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.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

It's been another busy week so far. On Monday I took a team of volunteers down to Tern meadow where we cleared back the vegetation that grows along the track to the new fishermans car park. Amongst the usual nettles and brambles there was a large amount of hemlock water dropwort - the most toxic plant for animals and humans that grows in Britain. It looks very similar to flat-leafed parsley and gives off a pleasant parsley/celery scent when crushed. We cut it down with brushing hooks, taking care to wear gloves and not expose our skin to the sap. It is only fatal if ingested so we made sure that no-one was tempted to give it a taste!
Oenanthe crocata - Hemlock Water Dropwort

We have also been processing seasoned logs to sell and use in the Visitor Reception log burner; repainting the white gate near the front of the mansion; renewing and repainting signs; cutting back some overgrown willow; weeding newly-planted hedges; and creating a new space fo a temporary tree nursery. Today I also got to practice my digging skills as we needed a 2-metre deep hole digging for some ground percolation tests. Those of you that know me will know that I am not exactly blessed with height and muscles so I swapped my spade for a JCB - job done in a fraction of the time! (Well, once I'd got out of the dip I was temporarily stuck in!)
I drove back to the office today across the deer park and was treated to a close up of some bucks as they grazed and sunned themselves near the footpath. The deer are now in their summer coats and look absolutely beautiful. The buck's antlers are already growing back and the new antlers are covered in 'velvet' - the skin that covers the bone until it is finished growing. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the first fawns, they are due to arrive any time now but they are often hard to spot for the first month or so as they stay well hidden in the long grass and bracken. If you see a fawn then please let the wardens know, but remember not to go too close or to touch them as they will be rejected by their mother if they detect human scent on them. And of course, it's more important than ever to keep dogs on a lead when their are little ones about!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Owl boxes

Over the weekend the senior park and estate warden, Colin, and myself put up two new barn owl boxes in the hope that we will attract a few more breeding pairs into the park. Barn owl boxes need careful placing - the should be 3-5 metres high, face east, north-east or south-east and have no branches obstructing the flight path to and from the opening. It is also advantageous to have other branches nearby for the young owlets to practice moving about close to the nest. We found the perfect spots in some veteran oak trees in the deer park, one at the east side and one on the west. The boxes are away from the public paths to ensure that the owls are not disturbed by noise.

Accompanying us in our task was volunteer Peter Marshall who has very kindly spent hours building us a variety of bird boxes, from barn owl nest boxes to robin boxes. His talent with woodwork is a definite asset to the Trust so I would like to thank him again for his time and effort.

Peter, left, and Colin with one of the boxes
that Peter has made for us



Saturday, 7 May 2011

Plant Fair, kites and Attingham TV!

This weekend (May 7th and 8th) is the Plant and Garden Fair here at Attingham. There are plants, tools and materials available to buy, birdbox making for families, refreshments, guided tours of the Walled Garden and a plethora of gardening experts ready to answer your garden-related questions. Unfortunately, after weeks of sunshine and warmth, the weather has chosen this weekend to send us some downpours but hey, it's good for the plants! Pack your raincoat, put on your wellies and come and have a wander.

A red kite - one was spotted flying over Attingham
at 8.15 this morning
As well as the Fair our Engagement Warden, Ron, was up early this morning to give a dawn chorus tour and will be doing the same tomorrow. The tours are pre-booked as there is a breakfast after several hours of enjoying the birdsong so if you have missed it this year, keep us in mind for next May. Ron counted 37 different species this morning - worth getting up at 3am for! When I arrived at work this morning there was an additional treat as volunteer John spotted a Red Kite soaring over the north end of the Stables courtyard. We watched it for about half a minute before it left our sights. I tried to get a photo but alas, too slow. It was only the second time have I have seen a red kite in my life, and the first time in Shropshire. Once near extinction in this country, kites are making a comeback thanks to protection and re-introduction schemes and are now becoming easier to spot. They are a beautiful bird, very distinctive with their red/brown colouring, forked tail and angled wings, and I will be keeping my eyes peeled for more sightings across the Estate.

Finally, I would like to point you in the direction of Attingham TV! We have over a dozen short films for you to watch on a wide range of topics - from feeding the deer and hedgelaying to behind the scenes in the Mansion and what goes on on a Working Holiday. New films are added regularly so have a look and see a bit more of what goes on across the Park and Estate. You can find the films by following this link: Attingham Park TV