Posts Tagged ‘Attingham Park’

SSNTV Autumn

It’s that time of year again when suncream and sunhats go back into storage and we look out our warm clothes and check our flasks for leaks. It’s autumn: season of bowsawing and bonfires. We’ve already made a start on our autumn programme of work. We had a very productive (or should it be destructive?) day at Attingham on Sunday 6th October, helping clear unwanted rhododendron. The rest of the programme looks good too, with visits to our favourite National Trust woodlands, parks and gardens. If you’d like to join us on a workday, you’ll find a list of our workdays on the EVENTS page and get in touch with us via the CONTACT page.

We have workdays organised every weekend so you’ll find many opportunities to get outdoors and volunteer with the Shropshire and Staffordshire National Trust Volunteers.

PicMonkey Collage

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Having a look back to my diary for March, the month starts with weather as follows – warm, dry, sunny. Seems like favourable conditions for the first working weekend of the year, Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th March at Walcot Woods. This weekend has become a popular fixture in the events diary with group members attending some or all of the weekend, with the option of over-nighting at a bunkhouse near Bishops Castle. In the interests of furthering our mission to achieve a good work/fun/cake balance, lots of work was accompanied by  lots of fun, accompanied by lots of cake!

The good weather continued to Sunday 11th March, with a workday at Wenlock Edge. This was the first group visit to the old railway line where tree felling and brash clearance work helps open up the tree canopy to encourage wildflower growth. The path of the old railway line forms part of the route for this years Over The Edge Marathon and Half Marathon.

The group was enticed to a new worksite north of Shrewsbury, on Saturday 17th March, with promises of HCBs* and some rhododendron removal. Lee Brockhurst is the northern outpost of the Attingham Estate. I am told that Brock means badger, Hurst means clearing hence Lee Brockhurst was once the home to a badger called Lee who lived in a clearing (Ed’s note: it must be true, Ron says so). There was a good turnout for this workday which meant that lots of rhodi could be removed and dispatched with the aim of limiting its extent in this small patch of woodland.  (*HCBs = Hot Cross Buns)

For those group members who felt they hadn’t worked hard enough on the Saturday, there was another rhododendron clearance task on Sunday 18th March at Hawskmoor in north Staffordshire.

It was hot, dry and sunny for our visit to Sunnycroft on Sunday 25th March. Sunglasses came out of winter hibernation and there may even have been a pair of knobbly knees on show. Fuelled by bacon butties (kindly supplied by workday leader Julie), the task was to reduce the hedge bordering the road side of the property to a manageable height. This was quite a challenge but we managed to give the hedge some much needed maintenance.

Sunnycroft Hedge Trim

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The following is an update by Dave Maeer, who was Workday Leader on our winter 2011/2012 Hedgelaying sessions.

Hedgelaying on the Attingham Estate  2011 to 2012

It has been a good hedgelaying season this winter. As usual we had four Saturday’s planned for the season. It got off to a slow start working on last year’s hedge but on our second visit we were given our ‘own’ hedge to work on.

The hedge was approximately 90m long and was located very close to the Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton railway line. It had been planted ten or twelve years ago and so was a maiden hedge having never been laid before.

Our first session was spent clearing with a small amount of actual pleaching (actually laying the hedge).

The second session involved much more pleaching with the clearing being completed.

Our third and final session was a marathon session but by the end the entire length had been laid. On the day a team of eight had laid approximately 50m of hedge. We had run out of stakes by the end so it did not look quite as tidy but the important thing is that it has been laid and will now thrive for the next ten or twenty years before needing our attention again.

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January’s review was well received. Would you like to hear what we’ve been up to in February? I’ll hand you over to group member Matt Hinton to pick up this month’s story.

February, may well be remembered as the month when the group was harassed by wayward chickens, when the Weir “iced up”, when we managed to palm off the Toothill Woods extreme Rhodi bashing on unsuspecting contractors and when Sheila’s threat to move to Yorkshire for a better mobile signal finally became a grim reality.

After a great selection of tasks in the mild January weather, a number of our February tasks were noticeably chillier. The first of these was the winter digging task at Attingham (Sunday 5th February) which, due to frozen ground, became mulching around new apple trees in the orchard. Despite this alternative task being less energetic than the expected digging, we were kept warm by constantly having to stop Attingham’s resident chickens harassing us (or at least persuading them to go and annoy Ron instead!). At lunchtime we enjoyed the lovely open fire and stove that Mary had lit for us in the gardener’s bothy while the day was rounded off with Ron’s delicious home made mince pies and jam tarts.

Unfortunately the freeze continued into the next weekend and resulted in the disappointing cancellation of our Saturday 11th February workday at The Weir. Lucy has kindly promised that she will re-arrange this workday for us and Ned, the head gardener, is keen for us to return, so we are looking forward to seeing a new date on the programme in the near future.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom this weekend as we still had the Sunday 12th February workday which came with the added surprise of a work site change from Toothill Woods to Hawksmoor. The group hadn’t been to Hawksmoor for a number of years, so the Rhodi there was crying out for a good ole SSNTV bashing! Needless to say we obliged with our usual enthusiasm and even 4 inches of snow on the ground was not enough to stop Ron and Mags from getting two good fires going. Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, Mags’ legendary peanut butter brownie made a welcome appearance and to top it all, Rod, the area warden, confirmed that Toothill Woods would be off the programme for good as all of the Rhodi there was going to be removed by contractors in the next few weeks! Result!

Now one of the many great aspects of being involved with the group is that we don’t like doing things by halves. This was again proved by the third weekend in February as we managed not only to cram in 2 excellent workdays but also a great party at Ron’s on the Saturday night.

The Saturday 18th February task was the last hedgelaying session of the season at Attingham and Dave (workday leader) had been drumming up support to make it a day to remember. With 8 willing volunteers, split into 4 teams of 2, the challenge was to finish the stretch of hedge that we’d been working on all season. In spite of heavy sleet, rain showers, high winds but aided by the odd outbreak of sunshine and rainbows, we powered on until nearly 5 o’clock when the very last stem of hedge was beautifully laid.


The success of the day was then topped off with a brilliant party at Ron’s. More than a dozen members of the group turned up for an evening of crisps, sing star karaoke and to wish Sheila all the best for her move to pastures new. With over 500 group work hours under her belt, I know we will all sorely miss Sheila’s endless enthusiasm, encyclopedic knowledge of Strictly Come Dancing, fun filled banter and ability always get a good mobile signal. But I really hope that she’ll find time in her hectic new schedule to at least re-join us for our key working weekends and Cragside week (or else!).

Anyway, there was only one way that we could follow such an action packed day, and that was with a visit to magical Walcot Woods on Sunday 19th February for another of the group’s trademark cut and burn sessions.  As usual for this site, there was an abundance of scrub just begging to be cleared and with the added bonuses of a pre-task bacon & egg sarnie/full cooked breakfast(Laura), glorious winter sunshine and delicious bread & butter cake (thanks Laura) yet another amazing day was enjoyed by everyone. All I can say is roll on March when we can come back for a full weekend here!

To finish the month, there was a visit to Whitgreaves Wood near Moseley Old Hall on Sunday 26th February. The weather provided a taste of spring with sunshine and mild temperatures. The group welcomed three new faces (Ed’s note: always better than looking at the usual ugly old bunch!) and they got stuck into a variety of tasks including installing gates, pruning along the fenceline to allow access for repairs and a general site tidy.

It looks like March will be a particularly busy month for the group. It kicks off with a 3-day weekend at Walcot Woods (2nd to 4th March). The events programme up to mid-April can be found here.

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What a great start  to 2012. Five workdays completed by the group in January.

We started the month with a visit to Sunnycroft on Sunday 8th January. The property is closed at the moment for its winter rest. A good opportunity to have a clear up in the garden. Over the past year, hedges have been chopped back and trees pruned (we got involved with some of this work – info here). The property has a good composting system in place (and yes, we’ve been involved with this too!), but woody waste can’t be easily composted. Our visit to Sunnycroft this month involved two large bonfires to get rid of the woody waste. Meanwhile, the digging crew got stuck into turning the compost beds.

Our next workday was at Walcot Woods on Sunday January 15th. The weather had turned cold and crisp – not that the group ever need an excuse for a bonfire or two! We continued the ongoing woodland management project, clearing back scrub and removing some of the smaller trees. This site is probably our most remote workplace, but it is well worth the extra effort required to get there. It is an amazing place to work, with many veteran trees and stunning views down the valley. (ed’s note: our website header photo was taken at Walcot)

Saturday January 21st saw a continuation of the winter hedgelaying programme at Attingham Park. The group welcomed three new people to share the workload.  (ed’s note: I hear that this year’s hedgelaying site is particularly good – there is another opportunity to join the group on 18th February. See events for info).

On the same weekend as the hedgelaying, another workday took place at Wenlock Edge on Sunday January 22nd. Working at an old quarry site, there was a lot of bowsawing and lopping – we turned trees and scrub into a log pile and a fire.

On Saturday 28th January,  group members met NT Area Ranger Mike Annis for a walk around Dudmaston Estate. It was a cold and bright day – perfect for walking…especially as the furthest point from the car park happened to be a pub (such good luck to find ourselves at the pub in time for lunch). Mike talked about how the work we do on the Estate fits into the overall management of the estate lands. We discussed possible future projects for the group. It seems that we won’t run out of work at Dudmaston anytime soon – good news for us!

We completed our working month at Morville Hall on Sunday 29th January. Always a favourite site, the turnout for this workday was high. The numerous garden tasks were tackled with our usual enthusiasm – apple trees pruned, flagstones moved, shrub roots mattocked, flower borders manured, paths straightened. We had our lunch inside Morville Hall – I wonder if the Elizabethan walls have ever seen such a scruffy lot within?! The day was completed with a lot of tasty cake.

So that was January. Busy, busy, busy. Bring on February!

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“In which we change our name and enjoy a party or two”

July

We kicked off the month with our annual Summer Social. Sausages were sizzled, beer drunk, cake consumed. Time to relax.

July is also the time for our working holiday week to Cragside, Northumberland. Volunteers enjoyed a varied programme of work including rhodi bashing and rediscovering overgrown paths.

In between, SSNTV organised workdays at Morville, Dudmaston and Long Mynd. It wasn’t all work, especially when the Long Mynd group discovered a swing to play on.

August

The big news this month was the change of name for the group. We are now Shropshire and Staffordshire National Trust Volunteers, formerly the Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers. Read more about the name change here.

New name, same enthusiasm for hard work (and cake!). Thankfully lots of workdays in August to keep us busy – a sunny visit to Morville, garden work at Moseley Old Hall and a Bank Holiday double at Dudmaston.

September

Our group year ends in August. Time for the AGM and this year, a new Chairman. Our retiring Chairman served in post for 8 years, overseeing an enormous growth in the amount of work we do for the National Trust. Thanks Matthew for all your hard work.

It is down to the continued work of the Chairman and committee members that the group continues to grow from strength to strength – many thank to all of them, past and present.

The end of the group year also sees publication of our volunteer statistics – facts and figures about how many hours we worked and where. This past year has been the best so far, so we have a lot to be proud of. Read all about it here.

We found time in September to cut the hedges (some large, some small) at Sunnycroft, some Rhodi clearance at Toothill Woods, apple picking at Attingham Park and a return to Walcot Woods to undertake some woodland work.

Ron celebrated his 70th birthday with a Birthday Bash and Barn Dance. Once more, SSNTV members kicked of their workboots and let their hair down for some partying. Ron is our oldest volunteer but he puts the younger members to shame with his boundless energy and enthusiasm.

October

Another working weekend, this time at Wenlock Edge. Accommodation at Big Mose Cottage for those who needed it. Some volunteers stayed for the entire three days, others came for one or two days.

October saw a welcome return to The Weir in Hereford with the volunteers cutting down buddleia and rosemary willow in splendid autumn sun. Other workdays included rhodi bashing at Attingham, undergrowth clearance at Whitgreaves Wood and an autumn visit to Morville Hall.

November

November brings along the annual Bonfire Weekend. Located at Dudmaston, we had 3 workdays and a bonfire/fireworks party in the woods.

The hedgelaying season started again at Attingham Park and we had two rhododendron workdays – at Toothill and Attingham.

The volunteer group was originally formed at Wightwick Manor. In November we spent a day there planting bulbs – these will look splendid in the spring as they brighten up the grassy banks.

December

December last year saw the countryside blanketed in snow and ice. We had to cancel workdays due to the poor weather and ice on the roads. Not so this year and we completed 5 workdays before Christmas.

Our Annual Christmas Weekend took place at Dudmaston – two workdays and a Christmas party. It’s a DIY affair as the volunteers muck in at Big Mose Basecamp to prepare the food and provide entertainment.

The other pre-Christmas workdays took place at Attingham (hedgelaying) and Wenlock Edge (scrub clearance on limestone grassland).

And so we come to the end of the year. Last year we had a successful workday between Christmas and New Year. We excelled ourselves this year by organising three workdays – one at Walcot Woods and two at Dudmaston. All involved woodland work and very necessary bonfires to keep us warm as we worked.

All that is left to say is to wish you a very happy and healthy New Year. SSNTV look forward to 2012 – we already have plans to work harder and eat  more cake!

Ed’s note: if you fancy joining us for a workday in 2012, check out our EVENTS page and CONTACT US (by email or fill out the contact form)

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“In which we abolish Bank Holidays in favour of Bank Workdays”

The last 12 months have passed by in a flash. Time here at SSNTV web-towers for a bit of trip down memory lane.

January

The group were up and running early in 2011 with our first workday outing to Dudmaston on January 2nd. We continued a project that was to run over a number of months, clearing rhododendron from the woodland. January also saw us starting work at a new site – Whitgreaves Wood near Moseley Old Hall. This woodland had recently been acquired by the National Trust and our first visit to site involved general tidying and removal of broken fencing, in preparation for further work later in the year.

We always enjoy a visit to Morville Hall and our first visit of the year took place at the end of the month. There is always a good turnout for our visits to Morville and there is never a shortage of work to be done….and never a shortage of delicious tea and cake at the end of the workday. Hedgelaying continued apace at the Attingham Estate – this January also saw visits to Shugborough Estate and Toothill Woods, so you can see that we really do get around to all corners of Shropshire and Staffordshire.

February

The group really had something to celebrate at Dudmaston on the first Sunday of the month. Group member John Wells reached his 3000th volunteer hour with the group. The day was spent planting 1000 trees, a fitting way to commemorate such a huge achievement. (Ed’s note – by the end of 2011, there were a number of other landmark achievements for our volunteers including Ron Murdoch reaching his 2500th hour and Matt Hinton passing the 1000 hour mark)

Our second outing of the month saw a hardy group of volunteers braving the miserable weather  at Toothill Woods in north staffordshire, continuing work to remove rhododendron from the site.

Other workdays in February included another visit to Dudmaston, our first visit of the year to Wenlock Edge and another hedgelaying session at Attingham.

March

Walcot Woods, in South Shropshire, hosted our first working holiday of the year. Three days of fine weather allowed a great deal of progress to be made on the continued woodland management project at this site. Read all about the weekend here.

Not content with a full three days of work on the first weekend of the month, the following weekend found group members on their final hedgelaying trip of the season to Attingham on Saturday, followed by a workday at Wenlock Edge on Sunday and for those needing a little bit of extra work, there was gardening to be done with the volunteers at Moor Pool in Birmingham. Busy busy!

With spring just around the corner, a visit to the walled garden at Attingham was in order, helping National Trust staff to get the ground ready for planting. The final weekend in March continued the garden theme as we spent the day at Sunnycroft, helping wake the garden up following its winter sleep and some vigorous compost digging.

April

The first outing of the month was a social one. Dave Maeer organised a walk up Cadair Idris. He managed to ruin his reputation as this time there was good weather and the group didn’t get lost!

Carrying on from Sunnycroft, composting kept us busy in the walled garden at Attingham on the first Sunday in the month.

Six weeks after our last visit and spring had very much sprung at Walcot Woods. A carpet of wild flowers and a warm sunny day greeted us for a day in the woods.

Looking back, it seems that April was full of sunshine and our second visit of the year to Morville Hall was no exception.

Bank Holidays are usually when the group put down their tools for some rest and relaxation.  Some of our crazy group members decided that the opportunity for some extra work was too good to miss, so the tools didn’t get their usual rest this year. The Easter Weekend was fine and sunny (Ed’s note – hard to remember as I sit here wearing three warm layers of clothes on Dec 30th) and those who needed to burn off the calories from eating too many Easter Eggs found themselves at Wenlock Edge for Easter Weekend#1. Not enough work on the one day? That’s ok, as there was more work at Dudmaston on Easter Monday at Dudmaston for Easter Weekend#2.

There was an extra bank holiday this year, courtesy of a certain Royal Wedding. No chance of getting a day off as the Bank Holiday Workdays continued with work at Wenlock Edge which included some sheep herding (!?).

May

What was the plan for May? Oh yes, I remember, don’t relax, get out there on May 1st and get some more work done. Might as well start the month off as we mean to go on…

May 1st was a bank holiday monday. Having re-written the rules concerning holidays (i.e. they are not for relaxing, they are for working hard and eating cake), there was a good turnout at Dudmaston, working alongside the pools, cutting and burning the odd rhododendron or two.

Continuing our plan for world domination, Saturday 7th May saw us extending our ‘Empire’ to Hereford for a workday at The Weir Garden. The sunny weather eluded us but a great day was had by all who attended and it was enjoyable working at a new site. The thought of a pint and some food at the local pub afterwards kept everyone working despite the weather.

Looking back, it seems that May was a particularly busy month. With all of those Bank Holidays Workdays, there were seven workdays during the month. Along with those already mentioned, there was a second trip to Whitgreaves wood (fencing repairs), scrub clearance at Sunnycroft and helping out at the Plant & Garden Fair at Attingham.

The Spring Bank *cough* Holiday Weekend allowed a double dose of rhododendron clearance at Dudmaston on the Saturday and Sunday. We were allowed (!) a day off on the Monday. Some of the group took the opportunity to visit Walcot Hall Estate, of which Walcot Woods were once a part.

Joking aside, the bank holiday workdays have been a resounding success. As all of our members pick and choose when they do or don’t want to attend, organising workdays during the bank holidays has allowed more choice.

June

What happened to the sunshine? June saw its fair share of rain. Fortunately, the first workday of the month was mostly indoors – building birdboxes at Wenlock Edge. There was more rain at Attingham the following weekend for work in the walled garden. However, volunteers weren’t put off by the bad weather.

One event that wasn’t weather dependent was the 60th birthday party for group member Sheila. Group members young and old exchanged work boots for dancing shoes – a night to relax and enjoy. Sheila’s wasn’t the only celebration this year. There were 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th and 70th birthday celebrations for group members, not to forget two weddings for group members Gordon & Lisa and Ian & Jen (Ed’s note: it’s just as well that the group like cake!).

Attacking an overgrowth of dogwood was the challenge at Shugborough on 19th June. The month was completed by another visit to Attingham.

(Ed’s note: if you’ve survived this review of 2011 so far, well done…I never did get the hang of ‘editing’. Go and get yourself a cup of tea before you read the 2nd half)

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