Posts Tagged ‘Walcot Woods’

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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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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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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Walcot Wood, Sunday 10th April

With sun shining the group spent the day at Walcot Wood. You may remember that we had an earlier working weekend at this site in March of this year. It was lovely to return to this beautiful part of south Shropshire, with spring in full swing. Trees were bursting with fresh greenery and blossom. The floor of the woodland was covered in wild primrose and violets. We’ve helped the regular Walcot volunteers over a number of years to cut back the tree canopy to allow these wild flowers to return. In time, it is hoped that grassland will cover the slopes – the National Trust flock of Hebridean sheep are drafted in to keep the regrowth under control.

So, back to today. We continued the work from our last visit, preparing the area for school children to visit later in the year. Two fires were lit to burn brash – I know we are a bit weird having fires on the hottest day of the year so far! It was a sure sign that summer had arrived as Laura had her shorter trousers on, Matt was sporting a sun hat, sunglasses were much in evidence and a couple of bottles of sunscreen made their appearance.

Needless to say, the challenge of working in the heat had to be balanced by frequent breaks for cold drinks…and maybe a slice or two of cake to boost energy levels!

It was so beautiful working here today. Clear blue skies, warm sun, good company, cake – perfect day!

The site where we worked last visit - looks good doesn't it?

Woodland floor covered in wild primrose

A fire on a hot day - crazy!

Looking towards the work site - two paths open and clear of overgrowth

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Walcot Wood, Friday 4th-Sunday 6th March

We had a 3-day working weekend at Walcot Wood in the wilds of south Shropshire.

Day One, Friday– the day started with bacon butties for some…then working off the big breakfast with some hard graft. The group worked to open up a path that had become overgrown. Part of the site is to be used by school children as an outdoor classroom and the current work is part of a project to get the site ready for use.

As the day progressed, the sun began to shine and a good day was had by all (much enhanced by lunch + 3 CAKE BREAKS!!!)

Day 2, Saturday – started with fewer bacon butties (i.e. none!), but with a larger number of equally enthusiastic volunteers. So with 16 pairs of busy hands and Dave the warden spectacularly bringing down some huge cherry trees, the whole site was becoming much safer and more open for the school children to enjoy the stunning surrounding. The day seemed to fly by with so much brash and scrub to work on and plenty of the usual WNTCV banter (look out for some of the quotes in the next newsletter!). The only down side was that we didn’t get to see the sun and with it the fantastic views up the valley, but this was more than made up for by the delicious meal that was had in the evening over at Bishops Castle.

Day 3, Sunday – Once again working in the beautiful March sunshine, we completed our work on the main site and also cleared brash from another path leading past one of the amazing veteran oak trees. After turning our fire in once more and finishing the last of the cake, it was time to go home. However, the great news is that Peter the NT countryside manager was so impressed with our progress that he has booked us up already for the same weekend in 2012!

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