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Royal News!

As you may well have read and heard the NT has closed all of its properties to visitors and volunteers due to coronavirus; as a result, all of the SSNTV proposed workdays are, sadly, cancelled until the NT reopens its gates.

The committee is preparing a new work programme which envisages a possible re-start date of June 2020.  While there is no certainty that we will be able to get out again then we can hope, and are at least prepared.

We continue to hope and plan too, for our SSNTV 40th birthday preparations with a proposed gathering at Wightwick on 4 July and the bonfire party/open workday on 6 – 8 November at Dudmaston but again, these are provisional given the current uncertainties.

I know that we all appreciate the effort that goes into making these events happen; we will continue to prepare for a return to normal Sunday service as soon as we can, so please don’t get any other ideas for your time!

Some of you will have seen the NT press release stressing the gratitude for the work of volunteers and looking forward to welcoming us back. For those that have not seen it an extract follows below:

The volunteering contributions of NTV groups are enormously valued – by the Trust as a whole, and particularly by the individual properties where you volunteer. Robert Rhodes, Head of Countryside Management and Rangers, said of our volunteer groups  ‘I am always humbled by the time, support and love people are prepared to give to the organisation I work for. It is extraordinary that in these crazy times people still want to volunteer to help – amazing commitment and a real show of how important we are to people.’

I know these are very strange times especially when the  weather is so glorious.

I know too that I look forward to seeing you all, once we are allowed out.  Please give me a call if you wish to have a word in the interim.

Best wishes,
Chris B

HEADLINE: SSNTV fights Corona virus – far from the madding crowd in deepest Shropshire – with plenty of fresh air, exercise and social distancing

This Spring the weather didn’t prevent the Group from reaching the ancient oaks in the woodland between Craven Arms and Bishops Castle – unlike the recent snow and high winds, nor did the dreaded lurgy.

Area Countryside Manager Pete C also ventured out to thank all those attending for their efforts…and I think overall, he was very impressed with what we achieved over two days – almost as much as the praise he lavished on Leela’s victoria sponge treat at cake o’clock!

Spring’s mild temperatures this year meant that already between the bracken and brambles we spotted green shoots and early bluebells – testament to the cumulative efforts to restore the woodland pasture over a number of repeat visits and increase the light to the ground storey.

Coppicing was in full swing, clearing dead and damaged trees, slashing brambles…there was plenty to keep everyone busy across two full days – even Ian; and enough boughs too for John to saw! The forecast rain came overnight – which didn’t hinder even those who made it to the local hostellery in Clun.  The pheasants were out; so too the beef herd – who definitely have a penchant for silver-coloured cars and their polish; and it was the usual challenge to navigate the monstrous potholes to make it up to the farm; oh yes, and no one got stuck in the muddy ground.

For those who lingered on Sunday, Day Two ended with shafts of sunlight shining through the newly created gaps between the trees.  A reminder of why we all sit in our cars for ages to find these secluded spots and see the fruits our labours…..

…..and then there is that cake!

Workday leader Helen reports:

12 volunteers made it all the way to Attingham Park on Sunday to work with the gardeners Duncan and Rob. Funnily enough however, we worked in the woods rather than the gardens.

The fence line is being moved back into the woods at the edge of the cattle field, in order to improve the views within the Estate’s original design. Unfortunately this meant leaving a lovely stretch of snowdrops to the unwanted attentions of the grazing cattle ( moo-yum!!).

SSNTV to the rescue!

We lifted the snowdrops, popped them in wheelbarrows and transported them across a muddy ditch to safety on the other side. Here they were dug into a lovely new position further into the wood for all to enjoy.

Alongside this 3 steadfast SSNTVer’s rebuilt a hurdle screen by the bird hide so the birds are not scared away by the passing visitors. Gaps were left for little and large visitors to observe the birds.

Lastly for good measure, we then did what we do best – cutting back! A rather large laurel bush is now just stumps and ready to start sprouting again in the spring. We enjoyed a relaxing cake o’clock and lunch in the comfort of the Gardeners Bothy within the Walled Garden, with flapjacks to round things off. All in all another tiring, but satisfying SSNTV outing!

Dear SSNTV Volunteers,

Many thanks for coming to see me today. I really appreciate all your efforts. I have been neglected for such a long time but now I face a bright future!

Many years ago I was a peaceful little field, but then it all became a bit hectic with bits of me taken away. Then everything went quiet. 

Thanks to lovely Al and Kate, and now you, I am starting to return to the good old days. I like the new soil, and I am pleased that the rusty machinery and debris are being taken away.

It will take me a time, but I can now start to show off my lovely flowers and invite all the birds and animals back. I am particularly proud of the orchids which have re-appeared. Hopefully all my nice flowering trees will continue to grow well. I know that Al is really fond of the field maples. I also look forward to welcoming all the new visitors to my new pond.

Thanks again,

Stretton Westwood Quarry

(….as passed on by workday leader Matthew)

Two weekends of cancellations on account of bad weather were probably the reason why so many made it out this weekend to our double-workday on the Edge, as Nigel reports:

Our two day task turned out to be removing gorse scrub from the ancient hillfort at one end of the sandstone ridge. 

A large area in the centre was cleared of gorse above waist height, debris raked off, and burned in situ in the moveable tumbril. The large gorse bushes are deeply rooted and damaging the remains of the ancient monument. The debris also increases the natural acidity of the soil. Hence opening up the site will benefit the heathland ecosystem and the small mammals and invertebrates for which the area is an important habitat.

Tom was our ranger for the task, deputising capably for Ewan; advising, chain-sawing, boiling up water for tea and coffee and joining in everything else.

The weather proved good, better than forecast – apart from some gusty winds which, as they fanned the flames and smoke in all directions temporarily halted the burning on safety grounds. We doubtless caught the eye, if not also the noses and much else of the day visitors to the site, as at times the moisture-rich greenery generated clouds of thick smoke across the hill.

By Saturday evening Ranger Ewan had broken off his holiday, as we enjoyed a superb BBQ under the sandstone cliff of the Rock Houses, comprising the famed longhorn beef burgers and delicious chilli, rice and salad, all cooked and served up by the ranger team.

As part of the special weekend, six of us took up the offer of an overnight in one of the Rock House dwellings sleeping between the period furniture – a real privilege and unique experience, if just a little chilly when the wood-burning stoves gave out!  This was followed by an excellent breakfast provided by NT in the tea room, which set us up for day two of the gorse bash. … That along with copious amounts of cake at elevenses, supplied by the Group’s expert bakers – thanks to all for that!  

Looks like this may well set a new tradition – given how successful the weekend was!

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!