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, 29 July 2012

One warden and her dog

This week has had one key theme for me - dogs. Last weekend there was a bit of a commotion as a visiting dog managed to slip its lead and began to bark threateningly at another. He was difficult to catch and a few young people were upset at the noise, but eventually the owner and several staff managed to get it under control and the dog was taken home to calm down. It can be quite upsetting to observe such things, and even more emotional for the owners of all the dogs involved - I have met several people now who are shocked at how their normally reserved and well-behaved dog can 'lose it' and act aggressively, and then of course there is the stress for the other dog that is under attack. That is one of the reasons that we have to ask visitors to keep close control of their dogs at all times - you just never know how an animal will react. With our high visitor numbers, many of whom are young children, we need to ensure that the Park is safe and welcoming place for those with and without dogs - one of the daily challenges faced by the National Trust! I love that Attingham allows dogs on the property (not all Trust properties do) because it's a great way to meet some of our regular visitors.

Monday saw another canine incident - I received an urgent call from reception that a dog was stuck in the river and couldn't get out and could possibly be hurt. Duncan rushed off to find the exact location while I got some ropes and life rings. When I arrived on site one of the owners was in the river trying to help the dog out - a Newfoundland no less! We managed to get the dog and owner out safely, and luckily the dog was not hurt. I think he simply didn't have the strength to get himself out of the water and up the steep bank with his thick coat weighing him down. While we do not enforce a 'no dogs in the water' policy at Attingham we do not encourage owners to let their dogs get in the river - it has very steep muddy banks and can flow surprisingly fast. It could also be dangerous if people jump in to try and help their animal. So a plea from all of us at Attingham - please be careful, keep your dog close by and under control, and avoid them getting in the water!

. So that was the start of the week; now we get to the end of it and the most exciting part (for me at least) - I have a new puppy! His name is Max. He didn't get the best start in life - he and his brother were found dumped in a bag in a lake. Miraculously they were found and handed in to my partner's mother, who cares for all kinds of abandoned or abused animals. She got them back into good health and now we have one of them. He still needs his final jabs before I can start bringing him for walks around the Park but I can't wait - he will love it. I have wanted a dog since I was a young child so he is a dream come true for me! Attingham will offer us a space for walks and socialising with other dogs, and once he is well-trained we can enjoy letting him off the lead in the specified off-lead areas (part of the Mile Walk, part of the Deer Park Walk and, in the winter months, the Mile Meadow when the farmer is not using his meadow.) There are 7 dog waste bins around the site to keep clean and tidy after him, and dogs are even allowed in the deer park (but MUST be on a lead and kept close to protect the deer from stress and harm). There are maps available in reception for anyone who wants one showing the location of the dog bins and the paths, but as I empty the bins every week thats something I know a little too well already!
Meet Max!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Play time in the sun

Well, summer finally came and just in time for the school holidays. The new natural play area was finished last week and opened last Saturday - several acres of grass, balance beams, climbing structures and tunnels for children to run around and enjoy. It has been hard work gettting everything ready along with our other jobs, but the positive comments we have received have made it worth it. The Greedy Pig is open every day of the holidays, and there are childrens trails around the park and Trusty Tuesday club events (next week it's pond dipping - one of my favourites!) - so its a busy time for families. There are plans for more structures and games so keep an eye on it as we develop the site.

This week we have a long list of tasks - coping with the endless grass and weeds that are growing faster than we can cut them, helping Sunnycroft to repair their car park, cutting logs to have a stockpile for the coming winter (strange but true - this week we have started getting orders for logs again, in this heat!), clearing the perimeter fence line, pulling up ragwort in the deer park, patrolling the river, setting up for events and then taking it all down again...

There are 60 or so Girl guides camping at Home Farm this week, so last night Colin and I gave them a treat in the form of a tractor and trailer ride around the deer park. The does and fawns are still sticking together and not getting too close to the public areas of the park, but the bucks are happy to pose for pictures and are looking their best - plump, shiny coated and with antlers in full velvet. I like watching them in the early evening when the park is much quieter and the deer come closer to the paths - now that we are opening until 7pm, I've noticed a few photographers taking advantage of the opportunity and good light.

Right, I'm exhausted after a day on the chainsaw so I'm off! See you around the park!

Thursday, 12 July 2012


It's my week off this week but today (it being the first dry sunny day all week) I went into work armed with my net and binoculars to survey the damselflies and dragonflies on the ponds in the Mile Meadow and the Deer Park. It was fantastic! Warm, sunny and with only a gentle breeze, it was the perfect day for sitting and watching the insect world fly by. Over both ponds I had 9 species positively identified and 2 that I think I saw but with only fleeting glances it was difficult to be sure. I definitely saw the following:
  • Azure damselfly
  • Common blue damselfly
  • Variable damselfly
  • Common blue-tailed damselfly
  • Emerald damselfly
  • Large red damselfly
  • Banded demoiselle
  • Emperor dragonfly
  • Four-spotted chaser (dragonfly)
I think I also saw a brown hawker and some kind of darter - a common red?

The most exciting part of the day came when I was looking for exuviae amongst the reeds and found a newly emerged emperor holding on to its old shell while it dried out and strengthened its muscles. I sat nearby and watched him for an hour and a half as he gradually started moving, stretching his legs, then wings, then climbing up the reed and taking off on his first flight. I felt like a proud mum watching him fly off across the meadow! I got some good photos too, so here are a few of the best:

Emerald damselfly
Four-spotted chaser
Large red damselflies
The newly emerged Emperor - still pale in colouring and
building his strength for his first flight
After an hour he started to move, stretching his legs and starting to climb higher
Still climbing and flexing his wings - moments later he made his first flight.
Good luck!
The exuviae he left behind - now added to my collection

Thursday, 5 July 2012

There's a war on you know!

This weekend Attingham goes back in time to the 1940's for a weekend of wartime music, drama, history, machinery, food and costume. Bob will be giving guided walks around some of the parts of the park that were particularly active during the war (and he has a special costume, so I'm told!). In fact, there will also be free entry to the grounds and mansion for visitors that come wearing full 1940's costume, so dress up and join in! ID cards will be given out and stamped on arrival...

I'm a bit disappointed that I can't join in this year but I have booked myself onto a weekend course about dragonflies and damselflies to improve my knowledge, so look out for a dragonfly event at some point in the future. I will be brushing up on my identification of species and ideal habitats, and hoping to dodge the forecasted rain!

A male Broad-bodied Chaser pausing beside the Mile Meadow pond in 2010