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.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Finishing the old, starting the new

With the equinox behind us and the clocks changing this weekend, spring is officially here. The bright sunshine, daffodils everywhere and lambs in the fields are certainly making me think of the coming warmth and the jobs that come with the seasons. Before we can jump in to all the new projects, there are still some last winter jobs to complete but we are well on our way.

This week has seen the wardens here, there and everywhere! On Monday the team went to Betton Farm where a very large, old horse chestnut had lost its fight against the gales and lost its top as well as a couple of major limbs. It had just caught a fence with the tips of its branches to we cleared the brash and repaired the fence so that our tenant farmer can put his cattle out into the field to enjoy the new grass. It was a gorgeous bright day and our work was carried out to the sound of skylarks. We spotted a stoat as we left site but it was far too quick to me to get a picture, disappearing into the woods before I could even reach for the camera.

Fence fixed and brash removed

On Tuesday we split forces with one team on site repairing other fences and clearing timber while a few of us went to Lee Brockhurst to deal with some leaning and hung up trees. On Wednesday, we had a little celebration in the afternoon to mark the achievement of Senior Park and Estate Warden Colin Morris - 30 years of working for the Trust at Attingham!

On Thursday I went with Colin to Dunham Massey for a meeting of the Trusts deer managers. I was able to see their fallow deer herd which has until recently contained all four colour variations - the common and menil that we have here, plus some white and black (which are a very dark brown rather than true black). It was interesting to hear about how different properties manage their deer, with some quite different feeding and culling programmes. There's always something new to learn with the National Trust!  

Friday, 7 March 2014

Signs of spring

The snowdrops are past their best now, though they are still an impressive sight blanketing the woodland floor. With the warmer weather the daffodils and crocuses have come out all around the mansion and riverside, and as you walk down to the back of the mansion there are primroses and fritillaries on the wildflower bank to your left.
Spring at last!
Student Henry has been working on a new natural play area with our Sports Co-ordinator Lucy and as you walk from the Bothy towards the suspension bridge and deer park you will see some of their work with log bridges across the ditch and stepping stones in the stream. There is still a bit of work to do on the bridges but the stones are firmly in place and being enjoyed by our younger visitors (and my dog!) already:

Max enjoys the stepping stones - and the off-lead zone

Speaking of dogs, there is an updated dog policy available from Visitor Reception which outlines the responsibilities of dog walkers around the park, explains where the dog bins are (including a new one) and maps out where dogs must be on short leads or are allowed off lead. We have noticed that some visitors are not putting their dogs on leads where they should, including in the deer park, and recently a child was bitten by a loose dog that should have been on a short lead. I am asking my fellow dog owners to please adhere to the rules to keep everyone safe and comfortable. If you do spot someone ignoring the signs then please inform our staff, with a description if possible, so that we can have a word - we don't want the few to spoil it for the many. Attingham is such a brilliant place to bring your dog for a walk and to socialise with others, we want to keep it that way!

With spring on its way we are finishing off our winter jobs of hedgelaying and planting and are on schedule to complete them in the next few weeks. We have planted apple and damson trees to form a small orchard on a piece of ground at Wheathill farm, and will finish the orchard at Duncote next week, along with some maintenance work with replacing tree guards and mulching. We are continuing to tidy up from the storm by moving the fallen trees and brash as the ground is drying up and we can get the tractors in without creating too much mess. The deer are still being fed but not as often, as the trees are starting to bud and the grass is growing. The final cull is taking place this Saturday so if you would like some venison next week may be your last chance! There may be a final selective cull in a few weeks but after that, the season ends and we will not cull again until the end of the year.

Some of the fruit trees we have been planting

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The aftermath

Last night's 75mph winds have hit us hard across the Park and wider Estate. We were forced to close the property yesterday for the safety of all and it remained closed until 2pm today while the outdoors team checked every path and assessed the damage. We have lost many trees and were sadly given no choice but to fell some others that were left in a dangerous state. One such tree included the 100ft two-stemmed beech at the start of the Mile Walk near the stables - it split down the middle. This was a massive and complicated felling, performed by some of our skilled contractors who not only got it down and cleared safely, they missed the iron fencing too!
Early this morning work began on the split beech

The beech safely down and showing the massive split

The causeway to the deer park has flooded once more and the surface is being washed away - please heed the signs and do not attempt to cross! Check with Visitor Reception for the latest news on closures and paths, and visit the Attingham Twitter and Facebook pages for updates. We are doing our absolute best to reopen the property but safety MUST come first and we have a mammoth task ahead of us.Thank you for your patience!

Some of the aftermath

Flooding as seen from Cronkhill

Large branches have fallen

Flooding as seen from the Deer Park

Damage to fencing around the Property

If you are planning on visiting the property over Half Term, then please note that we have had to cancel some of the activities. Our car parks are also waterlogged, so wherever possible please car share with friends and family if you are meeting here for a holiday get-together. My apologies if this sounds all doom and gloom! We are planning to try and run our Trail from Monday and continue with Trusty Club but it is all weather dependent as we are due more wind and unsettled weather. Watch the website and social media pages, and I will update when I can.

On a positive note I saw a goldcrest today while checking the deer fence - they are the UK's smallest bird and if he can survive last night's weather and still be chirping, we can all grit our teeth and get on!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The rivers are rising...

More wet weather on already saturated ground means more flooding across the Park and Estate. The water rose enough today to start trickling over the causeway, despite us raising the level by four inches after the devastation caused by last years floods. We are monitoring the water level closely and we will see how it looks in the morning before deciding whether or not to close access to the deer park. If you are out with children or dogs on long leads then please be particularly careful - the river banks are completely underwater so what looks like a few inches of paddling water can drop very suddenly.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Working with wood

Another busy month for the wardens! Ben and Craig have been busy developing a new site for green woodwork as part of Ben's University project, designing shelters and building pole lathes and shave horses; the site will be used by staff and volunteers to learn and practice various crafts and also to make charcoal. Watch this space!
Meanwhile, Henry has been working with sports development officer Lucy to design and build a new natural play area for children - again, stay tuned for updates!

Our Wednesday hedgelaying crew have been busy on a new hedge at Duncote Farm having finished their first one, braving the wind and rain to rescue the hedge and renew it with new growth. There are some large gaps in this one and some thin areas, so we will lay it as best we can and replant to thicken the vegetation. This is part of a long-term plan for the hedges of the Estate, bringing them back into good condition with regular cutting and laying.

Meanwhile, another group has been working with me to restore an area of hazel coppice. As you can see in the pictures, it's been a long time since these stools were last coppiced - we counted 25-35 growth rings in the larger stems. We cut the hazel down, angling the stumps outwards, to encourage new shoots that can be coppiced again in 7-10 years time for stakes, binders and material for green woodworking. We managed to cut many stakes and binders out of the old stools as they have put out new shoots, and the larger material will be used for firewood, charcoal and probably a chair leg or two once the pole lathes are set up! The stumps are then covered with brash to give them a bit of protection from rabbits and deer that would nibble off the new shoots as soon as they appear.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Goodbye Jess!

Hello, I hope a Merry Christmas was had by all and Happy 2014 from me!
Unfortunately this will be my last newsletter piece for Attingham as I’m moving to another position with the National Trust as a Ranger at Cliveden Estate in Buckinghamshire.
I’d like to thank everyone for their support and advice through my time training and working here; Attingham is a fantastic property, full of dedicated people, passionate about conserving the diverse history and nature here and it’s been a pleasure being part of that team.

I’ve had some fantastic experiences here; discovering the varied wildlife and what lurks in the Attingham ponds; building jetties to launch canoe trips and creating new walks; learning skills like hedgelaying and coppicing; and planting hundreds of trees and parking lots of cars. But the highlights have always been our conservation work, the teams here and keeping our Warden volunteers busy!

The NT Academy Ranger training programme has also come to its end for my year group and we will be graduating this month; the location being none other than Attingham! So I’m not disappearing for too long. This training has been the reason I’ve been able to get my new job so I’m very thankful for the chance to take part in it and meet like-minded folks from around the country.

I wish everyone at Attingham all the best for the future and thank you again for being a great team to work with.


Monday, 30 December 2013

Wintery winds and fond farewells

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas? Christmas is the one day of the year that the park is completely closed, although the recent winds have meant we have had to have partial closures on other days too. Local gusts have reached nearly 60 mph and with the risk of trees and branches falling we had to close the footpaths around the park. Our precautions were the right choice - at the top of the Mile Walk a grand fir uprooted and fell across the path, bringing down half of an ash tree with it. You can never guarantee if a tree will or will not fall down, but it's never worth the risk of having people nearby!

We are feeding the deer regularly now, at 2pm every day in the local school holidays and every weekend until February so you can see these beautiful animals enjoying their food. They even had a feed on Christmas Day - not everyone gets a day off when there are jobs to be done! Boxing Day saw many visitors coming out for a walk to burn those excess holiday calories so we tried to park everyone as best we could on the wet ground. Some of you may have heard already that a big project is planned next year to redesign the car parks, increasing the hard standing and improving drainage.

In a few weeks time we will be saying goodbye to our Academy Ranger Jess who is moving south to start her new job as warden at Cliveden Estate. She will be greatly missed as she as been a full time member of staff here for the last two and a half years - thank you for all your hard work, good luck with your new life and stay in touch!