interested to volunteer with us for the first time…., then please contact us for more info – just pop over to our CONTACTS PAGE and send us your details so our web fairy can put you in touch with us.

In the meantime, don’t forget that we are also on Facebook.

Just click the Facebook link in the sidebar to read recent workday reports and see more pictures (don’t worry, you don’t have to have a Facebook account to read the updates!).

Walcot Woods

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