Monday, 27 December 2010

Twas the week before Christmas

What a busy week it was, a real mixture of jobs needed doing before we took a day off for Christmas.
Drivers eye view of timber being unloaded.


Timber needed gathering from small stacks into one large one so that it is ready for collection by a lorry.
There were also a few log orders to cut and deliver.


There was also a bit of felling to do, the only down side to this job is getting a load of snow down your neck as the tree falls and deposits its accumulations.


Saw my first Woodcock of the season on the Edge today, have usually seen quite a few by now, found a dead Wren on Christmas day another victim of the cold weather. Hopefully this partial thaw that has taken place today will offer a chance for wildlife to bulid up fat reserves before the next really cold snap. Please remember to put food out, particularly for the birds. Apples and sultanas are great scattered on the ground for Thrushes, as are porridge oats. Peanuts and seed in feeders will cater for Tits, Finches, Woodpeckers and Nuthatches. 


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

More Nordic Walking

Following the success of the recent 'Introduction to Nordic Walking' event, we are holding further sessions on Saturday 12th February. The event is aimed at people who haven't tried Nordic Walking before, giving them a taster of the benefits of this low impact, high calorie burning activity. For more information about the benefits of Nordic Walking look here.
There are two sessions available at 10am and 1pm, the sessions include, individual fitting of poles, instruction by qualified instructors and a 1 hour walk along Wenlock Edge.
There is a cost of just £6 per person and this includes pole hire, booking is essential.
e-mail chris.dunkerley@nationaltrust.org.uk to book.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Winners and losers

Whilst working today i disturbed a pair of Buzzards feeding on the carcass of a Badger, the badger was not near a road (so wasn't hit by a car) and so has presumably become a victim of the cold weather. Digging for worms and other bugs must be tough with the frozen ground covered in several inches of snow.
I tried to take some photos, couldn't get very close so had to try and do it through my binoculars, bad photos are becoming common on this blog unfortunately. I think though that a bad photo is sometimes better than no photo...just!
Interestingly a Robin also had a bit of a peck at the carcass, i didn't realise that they did this, maybe they don't normally but times are just so hard that they have to just take what they can.
I thought that the sheep might welcome some hay, it will give them a break from digging through the snow to get the grass beneath.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Winter in the woods

We have had plenty of snow in the last few days on Wenlock Edge, it looks supurb, carpeting the woodland floor and adorning the branches of trees and shrubs. There are currently wonderful conditions for walking and with temperatures dropping significantly overnight it looks like the snow will be around for a while.

Whilst this weather can be enjoyed by us its worth remembering that life becomes much harder for birds and other wildlife. Whilst wandering about today i came accross a dead Great Tit that appeared to have succumbed to the Wintery weather, there was no damage to the bird which i would have expected to see if it had been attacked by a Sparrowhawk. Please remember to feed the birds in the garden especially at this time of year. Peanuts are good for woodpeckers, nuthatches and tits, black sunflower seed is good for tits and nijer seed is prefered by finches. Each of these types of seed can be dispensed from specific feeders available at pet shops and hardware stores.
A Tawny Owl was also spotted today and a rather grainy photo was taken, the photographer apologises for the poor quality.

Other birds seen this week include,
Great Spotted Woodpecker,               Buzzard,
Nuthatch,                                            Marsh Tit,
Fieldfare,                                            Blue Tit,
Redwing,                                             Dunnock
Raven,                                                 Wren,
Sparrowhawk,

Also spotted,
Stoat,
Fox,
Fallow Deer.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Nordic Walking event

On Saturday 11th December we organised 2 'Introduction to Nordic Walking' sessions on Wenlock Edge, the second session was added due to the high level of demand.
Fortunately most of the ice, that had made walking on many of the footpaths and the car park treacherous had melted just in time. At about 4 degrees the conditions were just about perfect for a 4 mile walk along the edge.
After everyone had been individually fitted with the correct size poles we were given some very interesting information about the benefits of Nordic Walking and about the correct technique to use by our instructors Martin and Sue.
Getting to grips with the basics whilst not looking at all silly!




Next we all walked around the car park several times as different elements of the technique were introduced bit by bit.







Striding out in the woods




Once we all seemed to have grasped the basics we set off into the woods for a 4 mile walk over mixed terrain so that we could get a real feel for how efficient the technique is. Most people if not all could appreciate how the poles helped on the uphill sections, spreading the load throughout the upper body rather than just depending on the legs to do the work.









even going downhill burns more calories
As we walked people were given advice about their technique by Martin and Sue and we were given more information about how Nordic Walking can help peoples health including, reducing the risk of Osteoporosis, assisting with weight loss as well as toning the body. There are many more benefits that are too numerous to mention here but it is worth mentioning that it burns 20% more calories than walking without poles, so if your anything like the groups that gave it a go on Saturday means that you can treat yourself to a slightly larger piece of cake at the end of the walk! 
We are currently planning another Introduction session in early February, watch this space for the details which should be known in the next few days.








Question and answer session at the end


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Nordic Walking

The first Nordic Walking session on Wenlock Edge is now full and there are just a few places left on the afternoon session which starts at 1pm. If your thinking about giving it a go you need to be quick and get yourself booked on before its too late! A welcome break from the hordes of Christmas shoppers.
So if you fancy trying a low impact full body workout, which is also one of the fastest growing activities in the world  then either ring 07948072075 or e-mail chris.dunkerley@nationaltrust.org.uk  to book. The event costs £6 and includes 40 minutes tuition in the correct technique by qualified instructors, pole hire and a 1 hour walk on Wenlock Edge. Booking is essential.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Timber extraction

We are making the most of the wonderful weather by winching felled timber out of the wood whilst the ground is dry and hard. Doing the work while the ground is frozed reduces ground disturbance and allows the tractor to go further up the hill, reducing the distance we have to pull out the cables.
Lengths of timber, laid out ready for extraction.
All of this timber will eventually be sold as firewood, giving us a bit of money towards carrying out the work.
The more tidily the trees are felled the easier and quicker it is to extract them, lining them all up in the right direction certainly makes the tractor driver and cable operator happy people. This is a good reason for being involved in the job from start to finish.






Lengths heading down to the bay.
The lengths of timber are taken from the steep slope down to a relatively flat area before being cut into the desired lengths, from here they can be stacked for drying out or collection by lorry.











Last load of the day being unhooked.

W.N.T.C.V

Getting the fire started, early in the day.
Those wonderful people called the Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers paid Wenlock Edge another visit on Sunday. The job involved clearing scrub from some small quarries and a grassy ride so that wildflowers and butterflies will benefit. With temperatures of about minus 6 in the morning the lighting of the fire was certainly welcome. The group worked really well as always and had soon cleared a large area, by lunchtime it became apparent that they were going to exceed my expectations of how much they would achieve, easily.
The sun shone and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, it was an absolutely stunning day to be outside, even better to be outside doing something that will benefit wildlife.
Nearly done, looking much better.
Most of the scrub was Blackthorn and therefore it was very prickly and difficult to seperate as it had all become entwined, it didn't take us long though to complete the section and link it up with an area that had previously been cleared by our Tuesday volunteers.
This was very satisfying and all that was left to do was pack up as we enjoyed a wonderful sunset.
Thankyou to all who attended and i look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.






Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bird hide moves a step closer

I was fortunate to have assistance from Shrewsbury School Ornithology Group today in working on the bird hide. They also came last week and have now positioned the 6 uprights in the ground, this involved digging down 1 metre through rock before dropping in the post and packing the soil and rock back into the hole around it. The groups help certainly speeded the job up and thoughts can now turn to weather proofing it over the next few weeks. The hide is situated near the lime kilns at Presthope and when finished will offer people the chance to view the woodland birds feeding whilst sitting in relative comfort.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Woodland Thinning

Looking up hill at the start of the job.
Alistair and myself have been thinning the trees out in Northway wood for the past few months, with the help of Seamus and Lee from Broadacre Tree Services. Throughout Autumn and Winter this work accounts for 3 days work per week. The work is necessary as the trees are so close together that it is starting to inhibit their growth, if left the area would have very few quality, large trees that in the future would provide usable timber as well as valuable habitat for insects and nesting birds. The trees compete for light, which whilst they are young is good as it encourages vertical growth, as the trees get older they require more space so that they can put on girth in the trunk (timber).
Well in advance of commencing felling, the trees that are to be removed such as the ones with the worst form, least vigour, diseased or damaged by squirrels are marked. An application is then made to the Forestry Commission to carry out the planned work, once this is agreed in the form of a licence being granted we can begin.
By thinning the trees more sunlight can reach the woodland floor, this encourages the growth of wild flowers such as primroses and also allows tree seeds to germinate and become established. These will be the future trees of Wenlock Edge, so whilst it may seem bad that so many trees are being cut down it is actually beneficial to the woodland in the long term.
The trees are felled in such a way that they are in rows, pointing down the hill. This makes the task of extracting the timber with a tractor mounted winch much easier. Once winched down the hill the wood is processed into the required lengths depending on the tree species. Hardwood goes mainly for firewood whilst softwood often becomes fence posts of different sizes. Lengths are then stacked accordingly by hand ready for selling on.
Alistair tackling a 40 year old Spruce!
This area we are working in was planted with Larch and Sitka Spruce about 40 years ago, the Larch trees have generally grown well but much of the Spruce has not done so well. Removal of these trees takes time but there is no value in them so it becomes harder to make any money from doing the job. Hopefully in the future the trees that are left will provide a better source of income. In the mean time we will be left with a diverse woodland with a variety of ages of trees, rich in a variety of flora and fauna.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Dormice Thrive on the Edge


Twice yearly (since 1999) I check the dormouse boxes in the woods along Wenlock Edge. It is always a great task to do and my visits this year were amongst the best. I normally hope that 20% of the boxes will show signs of use by dormice, but in 2010 it was almost double that with some boxes having more than one brood.

It’s not just finding dormice that makes checking the boxes such a rewarding day out.  This year, nearly all of the boxes provided homes or shelter for something – nests of woodmice, voles, birds, wasps and even a roost of brown long-eared bats were found. 

Over the last 100 years, dormouse populations in Britain have dramatically declined, mainly due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. They are legally protected both nationally and internationally.  Shropshire is a significant county for dormice as it approaches their northwesterly limit in Europe, so they are particularly vulnerable.  Wenlock Edge is the county stronghold. 

The woodland management on Wenlock Edge, in particular rotational coppice and reversion of conifer areas to broadleaf trees, accounts for the thriving dormouse population. However, the reason for the big increase this year is unclear.  Perhaps the very cold winter was beneficial, allowing them to have a really solid hibernation. Dormice hibernate for 6 months of the year (Nov-Apr), and if they wake during this period, perhaps due to mild weather, they will struggle to find food and loose condition.  Another possibility is that the new bird boxes that have been put up are providing preferable home for the blue tits that often occupy the boxes before the dormice can claim them.  Whatever the explanation, it tells us that we are getting the woodland management right for them on Wenlock Edge.

Caroline Uff,
Ecologist, South Shropshire

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Nordic Walking-booking open!

Bookings are now being taken for the Introduction to Nordic Walking session, as already mentioned there will be two instructors on hand to advise on the correct walking technique. After about 40 minutes getting used to the walking poles around the car park, we will go for an hours walk on the Edge. Pole hire and tuition is included in the £6 charge for this event, really good value and possibly opening up a new hobby for participants.
The event is taking place on Saturday the 11th of December, 10am from the National Trust car park on the outskirts of Much Wenlock on the Church Stretton Road.
To book places please e-mail me at  Chris.dunkerley@nationaltrust.org.uk
or call 07948 072075
Thanks Chris

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Home tweet home

Yesterday, Stuart from Chelmarsh Bird Ringers came over to help put up another 20 bird boxes, most of which he had put together in his spare time.
10 of the boxes have holes in the front for species like Redstart and Tits whilst the other 10 are open fronted boxes that will hopefully attract Spotted Flycatchers.
Once all these boxes were put up, we tackled the trickier task of erecting a Tawny Owl box, there are no photos of this being done as it involved both of us balancing up a ladder/in the tree whilst trying to secure it with wire.
If a pair of Owls do use it to raise their young i will be able to get some great photos as Stuart gets attacked by the parents whilst ringing the chicks! Fingers crossed!
If you come across any nest boxes whilst out in the woods please don't be tempted to look inside, leave it to the professional, i will put photos up here so that you can see whats inside.

Birds seen recently include, Willow Tit, Fieldfare, Redwing, Tawny Owl, Marsh Tit, Raven, Buzzard, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecked, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Long Tailed Tit
Apologies about the title of this update.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Nordic Walking - coming soon


On Saturday the 11th of December at 10am we are hosting an introduction to Nordic Walking session at Wenlock Edge.
It is a great opportunity to try this fast growing low impact sport that offers almost a full body workout.
There will be 2 instructors on hand to show us how its done and ensure that participants are using the correct, most efficient technique. The session will last for between 1.5 to 2 hours, 45 minutes will be used to equip people with the correct size poles and teach the basics, this will be followed by a walk lasting for about 1 hour. There will then be time to ask questions of the instructors.
This introduction will be available for a price of just £6 per person and includes pole hire, limited spaces are available, booking information available next week, look out for posters in Much Wenlock and here on the blog.

Sheep on the move

Rounded up and ready to go.


The 5 Hebridean sheep that have been living in the species rich grassland opposite the Wenlock Edge Inn have gone to the Long Mynd for the Winter. They have been on the grassland since the hay was cut in August, keeping down the end of season growth so that it is good condition ready for next years growing season.
I am pleased to report that rounding them up went well,  no rangers were seen running laps of the field as the sheep were fooled into entering the pen by a bucket of nuts. If only it was always this easy!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Autumn watch 2

A few cold nights, including the first frost and some lovely, cool but sunny days have given the woods a very Autumnal feel.
The Fallow deer rut is definately taking place as the Bucks have been heard grunting in the evenings, they sound like a huge pig! An early morning or evening walk may result in you being able to hear it for yourself.
Beech leaves are still turning, some trees are still completely green whilst others are almost entirely brown, the cold weather this week should really get things moving.
Fieldfare and Redwing are moving into the area in search of fruit such as Hawthorn berries. The Jackdaws are still circling over Lea Quarry in the evenings providing a great sight and sounds.
Flocks of Goldfinch can be seen feeding on the dried flowerheads in the Much Wenlock National Trust car park.
Other birds seen this week include; Marsh tit, Tawny Owl, Buzzard, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Chaffinch, Treecreeper, Nuthatch.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

We've got the power ! (switched off)






Last wednesday the power lines that run through Easthope Wood were switched off for the day, this was to allow trees that were close to them to be pruned and in some cases felled completely.
















As the trees to be felled were on the large side and consisted of Larch and Douglas Fir which provide useful timber, we wanted to fell them ourselves. This was to ensure that the trees were left in suitable lengths for future conversion into usable timber.
Having been given permission to carry out the felling it was all hands to the pump with Alistair and myself being assisted by Seamus and Lee from Broadacre Tree Services.
We used the tractor and winch to ensure that there was no risk of the trees hitting the power lines.







Tasks were shared between the four of us, whilst two people de-limbed each felled tree the other two were setting up the winch and preparing the next tree to be felled. Once one tree was finished the next tree crashed to the ground, all was finished by 3pm and a late lunch was enjoyed. A quick log delivery soon sorted out the last few hours of the day!

Just the small task of winching the timber up the hill and cutting it into usable planks or gateposts.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Jackdaw roost

A noisy flock of Jackdaws is forming over the Presthope/Lea Quarry area each evening between 6pm and 7pm, its a pretty impressive sight as there must be between 200 and 300 birds. Small groups continue to join the flock, seeming to come from all directions until eventually they all decide on a suitable area to spend the night. Other birds seen lately include, Perigrine Falcon, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Green Woodpecker.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Autumn watch

The first signs of Autumn are beginning , leaves are slowly beginning to turn lovely shades of yellow and brown, some are even falling in the strong seasonal winds. Whether its a cool clear morning walk or an afternoon stroll between blustery showers its a great time to get out into the woods and see the changes taking place. Children will enjoy kicking through the leaves whilst for adults what could be better than an energetic walk followed by a cozy tea room or rural pub!
Currently the best Autumn colours can be seen on the Sycamore, Elm and Hazel trees, with the stunning Beech leaves just beginning to turn.







Views from Wenlock Edge will improve once the leaves do fall. Although we have created many viewpoints that offer year round views it is always better in the Winter looking through the bare trees towards Shrewsbury and the Welsh Mountains.







Whilst out in the woods you may see some of the Fallow deer that move about along the edge, they will be getting ready for the annual rut and may become more visible, as their minds are on other things.
Other animals that may be seen include, Foxes, Stoats, Polecats, Voles and Shrews. Its well worth keeping your eyes peeled and having a quiet sit down, its often at these times that mammals show themselves.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Against the elements!

Tough fire lighting conditions.

Today we were fortunate to have the company of Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers continuing to clear scrub in Lea Quarry. It wasn't the best start to the day weather wise here in Shropshire and it was a relief for me when they arrived, the fact that they didn't look out of the window and go straight back to bed shows just how enthusiastic the group is. It took no time for the Hawthorn, Ash and Hazel to start arriving at the bottom of the hill ready to be thrown on the fire. However due to conditions remaining damp the fire was taking a little more time to get going!






Smoke meets cloud, creates an interesting image.






Spirits remained high whatever the weather threw at us and by lunch time a large area of scrub had been cleared, the fire had got going properly, allowing us to clear the backlog of cut scrub and offering some welcome heat.









The afternoon saw much more work done and the weather improved as well. Waterproofs were shed in favour of t-shirts as we cleared the last of the brash. An incredible amount of work was carried out and we are really grateful, as ever for the efforts of the group.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Quarry clearance

We spent Tuesday of this week clearing an old quarry of scrub as it had become overgrown and difficult to see some of the interesting geological features. It is called Knowle Quarry and is located near the Presthope car park, it is probably one of the best exposures around and it is easy to see how this area was formed under a shallow sea.

Most of the work was straight forward and simply involved cutting Hazel and Sycamore re-generation down on the quarry floor, however some was growing in the rockface itself and required Alistair to abseil down to cut them off. It always amazes me how trees can grow in such tough environments with so little soil.
To see this quarry in its full glory simply park at the Presthope car park and follow the Lime Kiln walk, this takes about 30 minutes to complete. There is an interpretation board at the quarry which describes all the features of note so even people who aren't geologists can understand it.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Bird news

Birds seen this week,
Ravens performing acrobatics over Lea Quarry,
Large mixed Tit flocks forming,
Tawny Owls, very vocal,
Great Spotted Woodpecker,
Chaffinch,
Bullfinch,
Song and Mistle Thrush,
Blackbird,
Robin,
Lesser Black Backed Gull,
Buzzard,
Still a few Swallows and Martins about.

This list is by no means comprehensive,
Please feel free to let me know of any species that you see whilst out and about on Wenlock Edge in the comments page below.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Walk 4 life

I have added a few walks on Wenlock Edge to the Walk 4 Life website. This is a site that allows you to print out maps of walks, do them and then add the mileage covered to your personnal page. The miles are added up and you can see a graph with the distance covered each week, month or year. This is a great way to motivate yourself to get fit, adds interest for children or maybe just encourages competitiveness between other users of the site. Two of the walks i have added are waymarked routes that are already well used, the other one links the car parks at Much Wenlock and Presthope effectively linking two existing walks together, giving a walk of just under 5 miles.
The trees are just starting to show the first signs of Autumn with the leaves beginning to turn all shades of yellow, orange and brown, this will keep getting better over the next few weeks. Its a fantastic time for getting out for a walk, excellent routes to make the most of the colours are, Lea Quarry walk from Presthope car park and either of the two waymarked routes from Wilderhope Manor. I'll add some photos as Autumn progresses.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bird Hide

I would like to thank Shrewsbury School 's Ornithology Group for their help today in getting our bird hide project underway. We cleared the area where the hide is going to be constructed and also a pathway that will link the hide to a well used footpath. It is hoped that the hide will be well used once constructed by both locals and visitors to the Edge, there will also be a Winter feeding station to help the birds through the cold months and also to offer good views from the hide. Chelmarsh Bird Ringers will hopefully carry out some bird ringing demonstrations so that members of the public can get closer and learn more about the birds. The hide will take shape over the next couple of months, i will keep updating on the progress here.




Once we had finished clearing the area of scrub there was still a little time before the group had to leave so we made a few bird boxes, some of which they took back to the school to put up in the grounds.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

What a difference a day makes

 Had a fantastically productive and enjoyable day with 11 members of Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers . We were working in Lea quarry on an area of Limestone grassland, clearing scrub including Hawthorn, Ash, Elder and Bramble. This scrub shades out the wild flowers if it is left to become established and the area would eventually become woodland. Once we have cleared it the sheep will nibble any re-growth and keep it from returning to how it was.

Just getting started this morning
The area is very steep and therefore difficult to work on but the group had plenty of enthusiasm end considerable experience of this type of work, in just a few hours they had already cleared a large area and the fire was roaring down at the bottom of the slope.
After lunch, which involved at least 3 types of home made cake and a birthday sing song it was back to work.The size of the scrub being cut down was smaller but unfortunately it was all further from the fire so a little more dragging was required, probably not such a bad thing after the cake!
 Suddenly it was time to clear up, i really don't know where the time went, the fire was loaded for the final time and we enjoyed looking back at what we had achieved. I really am thrilled with how much was cleared and am looking forward to next time in just a couple of weeks.

All done, now its your turn sheep!






Caption competion ?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Volunteers

Volunteers play a massive part in the running of National Trust properties and this is no different at Wenlock Edge. We are very fortunate in that we have a small team of regular volunteers who come out with us every Tuesday, carrying an ever expanding range of jobs. Throughout Autumn and Winter jobs such as clearing vegetation from footpaths and geological exposures take priority as birds are not nesting. During Spring and Summer installing gates, clearing drains on footpaths and fencing are just a few of the tasks that keep us and them busy.
We also have volunteers who give their valuable time as and when they can, these volunteers tend to help out more with forestry operations.
Some of the jobs that need doing are ideally suited to big groups of people, clearing scrub from the limestone grasslands requires a big fire and many people to cut, drag and then load the fire. Fantastic results are always achieved, even in a single day, many hands definately make light work. Some of the groups that we have worked with recently include 20, 12-16 year old members of the Greek Orthodox Church and a group of teenagers from Much Wenlock.
We are regularly visited by the Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers who carry out many different tasks, they recently made 50 bird boxes for our ongoing nest box project and seem to really enjoy scrub clearance and fires.

Geological Exposures



We spent the day clearing scrub from one of our geological exposures with the help of our regular team of volunteers. The exposure is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and therefore it needs the vegetation clearing from around it every few years. To be honest it was hard to see the rock face when we started this morning so it was really gratifying to see it gradually revealed.


This exposure is located above the dis-used railway tunnel at Presthope, all the brash was thrown down from the top to the volunteers who were eagerly awaiting it near the tunnel entrance. A good fire ensured that all the brash was quickly reduded to little more than a pile of ash. Seeing the smoke rising from above the tunnel it was easy to imagine a train passing through on its way to Much Wenlock.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Wild flowers of the Edge


As well as woodland Wenlock Edge also has interesting wild flowers. Due to the underlying limestone being so close to the surface along the crest of the Edge there is only a very thin layer of nutrient poor soil. Plants like nettles struggle to cope with such nutrient poor conditions but the more delicate flowers can flourish without being out-competed by such vigorous, nutrient hungry plants. The National Trust cares for six small areas of species rich grassland along the Edge, these are managed in a variety of ways, from cutting a traditional hay crop after the flowering season to removing encroaching scrub. One thing that all these areas have in common is that at certain times of the year they are grazed by our flock of Hebridean Sheep, these sheep help to prevent scrub encroachment and keep the nutrient levels low by eating the previous seasons grass and flowers rather than them rotting down. They are very hardy animals, happy to eat everything from brambles to thistles, they also gnaw at the bark of the young trees that try to establish themselves, eventually killing them and saving us a job! Where scrub has encroached too much for even the sheep to sort it out and it is shading out the wild flowers we need to remove it ourselves and burn it, this is a popular job for volunteer groups, after all who doesn't enjoy cutting things down and having a big fire? After being cut down, the scrub, usually Hawthorn or Blackthorn will try to re-grow. The fresh shoots however are no match for our little black lawnmowers!
Good places to look for wild flowers on the Edge are;
Blakeway Hollow and the Much Wenlock NT car park,
Ippikins Meadow, opposite the Wenlock Edge Inn,
Path along the quarry edge from Blakeway Hollow to Presthope,

 A few of the species you may find on the edge;                                
Orchids, inc Bee, Pyramidal and Common Spotted,
Common Gromwell,
Lady's Bedstraw,
Scarlet pimpernel,                                                     
Yellow Wort.
Dyers Greenweed,
Cowslip.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Woodland Management

The woodland on Wenlock Edge that is looked after by the National Trust is made up of a wide variety of species, the most common is Ash and this tree accounts for most of the high canopy in the woodland. It occurs naturally here, enjoying the calcareous soils. Other naturally occuring species include Sessile Oak, Elm, Willow, Yew, Large Leaved Lime, Small Leaved Lime and the occasional Wild Service Tree. Wild Service Trees are an indicator of Ancient woodland this is because it only regenerates very slowly, through suckers as its seeds do not germinate in this part of the world. Alongside these native tree species there is an assortment of exotic conifers that have been planted to produce quick growing, valuable timber. Conifer species include, Larch, Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce and Sitka Spruce.
The trees need re-spacing at regular intervals, this gives the better quality trees more space and light so that they can continue to develop in good health. This work, when carried out sensitively in small areas creates more open woodland for a few years until the canopy closes up and the understory regenerates, this benefits both the trees that are left and certain species of wildlife that favour the open conditions. This work is carried out by the National Trust Rangers based on Wenlock Edge, sometimes with the help of contractors. Felled trees are later winched out of the wood and stacked at trackside for either our own use or for selling on.
Understory species include Hazel, Holly and Guelder Rose, the most prolific being Hazel. The Hazel has been coppiced in the past, this is the act of cutting the shrub down near the ground to produce multiple stems that can then be harvested for the use in hedgelaying, roof thatching and other rural tasks. Coppice is re-cut on about a ten year cycle, this practice has been re-introduced in the last 20 years. It keeps the Hazel vigorous, breaks up the woodland structure, provides open areas for butterflies and woodland plants as well as producing useful products. This work is carried out by skilled contractors and volunteers. Most woodland management work is carried out during the winter months to minimise disturbance to wildlife.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Walking on the Edge

If you are a keen walker then Wenlock Edge is an ideal place for either a gentle stroll or a longer more strenuous outing. There are waymarked trails from the National Trust car parks at Wilderhope Manor, Presthope and on the outskirts of Much Wenlock. These trails range from 1/2 mile to 2 &1/2 miles, are generally on good footpaths, offer panoramic views and an abundance of wildlife. A walks leaflet which compliments these walks is available from the tourist information centre in Much Wenlock and from a leaflet dispenser near the entrance to the car park on the outskirts of town.
If you prefer to plan your own walk then you'll need the OS Explorer 217 map, using this map it is possible to walk the length of the Edge (19 miles) by parking a car at each end. It is also possible to make an interesting circular walk, linking the Edge with the network of footpaths to the South including the Shropshire Way.
If you like to leave the car at home it is possible to travel by bus to Much Wenlock from Shrewsbury, an easy walk out of the town leads you into the woods and onto the Edge. This is an excellent way to visit the area as a walk on the Edge can be combined with a tour of the town with its interesting history, shops, tea rooms and pubs.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Bird box project

The Trust have been working with Chelmarsh Bird Ringing Group to help the birds on the Edge, by providing nest boxes for them to raise their young in. Much of the Trust owned woodland is fairly young, around 50 - 100 years old. These trees are nowhere near maturity and are therefore lacking in natural holes and crevices that birds use to nest in. There is plenty of natural food available in Spring however for a wide variety of species to feed their young, catterpillars and spiders for tits, flies for pied and spotted flycatchers etc.
By providing nest boxes it is hoped that we would see an increase in the bird numbers on the Edge and also be able to learn more about them and their movements. The Trust have provided all the timber from our foresry thinnings, we have then made the boxes both ourselves and with the help of volunteers. Once erected the boxes are then monitored by members of Chelmarsh Ringing Group and the chicks are ringed, this means that any chicks that are subsequently caught can be traced back to their point of birth.
Last spring we had erected 32 boxes and a total of 100 chicks were ringed from a total of 16 of the boxes, this was a brilliant start to the project and really got us excited about getting more boxes put up for next spring. Species that raised young in the boxes last spring were, Marsh, Great and Blue tit.
We have recently put up the 100th nest box and are hoping to get species such as Redstart and Pied Flycatcher breeding in them.
I will keep updating on the project and hopefully get some great photos in the Spring.