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!)

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!!!!!!!!!

Whilst you’re reading, as some of our recent reed work gets special mention! – Ed!

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)

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:

“SSNTV – IT’S A STATE OF MIND

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!

Workday leader Mags reports:

…paraphrasing Ed Harris (as Gene Kranz) in the film Apollo 13:

We’ve never lost a Volunteer in water, we’re sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch!

And thankfully, a full complement of volunteers made it to the end of the day – well just about!

Having been postponed from a fortnight earlier, when the levels in the waterways at Shugborough were too high, on Sunday SSNTV were able to don waders, get into the water and sink into the mud, in order to pull out patches of reeds behind the Chinese House and along the bank behind the Mansion and clear various overgrown shrubs from the edges by the bridge.

The water levels may have been lower, but the mud was just as deep!

… even for those prepared to wade up to their chests in the water

Thanks for rescuing me!

It was a day for the tall members of the group, as the combination of deep mud, or the positions of the nuisance reeds in the middle of the flow mean that “shorties” didn’t risk going far from the bank for fear of something overtopping the waterproofs. For the others, the risk – which materialised several times – became the likelihood of getting well and truly stuck in the dark black goo’, which pulling the reeds from the bottom only generated more of.

NT visitors definitely got their entertainment value from the group this weekend!

As work came to a close and the waters started to clear – improvements were definitely visible.

The swans had also already taken up residence again in the areas the Group had de-reeded.

Hence, I realised what essential tool we were missing for this workday ….. WEBBED FEET.

Have you seen our latest PR material whilst out and about over Bank Holiday? No…., if you’ve a good idea where we can make our presence known and recruit some new people, then get in touch with this editor; Chairman Chris; or Matthew H / Christine B from the Comm’s team!