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, 30 August 2015

Things with wings

Summer is flying by too quickly - it's hard to believe that the holidays are nearly over and that soon we will begin the autumn and winter work programmes of hedge laying, planting and thinning the woodlands. However, we have had an awful lot going on at Attingham to keep us busy so here is an update on some of the work and sights that we have seen.

Local bird expert Chris Wittles has been busy continuing to monitor birds around the Estate and has found this year to be superb for warblers. We have done some vegetation management near the river and will be doing more this winter to improve the habitat for birds moving along the river corridor.

While out patrolling our stretch of the River Severn and checking fishing tickets and permits, Martin and Ian spotted our local swan couple who have been very successful this year - you may have seen them if you have been canoeing near the camp site. Six of the seven cygnets have survived and can be seen here enjoying a family paddle!
Photo: Martin Clark
Last week we did a bit of path tidying and brash clearance at Hillcrest, our patch of land at Lee Brockhurst. It's a lovely spot to stretch your legs and enjoy the view if you are on a journey along the A49 and fancy a break. There are some very impressive sandstone formations and even more impressive trees that have managed to take root through the rock and flourish - the one pictured has a single root stretching down several meters to the soil on the exposed side.

We have had to deal with several fallen trees and branches as a result of the recent wind and storms, with some still to deal with on the front and back park. Trees are funny things - sometimes they look completely healthy and drop a limb without warning while others that look ready to fall hang on and on and on. After every strong wind I look at the tree on the left as you drive down the exit road - it has dropped most of its branches and has one large one left, leaning away from the road into the field. I keep expecting it to go but still it holds on! Elsewhere on the Estate we have had tree surgeons in doing work on two ash trees at one of the fishermen's car parks, making them safe and trying out some conservation cuts that mimic the natural tear out of a limb.

Our Dragonfly Weekend were well attended though the cloudy, breezy weather meant that there were not many dragons or damsels on the wing. We had some fun hunting for exuviae and managed to spot a few Hawkers, Darters and Emperors. The next warden walk is on the 6th September with Bob on the Beat the Bounds walk.

Last night some members of Shropshire Bat Group came to the park to test out the route for their walk next Saturday and I joined them to see what was flying around. It was a good night and though we were disappointed not to hear the rare Lesser horseshoe bat this time, we did record Common and Soprano pipistrelles, Barbastelle (fantastic as these are very rare in the UK), Brown long-eared, Daubenton's, Natterer's and Noctule bats. If you would like to join the walk on the 5th September then you will need to pre-book by calling 01743 708170, £6 per adult and £3 per child, starting 7.30pm. Check out the Bat Conservation Trust  website for more information on these amazing little creatures!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A dry spell

As I type this in the office I am looking out to a darkening sky that promises a downpour of much-needed rain - some of our younger trees and hedges have really struggled over the last few weeks as the dry weather and scorching sun take their toll. We have been watering when we can but nothing beats a good natural soaking so sorry folks, I'm hoping for a rainy day!

Last week the team spent a day at Betton Farm putting up a new stretch of stock fence in a quiet scrubby corner as well as removing an old fence and replacing some rotten posts on another. They battled with nettles, brambles, swampy ground and a wasps nest but still managed to complete the task ahead of schedule and with time to spare at the end of the afternoon for a cup of tea after the tools were put away. Win!
Judy keeps everything tidy! Photo: Terry Carr
Clearing the ground ready for the fence line  
Photo: Terry Carr

You may have spotted a digger out on the front park a few weeks ago and our tractor and trailer hauling loads of soil - Duncan, Matt and myself have been busy training on this piece of kit and using the machinery to clear the pile of earth that was left over from work on the sewage system some time back. Future projects using diggers will include resurfacing paths and clearing out some of the ponds that become filled with silt and leaves over the years.

This weekend we will be hoping for some sunshine and calm weather as we have our dragonfly walks on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. We will take a gentle stroll to two of our best ponds to see what we have on the wing, hopefully with the chance to see a few close up if I can net them. We have a collection of exuviae to look at too. Bring some binoculars and a camera to see some of these colourful insects in their full glory!