So this weekend’s workday at Benthall Hall has had to be cancelled…Sorry Nick see you later in the Spring!

Everyone will have to make to with a bit of extra hedge lay…in….

…..or something like, from the extra day Dave and the billhook gang managed recently at Morville

Everywhere we go closed because of the bad weather today! Probably for the best..So its a home-based coffee & cake instead

…And every reason to head to Benthall Hall next Sunday, 16th!

Workday leader Matthew tells the tale of a day spent largely in the orchard….

A good turn-out of 14 headed to Morville Hall for pruning the apple trees and hedgelaying around the perimeter of the orchard.

We were fortunate with the continuing mild weather.  The gardens were looking well-tended too, as we made our way to the orchard, noticing some very diligent gardening around the sunken pool.

The group split into three groups, with Dave leading the specialist hedgelayers. The idea was to bring some order to a stretch of hedge which was getting near overhead lines. We don’t want any uncontrolled chainsawing by the power company! Dave was pleased with progress and will return with some volunteers to carry on the task on an extra workday (…now planned for the 11th).

A second team helped Melanie by starting to prune some of the apple trees just off the long walk. There are some very attractive tree specimens here, full of history no doubt.

The rest of the volunteers concentrated on the trees in the orchard. Some wandering sheep had got in and caused damage, so more new trees will have to be planted to supplement those already added to the orchard to replace those lost to old age. We made reasonable progress in true SSNTV-style.

Thanks to Melanie for a warm welcome and the great cakes…. And thanks to all who wished me ‘Happy Birthday’ with a fine rendition of the well-known tune!

Our billhook aficionado, Dave reports (very promptly) from a sunny Saturday on the Attingham estate….

As promised the Head Ranger provided us with a new, never before laid hedge. What an absolute joy!….Of course the sunny weather also helped.  

We managed to lay 20 metres of mixed hawthorn, hazel and field maple. For a first day, that is good for us. ….So I’m already looking forward to next winter, when we can really get our teeth into the remaining 170 metres.

Workday leader Mags recounts the tale of last Sunday:….

The weather wasn’t kind, but the volunteers were out in force. Ten turned out on a rainy day, and achieved lots! We were again working over the Chinese bridge by the tennis courts. Remember the huge amount of brash that ‘we’ dragged and burned last time … This time it was digging over the border upon which the brash had been piled.

First, there were logs of all shapes and sizes. The rangers too were still in action creating more from felled trees.

Smaller logs made it over the bridge. Larger sections were rolled a short distance to where they later became seats and tables for alfresco lunch.

Other SSNTV’ers started on the day’s other main task – preparing beds ready for planting. Being careful of course to leave the emerging snowdrops!

The third task was to cut down the bamboo at the edge of the ornamental canal, opposite the Chinese House. Bags and bags were dragged to the next fire site for other volunteers to enjoy a huge bonfire. Chairman Chris decided I was hefty enough to climb into the bags to do the compressing – thanks for that!

Perhaps not a workday to “write home about” but despite the weather, we made a big difference. I’ll be back later in the year to see what has been “painted” on these blank canvasses!

Workday leader David explains the Group’s latest efforts on the Edge:…..

An intrepid hard core of eight SSNTVers travelled to Kinver undeterred by the patchy fog and frost on Sunday. Luckily the fog didn’t hang about and by 10.00 am it had cleared to reveal a beautiful clear blue sky which remained for the rest of the day.

We worked about half-way up the dip slope not far from the Ranger’s base clearing gorse in an area Kinver’s own volunteers had already begun to open up. Our tasks was to create more gaps and passages through the very dense gorse to create spots for the resident adders to bask; and to bring in more light to help the heather to regenerate.

In the sunshine it was quite warm, although there were shady patches where the frost never melted so the adders were sensible enough to stay in hibernation below ground! We kept warm by working hard!

Pete did sterling work driving the pick-up from the cut site to the burn site by the Ranger’s base where a small number burned the gorse. It took a while for the damp material to ignite, but of course we weren’t going to be defeated and the fire eventually consumed it all! 

Thanks to Ranger Keira for being with us today – and special mention to the incredibly well-behaved Rufus!

So as well as a chance for an impromptu birthday party (an earlier post..), Sunday was a day for a lot of trees as the Group returned to one of its typical winter tasks of woodland management, coppicing the largely willow bank on the edge of the Benthall estate, which overlooks what is left of the Ironbridge power station.

The work to cut back mainly old, damaged and decaying trees aims to rejuvenate the woodland an promote new growth.  It was also a chance to harvest various timber products – large logs to season and store before burning; long straight willow supports as beanpoles in the Hall garden; and shrubby branches, pea sticks to support young plants.

The recent wet weather and steep slope meant that most SSNTV’ers were unintentionally on their backsides for at least part of the day!  Still with plenty to go at, there was still much brash to burn and clear by the end of the day – so plenty for another workday.

With work focussed on the north-facing slope, sun for much of the day and the sizeable fire just about offset the slipping and sliding, as the worksite gradually crept downhill.

Special thanks to Maggie, who almost single-handedly catered for the massive number of 17 with mince pies and cake at “cake-o-clock” elevenses.

Doubtless we’ll be back for more!