Read about the life and work of the Attingham Wardens

Attingham Park is a National Trust property comprising of an 18th Century mansion set in a Repton landscape; the Park and wider Estate includes a deer park, walled garden, several miles of the rivers Severn and Tern, extensive farmland and woodlands.



Sunday, 24 May 2015

Mighty Oaks and and some spring sightings


Well, Attingham did very well at the recent Mighty Oak awards at Calke Abbey. The Engagement and Conservation Team took a silver in the Programming category, and our three Warden nominees were all awarded as winners! The Midlands region has over ten thousand staff and volunteers and there were 64 nominees in the Unsung Hero category - the judges couldn't decide on just three winners and announced that all 64 deserved recognition for their dedication. A good night was had by all and we are very proud of our three Heroes.

Strimming the nettles on the back drive and admiring the buttercups!














This week we have been strimming and cleaning out some of the cattle grids on the front and back drives to keep everything tidy. On Wednesday a group from Barclays Bank volunteered with us and cut an incredible amount of logs up - well done team and thank you for your effort! Academy Ranger Faith also took her trailer test after minimal training and passed with flying colours - brilliant!

Red campion
Speedwell

Half Term is upon us and we expect to have a busy week. There is a lot to see and do around the Park - check out the incredible yellow sea of buttercups as you come up the front drive; the bluebells are going over but there are many other wildflowers still in bloom; you might be lucky enough to spot the ducklings on the River Tern that have recently hatched, or the cygnets below the weir; the deer are looking resplendent in their summer coats and the buck's antlers are already growing back with their covering of fuzzy velvet. Over the next few weeks the does will give birth, so we look forward to spotting the fawns once they are up on their feet. As you walk around the park you can hear the calls of young birds that have just hatched and see the fledglings on their tentative early flights - we have spotted four young ravens flying from one nest so this year has been a very successful one for them.

The bucks are busy growing back their antlers

Thursday, 14 May 2015

And the nominees are...

The wardens started their week with a tidy up of the trees and hedges along Smethcote lane, cutting back a few small branches that would soon be caught by passing traffic and letting a bit more light in to the young hedge plants beneath. In the next year or two we expect to be able to lay the hedges along this lane so we are looking forward to a good long stretch of Midland Bullock style hedgelaying! The brash was driven away with the tractor and trailer and burned and as we worked we straightened up the canes and spirals around any younger plants that we came across.

Jo with the log mountain!
Harper Adams students Jo and Rachel have been carrying out the annual bridge inspections, checking on all of the small footbridges around the estate. 

We also had a day of cutting logs in preparation for next week when a group from Barclays bank will be coming to volunteer with us. We cut a mountain of rounds for them to split and the wood will be used to fuel the log burners in reception, the bookshop, the shop and in Lady Berwick's tea room. 

Next Monday is an exciting day for the NT Midlands properties - in the evening Calke Abbey is hosting the first Mighty Oak awards to celebrate the hard work and successes of special and unique individuals and teams who work or volunteer for the Trust. Properties were invited to send in nominations to be short listed by the Midlands Leadership Team and Attingham is lucky to have had three of its nominees chosen to attend the awards - all from the wardens department! Colin, David and Phil will be up against each other in the category of 'Unsung Hero' so best of luck to all of them and fingers crossed that we have an Attingham winner - watch this space!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Reaching new heights...

Charley, Jo and Faith ready for a tour!
Today we had an interesting morning that kicked off with an open top bus ride! Starting tomorrow (Saturday 2nd May) Attingham will be one of several popular local destinations for a new sightseeing  tour. The bus will run from Shrewsbury to Attingham, Wroxeter, Ironbridge, Buildwas and Much Wenlock, giving visitors a chance to get off and explore the various destinations if they wish before catching the next bus. Tickets can be bought in advance or on the day, and you can even use your card to pay on the bus. We spent the morning trimming back a few minor branches on the trees to ensure that the bus will not catch them and had a ride to enjoy the beauty of Attingham from a new, higher perspective!

More information on the route, dates, ticket prices etc. can be found here:



This week we also took a trip to Carding Mill Valley and borrowed their tractor and water bowser so that we can give our newly planted trees a good drink - the fine weather of late is fantastic in many ways but we could really do with some rain to give the trees and hedgelines a boost! You may see us over the next few weeks trundling around with the large tank. 

Access to Tern Bridge is open again
We have also reopened the Tern Bridge picnic area so you can once again enjoy the short walk across the Deer Park down to the Bridge and take a seat while you enjoy the view of the Mansion. While I was mowing the area this week a dipper was flying up and down the water, keeping me company. This week has had several other firsts for the year - I saw the first damselfly (a large red) along the Mile Walk, a lapwing for the first time in several years at Berwick New House and Colin has seen swallows near Smethcote barns. 

I also heard a lovely story from two of our regular visitors who also pick litter up for us as they take their walk. Several days before they had been down near the deer park stone bridge and saw an otter with two young pups. As they watched the mother carried them one by one to navigate the weir - the first she carried out of the water and around across the path, then, evidently a bit nervous at being watched, she carried the second up on top of the eel pass before disappearing into the longer vegetation further upstream by the jetty and swimming away. What a brilliant sight to see!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Bluebells!

They're here! This week the bluebells have finally come out and though they are not quite out in their full glory the woodland floor is tinged with purple once more. Hyacinthoides non-scripta are primarily woodland species but are sometimes found along hedges or in grassland. About half of the worlds population of bluebells are found in the UK - pretty impressive for such a little island! However, our native bluebells are under threat from the Spanish bluebell which escaped from gardens and is cross-breeding with our native species - a recent survey by Plantlife.org found that 1 in 6 bluebells in broadleaved woodland was Spanish rather than native. Attingham has plenty of natives and you can follow the blue-topped posts around the park to spot the best patches.

If you take a walk along the Mile Walk heading towards the suspension bridge you will also see bright splashes of yellow in the wet areas close to the water - these are Caltha palustris, commonly known as marsh marigold or kingcup, but there are also dozens of other common names for this species including goldings, drunkards, water cowslip, may blob and molly blob.

The warden team are finally coming to the end of the seven week long deer park planting project with 500 hawthorns and 150 replacement trees being planted and guarded around the park. We have also put some guards around certain veteran lime trees to protect them from the deer. Come rain or shine we have been out there, and it is very satisfying to have finished.

The bucks in the deer park are starting to shed their antlers again so don't be alarmed if you see them with bloodied marks on their heads. Within weeks they will start to grow new ones and by late summer they will have a full set again. This time of year can be unsettling for the deer as the older bucks lose their social status when they shed their antlers, and the does are now heavily pregnant, so we do need to highlight the importance of not straying from the paths and allowing the deer their peace and sanctuary spaces. Please don't go looking for antlers!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Spring colours

Easter has been busy again as usual with thousands of visitors coming out for a walk in the sunshine, following trails to win prizes, getting creative making kites and bird boxes and looking for the signs of spring. The fresh new green leaves are starting to appear on the trees, with hawthorn and horse chestnut leading the way. The wildflowers are also coming out - the first bluebells are just starting to peek out of their green leaves on the woodland floor and if you walk down to the back of the mansion and look at the bank on your left as you approach the clock tower you will be treated to views of celandine, primrose, spring squill, cowslip and dozens of snakes head fritillary bobbing their heads in the breeze.




Meanwhile, work continues in the deer park with the team having planted 79 replacement trees and 331 hawthorns in plantations so far. Each parkland tree has an iron hurdle guard around it and is staked, protected from rabbits and mulched to give it the best chance of survival. Some areas of the deer park are very sandy and therefore drain very quickly - a thick layer of mulch will help to hold some moisture around the roots and feed the tree with nutrients.


Monday, 16 March 2015

Future Parkland Giants

Last week we were finally able to start our project of planting well over 100 new and replacement trees in the Deer Park. Each tree will be planted  and protected with a five-sided hurdle guard to prevent the deer from nibbling at it - we are making the guards out of old fencing, recycling them by cutting them to size and joining them together with brackets and bolts so that they can be moved in the future for more trees. It's hard work cutting hundreds of hurdles with a Stihl saw but once they are up, secured, levelled and the bolts are trimmed and filed they make fantastic, long lasting and attractive tree guards. We are planting mostly oak to replace our many fine veterans, with some horse chestnut and hawthorn. We have also had some time with Ben Shipston, Assistant Director of Operations for the Midlands, as he came out to meet some of our volunteer team and plant a few trees with us - you can see the result of his digging skills for yourselves at the top of the Deer Park near the concrete track that leads to the woodland walk! This job will keep the wardens busy for the next few weeks, along with getting the camp ground ready for the first of this years bookings, spraying the newly planted hedges as the first flush of grass and weeds come up and preparing for Easter.
Cutting the hurdles to size

Harper student Charley cutting the bolts flush and smooth

ADO Ben Shipston on a mission to Australia!

A future giant begins its long life

Saturday 14th March saw Attingham holding its first ever Night Run with around 350 people racing six kilometers around the mile walk  or two kilometers across the meadow under starry skies. The warden staff were there as marshals and helping to set up and take down for the event, which was a huge success - well done to everyone that took part.

Finally it is that time of year again - the ravens are nesting. You may have seen these beautiful birds circling around the park and calling with that distinctive 'tak tak tak'. It can be difficult to judge just how large they are until you see them up close - they have a wingspan of 120-150cm -  and last week I was lucky enough to see one gliding low over the deer park and gleaming in the sun. The nests are also huge, as you can see from this picture! The young ravens will soon be growing and fledging and we look forward to spotting them.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Bring a brolly!

I write this post from the dry sanctuary of the office having run in from a downpour whilst feeding the deer! The weather is incredibly changeable at the moment, so plenty of layers, waterproofs, wellies and sunglasses are a must!

March marks the start of spring in the calendar and we are all looking forward to longer days and the Park greening up with new vegetation. On sunny days I've heard skylarks singing over the farmland fields and the rooks by the stables are busily (and noisily) building nests. From today, the park and walled garden are open from 8am until 6pm to make the most of the sun.

The wardens have planted nearly 4000 hedging whips in the last few weeks, with the final ones going in this week. It can be hard work in the mud and frost but a cuppa from the kelly kettle can makce all the difference, especially if there is a fire to warm up by as we burn the brash from the laid hedge. As usual the planted hedges are 80% hawthorn, with a mixture of hazel, field maple, crab apple, guelder rose and blackthorn making up the rest.
Last week I attended a course at Hatfield Forest on caring for veteran trees and veteranisation of younger trees. It was fascinating, and a chance to admire some wonderful ancient trees - hornbeam pollards and layered hawthorns that are many hundreds of years old. Veteran trees are an invaluable habitat for so many species of insect, bird and fungi and it is important to have other trees nearby that will provide the same habitat once the original veteran has died - this is where veteranisation may be key, if an age gap in the woodland exists. Holes, decay, cracks, water pockets - these features can be encouraged in younger trees to mimic the veteran tree habitats.