Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Landscape Conservation Volunteers

We are unable to be at Gibside today, which is a shame as it’s another fine day. However, we have decided to publish some archive photographs to show the range of tasks we undertake.

 There is grass cutting:
Mike with Mower

And raking of grass cuttings.
The Team at Work 

Digging and Pruning
Removing a Tree Trunk

We sometimes help out at other National Trust Properties, such as when we helped with cutting back gorse bushes at Craster, and also when we went to Cherryburn (see earlier blog).

Cutting back gorse bushes at Craster
Burning the gorse prunings
We never miss an opportunity for a tea break.

Break Time
During the spring and summer months we are also involved with undertaking wildlife surveys around the estate.
Brickfield Pond 
There are many ponds to survey.

Dipping Pond - Warren Haugh

Note Taking - West Wood Pond
We have even done surveys at night - for bats and newts.

Newt Survey

Friday, 25 November 2011

Raptors and Owls

23rd November 2011

 A different kind of day: ornithologist Martin Davison gave a talk about his job and passion – raptors and owls of Kielder Forest.
In the classroom

This was followed up with a walk in the afternoon, from The Stables and back by way of West Wood, so that we could relate our new knowledge to Gibside. Martin pointed out likely potential sites for birds of prey to nest – red squirrel dreys, crows’ nests, and woodland spots with ideal access.

An afternoon walk

Martin was able to point out the characteristics of the remains of a wood pigeon that indicated that it had most likely ended its days as dinner for a sparrow hawk rather than any other predator. We also examined the contents of some tawny owl pellets.
Martin & Phil
Martin points out potential nesting site

Not unexpectedly, three red kites came to see what we were up to, but that was our only raptor or owl sighting of the day. However, we did spot a roe deer, and Phil Younger led us to a roe deer circle – tracks circling a tree, the result of courtship behaviour.
And as usual we were  lucky to have a fine day.

Owl Sculpture

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Leaf Clearing on The Avenue

16th November 2011

Well it’s that time of year again; time to rake up the leaves that have fallen this autumn. This year our job has been made a little easier, as a few days ago machinery had been used to clear up much of the leaf fall on The Avenue and our task was to clear up the remainder. Well that was the theory.

Dave with leaf blower
 Armed with petrol driven leaf blowers four of the group blew leaves into piles and then the rest of us raked them up and put them into large sacks.

Rakers at work

More rakers
The sacks of leaves were then deposited onto the leaf pile where they will form compost.

Emptying the sacks of leaves
Up to their knees in it!

Once again we were blessed with fine weather and the sun shone.
The sun shines on The Avenue

The result - an improved vista and a much improved visitor experience.

The leaf pile.

However, not all the trees have shed all their leaves yet, so no doubt we will be back again in a few weeks.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Rhodie Bashing - Snipes Dene 09/11/11

Our day began with an anticyclonic gloom. However, our gloom soon lifted when we found that 17 postgraduate students and their tutor from Newcastle University were to join us for the day. We headed off en masse to Snipes Dene where our task was to cut back and burn rhododendron bushes (“rhodie bashing”). Pretty though it might be, rhododendron is aggressively invasive and has to be kept under control to give native plants a chance.
Students pruning the rhododendrons.
Three small bonfires were lit and having such a large group of willing and efficient workers our task was completed by early afternoon.
One of the bonfires.


Several conservation volunteers remained behind to ensure the fires burnt out safely.
Steve tending one of the fires.
Our patience was rewarded by some clearing of the sky (well it was a Wednesday) and the sight of a red kite gliding over Snipes Dene.
Late afternoon sunlight over Snipes Dene.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A visit to Cherryburn


Today we separated into 3 groups. Terry & Mary set off to clear gullies on the Gibside estate, the second group were detailed to leaf clearing, and our group of 7 set off for Cherryburn, another local National Trust property, the birth place of Thomas Bewick.

Our task was to cut back vegetation in the orchard using strimmers & John’s scythe, then to rake up the grass and bracken cuttings into large piles, for easy collection at a later date. The orchard is now a wildlife garden. Cutting back the undergrowth encourages a wider variety of plants to grow.
John using his scythe

Bruce strimming

Helen raking grass

Rob raking grass

 John demonstrated scything technique to several of us and then we were allowed to try for ourselves. All I can say is that it’s not as easy as it looks but it is much quieter than a strimmer.

We had lunch sitting outside the main house in the sunshine (well it was a Wednesday!), our peace only disturbed by the free range hens looking for scraps.

Three of the hens searching for lunch

More Autumn Colour

Through The Woods
Entrance Driveway