Friday, 30 November 2012

Clearing Leaves

Since the trees started dropping leaves, our teams have all been busy helping to clear them up.  Where they fall on to paths or lawns we clear them off so that the paths don't become slippery, or so the leaves don't cover the grass and kill it and leave a big patch of mud.

The collected leaves are put into compost bays and left to rot down for a year to turn into leaf mould for adding to the planting beds in the garden.

Keeping the Avenue clear of leaves is a huge job, so to provide a helping hand to the leaf collecting by the staff and volunteers, Tom came along for a day with his tractor with Amazone sweeping attachment.  In this time he cleared the Avenue of leaves completely filling one compost bay (even after repeated trampling down by Friday volunteers Colin, Andy and Michael) and added more to our overflow pile next to the Walled Garden Cottage.  This work saved us days of time, but the leaves are still coming down so the work goes on!

Tom sweeping up leaves on the Avenue

Tipping the leaves into the compost bay


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leaves, leaves & yet more leaves

Wednesday 28th November 2012

There was a bit of a chill in the air today, 4o C and the ground was soaking after several days of rain, but the sun was shining! Normal Wednesday service has been resumed.

A large group of volunteers were given the task of leaf clearing from The Avenue. Many of the fallen leaves had already been cleared by contractors and our task was to rake up the leaves on the bank and from around the bases of trees where the leaf clearing machinery hadn’t been able to reach.
Raking Leaves

Leaves were raked down the bank into large piles where they could be collected up and taken off by truck to be recycled into leaf mould in another part of the estate.

Piles of leaves ready for collection

It was such a sunny day, that despite the chill, we managed to have lunch outside in the Walled Garden.

Phil Coyne

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

In Search of Squirrel Nutkin

We recently installed some squirrel feeders hoping to attract red squirrels to them.  These consisted of a small wooden box with a transparent front and a hinged top which squirrels are able to push open with their heads to gain access to nuts and seeds inside.  One of these was placed inside a wire cage with a mesh size that allows entry of reds but not the larger greys.  A camera placed overlooking the feeder captured lots of pictures of a red squirrel.

Squirrel feeder

Red squirrel on caged feeder

Squirrel lifting feeder top to access food

Squirrel feeding
Squirrel slipping through cage mesh

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Vista Management Revisited

Wednesday 21st November 2012

7o Celsius and raining, not the sort of weather the Conservation Team have become accustomed to on a Wednesday! Despite the inclement weather, five hardy volunteers set off with Keith to prune the laurel bushes on the ride up towards the Banqueting Hall, a task last undertaken in January.
A soaked volunteer
Equipped with secateurs we set about our task, the aim of which was to improve the vista and give a clear line of sight down towards Gibside Chapel. Some of the prunnings were collected to be made into Christmas decorations later (two tasks in one job!).
After a coffee break in Renwick’s CafĂ© at the Stable Block we returned to finish our task, and then it was off to the Pontop Shed for lunch.
Mary resting on her laurels!
View down the ride

The finished job

Although the rain had now stopped most of us decided to call it a day after lunch and headed for home, let’s hope the weather is better next week!

                                                                                                                                               Phil Coyne


Monday, 12 November 2012

Fantastic Fungi

One of the wonders of autumn is the spectacular hues of red, orange and yellow produced by our deciduous trees but take a close look at the woodland floor and you will find a host of fungi the colours of which would  rival those of the brightest rainbow. 

Pluteus aurantiorugosus

Coriolus versicolor

Scarlet waxcap

Amethyst deceiver

As well as a fantastic colour range you will discover they also come in an incredible range of shapes and sizes.  Some grow like spindles or coral while others are like small cups and a few are like small birds' nests complete with eggs.

Violet coral
Jelly antler fungus
Bird's nest fungus

Scarlet elf cup