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.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Summer holidays and fun down on the pond

The holidays are here and the hot weather continues. This weekend we have been offering pond dipping and dragonfly watching on the Mile Meadow pond. We had quite a few families in yesterday and the kids had a great time discovering snails, water boatmen, damselfly larvae and newts, plus the chance to see some damselflies up close. There were several damselflies around that I netted and put into pots for the kids to see - azures, blue-tailed, large reds, emeralds and banded demoiselles.Unfortunately the overcast day meant that few dragonflies were out on the wing - but we did spot a common darter, and brown hawker and an emperor.
A male emerald damselfy (Lestes sponsa)

The children found plently of newts!

After release, the emerald damselfly rests
Right at the end of the day, however, Jess managed a brilliant catch and netted the emperor! They are often impossible to catch - they are in near constant flight and change speed and direction with ease. By chance this one came low and close enough and we all got to have a close look at this magnificent dragonfly. On inspection we found that his wings were in a poor state, indicating that he was quite old - all four wings were torn and ragged. He still managed to fly off though.

Dragonflies have excellent vision - no wonder with these huge eyes!

The emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator)
 Attingham is a great site for spotting dragon and damselflies - keep an eye out for hawkers on the Mile Walk, banded demoiselles down by the river and emperors, skimmers and chasers on the Deer Park pond. Let me know what you find!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Attingham, Oaks and AOD

There has been another sudden media interest in Acute Oak Decline (AOD) in the Midlands this week. Yesterday a photographer from the Shropshire Star came to take some pictures of some oaks (and, unfortunately, me) for part of a story that they are running this week. AOD has been around in the UK for a while - this article from the Forestry Commission explains that the disease has been present for 20-30 years, though it now seems to be on the increase.

Attingham is affected - regular visitors will know that the path through Rookery Wood from the Stables down to the Mansion was closed off earlier this year to keep people away from the affected trees, and in 2010 Estate Manager Bob Thurston appeared on the BBC's 'Inside Out' program showing how Attingham has been working closely with experts studying the disease in an effort to find out how exactly it is spread and how we can tackle the issue before it becomes too widespread. The disease affects the food system of trees, decaying the stem tissues that transport food from the leaves to the roots, effectively cutting off the nutrient flow and slowly killing the tree. It also weakens the tree's immune system, leaving it more susceptable to attack from fungus and insects.

While we do have infected trees, it's not all doom and gloom as many of our oaks are still healthy and disease-free; and in a few cases, Bob has noted an improvement of symptoms in infected trees. Research is ongoing and we will continue to support studies by providing them with samples of infected tissues and insect trapping as we have done so far.

In other news, we have had a mobile sawmill in this week, cutting up some of the huge butts from the trees we had to fell for Severn Trent in Ismore Wood. The timber will be used in future projects around the estate.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Early birds

This morning I had some mixed feelings as my alarm went off at 4.15am! But I was up early to meet local bird expert Chris Wittles and have my first experience of bird ringing. Chris set up the nets last night near the river and Tern Bridge and as the first birds flew this morning, he and colleague Peter were catching them in the long nets, gently releasing them, recording details of species, age, gender and size, ringing them and letting them go. Jess and I joined them to observe how the process works and to see some of Attingham's wildlife up close - and what a fantastic morning we had! In 2.5 hours we recorded reed buntings, garden warblers, great tits, robins, a black cap, a wren, a chaffinch and a greater spotted woodpecker. The information will be fed into the British Trust for Ornithology database so that we can monitor the variety of species and their numbers over time. It was fantastic to see and hold some of these beautiful birds and I managed to get a few pictures too - I'm already looking forward to the next time (though I will go to bed a bit earlier next time!)

A Garden Warbler

Peter holds a wren

Juvenile robins - see the first blush of red on the slightly older robin on the left
A reed bunting
My thanks to Chris and Peter for sharing their time and expertise with us!

Friday, 5 July 2013

What the wardens did while I was in Spain!

Hello All!

As Joy’s been on leave this is a guest post from me (Jess) with a bit of what we’ve been up to over the past week.

We’ve been working hard to repair a fence line and hedge on a Betton Farm boundary. A large gap was made when a vehicle went impromptu off-roading and damaged the hedge and fence which are part of a cattle corral in the field. This enclosure is very important in helping to monitor the health of the herd and needs to be super secure.

Our Monday gang removed the dead hedge and damaged fence from the site, and created a new fence line along the whole stretch, using the tall deer-fence wire. We dug in each post to make it nice and sturdy and put in some straining posts and struts.

On Tuesday railings have been put across the gap (with the help of two work experience students) as an extra precaution - these are big beef cattle next to a very busy road, we don’t want them to mix!

The gap left in the hedge row will be planted up early next year when planting season is upon us once more.

Work is continuing on the Ismore camping field to install gates and a footbridge for improved access. Also Phil, Andrew and others have been assembling Thunderboxes at Smethcote barns for all our working needs!