Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Forwarding and processing

We have recently finished thinning various areas of Wenlock Edge so Nathan our contractor has brought in his mini-forwarder to clear lengths out of the wood. This 8 wheeled machine quickly negotiates the steep slopes and easily grabs lengths of wood weighing up to 1 tonne.

We also borrowed the firewood processor from Attingham Park to cut and split logs to keep Benthall hall warm over christmas. Here is a photograph of our placement student Katy using the processor to fill up the trailer. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Autumn Colours

At Wenlock we are surrounded by an array of Autumn colours, with various shades of reds, oranges, yellows and browns. It is a beautiful time of year and such a lovely way to witness the seasons changing as we watch the faded leaves flutter down to the ground. With the strong winds we have been experiencing, the trees are starting to look quite bare now, their leaves have left their branches and the trees are preparing themselves for Winter. Now, under foot, we hear the satisfying crunch of the leaf litter below as we tread our way through the woods.

Autumn colours

Cleaning, Thinning and Winching

Last weekend we spent time clearing litter from the Presthope car park and the Presthope trail walk. The visitor experience always should begin in the car park, so the appearance of these sites is very important and regular maintenance is essential.

We also went around Much Wenlock car park and Wenlock and thoroughly cleaned the Amiga signs, notice boards and road signs, which were looking grubby and needed a thorough clean. Again, we did this to maintain the appearance of the site and also to make sure it is obvious to ‘passers-by’ in cars where the National Trust Much Wenlock car park is, as it wasn’t very clear.

Cleaning the road signs in Much Wenlock

‘Many hands make light work’
Recently on Wenlock Edge a lot of thinning and winching has been taking place, with lots more planned throughout the winter. There has been extensive thinning at Longville Coppice, Harley bank and Smokey Hole, where there is a mixture of beech, sycamore, ash and hazel.

Working alongside the contactors and with volunteer Pete Hampton, we have been manually pulling, and using the tractor mounted winch, large amounts of felled wood down the steep and slippery slopes. We dragged the lengths down to the pathway below, cut them into 3m sections and stacked them into piles ready for collection by the forwarder to be sold as firewood.

Thinning is necessary to create space for remaining trees and to let light in to the woodland floor; this is done by selecting the healthiest trees to stay and marking the poor quality trees to be felled. A tree is classed as poor quality if it is forked, damaged, twisted or leaning – the wood will be sold to people locally to use as fuel. Other benefits from thinning are an increase in ground flora, increase biodiversity of flora and fauna and create a sustainable income.

Glynn (one of the contractors) cutting the logs into 3m sections

Pete (one of the volunteers) putting the cut logs into piles

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Halloween at Wenlock Edge

Last Saturday, for the first time at Wenlock Edge, we held two Halloween events. An earlier one, commencing at 3pm from Presthope carpark, for the younger children and a later version, starting at 7pm at Much Wenlock carpark, for the braver of us wanting a spookier experience in the dark. The turnout for both events was fantastic and there was an array of lots of scary costumes ranging from Dracula to black cats.

At the beginning the children all made their own bats and told some of their own spooky stories before setting out on the ghostly walk through the spookily decorated woods, with numerous, allegedly true ghost stories, based in and around Wenlock Edge on the way. The children heard stories from two witches and a ghostly quarryman, and also heard about the famous Ippikins and Major’s Leap legends.

Making a bat

Spooktastic costumes!
For the later event, the All Hallows Eve walk, we began our route through Blakeway Hollow and made our way to Smokey Hole (an area of kilns and charcoal hearths) - apparently the ghostliest part of the Edge - where we came across numerous spooky characters who told their stories of the Edge, including a witch at her cauldron and campfire and the reappearance of the quarryman chipping away at the rock; oh, and not to forget a naughty goblin who kept jumping out to make our hearts race!

We finished this walk by trying out some bat detectors to see if we could track any bats in the area; we were unsure if we did trace the clicking noise of a bat, however the children (and adults) seemed to enjoy using these and were determined to track one down!

Overall, two very fun and spooky Halloween events which we are going to hold again next year due to their success.

Listening to the Major's leap legend
A frightening ghoul
Listening to the witches tales

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Halloween at Wenlock Edge

Over the past month we have been getting ready for our two Halloween events at Wenlock Edge this Saturday. The first event called 'Halloween at Wenlock Edge' begins at 3pm finishes at 6pm, starting from Presthope car park and involves prizes for the scariest dressed, making spooky bats and walking around the woods listening to ghostly legends as we go. 

Our next event called 'All Hallows Eve Walk' starts at 7pm and runs until 9pm (the spookiest time to be wandering through the woods) meeting at the National Trust car park in Much Wenlock. We will be exploring Smokey hole where many myths and gory tales have been born and will be hearing about the legends of Wenlock Edge from witches and ghouls. 

We are really looking forward to it! Hope to see you there!

A hint of what's to come - preparing for the events (I don't want to give too much away!) 

Nibbled nut project

A dormouse nut project has been set up by the National Trust in partnership with Wenlock Edge Community Wildlife Group which aims to repeat a survey undertaken in 2001. The survey began this month and will run until the end of December, continuing again in autumn 2016

The aim of the survey is to see if dormouse feeding signs can be found in every area of suitable habitat on Wenlock Edge. Volunteers search in the leaf litter for Hazel nuts nibbled by dormice, which will tell us if dormice are present in all areas where there is fruiting Hazel and will allow us to discover any change from the previous survey. If the project finds areas with no evidence of dormice, this will highlight places for us to do more intensive searches and to focus future conservation. It is a huge project which will take place over a number of years and the more volunteers the merrier. Training will be provided: surveys are 10am - 2pm but you can leave early if necessary.

The dates for surveys this year are;
Wed 11th Nov
Wed 25th Nov
Wed 9th Dec
Wed 30th Dec 

If you are interested in helping or have any questions please email or call me on; Kate.Price@nationaltrust.org.uk or 07972 115725

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Last weekend: Green Edge event and SSNTV day

Last Saturday we were invited to the Green Edge event at Much Wenlock Primary School, where we had a brilliant time informing visitors about how important it is to look after our local wildlife, in particular birds, and especially at this time of year when the cold weather is moving in.

We had a display of information leaflets and various wildlife exhibits to look at and touch, for example fallow deer skulls, fungi, dormouse nibbled nuts, a dormouse nest and much more! But the most enjoyable part was making lots of messy pine cone bird feeders for people to take home!

We had an interactive table where we were making the bird seed feeders, being aware to be green by using materials that were natural and could be re-used. The feeders were made by attaching string to the top of the pine cones as a hanger and then creating a fatty seed ball by covering the pine cone in lard and rolling it around in bird seed. This table was very popular and seemed to go down well with the kids! It was also a great way for Wenlock Edge to connect and engage with the community and children and inform them of why Wenlock Edge is so special.

Sticky hands!
The girls showing off their finished bird seed feeders!

Observing the fallow deer skull

Last Sunday, we were working with the Shropshire and Staffordshire National Trust Volunteers (SSNTV) who came over to Wenlock Edge to help out with a large amount of much needed coppicing. Coppicing is the ancient craft of cutting trees and shrubs to ground level and although this might at first appear destructive, it has important environmental benefits by extending the life of the tree and allowing light to reach the woodland floor. This encourages a rich diversity of flora and  fauna, and at Wenlock Edge this is particularly important in creating a beneficial environment  and food source for its dormouse population. The strong re-growth from the coppice stools also provides a renewable source of timber for many uses, including hedge-laying.

A big thank you goes to all the volunteers for their help on the day.

Everyone getting stuck in

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Our Adorable Hazel Dormice

It has been a great year for dormice on Wenlock Edge, partly due to the abundance of food such as blackberries and hazel nuts. Dormice are a protected species and are very vulnerable to change in climate and habitat loss in the UK. 

There are a number of nest boxes along Wenlock Edge that provide artificial nesting options for our dormice, especially when tall dense brambles and holes in old trees are in short supply. Stuart from the Shropshire Mammal Group, who is licensed to disturb and handle dormice, checks our boxes and at the last check he found 4 juvenile dormice and lots of nests which is brilliant news! Generally when boxes are checked at other sites, the dormice are all asleep, however they are always wide awake at Wenlock! Here is a picture of one who popped out of his nest to say hello! 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Volunteer Days

Work on Roman Bank with new volunteers Dick and Julian involved clearing blackthorn to increase light into the area which is particularly good for early purple orchids. We were also felling ash trees with canker and pollarding hawthorn and blackthorn to improve the health and biodiversity value of the existing woodland.

Dick and Julian clearing blackthorn
We also had a day with volunteers John, John and Julian, clearing an extremely overgrown bridleway, with large amounts of bramble and overhanging trees, to improve access for all our visitors! We had bonfires on both occasions which the volunteers seem to enjoy and are now professionals at starting a fire!

Clearing the bridleway
One of our many bonfires!

Last week, after digging out the post hole the previous week with a little help from a compressor; the volunteers fitted the new fence post into place, refilled the hole and attached the new gate (you may see it if you are passing along Stretton road). It looks very smart.

John and Julian refilling the post hole and compacting the fence post into place
The finished result!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Full Time Volunteer

Hi, I’m Katy, the new placement student at Wenlock Edge. I am from North Yorkshire, which has the beautiful countryside of the Dales and the Moors, but am now enjoying life in Shropshire (apparently God’s own country too!) I am currently in my 3rd year at Harper Adams University studying Countryside Management, and before starting university I spent a year out Woofing (working on organic farms) across the country. I enjoy learning about landscape development and history. My interests include playing tennis and hockey, walking, and I also enjoy travelling.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Make hay while the sun shines!

The sun is shining so we are making hay! The grass has been cut in Ippikin's meadow so now we are turning it and hoping that the weather stays nice enough for it to dry. Removing the grass will reduce the nutrient level in the limestone soil which will encourage more rare plants, like orchids.

Cutting the grass with a tractor mounted mower

Using the haybob to turn the grass to help it dry

Archaeology training day

This month we had an archaeology volunteer training day at Wenlock Edge. It went really well with volunteers learning what to look for and how to survey and record archaeological features, such as lime kilns, platforms and boundary banks among others. 

The session was led by expert Dr Ian Dormor who also talked about the history of the landscape, the limestone industry and how this relates to the woodland management of Wenlock Edge.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Archaeology Event

Archaeology Event

On the 23rd September an archaeology event took place at Wenlock Edge. Janine Young, the National Trust archaeologist for the West Midlands, took us on a tour of Wenlock Edge where archaeological features are particularly prominent in areas such as Smokey Hole. We looked at holloways, lime kilns, remnants of charcoal hearths, as well as boundary banks and stones; it was fascinating to see these features preserved so well.

We learnt about the past history and previous management of the site, the dangers of being a quarryman, what the lime extracted from the limestone would have been used for, and how quarrying tools and techniques have changed over the years. It was interesting to try to picture Wenlock as a hive of industry, as it would have been many years ago. Overall, a very successful event that will take place again next year – so look out for this!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Roadside work

Last Thursday and Friday we were carrying out roadside work with the contractors, which consisted of felling dangerous trees which were overhanging the road, cutting them up and putting them through the wood chipper. The trees were quite near a busy road so we had to have a traffic management system in place to control the traffic.

Jay the contractor

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Late Summer work

This week our brilliant volunteer Pete came and helped us to prepare and deliver some firewood loads to local customers in Much Wenlock. This involved carrying ropes and chains up the steep slope, tying them onto lengths of timber and then using the tractor mounted winch to drag the lengths down the slope out of the woods. 

After we have got the timber onto the track we cross-cut it using chainsaws, stack it by hand on the track side ready to take another day or load it straight onto the trailer and deliver it to our customers. It is pretty intensive work but it is great because you can see what you have achieved, it it brilliant exercise, you often get a beautiful view and sometimes if we are lucky we get a cup of tea and piece of cake from our customers! 
Alistair cross-cutting

Also at the beginning of the week, while walking up Blakeway hollow to check on our flock of sheep, I spotted this beautiful male speckled wood butterfly and after patiently following him fluttering around, for what seemed like forever, he decided to land and I got a quick photograph on my mobile. This year, despite slightly temperamental weather, I have also seen little skippers, gatekeepers, green-veined whites, meadow browns and many more butterflies. The Much Wenlock car park is a great place to spot them, sitting on thistles and black knapweed flowers. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Severe winds!

Last week some severe winds hit Wenlock Edge and a number of large Oak branches fell and blocked a bridleway at Roman bank. It took me and Alastair two days to break down the branches and clear the debris away from the path. If you find more trees or branches down which are blocking paths on Wenlock Edge please let us know by calling 07972 115725 or emailing kate.price@nationaltrust.org.uk 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Interesting flora

The orchids may be gone but there are still beautiful flowers in our meadows. If you look closely you will see Eyebright doing brilliantly and we have two stunning viper’s bugloss plants growing in Ballstone quarry (which bees and hoverflies love). The woods are also filled with lots of delicate enchanter’s nightshade and beautiful bramble flowers. 

Viper's bugloss 


 Enchanter’s nightshade

Ranger information stand

On various Sundays this Summer we are trialing setting up a ranger stand in the Much Wenlock car park. The aim is to provide a point of information for visitors so we will be there to answer questions, hand out interesting leaflets and to talk about what makes Wenlock edge special. Depending on the weather we will be there again soon so if you see us do come over for a chat.

Here is our engagement volunteer Laura on the ranger stand 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Shelter building

We have ran two shelter building events this month, near Presthope car park. The shelters were very elaborate with the children (and parents) spending lots of time making their den special. Some shelters had curtains, weaved walls, fern carpet and even secret passwords! 

 Before the event myself and volunteers cut down Ash and Hazel saplings which were growing under power lines on Hughley bank; these were perfect for den building so we had a huge supply. 


Ragwort is poisonous to cattle and horses and even more so once it has been cut and dried during hay production. Ragwort produces vast amounts of seeds which are dispersed by the wind meaning they spread quickly. Therefore each year we walk around our meadows in Ippikins and the Much Wenlock car park, pulling out ragwort. There used to be large amounts growing in our meadows but we are happy to report that only a few handfuls were found this year. This means that our management has been successful!

Hay strewing

At the end of August Shropshire Youth forum came to help us with some seed relocation. Alistair used a mower to cut the grass in the pudding bag; a very species-rich grassland. Then we gathered up the vegetation and loaded it into the trailer before driving to another less diverse meadow behind Wilderhope Manor. Once there, we strew the foliage over the meadow by hand to get an even coverage. 

Hopefully some of the seed will germinate and next year we should see an increase in wild flowers. By mowing the pudding bag we also removed nutrients from the soil which will discourage vigorous grasses and brambles and encourage low nutrient loving flora such as orchids.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Path resurfacing with SSNTV

Last Sunday Shropshire and Staffordshire National Trust Volunteers (SSNTV) came out to help us resurface more of the footpaths around Presthope. There was a great turn out and they moved a huge amount of stone. We used normal wheelbarrows, power barrows, shovels and elbow grease. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Roadside tree work

Recently we have been doing a lot of road safety tree work, near Presthope and on Hughley bank. We have push back the vegetation resulting in a much clearer view when you pull out and less stress on the wall caused by roots. 

On Hughley bank our contractors had to climb, reduce and fell a number of trees at the roadside because of some devastating squirrel damage. This time of year they strip the bark to get to the sap; which ultimately kills the trees.

Sheep shearing

We rounded up our sheep recently and took them over to the Long Mynd to be sheared. Most breeds of sheep grow wool continuously, so it is important to shear them at least once per year. Shearing is usually done in the spring, so sheep don't get overheated in the summer. 

Our sheep before shearing
The sheep are quite relaxed while they are sheared
Our sheep look very smart now