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, 18 March 2013

Sky lanterns

Last week I walked across the Deer Park at the end of the day, checking on some work that had been done and how the paths are withstanding the continued wet weather. I saw a patch of blue on the grass and went to investigate, finding a tattered Chinese sky lantern. These lanterns are very controversial - they are popular at weddings and New Year celebrations and last year it was estimated that over 200,000 were bought in the UK, but they pose severe threat to wildlife and livestock because they are made with thin, sharp wire and bamboo. The wire and bamboo can break and splinter and if ingested can cause internal bleeding and death - there are many recorded instances of this happening to cattle. Birds can get hit by them and caught up as they fall to the ground - barn owls have been found dead amongst lantern debris. Fires can be started if the candle is still flaming - hay barns etc are at risk. Stock and wildlife can also get caught up in the wire, which was my immediate concern for the deer. If a deer gets anything caught on its antlers - wire, plastic bags etc. - they panic and try to run away from it, causing stress, exhaustion and likely death. In other countries, these lanterns have been banned due to the dangers and farmers are calling for a similar ban here. Please discourage the use of sky lanterns, and if you come across one in the countryside then please pick it up and dispose of it safely - you could be saving something from injury or death.

We also had a working party from Natural England join us for an afternoon of hazel planting. The hazel will be coppiced in the future for hedge laying materials. We planted them under the new power lines so that we can control the height of growth and reduce the need for the power company to come out and cut trees growing through the lines. Despite only having a few hours together we managed to plant 150 trees as well as a good look around the area and walk to and from site - so thank you Natural England team!

Finally just a quick note to my fellow dog owners - the meadow in the middle of the Mile Walk is now closed as the tenant farmer, Mr Dixon, wil be using it again to graze his cattle and grow a silage crop.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A sad tale

Last weekend a strange and sad event took place, although luckily there was a happy ending on this occasion. A regular visitor found three domestic rabbits on the side of the road as she drove up to the car park here at Attingham, out in the open and huddling together for warmth. She brought them to reception where the weekend wardens took them in, finding them a large box and plenty of padding and fetching some food and water. They called the RSPCA, who were able to come the next day; in the mean time one of our Harper Adams students, Buffy, kindly took them home for the evening. The rabbits were in terrible condition, severely underweight and with very matted fur; whoever abandoned them had clearly not cared for them in weeks. When the RSPCA officer arrived on Monday she was shocked at their condition but thought they would make a full recovery with the right care, which would include putting them under anesthetic so that the matted fur could be shaved off, neutering, worming and treating for fleas as well as weeks of feeding up. Luckily, she was able to take them away for treatment and rehoming - they were beautiful little things and very friendly - once we had them warmed up and eating, they really came to life and enjoyed a gentle fuss. I hope that they find a new owner soon.

It saddens me to think that someone thought bringing them here was a good idea when there are animal sanctuaries that would have taken them in long before they got into such a bad state. Leaving them on the side of a road could easily have led to them being run over and killed, and it took valuable time for our staff to make arrangements for their care and collection. It's possible that whoever dropped them out of their car thought they might become wild and survive on their own but this simply isn't the case.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Spring - if only for a few days...

As I sit in the office looking out at the gloomy drizzle my mind wanders back to those glorious days of clear blue skies and warm sunshine... all of two days ago. How quickly the weather changes! The warmer weather did a lot to boost our teams energy as we continued with hedge removal and planting on one of our farms. On Tuesday I heard my first skylark of the year singing merrily overhead, and on Wednesday a group of lapwings accompanied them with their peculiar squeaky wail. It was a beautiful time to be working outside - I was too hot in my chainsaw gear, not bad for March!

I've had a really good couple of weeks for bird sightings. Nothing particularly rare or unusual, but really close up (I need to carry my camera around more!) A buzzard swooped down in front of my pick up as I waited at a junction and perched on the fence post next to me, surveying the field; a pair of jays squabbling in a tree and seemingly oblivious to me standing next to them; a sparrowhawk hunting along the woodshed lane; and a heron in flight very low near Tern Bridge. There are also a lot of kestrels around the Estate at the moment, easily spotted as they hover in one spot watching for prey below.

We are into the final few weeks of hedge planting now as the new season beckons. Some of the hawthorns are already budding so as soon as this cold snap ends, we will finish planting. We should just about get the hedges and new apple trees in the ground in time before rolling on with the next projects; it looks like temperatures are dropping for the next two weeks so wrap up warm!