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.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

So much for my dreams of a frosty Christmas! The rain continues and is starting to become a problem. Over the weekend we had to close the bridge to the Deer Park as the river is now so high that it is flowing across the path and washing away the stone surface. I've just been out to check on it and it's still impassable, so if you are coming in for a pre-Xmas walk then you will need to take the longer route via the suspension bridge. There are several trees and branches stuck in the weir as they have been washed down from upstream. The overflow car park is also saturated - we expect to be quite busy on Boxing Day so will have to park people on the front field bank as we so at Frost Fair. If you can, please come in as few vehicles as possible! You will also need to bring your wellies or good walking boots - the Mile Walk is ok but most of the rest of the paths have some very wet or muddy patches.
This path will need repair as soon as the water recedes...
It's not all bad news though - our parkland gardener Lisa spotted the first snowdrops last week. They are far from being in flower yet but we love our snowdrops and will be watching and updating their progress.

The first snowdrops brave the weather

Merry Christmas from the Attingham Park wardens! 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Elves and deer...

If you come along to see the deer being fed between now and Christmas, you may spot some familiar-faced elves...

Thanks for the pictures Martin!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Frost and ice

The thermals are most definitely on! It's crisp and beautiful out there, and walking around the park hearing the crunch of your footsteps and seeing your breath fog the air is one of the reasons I love this job. The wardens have been keeping busy as usual; the last week has seen us hedge laying, shifting timber, building a prototype shelter for approval from our curators, delivering logs, taking a huge Christmas tree to St Chads in Shrewsbury, taking steps to protect the ground on the approach drive and heeling in 10,000 hedge plants ready for planting. And it's only Thursday. Phew!

The hedge plants are made up of hawthorn, blackthorn, holly, field maple, hazel and guelder rose, and will be used to fill gaps in existing hedges as well as new plantings. Our lovely volunteers have braved the cold and dug out trenches for the whips to rest in, then we back fill and loosely pack the earth down to protect the roots from the frost. Once it warms up a little we can get cracking with the planting out again.
Buffy, Bob, Milly and Martin - and 10,000 young hedge plants
Dog walkers will be pleased to hear that the meadow in the middle of the Mile Walk is now open again, and well-behaved dogs are allowed off the lead inside. Please make sure that any mess is cleared up though - the tenant farmer that allows us use of the meadow in the winter months has his cattle on there the rest of the year and diseases can be spread to them via dog waste. And when its icy or wet, take care around the pond! The boardwalk can become slippery. Max likes to scramble across it but I prefer to take the circular route around. Speaking of Max, I took him up to Carding Mill Valley last weekend for his first walk in the Shropshire Hills - fantastic! It was bright and sunny that morning and we followed the 5 mile pink route up the valley to Pole Bank and down Townbrook Hollow. Highly recommended, but remember your hat and gloves.
If you come and see the deer being fed at Attingham this weekend or during the week before Christmas, you might spot a few new characters - we have elves feeding them from our festive sleigh! Photos to follow soon. Stay warm!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Remember those willows we pollarded down by the river near the Deer Park a few weeks ago? Look at them now!
The rain caused a lot of flooding across the estate and was really starting to worry us as Frost Fair approached - last year we had just under 12,000 visitors and had to park thousands of cars on the grass of the side and back fields near the stable block. This year we needed to prepare for the same but with all the wet ground we needed to try something new - so we hired out some flexible matting to make roadways and tried out a new system of parking on the field in front of the mansion. It worked! The final number of visitors hasn't been revealed yet but imagine it to be nearly the same as last year. Parking so many vehicles is a massive job and we had teams of staff and volunteers for the last three days running the car parks like a military operation. A huge thank you to all of the volunteers - your hard work is greatly appreciated and we simply could not have done it without you.
Here are some pics showing the warden's view of Frost Fair 2012!
The morning briefing and donning of the high vis and radio checks...

The endless sea of cars!

Assessing the ground after a day of parking and moving the lines...

Dawn, and we're out there already!


Craig guides the visitors along...

4.30pm on day 3 - tired and ready to go home!!


Sunday, 25 November 2012


This week we put the first fresh venison of the season into the shop. Our butcher prepares steaks, loin, haunch, diced, burgers and sausages in our on-site butchery, and some of the qualified staff and volunteers help with the packaging and labelling. Volunteer David was a huge help this week, spending several days weighing up and packing venison for us, thanks again David!
The Countryside, Parks and Gardens Manager for North Shropshire (or Bob as we like to call him) came into the office the other day with  beautiful little find - an abandoned nest found in a utilities metre box on the side of one of the estate cottages. With a bit of help from a book I've identified the eggs as those of blue tits - if anyone knows differently then please let me know. The eggs are tiny, about 1cm long and pale with speckles (just like a Cadbury mini egg). It's a shame the eggs failed to hatch this year but what a great find for our engagement wardens to use and show people:

Monday, 19 November 2012

Winter arrives

Winter has well and truly arrived - today we spotted a group of redwings flying over us. Last year I shared some pictures on here that I took of redwings in the holly bushes outside Visitor Reception so we will have to see if they come back again. The hollies have a good show of berries already so fingers crossed! Redwings are a migrant species, arriving from Scandinavia in October and November and leaving again in March. They are a small thrush with a creamy pale stripe above the eye and dusky red patch under the wing (hence the name):

Another sign that winter is here is preparations for Frost Fair have begun. The huge marquees are going up over the next few days and the wardens are gathering staff and volunteers to debrief the Car Parking Plan. With nearly 12,000 visitors last year it is essential that we have a large team of people controlling the thousands of cars that will be coming on to site. We are also wishing hard for a cold snap! Rain and wet ground are not friends with car tyres...

Finally, the deer cull has started as of last weekend, so if you are coming to Attingham for a walk on Saturday morning please remember the deer park is closed until mid-morning when the stalker finishes and lets the duty warden know that it is safe to reopen. This means that we will have venison for sale in the shop again by the weekend. We are also feeding the deer in earnest to make sure that they enter the winter in the best possible condition, and you can watch the deer being fed at 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays and during the school holidays. We have changed the feeding area from previous years now that the new WWII walk is open, so to watch us just walk to the top of the deer park from the main gate and stand along the first 50 metres or so of the new walk. Rumour has it that there will be elves feeding the deer closer to Christmas...
Craig throws out fodder beet for the deer to munch on

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Willows and walks

Well, I'm finally back at work after a nasty cold and catching up with the weeks work. On Monday, the volunteers went coppicing again at Wenlock Edge to get stakes and binders which they then used on the hedge they are laying at Berwick New House farm. The hedge is coming along nicely now, so soon we will move on to the next one at Brompton.

While half the team laid more hedge today, the rest of us went down to the bridges near the deer park and pollarded some of the willows. Some of the smaller cuttings will be used to make a willow arch in the play area; larger timber will be dried for a few years before being used in the log burners. The rest of the cut wood was burned on site to keep the area tidy and prevent it from being washed down the river in the next flood. There is still plenty of work to do in that area so we will have another day there soon.

The Park is still full of beautiful autumn colours and we are getting some really positive feedback about the new walk. We are now feeding the deer every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm and visitors can watch the herd having lunch by standing at the top of the deer park where the new walk splits away to the right from the older deer park walk near the Repton Oak. The deer are in great condition heading into the winter, so there will be some quality venison coming to the shop over the next few weeks - the first cull of the season is this weekend. Keep an eye on the chiller in the shop next time you pass through.

While out walking Max a few days ago along the deer park walk I came across this impressive colony of bracket fungus - there is a stump under there somewhere!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

New walk!

James and Andrew digging in a new
path from the new bridges...
The wardens have been working all hours this week to get a new walk ready for this weekend. The walk takes you through the deer park into a totally new area of the park where previously the public have never been able to go. As well as showing you the park from a new visual perspective the walk also leads you through some of the history of the estate by incorporating the WWII path that we cleared last year and the site of the war time infirmary. The path is clearly marked out with blue-topped posts, and is approximately 1.75 miles long from the stables and back. As you enter the deer park you will see the posts leading you either straight on or immediately right- the choice is yours! As always in the deer park it is vital that dogs are kept on leads and under close control as the deer are easily stressed by animals chasing them, but Max has been on the new walk and thoroughly approves so I hope all of you dog walkers will enjoy it soon. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all of our volunteers and trainees who have worked so hard on getting this walk ready - all that gate hanging, digging, raking, bridge-building, tree cutting, fencing, stone-shoveling and sweeping is very much appreciated!

The working holiday team getting stuck in
The week before last also kept me bust with a working holiday group. We were coppicing for hazel stakes and binders along Wenlock Edge of day one, then hedgelaying for the rest of the week at Brompton on the south side of the Estate. In just a few days, the team managed to lay and bind 50 meters of hedge - pretty impressive for a group of beginners! They received a day of training from expert hedgelayer Karl Liebscher to get them going, and then battled wind and rain to get the job done. Good work!

All this wet weather has created the perfect conditions for fungi around the park so you may want to bring your camera as you walk around. There is fly agaric near the the start of the woodland walk in the north end of the park (the classic red mushroom with white spots used in so many cartoons - but poisonous so please do not touch!). There are other fungi cropping up all over the place in grassland and on dead wood. I took this picture along the new walk yesterday:

Enjoy the new walk, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I need to find my wellingtons!

Rain rain rain... Sometimes in this job you have to just grit your teeth and keep going and remind yourself that come the warm sunny days, everyone else is jealous of your job! Last week saw some pretty incredible rain and we used the opportunity to keep under cover and cut some logs. Well, that was the theory - in practice several of the volunteers managed to stay dry-ish splitting logs in the barn while the rest of us stood outside chainsawing rounds of timber and using the processor. I discovered that my chainsaw boots are not water resistant in any way and that cups of coffee from the kelly kettle are a lifesaver in such conditions!
The River Tern in the foreground... and the newly flooded meadow
beyond being enjoyed by some swans
There is normally a lot more bridge on show!

Last week also saw us finishing a new fence around the Greedy Pig, delivering several loads of logs, preparing Cronkhill for opening with a bit of strimming, taking down the tents and marquees from Sunnycroft and setting up for our Harvest Fair in the Walled Garden. We had a tree down across one of the paths on the Woodland Walk - an old rotten oak that was well back from the path but tall enough to reach it with its upper branches. Colin and I cleared it, along with a few other smaller trees in the area to keep it safe and tidy.

More rain on the way?
We also have a new member of the team to introduce - Craig is joining the wardens for a 12 month traineeship and started last week. He is a little camera shy (but I'm sure I'll get him snapped some time) but made a great discovery while out in the woods - he found this egg, nearly completely buried in the dirt, in perfect condition! A bit of research leads me to believe it is a swan egg - but how did it come to be buried near the Mile Walk?! Anyway, a mystery to ponder - welcome Craig!

I'm lucky to be on holiday for the next two weeks but took Max for a walk around Attingham early one morning so here are a few early autumn photos. See you back at work!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

7 Days canoe fun!

This post comes with the help from volunteer warden Martin - thank you for all the pictures! Martin helped to build the jetty that the canoes were launched from at the 7 Days event and then he and his wife enjoyed a paddle along the Tern on the Saturday. It looks like a lot of fun, plus they even spotted some otters! I'm very jealous - I have seen otters along the Severn but not yet on the Tern.

Hi Martin!
It's a little blurry but unmistakably an otter
Seeing Attingham from a whole new perspective

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Autumn arrives

I need to update the last month! It has been very busy over the last of the summer holidays, the 7 Days event and the start of autumn (plus I had a week of holiday somewhere in there too). Never a dull moment!

7 Days was a success with some fantastic talks, walks and events to take part in. The pond dipping on the deer park was very popular, plus the experts spotted and photographed a species of dragonfly that I believe has not been found there before - a black darter (Sympetrum danae). I missed seeing it but its one to look out for next year - they are the only black dragonfly in the UK (males being black, the females a dark brown) and are very attractive. The scaffold platform in the orchard has been a great success, offering a fantastic view of the walled garden and orchard from above - you don't realise how big it is (or how straight the gardeners manage to plant their rows!) until you see it from high up. Hopefully there will be similar events in the future for visitors, volunteers and staff to enjoy.

Milly chisels a post to allow the rails
to fit snugly in place
In the last few weeks we have also had some big weekend events - the Carriage Parade and Food Fair. I managed to miss them while I was on holiday but am told they were popular and kept our staff busy! This weekend you can go along to Sunnycroft in Wellington for their Michaelmas Fair, and the weekend after that is Attingham's Harvest Fair so that will keep me busy. The wardens help with the setting up of most large events and it often takes a day or more to set up all the tents and marquees, transport tables, chairs and other equipment (including a large solid oak apple press for the events mentioned above!) and prepare the car parks; then there is another days work to take it all down again.

Buffy and Martin dig in a gate post
Now that we are into autumn once more our volunteers have started to get ready for hedgelaying by coppicing hazel stakes and binders on Wenlock Edge. This week the teams have also been building a fence in the new play field that will enclose the Greedy Pig catering unit in its new position - the posts are sweet chestnut (long lasting without  the need for chemical treatment like softwood posts), the rails douglas fir from Dudmaston Estate and we will be using elm, sycamore and hazel from around the Attingham Estate to make the uprights.
Work continues on a new walk that will be opening in the next month or two, and we are also processing logs when possible - now that the chilly autumn evenings have arrived the log orders are coming in fast! We sell seasoned hardwood at £90 per delivered load (within the Shrewsbury area) as a way to make use of  trees felled when thinning out woodland or to use up timber that is not suitable for milling.

Finally, a Max update - he is growing fast and loving his walks around the park. Here he is after a particularly energetic one!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Save Wenlock Edge Quarries

Please head over to and have a read through their post about Wenlock Edge quarries - the consultation date has been extended to August 28th so there are still a few days for you to voice your opinion! The quarries are absolutely beautiful in terms of their wildlife and potential for creating habitat havens and spaces for people to enjoy. Please have a look and support the Trust in its aim to protect this important site for the future.

I took this picture of an orchid at Wenlock Edge several years
ago - I hate the thought of losing such a special place

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Something special this way comes...

7 Days is just a few weeks away.

If you visit Attingham Park between 1st and 7th September you will get to meet some of our National Specialists during tours, talks and walks. This group of experts work within highly specialised disciplines. Their aim this week is to give you a unique and in-depth perspective into all aspects of the property and estate as well as broader aspects of their work in the National Trust.

The National Specialists offer knowledge and advice to properties and regional consultants on particular subjects such as the conservation of historic artefacts. They support both core work and projects. The National Specialists are authorities in their fields of expertise and lead developments within their specialist areas and have significant external advocacy roles at UK and international levels.

We split the group into three categories to give you an idea of the roles and responsibilities of the National Specialists - museums and collections, outdoors and nature and environmental practices.

Our outdoors and nature National Specialists are faced with the issues of climate change and the threats to wildlife habitats and our landscape. The coastline is eroding, increased rainfall and flooding are changing the landscape and new pests and diseases are infecting our plants and trees. Our outdoors and nature specialists have 250 000 hectares of beautiful National Trust land and over 700 miles of coastline to preserve, enhance and promote. It’s a good job then that they are a large group.

Beetles and bugs abound from canopy to ground in our woodland. Things with wings fill our gardens with buzzing and fluttering. National Trust owned land is a vast source of nationally important data for our bio survey team who tell us what we have, where it is and how many there are. The team advises properties on land management for the sustainability and enhancement of wildlife.

Adaptation is a keyword in nature and coastline conservation. We now accept that we cannot always prevent changes caused by the ever changing climate. Our coast and marine adviser and land use adviser are championing adaptation as a way to realise the potential for a positive outcome of change.

We have a specialist gardens historian and a nature and wildlife experience advisor who help us to make the most of our natural heritage. Our agriculture and food adviser provides advice to properties and tenanted farms on farm management, animal welfare and sustainable, quality food production.

The Trust’s head of forestry cares for 24 000 hectares of wonderful woodland. We own some of the oldest, tallest, and most important trees in the country. Our ancient trees adviser is an expert on the ancient cathedrals of the natural world, the oldest of which are over a thousand years old. Our adviser for plant health is also working closely with trees and other plants, building awareness of new disease threats and advising properties on preventive measures. Our trees are also a great source of renewable materials and fuel.

Here are just 5 of the talks during the week giving you an idea of the wealth and depth of experiences available during the week. Visit the Attingham events page for a full schedule.

Ray Hawse - Head of Forestry - 'Magnificent trees'

The Trust’s head of forestry cares for 24 000 hectares of wonderful woodland. We own some of the oldest, tallest, and most important trees in the country.

For thousands of years trees and woods have been used for many different purposes to benefit mankind but how they are valued and exploited is constantly changing to reflect the varying needs of society. By looking at trees and woods generally across the UK and at National Trust properties specifically, Ray Hawes attempts to find out if there is such a thing as a “Perfect Tree”. Saturday and Thursday.

Tamsin Phillips - Waste advisor - 'More than a load of rubbish'
Reducing waste, improving recycling facilities and responsible waste practices are the realm of our specialist waste adviser. What waste do we generate now and what do we do with it? How does this differ from waste management in the past? Tamzin’s talk on Sunday will discuss packaging, ‘waste miles’, repairing and recycling and composting food waste.

Ian Wright - Plant health advisor - 'Plant health - can we meet the challenge?'
Plant diseases such as Acute Oak Decline, Phytophthora blight, and Bleeding Canker in Horse Chestnut have all recently become established in the UK and are becoming increasingly difficult to control, whilst others appear to be escalating towards almost epidemic status. It is generally accepted that the way we trade with each other and move freely and easily around the world will only continue to increase the likelihood of more new pests and diseases arriving.  So what actually can we do to ensure we provide a more positive future for our gardens, landscapes and woodlands?  Come and listen on Thursday to see what we are already doing and what you can do to help.

Phil Dyke (coastal advisor) and Katherine Hearn (Land use advisor) - 'From source to sea - adapting to change'

Adaptation is a keyword in nature and coastline conservation. We now accept that we cannot always prevent changes caused by the ever changing climate. Our coast and marine adviser and land use adviser are championing adaptation as a way to realise the potential for a positive outcome of change.

Join Katherine and Phil on Thursday for a discussion on all aspects of the water course from the river Tern to the coast and sea.

There will also be exciting activities to take part in that will let you see Attingham from a whole new perspective - how about canoeing along the River Tern, zorbing across a pond or climbing to a platform above the Walled Garden? There will be deer park rides too, and honey spinning with Attingham honey... this is the first week of its kind and is going to be fantastic to be part of. There is so much going on you might want to start planning your week now!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

One warden and her dog

This week has had one key theme for me - dogs. Last weekend there was a bit of a commotion as a visiting dog managed to slip its lead and began to bark threateningly at another. He was difficult to catch and a few young people were upset at the noise, but eventually the owner and several staff managed to get it under control and the dog was taken home to calm down. It can be quite upsetting to observe such things, and even more emotional for the owners of all the dogs involved - I have met several people now who are shocked at how their normally reserved and well-behaved dog can 'lose it' and act aggressively, and then of course there is the stress for the other dog that is under attack. That is one of the reasons that we have to ask visitors to keep close control of their dogs at all times - you just never know how an animal will react. With our high visitor numbers, many of whom are young children, we need to ensure that the Park is safe and welcoming place for those with and without dogs - one of the daily challenges faced by the National Trust! I love that Attingham allows dogs on the property (not all Trust properties do) because it's a great way to meet some of our regular visitors.

Monday saw another canine incident - I received an urgent call from reception that a dog was stuck in the river and couldn't get out and could possibly be hurt. Duncan rushed off to find the exact location while I got some ropes and life rings. When I arrived on site one of the owners was in the river trying to help the dog out - a Newfoundland no less! We managed to get the dog and owner out safely, and luckily the dog was not hurt. I think he simply didn't have the strength to get himself out of the water and up the steep bank with his thick coat weighing him down. While we do not enforce a 'no dogs in the water' policy at Attingham we do not encourage owners to let their dogs get in the river - it has very steep muddy banks and can flow surprisingly fast. It could also be dangerous if people jump in to try and help their animal. So a plea from all of us at Attingham - please be careful, keep your dog close by and under control, and avoid them getting in the water!

. So that was the start of the week; now we get to the end of it and the most exciting part (for me at least) - I have a new puppy! His name is Max. He didn't get the best start in life - he and his brother were found dumped in a bag in a lake. Miraculously they were found and handed in to my partner's mother, who cares for all kinds of abandoned or abused animals. She got them back into good health and now we have one of them. He still needs his final jabs before I can start bringing him for walks around the Park but I can't wait - he will love it. I have wanted a dog since I was a young child so he is a dream come true for me! Attingham will offer us a space for walks and socialising with other dogs, and once he is well-trained we can enjoy letting him off the lead in the specified off-lead areas (part of the Mile Walk, part of the Deer Park Walk and, in the winter months, the Mile Meadow when the farmer is not using his meadow.) There are 7 dog waste bins around the site to keep clean and tidy after him, and dogs are even allowed in the deer park (but MUST be on a lead and kept close to protect the deer from stress and harm). There are maps available in reception for anyone who wants one showing the location of the dog bins and the paths, but as I empty the bins every week thats something I know a little too well already!
Meet Max!