Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Bat Mitigation Training North Wales

I am spending two and a half days at Plas Tan Y Bwlch, Snowdonia National Park study centre. The course is designed for consultants and others dealing with bats and covers measuring success, compliance and reporting. Although not a consultant, the content is applicable to my work at Styal.

Today, we have been out to a road construction site to view mitigation work that included the installation of three bat culverts to get bats (and otters) also a high level crossing for bats, across a busy road. We looked at the potential for success of this project. All very interesting. We then visited a small church with a roost of lesser horseshoe bats. Work had been carried out to enable the bats to easily access and egress the site.

 Here's the family that lived at the Plas around the1890's and the house itself. Well cared for and and a great venue for a study centre.

Monday, 15 October 2012

River Claims Another Dog

Hear news today of yet another dog drowning in the Bollin. The under current and fast flows in places mean that even the strongest swimmers get into trouble.

The rain we have had recently means the river is usually higher than normal and in places is deeper than people imagine. This video was taken a while ago standing next to the main weir at Quarry Bank Mill. The road was closed as this caused flooding with the water from the Bollin and the Dean rivers backing up.

You don't really get the sense of the raw power from the footage. But if you have a dog, keep them away from the rivers at the moment!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

United Utilities

Thursday 23 August we had a group from United Utilities to come and have a go with our sweet chestnut cleft fence. We are renewing all of the fencing around the village as some of it is falling apart. As the team soon found though, some of the posts just did not want to come out of the ground!

Working on three different sections, the group soon mastered the art of hole digging. I was impressed by a particular group working by the chapel who seemed to be able to dig perfectly round holes. Putting the posts in was a different matter. The back filling is a technique that needs to be practised. Little and often with lots of ramming to firm up the post. All this needs to happen while another keeps an eye on the post being straight, not an easy thing with bent posts!

At the end of the day a very satisfied group and a good job done.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Wet Weather!!

Prompted by a colleague in another part of the country who said she keeps up to speed with what I am doing via my blog, I thought I had better write some info.

The recent weather has kept us busy in more ways than one. Dealing with floods, blocked drains, washed out paths and much more. Other parts of the country have had it far worse than us, but there has been no end to it lately. It looks as though the jet stream will move North giving us what we should expect this time of year. Hopefully. 

We are busy hedge cutting, grass cutting and general maintenance at the moment. All the wet weather has meant everything is growing really well, except crops! Some of these have been underwater, so remains to be seen if they will recover when the sun comes out.

Busy working on recruitment for a new post at the moment for a project officer, but more about that later. 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Merseyside National Trust Volunteers

Finally stopped raining! The sun is out and looks like it will last the day, rain forecast for tomorrow though. We have Merseyside National Trust Volunteers in tomorrow. So we have a couple of hours pulling balsam down by the river. Then it's off to attend to the path to Morley.

This path is in dire need of attention, covered in slop and running with water, it'll need some digging out and diverting of water to make it passable for all.

Hopefully the rain will hold off long enough to see that we get all the work done without getting too wet?

Will post a few photos and update the progress tomorrow.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Wardens Turning Into Rangers

In line with our colleagues in the North of the region, and in other parts of the country, today we  in the Southern part of the Northwest region are to become RANGERS.

Whilst having been very proud to have served in the role of warden, warden in charge and head warden I think the change will bring real benefits to the properties.

Public perception of the differences of what a warden is and what a ranger is are very marked.

A warden's role is seen to be a policing role, someone who say's 'no you can't do that' or 'get off the grass'. Also people get confused as you also have warden who look after old folks homes and prisons!

So the change to ranger, a role people see as an enabling role, a role that is there to help people enjoy the countryside and to get the best out of it, is seen as a step towards that public perception and will bring us closer to the people who visit our properties.At the same time, we still have to protect and conserve it. Never an easy ask to combine the two.

So you will see us in our new kit around on the properties, do come have a chat with us, we would love to meet you!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Personal Note

It is now 25 year to the day since I started working for the National Trust. In that time I have seen many changes. Changes to the organisation, ways of working and styles of leadership. I can remember the membership being 1.8 million. We now have 4 million and counting.

I can remember at the property where I worked, Kedleston Hall & Park, prior to the NT taking on the responsibility of running the place, the anticipation and uncertainty of working for a conservation charity. What would it be like? What were we going to be doing? According to our then employer, he said, 'nothing will change, I'll still be giving the orders'. He was partly right! But that might be the subject of a book later in life!

I met countless people in that time, within a short time, Prince Charles came to a function to raise money for the appeal which was then in full swing. As I stood on 'sentry' duty my impression was 'he's a lot shorter in real life'.

I soon found my feet with the Trust and took on more and more responsibility.  I worked for a time on my own as my colleague had left and they were unsure as to what to do. I found myself in charge of the property as Head Warden and there I remained for 23 years.

We hosted concerts, had thousands of classical fans one night, then thousands of screaming girls the next night when Westlife were playing in the park, all good fun. Our social life on the property was great, we organised events, picnics and outings.

We took on additional property's surrounding the property. In all I was responsible for four large outdoor sites, but with the same resources we had with one!

I have worked with some fantastic people, committed, passionate about what they were doing and their enthusiasm has rubbed off on others. I have been fortunate enough to see young folk come into the sphere of conservation and outdoor working and have given them a steer in the direction of the NT. It's good to see them now as Rangers working in different parts of the country.

The Trust has changed beyond what it was when I first started. More so in the last few years. It takes on challenges and sets itself tough targets. It is trying to do things differently to react to changing times that we live in.

I feel very privileged to have worked for this organisation and to have made a difference, albeit perhaps a small one. I will forever be touched by the people I have met along the way. From the humble estate worker to the knowledgeable expert.

I am looking forward to the next 25 years. I can't wait to see what that brings! Where will the NT be then? Will the measures we take today be enough to conserve our precious places for the future? Or will we need to change what we do to safeguard these cherished places. Challenging times ahead! 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Volunteer Expansion

In an effort to increase the number of volunteers who come to Styal and the differing types of work we could have volunteers engaging in, we ran a Saturday afternoon drop in session during a snowy weekend in February.

The result has been a really good response in volunteers. I have just about finished interviewing everyone, still a few to go though. One recruit was a volunteer volunteer manager. This role is there to not only look after new recruits, seeing they have all the support they need from an admin point of view, but to assist in recruiting new volunteers.

We are just setting up log in's and sorting software to be used on the PC but once ready to go, the post will be invaluable to the estate.

One thing we looked at today, was the Youth Rangers group that we hope to set up later this year. We are looking to involve two local schools and have up to 20 youth rangers to carry out practical tasks across the estate throughout the year.

We are also setting up a link to a volunteer specific blog, where you can go to find out all about the work volunteers do and....how you can join in.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

New play area

Beautiful day to be creating a new play area in the upper garden.

Sent from my Windows Phone.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Mystery Solved!

For a while now I have been cursing the IT guys as my mouse attached to this laptap keeps on freezing. It's been really annoying as you have to unplug the USB connection, wait, then reconnect. Just linked what's causing it as I sit here!

My radio has just gone off for a member of staff to check their radio. As I replied the mouse froze. This has just happened for the third time. Just pressing the transmit button on the radio cause the mouse to freeze?

Strange as the mouse is cable connected not wireless and we have no wireless connection in the building. Mystery solved. So now I have to go see if I can freeze other peoples pointing devices?

Monday, 19 March 2012

Bridge repairs

This is not a troll but a blacksmith looking at one of our bridges with a view to installing new steel decking and handrails.

Sent from my Windows Phone.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Youth Rangers Group

We are going to start up a youth Ranger group meeting at weekends. Probably Sundays. Do you know a young person that would be interested in joining? Ages between 14 - 18. Drop us a line. We will be doing practical work as well as carrying out surveys and other countryside related work.

Blogging mobile

If this works then we should be able to blog on the go?

Sent from my Windows Phone.

Arrival of Spring

It would seem that Spring has arrived at last. The birds are very noisy now in the mornings and as it draws dusk. Three crows have been nest building locally, breaking off branches then flying to a nearby oak tree to weave them into the new nest. Why three crows have been involved here is a mystery? Two have been seen in recent days though, perhaps the third was just confused?

Hedges are starting to flush with new growth and the landscape greening up. Ploughing last years arable fields has begun. The smell of freshly turned earth is certainly a smell of spring, as well as the neighbours newly cut lawn.

I had a meeting with a contractor yesterday to look at one of our bridges on the estate. It's called 'Centenary Bridge', built to commemorate the National Trust's centenary in 1995. The bridge hasn't weathered all that well and has been closed off for the last couple of months as it was in a dangerous condition. 

It's a steel structure but clad with wood. The aim is to remove the wood, which is the part that's failed and replace this with steel components. When it's all painted black it will look very smart in its position in the wood.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Meeting With The RSPB

We'll know more tomorrow, but I have a meeting with the RSPB in the morning to talk about setting up a Wildlife Explorer Group here at Styal. This is an exciting development for the property.

more about this tomorrow.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Wind Issues

Recent high winds have caused us a few problems. Having access all across our site and lots of old trees, when we get high winds, it's never a good mix.

There have been two fatality's caused by the wind in the country, with one tree in the South falling onto a van, killing the chap inside. The other was on a ship hit by a large wave.

We didn't experience the very high winds others had, one recorded over the Pennines was 111mph! Ours hit 60mph in a gust.

It did however cause a little bit of damage to trees. We still have one path closed due to a hanging branch, awaiting a tree surgeon. The other trees we were able to deal with ourselves.

The weather has now settled and turning cold again, but at least it's dry....for the time being.