Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

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Merry Christmas!

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Sunday at the Quarry

…as Workday leader Matthew describes:

It was a return to the woodland at Stretton Westwood quarry on the penultimate workday of 2020. This was the last worksite I had attended before….something unusual happened…..back in early March.

Although the forecast was wet, we did have some dry spells, with Rangers Al and Kate choosing a bonfire site which provided good cover from the December rain. 

The Rangers had come up with a cunning plan, as usual: we were to cut the hawthorn to around chest height – or head height for some! This would let in large amounts of light whilst keeping the integrity of the steep banks intact. Al and Kate would also take out some of the large ash trees to to thin the established woodland and develop access, whilst adding to the increased light. The aim of all this to encourage the orchids and other woodland flowers to re-appear as they have done on other parts of the site where such action has already been completed.

All the group thoroughly enjoyed the day’s task. The usual banter went down well. We look forward to a time (April perhaps), when we can share a proper “cake o’clock” again. This will please many members of the group and especially Kate who remarked on missing the usual pre-Christmas feast!

…The (Alternative) View from the Top of the Slope

After the glorious late sunshine of Attingham, the cold and rain at Wenlock reminded those participants who were making it two days in a row, what volunteering is really all about – Guess what? – I chose the wrong day….comments our muddy, wet Editor:

That is, not sure how dry a day it was for those working at the top of the slope compared with downhill near the warmth of the fire – especially as those volunteers gradually cut down their protection from the cold wind and rain throughout the day!

The quarry is a work in progress site so far as nature is concerned, as ranger Al explained and hence part of a multi-year initiative – not quite a formal plan!  There are older established mounds within the site – are these old spoil heaps, it’s not clear; along with newer ones, pushed up by man’s mechanical efforts.  Large trees surround the perimeter and steep rocky walls. The thin limestone soils are a particular habitat for plants and shrubs which survive when the going gets a bit tough – it’s these in particular we’re trying to encourage.  We wait to see if, as a result of our efforts, there are dormant orchids, for example just waiting to stir.

The twisted hawthorns and pencil-straight ash both brought their challenges. As the trees frequently didn’t want to come down even when supports were cut away – the one species often still tangled up high, the other perfectly balanced stock upright on their cut stump.

Artistic skills were also on show, as the chest-high “pollarding” left some intriguing shapes in an attempt to encourage new growth.

Those more steep banks also presented a challenge in the wet and slippery conditions, as the loose soils and rangers’ orange marker dots sometimes lead to decaying and damaged trees overhanging the banks.  The question: could we target the fire site in one go, bringing them down, without falling in with trees!

Enthusiasm did prevail despite some shivers in the cold; the wet seeping in; and the main path to the fire site becoming a slippery, muddy runway.  Raincoats, trousers and cagoules all became a nice shade of wet mossy green or was it muddy brown!  So much so that Al also preferred to remain on the chainsaw all day, in preference to that last-minute Christmas shopping. Despite the grotty weather that there was even talk, to be confirmed, of returning in 2021 for extra workdays to make up for time lost this year.

…Who needs sunshine!

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Groundhog Day ……in a good way……as workday leader Mags recounts:

Sunday 15th saw us at Kinver Edge … again. Eleven in total, each of us had already been to a post-lockdown workday at the site, so were used to, but very mindful of the instructions on social distancing and sanitising hands and equipment.

The day was a continuation of the work from a fortnight before (see Nov. 1st post) – the tumbril still in place for our bonfire.

As leader, I missed being able to provide cake, but we still had a “no cake o’clock” after about an hour’s work. I was also keeping an eye on the weather. It was bright when we arrived, and for quite a while thereafter. Useful for checking which trees needed to be removed to allow the sun into places where adders might bask. But we could see very dark clouds threatening over the ridge. When they arrived, thankfully they only delivered short showers. Not enough to noticeably dampen the spirits, nor the fire – but enough to create weather to catch the eye!

Working beyond last time’s glades into the scrub, it was not difficult to get lost. Honing in on the fire, armed with brash, easy enough; but returning to your spot to carry on thinning was not so straightforward. It was too easy to follow a track too far down the slope or go beyond the same place in among the trees. By the end of the day all was cleared and burned; every tool accounted for and newly sanitised.

Assistant Ranger Tom also took the chance to vary the chainsaw action, trying his hand at the creation of standing deadwood for habitats, rather than felling and clearing – as the pic’s show.

All in all, well worth getting out in the fresh air … and the smoke!!

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Ed’s PS: After the missed get togethers of the recent virtual AGM and cancelled Bonfire stay-away workdays, Sunday was also the chance for Chairman Chris to hand out socially distanced SSNTV annual awards for last year: Hours Prize (Leela) and Special Mentions for Workday Leading (Russell, Peter and David B).

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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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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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