Posts Tagged ‘Shropshire’

Workday leader Matt reports: A gloriously sunny Sunday saw a good number of the SSNTV group returning to Benthall Hall to work with Head Gardner Nick on a trio of summer garden jobs, but with the promise of an extra Benthall Bonus at the end of the workday (more on this later..)

The jobs that Nick had lined up for us were working on improving the garden paths (by digging out the soil and gravel, riddling the mix to separate the gravel and re-spreading it onto the paths – as we started last year), filling in the potholes along the track by the farm, and weeding/cleaning out the bricks at the back of the house

The keen volunteers divided themselves up amongst the jobs on offer and cracked on with the necessary work enjoying the nice weather and usual banter

Cake O’clock became Cake and Cookie O’clock, thanks to Chris’ donation of his bargain 25p cookies (yum, yum!!), and we all reconvened on the terrace to enjoy a bite and a brew, along with a potential new group member who was also looking for a fair share of cake!

As the path crew had almost completed the digging out phase, it was time for Nick to roll out our old favourite and the “Destroyer of Peaceful Sunday Afternoons”, namely the gravel riddling machine, and just in time for the afternoon visitors to “enjoy” it, yay!!

“Destroyer of Peaceful Sunday Afternoons”

Following a return visit to the terrace for a very civilized lunchtime and another round of tea making and subsequent washing up, due to the Benthall dishwasher being broken (big thanks to Lucy for her extra pair of washing up/drying up hands), all of the crews were back to working hard, but with the brick crew “cheekily” seconding/coercing/kidnapping * Neil to their job for the afternoon (*chose the most appropriate option)

With the workday drawing to a close, all of the worksites were looking great, so we packed the tools away and it was time for the promised Benthall Bonus!


As part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Nick advised us that the whole of Benthall Edge has been designated as one of the “Queens Green Canopy” woodlands (there have been a total of 70 woodlands designated nationwide). This is also combined with national tree planting schemes and the designation of 70 ancient individual trees (see website here for more details

green canopy

The Benthall Edge designation reads

So as a celebration of this success for Benthall Edge, Nick very kindly took us down into the woodland for a nice and relaxing walk to enjoy the “Green Canopy” in all its spring glory.

Once again a huge thanks to all of the volunteers for coming out and working so hard and to Nick for giving us the usual fantastic welcome, support and the extra “Benthall Bonus”

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It’s the time of year again that some of us SSNTV volunteers got to pack up our boots, bowsaws and cake and head up north for our annual working holiday in Northumberland, staying in the NT bunkhouse and working on the fantastic thousand acre Cragside estate.

This year we had two main tasks which were to clear back the rhododendron at the base (toe) of the dam at Nelly’s Moss South Lake and to remove about a third of the reed growth in the Slipper Lake (Tarn).

Sunday saw us up at Nelly’s Moss to attack the Rhodi, aiming to cut it back by about three metres so that the dam inspectors could have better access when they come to check the dam integrity.

Lotsa RhodiLotsa Cake

Rhodi bashing is one of our favourite activities so needless to by the end of the day we had created a huge pile of cuttings and eaten a huge amount of cake. Unfortunately this time we weren’t able to burn the rhodi, as it was going to be chipped and used for path and trim trail surface covering so we had dragged it all up to the edge of the road ready to be taken away with the tractor and trailer later in the week.

Rhodi piling upsuper human chain

Monday was our wet and messy day as we donned the waders to go paddling in the Slipper Lake and attack the ever encroaching reeds.

happy wader's day!ready for action

Although these were a smaller type of reed than the ones that we regularly pull out at Morville Hall, it was just as satisfying to see more and more clear water emerge as the day progressed. We were stacking the reeds at the water’s edge to allow any little creatures to make their way back to the water before we tidied up properly at the end of the week

what a lot of reedsreed raft racing

Tuesday was our day off and the only day with persistent rain, hmm typical!

A group of us took our brollies and went over to Low Hauxley to have a look around the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s discovery centre ( Luckily we found the tea room first and “discovered” the homemade date and banana scones there before having a nice walk around the large lake, stopping in the many bird hides to watch the wide assortment of birds that were out and about.

Following a lunchtime stop at Amble for some yummy fish and chips and with the rain coming down more heavily, we headed back to Alnwick for a visit to Barter Books and a mid-week shop for the rest of the holiday food.


Wednesday and Thursday were back to work and returning to Nelly’s Moss Lake to continue attacking the rhodi, eating cake and starting the massive tidying up operation with us filling up two trailers at a time to go round to Nelly’s Moss car park ready for chipping!

loading, loading, loading Rhodi!!how much more is there?

“Tidy” Friday was our day to finish off at both sites so our first stop was at the Slipper Lake to move the reeds away from the lake edge and leave it all looking tidy and beautiful again.

lovely reeds


We then headed up to Nelly’s Moss for cake o’clock and continued to load and clear the last of the rhodi cuttings.

see the magic walking rhodi

only one more load to go

Following our final lunch break we had a leisurely stroll back to the bunkhouse to drop off our work gear before heading up to the formal gardens to test out the new deck chairs and bean bags.

lunch with a viewand relax...

While we were there, we took up the very kind offer from Rachel the head gardener to give us a sneaky peek inside the newly restored clock tower before it re-opens to the public later in the month.

Clock towerit goes deeeep down...

This was followed by even more sneakiness as Helen and Charlotte of the ranger team treated us to a preview of the new Parkland walk and the amazing new Gorge walk that will be opening to the public very soon.

Parkland walk preview..gorge walk

And to top it all we ended up back at the visitor centre to meet up with ranger Leigh for ice-creams overlooking the lake, what a fantastic end to a brilliant working week!

the ice creams are on their way..joined by the gardeners...

Thank you to all of the volunteers, who came up to Cragside this year and worked so hard over the week, brought and made such amazing cakes and cooked such yummy food!

Special thanks also to the awesome ranger team of Leigh, Helen, Dan, Charlotte and Duncan “the elusive” for making us so welcome and making the week such fun and also to head gardener Rachel for the clock tower viewing.

Hope to be back again next year!

until next year...

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So in the end we made it to Walcot Wood for one day this Spring and experienced the whole range of weather that nature could provide!

After the high winds of Saturday which caused a cancellation, an early Sunday start saw blue skies and dry as we arrived on site – a delight. However soon after heading up the hill, grey skies arrived and hail – or was it sleet – came down briefly!
As work continued clearing the hawthorn stands to reveal more of the aged oaks and encourage more flora – which was already starting to peak through, as we spotted the first spring primose flowerheads – showery spells were interspersed with sunny skies.
Cake o’clock and lunch came and went in the sunshine – should we have a long Sunday lunchtime BBQ next time?…. and as the day came to a close with more of the hillside revealed – hopefully Countryside Manager Pete will like what we’ve done – the peace and tranquility of the remote site became clear to all as the wind subsided and the sun shone to round off the day.

…You know you’ve been to Walcot – the flipside of the views and rolling green hills are the steep slopes – your aching knees remind you of that when you get home!

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Our EVENTS page has been updated with new dates for your diary.

If you have volunteered with us before…., then you know how to book onto the workdays.

If you’re interested to volunteer with us for the first time…., then please contact us for more info – just pop over to our CONTACTS PAGE and send us your details so our web fairy can put you in touch with us.

In the meantime, don’t forget that we are also on Facebook.

Just click the Facebook link in the sidebar to read recent workday reports and see more pictures (don’t worry, you don’t have to have a Facebook account to read the updates!).

Walcot Woods

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Ron Murdoch led a varied workday at Dudmaston last weekend. He sends this report:

The Group were at Dudmaston on 5th October, but not for the usual cut and burn ….. this time there was a choice of jobs. One team did reed pulling in the main pool – to see how much could be achieved in an hour to assess how long the full job would take. Then there were two huge heaps of brash to be burned – one ‘lady-like’ controlled fire and one ‘pile it on as fast as you can’ fire. Finally, we did some rockery clearance revealing part of the rock structure which has been hidden for so long.

Nb the Group may be involved in further work on the redevelopment of the rockery during the winter.


Dudmaston - brash clearance. before, after and burnt!

Dudmaston – brash clearance. before, after and burnt! (photos: Ron Murdoch)


We also received a message of thanks from Marcus Halliwell, National Trust general manager:

“I walked across the Garden at Dudmaston yesterday and noticed the great progress on the Rockery. Thank you for your hard work, it is really fantastic to see this structure revealed for the first time in years- What an exciting project!”


Dudmston rockery uncovered (photos: Mags Carter)

Dudmston rockery uncovered (photos: Mags Carter)




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


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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 (!?).


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.


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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There has been a lot to celebrate this year. On the work front, the group achieved impressive results for hours worked and sites visited. You can read more about  it here.

One of the best things about the group is that it welcomes volunteers of all ages. We have families who bring toddling toddlers right through to our more senior members, one of whom celebrated his 70th birthday this year. In fact, this year saw significant birthdays for many group members. The photograph above shows those celebrating their 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th and 70th birthdays – I’ll leave you to decide which is which! SSNTV group members work together as a team on our workdays and there is no doubt that the strength of the team is in the diversity of its members, young and old.

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Sunnycroft, Sunday 4th September

A little light hedge trimming might be an understatement….I’m  not sure if the group can really do ‘light’ hedge trimming. The photos prove that!

Ten group members met NT Gardener Joel at Sunnycroft today. The task in the morning was to cut back the laurel hedge and some trees that had become overgrown. While they disguised the houses beyond, they also blocked out the light in the gardens of these neighbouring properties. In the spirit of being a good neighbour, we cut back the greenery. If I’m being honest, standing on the NT side of the fence, it looked far better before we had done the work. But this is the perfect example of where a property manager has to balance out the needs of the property with the needs of its neighbours. On the NT side of the fence, the area is used for car parking and the hedge line does now look tidy so a good result all round.

In the afternoon, work was transferred to the long hedge along the main drive. This hedge borders the garden of the gatehouse property and the hedge had become…lets just say it was a bit unruly! With ten keen workers, we were able to complete the work by the end of the day. The lady who lives in the gatehouse came out to speak to us and she was very pleased with the outcome of the work – she had thought of tackling the hedge on her own. We were glad to help.

The assembled group were guinea pigs to one of Mags new cake recipes – peanut butter chocolate brownies. Verdict: delicious!

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