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.

Saturday 31 December 2011

Guest Blog

My apologies for this late post - This entry has been written by Andy, whose blog can usually be found at I have been trying to get the file and photos to copy but with no luck! So here is our guest blog for the Christmas season, unfortunately sans pictures.

December 15th 2011
Christmas Time At Attingham

Those of you who have visited Attingham over the last couple of weeks will hopefully have enjoyed viewing the mansion in its current festive layout and theme of a 1920s Christmas. However, despite there being thousands of photos in the archive collection at Attingham, there is little photographic evidence for such celebrations within the house.

Shown below is one of the few Christmas photos that we have in the collection. Taken sometime between 1914 and 1918, when the house was in use as a field hospital for injured World War One military personnel, the photo shows the Christmas tree and festive decorations in the Outer Library.

Other evidence of celebration includes copies of Christmas cards sent by both the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick. If the 1938 versions of their Christmas cards (shown below) are anything to go by, then these were never really that festive! It is also interesting to note that although the cards include greetings from both Lord and Lady Berwick, there doesn’t appear to be a version that shows a photo of them together.

Festive Greetings from Famous Friends

The archive also includes Christmas cards and greetings sent to the Berwicks from some of their friends and contacts, with these generally being of the same austere design as the Berwick’s own cards.

Below is the card and festive greetings sent by Lord William and Lady Mary Beauchamp and their family in 1927.

[William Lygon, the 7th Earl Beauchamp, has a fascinating history and is well worth learning more about].

A number of cards were also sent from the 1920’s onwards by Alec and Barbara McCorquodale and the 1930 version is shown below. Barbara McCorquodale was of course better known as the romantic novelist Barbara Cartland and the Christmas card shows her holding her daughter Raine, who was Lady Berwick’s god-daughter and who eventually became Countess Spencer, stepmother to Princess Diana.

Evidence suggests that Lady Berwick was not overly keen on Barbara. In a letter to her mother in May 1931 she writes…
‘We have just come back from lunch at the McCorquodales – not social as usual for Barbara was there and that always spoils the atmosphere!’

It’s not known if the Berwicks and the McCorquodales ever spent Christmas Day together, but if they did it sounds like it might have been interesting!

Have a happy Christmas all.

I have been off on holiday for the last two weeks so I promise more regular posts from now on!

Sunday 4 December 2011

Frost Fair

Phew, what a weekend! Frost Fair at Attingham is always one of the biggest events of the year but this year was our best and busiest yet. There were dozens and dozens of stalls, selling breads, cheese, meats, chocolate, mulled wine, fudge, cakes, jewellery, clothing, hand-knitted toys, wood crafts, garden ornaments, art, glassware, pottery, Christmas decorations, books - pretty much anything you could want! The exact number of visitors hasn't been made available yet but on Friday there were around 2200, on Saturday around 4500 and today I'm guessing well into 6000 people!

Just two of the marquees in the Stables - there was another giant one behind the mansion plus many more stalls inside!

The wardens (and some gardening staff - thank you Mary, Debbie and Joel!) have been working flat out in the car parking department - 12,000 people means a lot of cars flooding in over a short period of time. With help from a dozen volunteers we managed to get everyone in and out pretty smoothly - thank goodness for the dry weather. I would like to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to all of the volunteers for their time and hard work - we couldn't have done it without you.

I managed to get a few pictures between waving cars into position - mostly of the endless sea of vehicles!

Cari summed up the weekend artistically!

Sunday 27 November 2011


Every Wednesday we have a team of volunteer hedgelayers in at Attingham. Hedgelaying is a tradition dating back for hundreds of years and we have a programme of management for the hedgerows on the estate from planting to maintaining. Hedgerows are vital habitats for wildlife, providing homes and food for a wide variety of insects, small mammals and birds. They also provide shelter for stock as well as a strong barrier between fields.

Over the last few weeks the team have been working on a hedge at Betton Farm and volunteer Terry took the following pictures to show how its coming along:

Tuesday 22 November 2011

There be fungus in the forest...

Wherever I went today, I found fungus - on living trees, dead wood, woodland floor and in grassy fields. I will admit straight away that I am terrible at identification (aside from a few easy ones like Fly Agaric) but one day I hope to get myself on a proper identification course. I love eating mushrooms but I don't want to chance eating the wrong ones! We do have a resident expert, Ron Iremonger, who leads the Fungi Foray events here at Attingham but unfortunately he was not with me today to identify what I found. I've spent the last half hour scouring my book to try to name some but I still cannot be confident I have the right ones! So here are some pictures instead:
Ok, this one I do know - Auricularia auricula-judae or 'Jew's Ear Fungus'. Apparently, the name comes from the story that Judas Iscariot hung himself from an elder tree, and this type of fungi is often found growing on elder trees.

Today a group of us were clearing elder and alder (try saying that ten times quickly!) from the edge of a large (currently dry) pond. Over the weekend, the pond will be dug out and years of mud and deposits removed. Hopefully this winter the water levels will return to normal and the pond refill to become a good habitat for insects, amphibians and other fauna. The local ducks usually enjoy this pond so the dry summer has been a big disappointment to them!

It was a long day and the sun was setting by the time we were finished but looking out across the deer park, there are worse ways to end a day.

Tuesday 15 November 2011


You know its been a good few days at work when you get home aching and proceed to sit on the sofa all night writing your blog, watching films and expending as little energy as possible!

Monday saw Becky and I working in the woods all day with contractor Seamus Hill, felling oak and sycamore and cutting the trees to lengths between 10 ane 14 feet. The timber was to add to our pile of other oak and pine stacked up ready for milling. It was a long day to reach our required amount but we made it, and today Nathan Home joined us with his mobile sawmill to cut the wood into planks, rails and posts. It's tough work, lifting and carrying the finished product from the saw to the trailer, then unloading and stacking the timber at the other end, but so satisfying to see the full process from felling trees to the posts and rails that we will build with in the future. The timber will now be left to dry out and season.

Loading the saw mill
I'll be moving and stacking this lot tomorrow
Buster keeps a watchful eye on us from his favourite spot... strange dog!
The day went really well with two exceptions - finding nails in two of the trees which blunts the sawblade, a costly error! The nails must have been hammered into the wood a long time ago, judging by their position, and the tree simply grew around them, leaving no trace of the damage. A good example of why you must never, ever put nails in trees!

Tomorrow our volunteers and students will split up into several groups, some hedgelaying, some fencing and some helping me to move the rest of the freshly cut timber to the barn.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Mad Jack's 5 2011

What a brilliant day! Well done to everyone that took part, hope you all enjoyed it. I haven't go the exact number of runners yet but there were over 350 entrees. Sunny, blue skies, crisp autumn air - perfect running conditions and plenty of spectators too.

There might be a few familiar faces amongst this lot - thanks to my partner Adam Beresford-Browne for taking the photos:

They're off!

Fresh as a daisy at the start...

Property Manager Mark Agnew running for Team Attingham!

Apologies to the chap that I passed, hope I didn't cover you in too much mud!
Carnage in the 'water feature'!

Some more of 'Team Attingham', muddy and already looking forward to next year

Thursday 3 November 2011

Preparing for Mad Jack's 5

This Sunday Attingham is once again hosting Mad Jack's 5, a five mile race around the grounds (including a dash through the pond near the finish line). On Tuesday we had a group from Stafford College join us to help build a fence/handrail to support the runners as they navigate the slippery pond edge and they did a fantastic job. Getting the posts 3' into the solid clay was no mean feat! The rest of the frame was bolted together so that we can take down the rails and supports and reuse them next year. Tomorrow I will be helping to put out the route markers and check that the cattle are fenced in away from the runners, then it's home to rest up until race time - 11am Sunday. Spectators and more runners are welcome to join in!

Tuesday also turned out to be an incredibly warm day and there were actually damselflies laying eggs around the edges of the pond that we were working on - on November 1st! I tried to get pictures but their darting movements came out blurry - here is the best shot - you can just about make out the mating pair and the ripples are where they drop down to lay the eggs:

Now that we are into November, the rut has come to an end. We have started feeding the deer on roots and hay, just a small amount at first, and will continue to do so through to next April. The adult deer seem to remember the routine and soon came over to investigate our vehicle and chow down on the fodder beet that we spread about:

Finally, this week see's the warden department saying farewell to Richard Newman, who joined the team 10 months ago on a temporary contract. Rich has found a new, permanent job in the western fells in the Lake District, managing his own team, and on top of this will be moving north with his soon-to-be family - wife Becca is expecting their first child in December. Sad news for us, a fantastic new adventure for them - so good luck Richard, from all the team and volunteers at Attingham!

Thursday 27 October 2011

Hedgelaying working holiday

This week we have had another working holiday. The group came to learn how to lay hedges but first we needed to gather our hedging stakes and binders, so day one saw us visiting Wenlock Edge to coppice hazel. We were treated to a beautiful day, cool and bright, and the views were lovely. The team worked hard, half of them up on the steep bank cutting the hazel and ash while the others processed the useable material into stakes and binders. By the end of the day, they had managed to cut 150 stakes and 150 binders - good work! Jess, Becky and I took along the storm kettle and made sure there was plenty of tea available to keep the workers going.
On Tuesday the group started laying hedges, working on a hedge at Betton Farm on the west side of the Estate. They were given the best possible start by spending the day with professional craftsman Karl Liebscher. Working in pairs, the team got stuck in and were soon pleaching their way through the hawthorn. Wednesday was a day off - after all, it is a holiday! - and gave the group a chance to explore the local area under their own steam.

Today Jess and I worked with the group, burning the unused brash and once more keeping that kettle going it - we needed it in the constant rain! Tomorrow is the groups last day, and they will be finishing off their sections of hedge before lunch at Attingham and a tour of the mansion. The hedge is looking good so far so thanks to the team for all their hard work!

Edited to add more photos!
Kettle on and drying off the gloves to keep the volunteers toasty warm!
A chilly start to Friday

Wednesday 19 October 2011

New walk

Apologies for the lack of recent posts - I have been on holiday. After all that relaxing and wandering along the beaches of Donegal I'm back and raring to go.

Our latest new walk officially opens this weekend; Ron and his team of engagement volunteers will be offering free guided talks along the new section of path on Saturday and Sunday. The walk is an extension of the woodland walk, offering approximately 1 kilometer of new path (making the full walk from the stable block to Mile Walk to woodland walk and back again just over 4 kilometres - thanks to volunteer Rod for measuring it out for us!) This week has seen the finishng touches going on - Becky and Sarah have been grinding stumps, Mark has put in a new gate and Colin has been leading a volunteer team setting out the fingerposts to direct you around the route. Ron's interpretation boards mean that there will be plenty to learn about as you wander around, from the history of plantations to making charcoal. Come up to the woodland walks via the deer park or the Mile Walk to find the new route!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Indian Summer

Well, what a strange week! Just as the trees are turning into their autumn colours and we are crunching along through the fallen leaves, the sun decides to make one last go of summer and brings on a week of sweltering heat. It's been beautiful but oh-so-dry, and I must admit that working all day in full chainsaw PPE has not been so fun in these temperatures! I'm hoping we will be well into cooler times for the Over the Edge run later this month... check out Chris' blog for Wenlock Edge to find out more, and come along to cheer me and Attingham volunteer Geoff on as we struggle over the 18 mile course.

Our new (to us at least) kiln
 This last week has seen a variety of jobs done. A small team of volunteers accompanied me to Brockhampton, a Trust estate in Herefordshire, to collect a charcoal kiln so that we can start producing our own charcoal again. It may be a few weeks before we have time to get everything set up (and I need to re-read my charcoal book and brush up on technique!) but hopefully we will see a burn or two before the end of the year. Brockhampton is a beautiful place, I would thoroughly recommend a trip and the warden there, Nick, is a lovely chap who trained with me on Careership.

Yesterday I went to our small cricket-bat willow plantation to check on the progress of the young trees. The willow is used by one of the last companies in England to make cricket bats, and last year the crop was felled and replanted with around 100 saplings. Our job was to trim off any side shoots to prevent knots in the wood and ensure that the wood will be of good quality. It will be another 20-30 years before this lot are ready for felling so I will keep watch on them and hope to see them ready in time for my retirement!

Finally, a success story - over the last few years I have watched the swans that nest down by the deer park bridge try to raise their young, only for them to go missing (probably washed away down the weir). But this year, the whole family has made it and the cygnets are nearly as big as their parents:

Tuesday 27 September 2011

New path

We have started work on another new path that will be officially opened next month. The path will allow visitors to walk through a part of the woodland at the top of the Deer Park that has previously not been part of the open site. We spent a day clearing saplings and stumps to create a winding way through the trees and will next be focusing on signposting the walk to ensure that everyone knows exactly where they are going. On the opening day of the new walk we plan to be offering guided tours so I'm looking forward to introducing it.

Today we have been collecting and stacking timber for processing into logs and when we arrived at our timber yard we found a stowaway amongst the boxes of wood, soaking up the sun:
Log orders have started to come in quite frequently now, it must be the nights drawing in and cooler mornings. We sell logs in loads of approximately 1 metre cubed, in softwood or hardwood. We have been cutting logs all year so we are well prepared for the coming winter!

Finally, just because he makes quite an impressive sight, meet the Aberdeen Angus bull that is out with the longhorn herd on the front fields at the moment. Despite his size he appears to be pretty easy going, barely registering me as I requested a photo!

Monday 26 September 2011

Welcome to the new recruits

The gardeners and wardens office is full to the brim of late as we welcome four new recruits - Becky, Sarah and Cari from Harper Adams University and Jess, our new careership warden. The Harpers are volunteering with us as part of their course and we are lucky enough to have Becky and Sarah for a year and Cari for 6 months (before she jets off to New Zealand to complete her work experience there). Jess will be with us for two and a half years as she starts her career in the countryside by completing the National Trust's own training scheme, attending college to support her hands-on learning. This week they are joining Richard, one of the wardens, and some other volunteers on a hedgelaying course with expert local hedgelayer, Karl Liebcher.

Me, Cari, Jess, Becky and Sarah - the ladywardens are starting to outnumber the gents!

Thursday 15 September 2011

Happy Birthday Bob!

A quick update to alert everyone to the important news that it is Bob's 50th birthday today! We managed to surprise him with a quick mid-morning tea, cake and balloon party before continuing with preparations for the Food Fair that is starting tomorrow. There will be dozens of stalls offering yummy treats from cakes and Fuffle (you will have to come and try it to find out what it is!) to organic veg, curries, breads and beers.

My saw needed a good sharpening
after hitting this!

This week we have been processing more timber into logs, including felling some dead elms to make room for a new fenceline. One of these elms caught me out as I was turning it out - a piece of wire cunningly disguising itself as a twig took some chunks out of my chainsaw. The wire must have been part of a fence several decades ago that was up close against the tree and when there was no stretch left in the fence, the tree simply grew around it. It always fascinates me how determined trees can be when it comes to growing over, around or through obstacles - nothing can stop nature going where she wants to go!

Otter prints

While on site in Ismore meadow we also checked on our newest pond to see how the vegetation is seeding in around it, and were pleased to find otter prints in the silty soil around the edge. The pond is fed by a small brook and the overflow from the pond runs into the Severn; having otters on site is a very positive sign as it means the water quality is good. We also have otters along our stretch of the river Tern - there are certain spots where you can frequently find fresh spraints (droppings) and the remains of meals. I took a picture of some spraint (below) a few months ago on the edge of the deer park and the presence of many fish scales shows that fish were on the menu that week: