Friday, 28 February 2014

Big News!

Hello Everyone. I'm sad to say that this will be my final update on this blog, as Al is returning to the Edge and I'll be moving onto pastures new. It's been an amazing experience and something I'll never forget. But onto the update...

Big news today: the car park improvements are now complete! The new footpath to the bridleway was opened earlier today, providing easier access for walkers, horse-riders and cyclists onto the bridleway. Seven of our Hebridean sheep have also gone onto the newly fenced off area so they can close-graze the meadow, promoting the growth of wild flowers. The expanded parking area has also been completed, allowing 10-12 cars to park end-on along the semi-circle.

A local horse-rider and dog-walker trying out the new pathway with Chris and volunteer John.

Also now open is the Lime Kiln Walk Natural Play Trail, which has been my pet project for the last three months. Following the excellent help from Chris and volunteers Pete, John and John, the play trail features: an obstacle course, games area, den-building area, wild art area, a see-saw and several balance beams, which you can see in the photos below. The play trail is made up of materials sourced from Wenlock Edge and is tons of fun!

 Obstacle course made of larch logs

 Wild Art Area (the thing on the left is supposed to be a forest crocodile)

 Games Area


Apart from those two projects we've also been busy with the day-to-day management of the Edge. Several days of the last fortnight has been spent preparing and delivering firewood loads to our customers. These can either be as lengths transported on the forwarder, or as cut and split logs. The logs are produced using a very ingenious machine where the length is pushed in one side until is hits a stop, which can be adjusted to the desired size. A chainsaw blade is then brought down on an arm, and once cut the log drops into a chute. A hydraulic ram then pushes the log onto a set of axe blades, forcing it to split. The split logs then drop onto a conveyor belt that carries them up to the trailer. Here's a picture of me using it:

Chris, volunteer Pete and I also spent yesterday afternoon picking up litter along the B3471 that runs along the Edge, and as you can see from the photo below we found quite a lot of it! The grand total was five bags of rubbish,  two boxes and two bags of recyclables (plastic bottles, cans and glass), a t-shirt, a spare tyre, a stainless steel fork and a pair of high heels! It would be better if we didn't need to do it, but it is very satisfying once it is all cleaned up.

I'd like to end by saying thank you everyone I have worked with and chatted with during my time on Wenlock Edge, staff, volunteers and members of the public. It's been amazing and I am definitely going to be coming back in the future.

Thank You!

Focus On: 'Major's Leap' Walk

Distance: 5.5km

Duration: 2 hours

Start Point: Much Wenlock NT Car Park

Difficulty: Medium

Description: This walks heads first along Blakeway Hollow, passing several overgrown quarries, which was the old packhorse route from Much Wenlock to Shrewsbury. The track then runs along the steep ridge line between the escarpment and Lea Quarry. Two viewpoints look out towards Caer Caradoc and the Long Mynd, the first of which is "Major's Leap", where Major Thomas Smallman is said to have jumped off on horseback to escape pursuing soldiers during the Civil War. The track then turns back through Blakeway Coppice before returning to Blakeway Hollow.

A map is available on the information board in the Much Wenlock Car Park.

Focus On: 'Jenny Wind' Walk

Distance: 3.5km

Duration: 1.5 hours

Start Point: Much Wenlock NT Car Park

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Description: This walk heads out from the car park along Blakeway Hollow, passing several overgrown quarries. Turning towards Harley Bank, you can take in a spectacular view of the Edge at Granham's Mount, looking along the edge where on a good day you can see the Long Mynd in the distance. Near the bottom of Harley Bank you will notice the straight, shallow bed of the "Jenny Wind", an old winched tramway used to haul limestone from the quarries at the top to the lime kilns at the bottom. The walk continues back up the hill, past Stoke's Barn and back onto Blakeway Hollow.

A map is available on the information board in the Much Wenlock Car Park.

Focus On: Lime Kiln Walk

Distance: 1km

Duration: 25mins

Start Point: Presthope NT Car Park

Difficulty: Easy

Description: A perfect short walk for all the family, taking in some of the history of the area while having a lot of fun. Look out for sections of the natural play trail as you walk; made of material sourced from Wenlock Edge itself and great for kids of all ages. Check out the restored lime kilns, used to burn limestone for fertilisers, and the old powder house, used for storing the gunpowder and later housing donkeys that worked in the quarry. Learn about the geology of the area while staring up at the rock face in Knowle Quarry. And see how many birds you can see visiting the feeders at our bird hide.

A map is available on the information board in the Presthope Car Park.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Ranger Update Feb 2014

Spring is slowly creeping it's way in on the Edge, despite the VERY wet weather. More and more birds can be heard singing everyday, snowdrops are pushing their way out of the ground and bright new greenery is emerging.

We've been very busy the past couple of weeks, slogging through the mud, managing the Edge. We were fortunate last weekend to have the help of the Shropshire and Staffordshire National Trust Volunteers (and Max the dog). This group were a great help clearing coppice from alongside the railway line, opening up the bank for the growth of wild flowers and other species, as well as letting in more sunshine for visitors to enjoy.

 Working hard to clear the banks.
 Some muddy but happy volunteers at the end of the day.

Also these last couple of weeks I, with the brilliant help of Chris and volunteers Pete, John and John, have been busy installing elements of the natural play trail around the Lime Kiln Walk. So far the mini obstacle course has nearly been finished and several balance beams and a see-saw have been put into place. I hope to have the play trail finished by half term, so please bring along your kids to give it a try!

And finally, just something to take note of: all next week Mark Farmer will be working in the Wenlock car park, creating the new access to the bridleway and more car parking spaces. This means there will be heavy machinery moving around the car park all week and a temporary reduction in parking space. Why not take this opportunity to try a walk from one of our other car parks instead? There are several great routes leading out from the Presthorpe and Wilderhope Manor car parks.

See you all again soon!