Christmas weekend saw the Group back at Dudmaston in Comer Wood clearing and thinning the largely, young birch trees, otherwise threatening to dominate the woodland.  There was much to go at, as both Head Ranger Mike and Helen followed the SSNTV’ers around with chainsaws over three days.

With Christmas dinner planned for Saturday day Two, day One, Friday was a chance for the early starters to bag the best beds and put up the Xmas decorations ready for a quiet Saturday evening.

Saturday, day Two proved to be the best weather day of the weekend as the chefs / cooking team made intermittent visits to the worksite; as well as peeled vegetables and put on the turkey.  With the main Christmas event getting nearer, there were few passing walkers and bike riders to observe the Group at work.  

Many of the birches and other small trees seem to self-seed so that there was much to thin.  As ranger Mike explained, when they reach a certain age, the trees also frequently get attacked by squirrels, damaging the bark and stopping the growth of straight healthy leaders.  So the work to let in more light would hopefully also promote a more healthy environment for different species to thrive.

Day Three of our weekend saw a great turnout of 14 members, plus Dudmaston D of E volunteer, Oliver, dodging the top-frequent showers. The numbers meant we successfully completed the thinning of the section of woodland by the end of the day, as light was fading.

Feature of the weekend was also the number of fires started to allow removal of the heaps of brash.  Such that by Day Three this became a four-fire foray.  Happily it also meant plenty of heat to keep us warm and to help us to dry off after the rain.

Having polished off Christmas and sticky toffee puddings, that didn’t stop day Three workers consuming the glut of cake, bread pudding and mince pies.  Thanks to all for those!

Not content with just destruction, by day Three a small group also started the replanting effort anew; managing to put about 50 oak trees back into the ground in the clearing created from the previous two workdays. 

A tiring day it seems….(Ed)? Workday leader Matthew still managed to pen this report:

..A group of volunteers managed to escape Christmas shopping duties and headed off to Attingham for the traditional pre-Christmas rhodi-bashing.

Ranger Colin’s collection of diggers, tractors and pick-ups were left in their “Tracy Island” bunker, as the group wielded the most effective rhodi-bashing tools of all – handsaws and loppers.

Of course, such tools are virtually ineffective without cake. Luckily we were treated to two, yes two, chocolate concoctions, baked to perfection by Leela and Maggie. Together with the Chairman’s Rocky and Gold bars, we were unstoppable…well sort of!

Thanks to all!

……At the annual Midlands NT Mighty Oak Awards at Calke tonight where SSNTV was nominated.

Unfortunately we didn’t win. Congratulations to Clumber Farm Wood Pasture project in the “Heathly, beautiful environment” category.

It was a nice dinner though….and look who we bumped into

…that’s NT DG Hilary McGrady

A dank, dark Sunday morning saw members of the group come out on an increasingly rare visit to Sunnycroft, Wellington. Large numbers appeared for the unusual task of starting the conservation project on Sunnycroft’s glasshouse.  As everyone gathered in the car park, you could hear the surprised voices, as one after another seldom seen member was greeted, ending with NT’s Midlands garden adviser Pam Smith.

Seventeen members meant three teams could be formed to take on the challenges Head (and only!) garden Joel had for us.

Primarily we were invited to return to provide the labour for removing and relocating decorative stones from inside the glasshouse whilst it is being restored.

Task 2: remove four laurel bushes that had encroached into the herbaceous boarder – roots and all.

Task 3: reducing the height and trimming the hedge on the main drive.

Before stones in the glasshouse could be removed, bedding tray gravel and rusting, corrugated metal sheets had to be extracted. Now we could get to the intended stones. However this proved disappointing, as nearly all the material found was not of the expected kind!

Sunnycroft’s conservatory is a significant historic structure in its own right.  It was supplied in 1899 by R. Halliday & Company and is listed Grade II. It is embellished with stained glass, decorative finials and ironwork – being small in size, it was designed to fit in with the “compact” Sunnycroft estate. Unfortunately, time has not been kind, and the structure is starting to show its age.  Hence it is in need of full restoration. The Trust believe there are only three examples of this kind in existence, which makes this one even more special.

But with the day’s work complete, conservation of the glasshouse can commence hopefully in the spring of 2020.

Shrubs extracted through brute force, it only remained to tackle the unruly top of the green hedge. 

To reduce its height, Joel allowed our editor to take charge of his new battery-powered extendable hedge trimmer – as workday leader I think a brave move!  It was a challenge to control this monster all day.  But with a second smaller, but more heavy-duty machine also on hand, after a whole day’s work the resulting hedge does look the part!

Workday leader David reports:

SSNTV members are a hardy lot!

There was a big turnout on a grim weather day with fog, low cloud, drizzle, rain and cold temperatures. After all of the recent rainfall the conditions were very muddy, but we just kept on going, with the work keeping us warm and the fire to dry us off.

We continued our work from a month ago at Stretton Westwood quarry opening up the route for a new path to be created.  Working alongside Al and Kate, who provided plenty of big trees to process, we felled others and cleared the rampant bramble undergrowth. 

During a break in the work, Kate helped a few people to find some great fossils in the 400 million year old Silurian limestone rocks that were formed when the area was a coral reef in a shallow tropical sea. Could have done with some of that tropical weather on Sunday!

Despite the weather we made a real impact on the path route and look forward to seeing it in use in the not too distant future.

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….!

I’m assured there was some actual new hedging!

But this pile of bits left over at least kept our hardy band warm in the wet & cold on Saturday……along with leader Dave’s Kelly kettle and multiple hot drinks!

As Dave explains: ….Our first day of hedgelaying this season and the fourth season on this particular hedge. The worst was left to last with a very overgrown section of blackthorn to be tackled.

Saturday was spent cutting and clearing back to enable a start to the actual laying next session (28th December). This allowed us to have a large fire which was a godsend – it started raining at 10.00 and carried on right through to 3.00pm!

Better luck or weather next time, Dave!! (Ed)