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.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Crocuses, daffs and half term

             Gorgeous crocuses are popping up
around the park
Well, there's no denying it - spring is definitely on the way. The crocuses are appearing on the bank near the tea room and rookery wood in a cheerful spattering of white, purple and lilac and today, as I drove along the Mile Walk emptying the dog bins (not the most glamorous of weekly jobs but hey, someone's got to do it!), I saw the first daffodils in flower along the river walk. The snowdrops are still out in their full glory but I'm already looking forward to the sunny display of golden daffs.

It's half term this week and families have flocked to Attingham to enjoy a day in the park. There is a trail for children to follow as they look for trees around the grounds and collect a prize at the end, and the deer are being fed at 2pm each day for the public to watch and enjoy.

Well-rotted muck makes an ideal mulch for the
border shrubs
This week has also seen a lot of new volunteers join the warden team as they come for taster sessions and find out more about what we do. Yesterday, our hardworking volunteers put a mammoth effort in mulching the Ice House shrubs and Spring Gardens with muck, coppicing and burning dogwood near the Tern and resurfacing the entrance to the Deer Park with gravel to make it easier (and drier) to walk along the path. The small bonfire attracted a lot of attention from passers-by as they came to see what we were doing; the dogwood is regularly coppiced every three or four years to keep it at a manageable size. One visitor even came to rescue an armful of cuttings before they ended up in the fire, to use as part of her flower arrangement at home. I'd never thought of it before, but the deep red colours would really make a pretty addition to bunches of flowers. Next time we are coppicing, I may take a few pieces and give it a go myself!

The dogwood is coppiced the keep it under control;
regrowth will be quick and vigorous

The fire is roped off at the end of the day to keep
people away from the hot ashes

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Snowdrops - they're here!

Wow, the snowdrops are out in full bloom now and looking beautiful. Saturday was an amazing day, warm, sunny and Attingham was packed! The snowdrops are drawing visitors in their hundreds as they come to admire the display, and the evening snowdrop walks and morning talks have also proved popular. Enough of me writing, here are some pictures to show how spectacular the views are right now:

Friday, 11 February 2011

Outdoors team BBQ

Last night the staff and volunteers from the warden and garden departments gathered in the Bothy for a post-Christmas party (it was too cold before Christmas!). The fire was lit, the mulled wine and hot spiced apple juice flowed and the food was absolutely fantastic - venison kebabs, pork chops, sausages and beanburgers (for me and Ben - not many vegetarians that night); homemade chutney, cheese and crackers; Kate's mince pies and apple tart with brandy butter and Home Farm icecream. Yum. Everyone had a great time, and it was a lovely way to thank our volunteers for all their hard work and get to spend some time with them away from the job. I do have some photos but my cable has temporarily gone missing (the woes of moving house!) so I will have to add those at a later time. Big thanks to the garden team who set up the party and made it such a beautiful setting.

Yesterday I also attended one of the annual pre-season meetings, where staff and volunteers gather to hear exactly what each department has been up to over the last year and what they will be doing this year. I always find it interesting to hear from the other departments and see how we link together projects and events across the property. We also use these meetings to draw attention to our longer-serving volunteers, who receive a gift as a token of thanks from the Trust. It was amazing to hear that our longest-serving volunteers have been giving their time to Attingham for 39 years - incredible!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Attingham cows

I was working with a small team of volunteers a few days ago clearing bramble away from the Park fence and cutting back the line of hawthorns to prevent them growing over and through the fence. Our work soon piqued the interest of the cows that graze the front park. The cows belong to Mr Dixon of Home Farm, and he has quite a range of breeds. The following are just a few of the curious cattle we have on site:

Highland cow - one of my favourite breeds of cow with their beautiful horns and shaggy coats. There are only two at Attingham, a mother and her (now grown up) calf - I believe their names are Morag and Hamish.

Longhorns - another breed with striking horns, and there is a large herd of them at Home Farm. You will often see them grazing as you come up the drive to the mansion.

Belted Galloway - Easily identified with their distinctive white belly band

Dexter - Short legged and full of character

There is also a large Jersey herd as well as a few other individuals. I love seeing the cattle out on the park, especially when the calves are young and playing around in the sunshine. The only exception is when they decide to group together on the road and stoicly hold their position as you drive up to them - this usually happens whenever I am running slightly late for work - somehow they just know!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Logs and muck!

Well, the week so far could not have been more different in terms of the weather; bitterly cold on Monday with all of the outdoors team wrapped up in extra layers, but on Tuesday we were working in warm sunshine and down to our shirts. A great start to February!

I spent my Monday in a tractor, moving endless trailer-loads of muck out of a barn that has recently come back in hand. The barn will be used in the future to store wood for seasoning and splitting into logs. These logs will then be used across Attingham in the Bothy, Tearoom and visitor reception in log burners and fireplaces, as well as being on sale to the general public. Which leads nicely into Tuesdays work - splitting logs with the wood processor.

This pile of wood was created after some essential tree surgery on a hornbeam in the garden of one of our tenants. Hornbeam becomes extremely hard once it is dried out, making it difficult to split, so we are turning it into logs while it is still 'green' and then will stack it neatly out of the way and allow it to season.

The log processor makes short work of lengths of timber; cutting the logs to size before feeding them into the hydraulic ram, then carrying the logs up the belt to drop into a waiting box.

Meanwhile, one of our volunteers splits some rounds in a more traditional way. Hard work, but very satisfying!