Posts Tagged ‘Dudmaston Hall’

Beccy Speight joins SSNTV at Wenlock Edge

The month began with a special visitor to Wenlock Edge on Sunday 1st April. Beccy Speight, Regional Director for the National Trust in the Midlands, joined us for a workday. The location was the old railway line. The weather was fine, the cake was good and Beckie got stuck in with the work, felling trees and clearing brash. I hear that Ron soon signed her up as an apprentice firestarter!

We continued work at the same site on Friday 6th April (Good Friday Bank Holiday). It was Laura’s turn to be firestarter, under Ron’s watchful eye. Verdict: uses too many matches, has a lot to learn before she is ‘black belt’ firestarter. Max the dog worked hard and was too tired to walk home so he commandeered Ron’s car (see photo below).

Max drives home after a hard days work at Wenlock

It’s possible that April 2012 will be remembered as being very wet and we got a full helping of rain on Monday 9th April (Easter Monday Bank Holiday), Dudmaston, where we worked with National Trust Ranger Mike Annis to work on tree and scrub clearance at the Big Pool Dam. It rained in the morning…it cleared for lunch…it rained in the afternoon. We had two fires going which helped to cheer things up, but it did get a bit muddy underfoot and it’s hard to stay cheerful when your waterproof trousers cease to be waterproof and a dog steals your jacket to  lie on (poor Matt). A feast of Easter Eggs boosted morale.

Max doesn't like damp ground. Matt's jacket proved to be just right for resting on

We just can’t get enough of  Wenlock Edge. Our next session was Sunday 15th April. A different site this time, at the footpath running along the edge of the old quarry. In sunshine, we worked on path clearance and fence repair. This is a popular walking path for locals and visitors to the area. Our job was to cut back the overgrowth at the edges of the path and repair the fence on the quarry edge, improving path access and safety. If you are ever in the area, I can highly recommend the walks in and around Much Wenlock and along Wenlock Edge.

Wenlock Edge, Matt

The weather for Sunday 22nd April didn’t look promising but SSNTV are never put off by the forecast and there was a good turnout of volunteers at Wightwick Manor & Gardens. The work for the day was in the bridge garden, which had become overgrown with laurel and other tall shrubs. There was once a productive fruit garden in this part of the property and in the future it is hoped to return the garden to its former glory. With luck, we avoided the rain as we worked. It did rain, monsoon style, at lunchtime but we managed to take cover in a marquee to eat lunch and wait for the skies to clear.


Morville...soggy workwear

We didn’t have any luck with the weather on Sunday 29th April. Our visit to Morville Hall was cold and wet. It was raining as we arrived…it rained all day….it was still raining at the end of the day. Unperturbed, a hardy group of SSNTVers joined Morville Hall tenants Chris and Sarah. We braved the wind and rain to work in the garden, carrying out a list of tidying and maintenance tasks in preparation for the annual open weekend at the property and surrounding gardens. The upside of rainy days at Morville is that we are allowed to eat our lunch in the Elizabethan hall – very grand indeed! We stopped work only when we couldn’t get any wetter. Chris and Sarah provided tea and cake. This was much appreciated at the end of this damp workday.

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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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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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By roving reporter #2 – Ron

Update 1

On the Monday following Bonfire weekend I just happened to be passing Dudmaston so I thought I would have a walk around the site where we had been working. I often find it difficult when with a group to get a full idea of what has been achieved so I started from the car park and walked through to the road. It was very impressive and easy to see why Mike was so pleased.

However the best part was that as I started walking I heard chainsaws in operation. It was Mike and Chris’s boss from Wenlock cutting down the big trees to create the vehicle access that was the overall objective. The job that we had made such good progress with, they were completing. The only trouble was that they were creating quite a lot of brash…mmmm!

Update 2

While we were at Dudmaston, Mike said it might be possible to organise a Saturday ‘tour’ of the estate to see the project areas where he will want to get done in the next year or so. This could be very interesting as we would get an overview of the plans and understand where our work fitted in with the overall objectives. We could possibly turn the day into a social event with a meal afterwards. Watch this space.

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Dudmaston, Friday 4th to Sunday 6th November

Written by Matt Hinton
Following a year of brilliant workdays, outstanding weekends and our amazing SSNTV Cragside week, I am happy to say that the bonfire weekend at Dudmaston lived up to expectations and delivered yet another dose of SSNTV’s favourite medicine. Mike, the area ranger, asked us to work on an extremely picturesque part of the estate on the south side of Brim and Seggy pools and our task was to clear scrub to open a circular route which would enable visitors to enjoy a complete walk around the pools.


Needless to say, Fridays “advance” party, took to this task like ducks to water and before long the first of many work fires was raging and an obvious route was being created. Fuelled by a scrumptious and never ending supply of cake, the group powered on, widening the path and tidying as we went, one fire became two which became three and then four as we moved further and further anticlockwise around the pools and even a sudden downpour couldn’t dampen our spirits. By the end of the day I think everyone was pleasantly surprised at the distance we had covered, but I’ll let you into a secret, we were benefiting from the deployment of our latest weapons, the Swiss army volunteer and Volunteer 1.5!

As the light was fading fast, we headed back to Mose cottage before collecting Zac from the train station, enjoying Jon’s deliciously spicy Thai curry and then settling down for the night in front of the lovely log fire.

Saturday morning was bright and sunny as we pulled on the boots and enjoyed a beautiful autumnal walk through the woods back to the work-site. Ron rejuvenated fire 4 with his usual consummate ease and we finished the last of the tidying in the area before Mike took on some of the fallen bad boy trees with his chainsaw. By now we had cleared everything in this direction so we headed back past the remains of fire 1 and started fire 5 enabling us to continue clockwise around the pool. As the day progressed, our numbers increased, with arrival of Gordon, Lisa and John bringing extra volunteer power and a sample of Lisa’s Chocolate and Beetroot muffins (with even more left for Sunday mmm!). Obviously we weren’t going to be satisfied only having had 5 fires in 10 hours so Ron started Fire 6 just before lunch which enabled the clearance to continue unabated for the rest of the day. However, as we had to prepare for the evening’s fun, a small but enthusiastic team moved onto the bonfire site to start digging the BBQ pit, while our SSNTV food experts headed back to Mose to work their magic.
As it started to get dark, Ron had “no choice” but to light the bonfire and soon after Guy arrived to supervise and Dave kicked off the BBQ.

Once again Mike did us proud with 4 litres of his superb fruit wine home brew and Sue tickled our tastebuds with a yummy green bean chutney which was the perfect accompaniment to the jacket potatoes and anything else you could find to spread it onto! As the food and drink was going down a treat, it was time for the entertainment. Zac had done a brilliant job of sourcing the fireworks from Chinatown in Manchester, and our thanks go to Matthew and Sheila who risked life and limb to wake the neighbours with such delights as “Screaming Vampires” and “Satan’s 19 Golden Balls” (oh er!). As the smoke drifted away, Guy decided to do his own vanishing act disappearing in a mysterious ball of blue fire leaving only a smouldering “ribcage” behind…

OK, you pretty much know it’s going to be a great workday when it starts with a round of sausage sarnies! Suitably fed and raring to go, we cleaned the cottage in double quick time and headed to site to carry on where we left off on Saturday. Within seconds fires 5 and 6 had sprung into life again and we were back in business! As we finished tidying around fire 5 we suddenly realised the mammoth task that lay ahead.. There was still so much cake to eat that we’d have to get started immediately! An emergency cake O’clock was called!

With added cake power, we pushed on into a particularly dense area of scrub  and naturally Ron had to light fire number 7 so we could dispose of the cuttings more easily.

By the end of the day we’d cleared all of the scrub and debris from around the larger trees giving us a lovely view across to the grassy parkland that surrounds Dudmaston Hall as well as making the whole area feel more open and light. All in all a glorious end to yet another fabulous SSNTV weekend! Many thanks to all involved.

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I don’t want to brag but….we are really, really great! And there are numbers to prove it.

Each year, one of our more organised members keeps a record of the hours volunteered by each group member and the group as a whole. Our group year finished at the end of August. I am sure there is a spreadsheet involved and lots of number crunching that I barely understand, so I’ll just give you the facts:

  • total volunteer hours for the group – 3,343.25
  • 69 people volunteered with the group
  • there were 67  workdays at 15 different National Trust sites

I think these statistics are amazing. We are a part-time group yet we contributed the equivalent of over 80 weeks full-time work.

Where did we spend our time? The top 3 sites measured by hours worked are as follows:

  • Dudmaston
  • Morville
  • Attingham
I love statistics, but there is one vital stat missing – how many slices of cake were eaten during the year?!

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The winter programme is now online.

Looks like it’s going to be a busy time with lots to look forward too.

The hedgelaying season starts again at Attingham on November 19th. You don’t need any previous experience and all tools and equipment are provided. The only thing required is enthusiasm.

Christmas weekend at Dudmaston is from Friday 9th to Sunday 11th December. This is one of the highlights of our work and social calendar. Workdays are arranged for Friday and Saturday and there is a Christmas dinner, prepared and cooked by SSNTV, on Saturday evening at Big Mose NT Basecamp. On Sunday, there is the traditional walk to the pub for lunch.

Laura is busy organising some workdays for between Christmas and New Year. This was a great success last year with many group members coming out of hibernation to share the last of the Christmas cake. Keep an eye on our EVENTS page for updated information on these ‘twixmas’ workdays.

The New Year will be equally busy with lots to do at all of our favourite sites.

So, there is no reason to sit at home complaining about how boring it is during the winter days – get out there and DO SOMETHING and HAVE SOME FUN!



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Wenlock Edge, old quarry, Friday 7th to Sunday 9th October

Earlier in the year, a discussion took place with NT Ranger Chris – what would be better than a workday at Wenlock Edge? The answer? Three workdays at Wenlock Edge! And so the group found themselves booked in for a three day working weekend, working at a new part of the site. The location was an old limestone quarry which has long since ceased production. The National Trust recently took over management of the site. It had become overgrown with hawthorn and blackthorn hence badly in need of some volunteer action.

There is a variety of things that make the group happy: – good weather, chunky trees to chop, a bonfire, lots of cake. All of these were available in abundance!

Some of the group stayed overnight at an NT holiday cottage near Dudmaston. Ron tested his culinary skills on Friday evening, providing the group with a delicious spaghetti dish. Sheila helped out by creating an apple crumble, using apples provided by Ron from his own garden. This was washed down with a fine selection of ales, or a glass or two of homemade wine – “Rhubarb Ruin”. On the Saturday evening, the overnighters ventured into Bridgnorth for a meal in a local bistro – I am sure it wasn’t as good as Ron and Sheila’s tasty creations on Friday.

The photos don’t do justice to the extent of work completed over the weekend. We hope to be back working at this site sometime before Christmas so if you want to see it, keep an eye on our programme of workdays and come out and join us.

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Dudmaston Estate, Sunday/Monday 28th/29th August

Bank Holiday weekend….what to do? Relax? Take it easy? Read a mind improving book or 3? No, No, No! What you really want to do is get up early, drive to Dudmaston for a 9am start, pull out lots of rhodis and BURN THEM!!!! Then on day 2: repeat.

And so it was that 8 of us met NT Area Ranger Mike Annis at the Dudmaston Estate Yard in Shropshire at 9am on Bank Holiday Sunday. From there it was a short drive to the work site which was, if you are familiar with the estate, between the big pool and the main road. Our workday leader quickly got a fire started and the rest of the group soon made good progress on clearing the area of unwanted rhodis. If possible, we rip the rhodis out by the root. The aim is to prevent any regrowth.

Mike tells us that, in the past, this area was planted with colourful specimen rhodis and azaleas and would have been quite a pleasant walk. In the long term, it would be good to replant the walk for the benefit of visitors.

While some of the group seemed to have enough energy to continue on into the evening….it was decided to call it a day at 4pm. A small amount of clearance work remained to be done and we made a note to finish that work on the following morning before moving to another nearby site.

Sunday morning, early again (groan!). We finished work on site No.1 and sent workday leader Ron over to site No.2 to start a new fire. The group (6 of us today) worked hard to clear rhodis at the new site. Ron kept us motivated by feeding us chocolate-fridge-cake. Just when we think that the end of the rhodis is in sight…we see more in the distance. This is not a bad thing – we need some future work to look forward to.

We were fortunate with weather on both days as it stayed dry throughout.

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The late summer/autumn programme is now online.

It looks like it’s going to be a busy time. Alongside our normal Sunday outings, we have two working weekends (Wenlock in October and Dudmaston Bonfire weekend) and an away day to The Weir.

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