Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

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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Workday leader Chris reports:……After the Magnificent 7 at Dave’s hedgelaying on Saturday in almost artic conditions, the Stupendous 8 turned out on Sunday at Benthall in slightly better weather!

The work was a continuation of the previous outing on the Hall estate; one of our favourite tasks of clearing, cutting and burning. As it was Remembrance Sunday, we observed a two minute silence at 11am marked with Nick’s hooter and ably supported (albeit a little late) by a single cannon firing from somewhere near Telford.

Matt soon had a roaring fire going which coped admirably with the increasing amount of debris collected, as dead branches came down and for which lunch (when it came) was something of a relief, giving the pyre time to digest the rather hearty meal we’d fed it by then.

Cake o’clock was well stocked with fresh offerings made by Maggie and Russell (his bread pudding inventively using up Bonfire weekend leftover buns (the whole ones, not half eaten!). But, people, we have to report that in addition there remained left overs of, duh..duhh.. Mags’s mars bar crispy cake! Needless to say an investigation is underway into this unprecedented (though not unwelcome) incident!

But back to Benthall…After two workdays the old tramway site is transformed. Though Nick says it could do with a bit more work, which is great – it was a lovely task and a sheltered spot, in which to hide from the worst of the elements.

That’s all for now folks but do remember …. your workday leader needs you….!

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Workday Leader Matthew reports on the day the clocks went back:….

Well, what a fabulous day! Great weather, good company, cake to die for and plenty of cutting and burning to tackle. What more does an SSNTV volunteer want?

We were asked to thin an area on the heath, just the other side of the main field where the war memorial stands. The idea was to take away young birch and not-so-young bracken and gorse which were taking over an area where the resident adders like to bask in the sun. No doubt the adders will be pleased with our work and will be able to top up their tans come Spring!

It was Leela’s first visit to Kinver and she was impressed by the site, but a little wary of the talk of snakes. Fortunately, in spite of the sunny weather, all the adders were fast asleep and did not make an appearance. In fact we left a thick border around the clearance site to deter human visitors from entering after we had left.

It was ranger Kyra’s first workday back with us since the arrival of her son – another redhead apparently! She took up where she left off, impressing us with her off-road driving skills bringing the truck and trailer right into the clearance site. The cuttings were then transported near to the Rangers’ Yard for burning by eager volunteers (at Kinver we often do not burn in situ). Kyra also impressed with her home-made cakes, handing out cake of quality and quantity too. Thanks for that!

To round off the day, the new local English Longhorn cattle called in to say hello and inspect our work. We got a few ‘moos’, presumably meaning that they were pleased – but I think they were actually just after some cake!

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Workday leader Peter reports from near Much Wenock….With the weather looking bright after a mixed Saturday, plenty of intrepid volunteers turned up at the Stretton Westwood quarry site beside Wenlock Edge.  SSNTV were joined by rangers Al and Kate, as well as the owner of the adjoining land.

Our task was to continue clearance – this time around the bottom corner of the site so a footpath can be created from the car park at the top, through to the bottom and out onto the bridle path and thus on to Much Wenlock. We navigated around the undulations of the spoil heaps at the back of the quarry away from the road.

The task: take out trees of varying sizes to determine the likely route for the path and open up the undergrowth to increase light levels and encourage new flora and fauna. With a large group hacking and cutting, soon a big bonfire was burning and a second fire was called for, so a secluded spot right in the corner of the sit was lightly cleared.

The day’s other unexpected task was collecting up the large amount of rubbish that came off the site.  This kept Chairman Chris and Dave M busy for most of the day.

The quarry contains spoil from the Much Wenlock flood elimination scheme from 2016 / 17-  with the sculpted quarry bottom creating a new landscape to encourage all forms of wildlife. The Trust started work in 2018 and we were told in summer clumps of orchids can be seen on the site – with patches of up to three hundred flowers in one location now.

SSNTV kept to their high standards – which meant an impressed Al by the end of the day.  As a result a return visit later in the year was promised!

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Just back from his holiday, Chris B lead the group at Benthall on Sunday, as the day started with a card, marking the Chairman’s XXth birthday…..

Sunday dawned as grey and damp as the weather man predicted…but this little matter did not deter the force 12 which made up our volunteer group.  Gardener in charge, Nick took pity on us and tailored the task to give us protection from the rain, with a warming fire or two.  So we set off in search of the overgrown tramway he’d decided needed a haircut around a tottering bridge. 

Having reached the outermost parts of the estate, we spread out and began the clearance. As your workday leader had forgotten the fire-starting equipment, SSNTV’er Matt stepped up with his own emergency kit, wasting no time getting a good bonfire going despite the wet.  This gobbled up all the brash and cuttings we could supply so fast that “cake o’clock” was late…Quelle horreur…!  But this tasted all the better for our being very hungry and it being so chocolatey!!

By now our fire was going so well, fears were growing for any passing horsey being spooked by its size and heat, so a second was lit before lunch.  After that, the haircut went apace and by the end of our day a long section of the tramway (a possible remnant of former coal extraction workings)  and a stream culvert were cleared, plus the bridge survived intact – ‘totter ye not’ little bridge…

Nick hopes we might be able to return to this rather lovely site for our next workday at Benthalll on 10th November.  

Save the date…please…your workday leader needs you and hopes next time to remember the matches!  So too, that his better half will make another cake (I might she writes!)…Thanks for today’s!

PS: A thank you too to everyone who helped look for the ‘missing’ loppers – happily what was lost has now definitely been found.

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Workday leader Sheila reports:……

A great way to start October: a weekend working in wonderful Walcot Wood with superb autumnal weather – so for the first time in the last few visits weather did not interrupt our plans!

NT’s Countryside Manager Pete C, mindful that the group comprised several who were new to the site initially gave us a detailed, informative, inspirational and fascinating tour –  explaining the mix of habitats; plans to replant new oaks from acorns; and how NT maintains this rare patch. Stoically other SSNTV’ers stayed behind to start the fire and begin cutting the brash.

We focused on opening up a bank across the lower fenced section of the Wood (up to the gate linking to the upper part). The aim, which we could see positively nearby  was in short, to create more woodland pasture.  We gave particular consideration to the welfare of the majestic adjacent veteran oaks and also the prospective future grazing delights and convenience of the Hebridean sheep – the local live-in lawnmowers and maintenance team!

Weekend culinary experiences ranged from the sublime (Leela’s stunning cake) to the ridiculous (workday leader’s Saturday charcoal jacketed potatoes – happily Dave’s outdoor cooking expertise meant browner, less blackened versions on Sunday).  Thanks to all for that!

10 volunteers made the long trek out over the weekend – a terrific team!.  As he departed on Saturday, Pete was already pleased with our progress.  I think Sunday’s input should leave him delighted. 

Roll on the Spring visit and more sunny weather!

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For the second week in a row the threat of heavy rain was forecast for our Sunday workday but this didn’t stop nine intrepid SSNTV volunteers from coming out to Shugborough to help Derek and the garden team with a number of jobs in and around the magnificent walled garden.

First up we were barrowing in some rather “aromatic” mulch and spreading it onto a number of the empty beds ready for when next year’s veg crop is due for planting. Thankfully the rain didn’t arrive as early as expected so we had a chance to pretend that summer had returned and made the most of working in the glorious sun.

Luckily we had use of the gardener’s bothy for cake o’clock and missed the first of the heavy showers, but never fear, the rain was on and off for the rest of the day so we got our fair share of soakings! After completing the mulching we moved onto building a dead hedge to fill in a gap where the holly hedge had been removed followed by cleaning up the rubber matting ready for its next deployment and hosing down the paths to make everywhere look tidy again.

As we had still got some time left, we rounded the day off with shears in hand, giving the edges of the large walled garden beds a cheeky short back and sides, while pausing only briefly to harvest some juicy green beans (for those volunteers who wanted to take something healthy home to offset all of our usual cakes and biscuits!)

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After a heavy night of AGM’ing the day before, only a few dedicated SSNTV’ers made it out on Sunday – or was it the threat of thundery rain – as workday leader Peter reports…….

On Sunday SSNTV travelled to its most southerly site at Kinver Edge.

The task for the day had two aims: create a new, wide “ride” (broad path) through the trees increasing the light, so providing the best conditions for a diversity of flora and fauna on the slopes; the second was to divert a short steep section of the Centenary Way path making it more accessible.

As the signs for visitors explain, creating a V-shaped gradual edge to the woodland from tall, mature trees to smaller shrubs and ground cover plants will provide a better habitat for a mix of species, such as the white admiral butterfly.  This will hopefully flourish, as it has done in other areas of the Edge already worked on in previous years – in a location, at present representing its most northerly extent in the UK.

With wet weather and passage of time, the Centenary Way has become extremely narrow, rutted and twisting.  This makes it almost impossible for some of the public, with pushchairs and the like, to complete the circular walk.

The work involved one of the group’s favourite tasks cutting and burning – in this case the cutting was done by ranger Ewan (taking a day out from his holidays) with his chainsaw speeding up the operation to fell sizeable trees.  There was still much to cut and process and in that way generate lots of logs for firewood income….and the small matter of a steep slope to navigate in the rain!

Once all the trees are felled a contractor will be brought in to help create the new accessible path. Walkers and mountain bikers can then be segregated reusing the old path line. 

Work was regularly interrupted for cake which Ewan had baked for us, thanks for that – Rhubarb and Custard wonderful!!!!!!!!!

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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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