Posts Tagged ‘Hawksmoor’

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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This coming Sunday, we are still working with Rod, but not at Toothill. He has asked us to meet him at Hawksmoor.

The task is the same, but maybe not so ‘extreme’, Mags is still the contact, and there will probably still be Peanut Butter Brownie.

There will be a final check on Saturday afternoon about the weather, so it is important that you let Mags know if you are planning to go.

If you’ve not been to Hawksmoor before, phone Mags for directions.

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