28 Dec 2008

Bowers Yard

Read this post in the main blog by clicking on the Bowers Yard heading above or here and enhance your experience!

It's that 'limbo' time of year when the Christmas festivities, family gatherings and parties are making way for New Year celebrations.

The Wrekin Forest Volunteers celebrated Christmas in the time-honoured way by working! Meeting at Bowers Yard with 3 other volunteer groups totalling around 50 souls we were set the task of coppicing, building fires and cooking over nearly 100 sausages, burgers and spuds for the hungry throng!


Bowers Yard as the name implies was a site of much activity a century or two ago as the area would have been used by the many barges and boats that made their endless trips up and down the River Severn. It was a mooring and a boat repair yard. Here the barge men would rest a while, quite often overnight in the many Brewhouses, squatters cottages and inns that abounded at the time.

Most of these establishments are now no more but the few that remain in the area are fine examples of Georgian rural architecture.

In the 18th and 19th centuries apart from boat building and boat repair work other industries thrived by the water's edge with Bowers Yard in fact having no less than 5 flourishing lime kilns the remains of some, with a little scrambling, are still to be seen. Part of our task today in fact was to remove unwanted scrub and trees not only allowing more light into this naturally dark and wooded area but to also make some of these industrial relics viewable to walkers on the footpath running alongside the river.

And so it was on a cold but otherwise dry day that we set to...

I'm indebted to Nigel this week for supplying some of the pics and most of the captions.

But not all of them...

Or maybe it was some other spirit vapour?!

It was Nige who supplied this pic of... of... well, what is it?

Actually, Nigel thinks he's cracked this; with due diligence he has discovered that it could well be our old favourite Purple Jellydisc (Ascocoryne sarcoides). Personally, I'm not sure - I still think it's a slightly decomposed bilberry butty!

Les also contributed with a few pics so many thanks go to both!
Sorry, that seemed to imply that the above is a pic of Les.
Clearly it isn't!
Or is it?
Talking of hats:- It's difficult to believe that out of around 50 people attending a celebration of Christmas with all its festivities and happy smiling people all entering into the spirit (or spirits) of the event that I was the only one wearing a silly hat! Actually, someone was said to have quipped 'If anyone was going to wear a silly hat today it'd be Paul!'
Howler Competition
It's back. And don't forget it's open to anyone reading this blog - it's not just for the WuFuV's! Be the first to spot the obvious mistake (not a typo or grammatical) and win yet another fabulous prize from my 'little box of give-aways'. Just click on 'Comments' at the bottom of this post just under the collage and type in your answer.

Lis was over the moon to win the last howler - no she was, honestly! She was beside herself with joy at hearing she was the first to spot that reference to the website 'Wild About Shropshire' should have been 'Wild About Britain' - the link for which could be seen in the sidebar of the main blog

So take a close look and try to find this week's howler to win a worthy something-or-other! The prize is often appropriate to the winner as it was with Nigel and the Jungle Sounds CD (well he's into spiders and there are loads of those in the jungle!) and Olly of course who won the Pete Docherty book (one of just 2 Baby Shambles fans - me being the other!) and then there was Lis who won the bottle of Mulled Wine - enough said!

Back to the plot
Spuds cooked in an open fire are just the most blissful and satisfying food available. I'd give up my portion of caviar and truffles for one anytime! As would many others it seems...

As for Pete - I don't think I've ever seen him eat anything but cake!

The annual tree-dressing tradition was upheld with some very creative exhibits from many volunteers. The very fine Fly Eratic was from Les, I think the snowman from Nigel and the 'Popcorn on Coat Hanger' - I'm not sure - who was that?

Anyway, my offering was somewhat more basic as being a newcomer to this auspicious event I hadn't fully grasped the concept that the offerings should be wildlife-edible or at least bio-degradable. Oh well, at least my tinsel bauble will still be there next year!

A cold day but I think we all managed to keep warm one way or another.

Catch you all soon and don't forget to use comments below for your howler entry. As comments are moderated it won't appear in the blog straightaway but each entry is logged with exact time and date. I will hold on to all howler entries this time so no-one can see who's won and it could be that the funniest entry actually beats the first entry for the prize!

Don't forget the comments facility is not just for the howler - use it for anything else you'd like to say; comments on pics, history of the area, famous people associated with the site, silly stuff, anything - just do it!

Can't see the comments link under the collage?
Just click here to view the main blog

Click on the collage to view more pics of Bowers Yard

22 Dec 2008

Apley Castle

Hi everyone!
This week you have a break from me (YIPPEEE! I hear you all say!) as I missed Apley Castle due to a delightful few days spent up in Yorkshire but it looks like I missed a great day.

I'm both grateful and amazed at the number of pics that came through from fellow members (around 50!) of the event so it's taken a while to filter them and select just a few for the blog (as always there's a slide show where you can see a few more). Thanks go to Lis, Les and Nigel for all pics in the post and the web album. Well done guys & gals (who was it who used to say that?)

No howler this week!
I've been inundated with emails and verbal assaults from people bemoaning the fact that there was no howler last week. Dozens of people demanded to know where it had gone (well Lis sort of mentioned it in passing!). It will be back! In the New Year.

New post from a blogger virgin
I'm also indebted to a member of the team for kindly doing the write-up of the day at Apley, so without further ado I'll hand you over to the always effervescent, the very colourful and the amazingly ebullient...


"Thanks Paul. Let's see if I can get to grips with this thing then...now, where's me pencil and more importantly me rubber?"

Apley Castle Woods
A beautiful mixed woodland on the outskirts of Wellington, once owned by the famous Charleton family.

Did you know that the Charlton family and Apley Castle were linked with the Royal Courts of England and Powys for over 800 years and is of great historical importance?

Apley Castle was also home to two grand houses with the same name. The first was a 14th century fortified manor and the second; a grand Georgian mansion built 450 years later on a site close by. Both properties belonged to generations of the illustrious Charlton family.

The original castle was built in the early to mid 14th century on the site close to Apley woods. When the building of the Georgian mansion was complete, which was also known as Apley Castle, during the 1790s, the original castle was converted into a stable block. Following the demolition of the second castle in the 1950s, the stable block fell into a state of ruin but can still be seen today.

In the late 1990s the grade II listed building was rescued and sympathetically restored, containing eight dwellings, many including original mid 14th century features.

The woodland as it stands today is in much need of care and management as it has been in decline since the advent of building development in recent years in the surrounding area of Parkland.

The Friends of Apley Castle Park together with Shropshire Wild Life Trust and other like minded individuals are dedicated to carrying out a programme to maintain and enhance the healthy growth of this parkland; thus ensuring the environs, atmosphere, flora & fauna together with the entire ambiance of the area for generations to come..............

WREKIN FOREST VOLUNTEERS "Friday Foray" to Apley Castle Woods 12th December 2008:

The day started with Pete picking up the motley crew as usual and together with a few other members of the Wrekin Forest Volunteers ( who had made their own way to Apley Woods), we joined up with the Friends of Apley Castle Woods and other nature loving enthusiasts.

The programme for the day? To clear the Laurel that was invading the deciduous woodland... and a mammoth task it seemed. But as usual we made our assault on the offending vegetation, armed with loppers, saws and loads of enthusiasm.

Very soon you could finely see the "wood for the Trees" LOL. The Laurel that we had pruned away was collected and ceremoniously burnt on one of our now familiar Bonfires.

At break time we all got our sarnies and flasks out, only to find that Pete had provided hot jacket spuds ( courtesy of the bonfire) Lurpack butter and grated cheese... yummy!

But that wasn't all.....the Friends of Apley Castle Woods set up a trestle table which was quickly laid out with mugs of hot drinks and an even hotter home made chilli & rice .a definite FEAST!

Tummy full and suitably warmed we continued our task, the bonfire crackling away fiercely. All too soon it was 3pm and time to pack up and make our way home; but not before the Friends of Apley Castle Woods has yet again provided nourishment for all the weary volunteers. This time it was hot drinks and chocolate biscuits. A fantastic end to a really great day.

Click the Collage below for more pics

Catch you all soon and thanks Lis for a great post, some of the pics and all the captions!
I know where to come when I need another rest!

Have a great Titmouse y'all and a Happy Roe Deer!

15 Dec 2008

Forest Glen

What a wet day! But it doesn't deter the dedicated team of Wrekin Forest Volunteers as we set out to clean up and enhance the Forest Glen Car Park at the foot of The Wrekin. As we worked on forging a new path from the CP to the layby I wasn't aware that there was a famous connection between this sylvan location and a very famous author of fantasy fiction - and one of my favourites...

This photo was taken a few months before his death in 1973 and I wonder how many others realize that The Wrekin was visited by JRR Tolkien when writing 'The Lord of the Rings' and in fact the hill could well have been an inspiration for him when creating 'The Shires' as part of Middle Earth.

Fascinating stuff!

But our task today was not fiction or fantasy. It was hands on with spades, loppers and saws. Whilst a few members of the crew - The Sleeper Team and The Ivy League worked on the main hill entrance most of us were given the task of creating a woodland path from the main car park east to the layby along the lane.

On completion this would then link with the path heading off to Limekiln Wood and The Ercall taking walkers off the lane and hence away from traffic.

So we set to...

Hi Ho, hi ho, it's off to work we GLOW!

And then it rained.
It got colder.
It rained some more.
It got even colder and even wetter.

It was even too wet for toads!

We soldiered on.

After forging the route right through we then held a ceremonial 'opening'.

In the absence of a local dignitary (other than Pete of course) the cutting of the ribbon went to Alistair who was initially concerned about the possibility of his photo being published yet again in the local papers (we didn't ask why!) but with no paparazzi present we managed to put his mind at rest and he happily took to the role. I wonder if he knows this blog is potentially viewed by millions worldwide though!?

All crews then combined to walk the way to-and-fro for a bit of path-flattening

And then back to the bus where some fell promptly fast asleep...

And the last Friday Foray of 2008 with the WuFuV's

Click the collage to view a few more pics...

No Howler Competition this week by the way but please feel free to leave a comment...

8 Dec 2008

Devil's Dingle

This was my first visit to Devil's Dingle and what a fascinating place it is too!

Once a reservoir but since the 1960's a disposal area used by power-generating company E-on for its disposal of ash.

The programme is now ending and the 100 acre site is being de-industrialised and re-natured with the help of Carrie's great team of volunteers from the Severngorge Countryside Trust, Wrekin Forest Volunteers and members of E-on itself under the wing of the very capable and enthusiastic Mary Thorton.

New woodland and 3 lakes are being created along with a continuous programme to maintain the delicate balance between scrub, grassland, heath and the landscape as a whole.

Howler Competition
Before we go any further I'd better tell you there's another blinding but intentional mistake in this week's post with an equally salubrious and well-chosen prize. Don't forget this will not be a grammatical or typo error both of which may be abundant, but more an obvious geographical, historical or factual mistake. When you find it just post a comment on the bottom of the post just below the Devil's Dingle collage. First to spot it and leave the comment wins - erm, well... it depends who wins!

Tip: You may need to view the whole blog to crack this one, so if you're reading this in an email or feed reader just click the heading 'Devil's Dingle' right at the top and the full blog should open in a browser window.

Well done to Nigel for being the first to spot last week's mistake where I managed to make a dormouse take flight instead of the Daubenton's Bat.

The fab prize this week was a CD of jungle sounds which would have been even better had I not misplaced the disc but the cover was very attractive! Just joking! After scrambling around in my rucksack I managed to locate it. I'm not one to disappoint!

Back to Dingling!

Our first task was the removal of hawthorn and bramble from the south-facing bank just inside the main entrance. This is an area where Dingy Skippers breed along with many other butterflies such as the Green Hairstreak both UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species.

Caption Competition

I couldn't resist adding this pic and turning it into this week's Caption Competition:-

What is it that Mary is saying? Just pop your answer into the Comments at the bottom of this post. No prize for this one just a bit of fun!

A sight that will soon disappear as the ash disposal ends and nature starts to take a hold.

As Devil's Dingle is an area not open to the public this view of The Wrekin, albeit shrouded in mist, is one not seen by many.

Ollie, once more took charge of scrub burning and Graham was given the task of burning (sorry, cooking!) the spuds in the embers. Delicious! It's just one of the many reasons we volunteer. Other perks, of course, are being out in the cold and the rain, suffering numerous splinters down our nails and working our fingers to the proverbial bones. Any one else want to join us?!

Thanks to Nigel for the group pic and with the aid of a self-timer on his camera, managed to get in the frame as well. A feat that I've often tried but usually end up tripping over in the rush to get into position!

Fungi pic from Les

The teams worked together well and the scrub-clearing tasks were soon completed. We will no doubt return in the not too distant future to lend a few more willing and helping hands to this wonderful project.


Nigel's Larva ID'd by Les

It was back at Granville Nature Reserve when Nigel came across this fascinating larva and took this detailed pic.

Both Nigel and Les then set about, with the aid of the Internet, to ID it. Nigel was getting close but it was Les who finally did it by using one of the links on the right 'Wild About Shropshire' and then uploading the pic to a forum. 2 hours later someone replied to Les with a positive ID. Amazing stuff this Interweb!

Anyway... it turned out to be a fine specimen of Apamea sordens, the Rustic Shoulder Knot



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Don't miss next weeks' post at Forest Glen!

Click the collage to run the slides...