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 14 August 2011

Paths, poison and plums

We have continued to work on uncovering our WWII site on the far side of the deer park. With the aid of an old map we have started to identify individual huts and buildings, including the officers quarters and latrines. Markings on the concrete floor show the outline of the rooms and some of the old drains are still in place. There are also two bomb shelters; I would love to get one of them in a good enough condition for visitors to go inside, especially children when they come to Attingham as 'evacuees' on their school trips.

Our volunteers hard at work

While out picking ragwort last week, Ron (warden) found two slightly unusual plants growing in a field margin - Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) and Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium). Henbane is extremely toxic and even smelling the flowers can apparently cause giddiness. It is also hallucinogenic. It was extract of henbane that 'Dr' Crippen used to kill his wife in 1910. Thorn apple (also known as Devil's weed) is also hallucinogenic and poisonous, with non-deadly side effects including amnesia and delirium. Ron took the following pictures for me but wisely didn't get too close!

Thorn apple

Finally, while out on the estate the other week checking on some hedgerows I found a wild plum tree, or bullace. The fruit was already ripening with a lot of windfalls so I took the opportunity to pick up a bagful (and sample a few of course!). A quick stop at the supermarket on the way home for vinegar, sugar and a few other ingredients led to an evening of chutney making. I love plum chutney with cheese and crackers, and that rich red colour from the bullace looks amazing. Perks of the job eh?!