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, 27 June 2012

Thunderboxes are go, the Bog Blog etc. etc.

Yup, Attingham is the proud new owner of two Thunderboxes - eco-friendly composting toilets. One is situated at the soon-to-be new camp area along the river Severn and one is at the soon-to-open new play area beyond the orchard. The Thunderboxes arrived in pieces and our job on Momday was to assemble them. It sounds simple, but the instructions left something to be desired! But we soldiered on, and the toilets are ready for use. They work by separating solids and liquids in the specially designed toilet bowl, and then throwing in a handful of woodchip into the tank after each use to add carbon; once full, the tank is removed and left to mature under aerobic conditions until the waste matter is rotted down into useable compost. Its clean, easy and uses no water. Genius!

First put the tank in place...
Then the walls and ventilation...

There are two cubicles in each Thunderbox,
 back to back and sharing the tank
Roof on (that was a fun part!)

Ta da!
Well done team!

Today we have been helping Sunnycroft (our sister property in Wellington) prepare for their summer fete this weekend:
"A traditional garden fete with local food stalls, family games such as the coconut shy, splat the rat, face painting and a tombola. Step back in time and enjoy the traditions of a summer fete such as strawberries and cream whilst enjoying the entertainment from Kaleidoscope Theatre. Musical entertainment: Saturday 30th June ' 'Anything Goes' Sunday 1st July ' 'The Gallery Singers'."
It is a great event so drop in!

Today we also had a little goodbye party for Sarah, our final Harper student from this year. Sarah has been a great asset to the team and will be missed by everyone - hopefully it won't be the last we see of her. Thanks for everything Sarah, and good luck with your final year!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

And a few days after strimming...

There are times when you learn a lot from your mistakes. For example, since that time with the tractor I have been SUPER careful about the height of doorways... but thats a story for another time. This story goes back to last week and all that strimming. You should always wear long sleeves to protect yourself from flying stones and vegetation when using a strimmer, but I foolishly went ahead in my t-shirt because of the warm weather, and this is the result:

And this, kids, is why you should wear sleeves!
I believe I must have hit a patch of giant hogweed - I didn't notice the plant at the time because nothing huge stood out in the vegetation, so it must have still been young and small. Giant hogweed is phototoxic; when its sap comes into contact with skin that is exposed to sunlight and uv rays, it goes red, causes blisters and burns. This occurs because a chemical in the sap damages the skin cells and stops them from being able to protect from uv rays - so you end up with severe, concentrated sunburn. Luckily for me, I have only small blisters and I will be covering up from now on. The plant was introduced to Britain as an ornamental garden plant in the 19th century, but has since become widespread, especially along riversides. So if you see it, don't touch it! I'm told many children end up with burned lips and mouths after using hogweed stems as pea shooters.
Heracleum mantegazzianum - Giant hogweed (not my photograph)
In other news from the week, volunteer Phil rescued this young jackdaw from the pond in the mile meadow - somehow the bird had got underneath the boardwalk and couldn't make its way out again. Well done Phil!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


All this sunshine and rain is doing wonders for the grass and other vegetation around the estate; unfortunately, not all of it is wanted and its quite a job to keep on top of it! We have been topping the grass on the front fields to prevent the thistles from reaching maturity and spreading more seed; the permissive path along the river Tern at the top of the deer park has been strimmed so that visitors can enjoy the peaceful walk; today, we have been strimming and clearing the area around Cronkhill in preparation for its opening to the public this Friday and Sunday. Cronkhill is only open a few days a year so its worth coming along if you are in the area to explore this unique property.

Today I was also involved in a meeting to implement some new energy-saving strategies across the property. We are looking at more insulation in the mansion and stables, led lighting, timer switches on the hydro boilers and radio chargers and secondary glazing amongst other things, and hopefully many of these will be put in place in the near future. It takes a bit of planning to do these things due to historical and aesthetic considerations, especially around the mansion.

The deer are looking their best at the moment - bright summer coats, antlers in velvet and the fawns are starting to make an appearance now that they are fast enough to run with their mothers. It's a beautiful sight so next time you are in the park, remember your camera!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Books and Ben

Rhododendron ponticum

Another busy week - we have been fixing loose posts in the deer park, running taster days for applicants for a new training programme, preparing the riverside path for the new fishing season, putting up the marquees for this weekend's book fair and burning rhododendron in the deer park.

The training programme is called Passport to Your Future and is looking to recruit a trainee for twelve months from a non traditional background and give someone a chance to start working with the Trust and building the skills to work towards becoming a warden or gardener. The taster days have been a chance for potential applicants to come and experience Attingham and see what sort of work we do. The position will start in September so watch this space.

Next year, victory will be mine... mwahahaha
This weekend the bookshop volunteers will running the annual book fayre and the new fishing season starts so I'm expecting a lot of visitors. We sell day and season fishing tickets and throughout the season we will be patrolling the river, checking tickets and fishing licences.

It's a bit of a sad week as it's Ben Harwood's last week at Attingham - he has a fantastic new job in the Trust and we wish him all the best, but he will be missed! Ben has held a variety of roles in his time at Attingham - you may have seen him in regency costume around the House, running events and he is responsible for pioneering social networking at the property. I'm hoping he will still be around for this years Mad Jacks Five race - he beat me last year and I want another chance...
Good luck Ben!