Read more about the long service of someone who not so long ago presented a long service award to our own John Wells!

Attingham workday was warm, sunny & productive. Our task was to be making new tree guards to protect apple trees in the orchard from rabbits in particular – one of whom made an appearance in the adjacent walled garden just as we arrived!  Progress was slow at first as Head Gardener Duncan put the plan in his head gradually into place, deciding where to put the wooden posts, hammering down just far enough, working out how to attach the wire mesh to maximise its coverage, explaining the cunning device to bind mesh and fence wire together.

We turned into guinea pigs for how many trees a group could manage to protect in one day – hence we focussed on the small trees, leaving the larger ones for others another time.  

By the afternoon we were a well organised team each with their roles producing effective and uniform guards for all the baby trees. Morning saw homemade flapjacks which soon disappeared – thanks Helen – by afternoon, it was ice cream for some as a satisfying day in good company, ended in the Stables tea rooms in the shade!

..Report courtesy of workday leader Helen

Unusually, SSNTV worked on a Bank Holiday Sunday to help the garden team at Shugborough with the mulching, weeding and edging of beds in the Pleasure gardens between the mansion and the river.

There were teams laying bark chippings onto the plastic weed suppresser in one large bed, while others weeded four more and tidied them by trimming the edges.

After lunch one team moved on to meticulously cutting the edges of the tulip (former rose garden) beds after Gardener Derek had mowed the grass paths. 

Whilst sounding straightforward the jobs were surprisingly long-winded and needed us to persevere, despite backs and knees complaining at times! The consensus was that the end result was worth it as we could see the tremendous improvement we had made in the beds, and after the trimming of the edges in the formal garden the wonderful display of tulips looked even better – well at least that’s what we thought!

Derek was very pleased and promised to cut down more trees to provide the extra mulch needed to help suppress the likely weed growth in the coming months – so he or boss Caroline are sure to keep us busy!

….Thanks to Workday leader David

Seen recently at the group’s tool store, oil can and replacement blade in hand ….. was it that he’d had enough of dead hedging and rhodi pruning???……Well, it does seem that Tools Lead, Neil is very concentrated in his work, ensuring all the loppers and bowsaws have a sharp edge.

Nothing beats a sharp tool, as many an SSNTV member will say (or something like that…)

Head Gardener Cat nearly swooned as the group gathered at Wightwick on Sunday….”there are so many of you”.. she was heard to whisper. Luckily there were two tasks for us: with one group pruning high-reaching rhododendron and the other group creating a ‘dead hedge’ around the burn site.

There’s a wider plan to gradually thin and improve the rhodi’ in the gardens at Wightwick and it’s certainly working well, as today’s patch was left looking much tidier with daylight able to get through to the trunks to encourage strong new growth.  This will in turn produce lovely flowers at a height which visitors can best enjoy.

Before work started on the ‘dead hedge’ we were shown some reference examples to aim at.  So we pulled out all the stops, trimming and layering, with hazel stakes to hold it all together. So why build this hedge? A recent survey has revealed that a badger sett has been found on the burn site. In fact, Wightwick is a bit of a ‘des-res’ for badgers with numerous families, who obviously want to share in the high standard of living which Wightwick and nearby Tettenhall provide. It must be the post-code too! The hedge, comprising cut green matter, will deter humans and screen the patch which at times can look a little like work-in-progress.  The burn site may be re-located in future, but in the meantime the badgers clearly like a little central-heating!

We were spoilt for choice on the cake front – even if workday leader Matthew decided there weren’t enough breaks to deveavour it all (well almost!) – thanks to all.  With Wightwick’s victoria sponge – and perhaps another workday first – new volunteer Leela came bearing a lovely cappuccino cake – you can come again!  Oh yes, and the dead hedge passed inspection too!!

Edge ranger Al, has a predicament…. he has a new tenant farmer for one of his fields alongside the A458 but the farmer wants a stock proof fence to keep his sheep in.

The livestock is due to arrive on 1st May and we are only two weeks away with 160 meters of hedge to be cut back so the new fence can be erected by a contractor starting on 23rd April.

What can he do?… Answer: Call in SSNTV!

Its Easter Sunday…will anyone turn up? (The group have not been out on a bank holiday for a number of years – they do need some days off to build up their strength after all)

Well Al need not have worried, eleven members and one member’s visitor all the way from London met up at the designated lane.  Al dragged assistant Kate along as well.

In no time fire number one was burning away. So off to the other end of the field for fire number two.  Both were blazing by cake o’clock, as the old fence started to appear from under the hawthorn and among the brambles.

The sun blazed down, the heat of the fires and the sweat pouring out of everyone, mean frequent breaks for water had to be taken as the hedge shrank in size and the bonfires got bigger.

Cue reddened faces and relief, as by the end of the day the task was complete, old hedge was removed and the group left Al and Kate to take down the old barbed wire ready for the next phase of work to start on Tuesday morning.

Workday leader – Peter O

Apparently we’ve not worked at Benthall in April before. But that didn’t stop a great turnout and a good workout. The weather was fine, though quite cold.

The first task was to cut up a large bough which had come off a huge conker tree. This provided something for everyone … brash, bonfire, and the big bowsaw!

An early cake o’clock gave the fire chance to get going. After this, a few remained to continue with the fire. Nick took the rest of us to look at the second task.

On a large scale, this was like the beginning of one of those multi-square puzzles, where you move one square to create a space for the next.

From here …
via many, Many, MANY barrow-loads!
… to here …
… leaving what was once part of the pigsty clear to take plants from the cold-frame.

The final piece of the puzzle will be growing salads for the tearoom, in the cold-frames.

Finishing a bit early, Nick took us for a short tour around the garden, and back ‘in time for tea’!

(Much better than ‘raking grass’!)