Our team have arrived back to reality today after a fantastic two days away in rural Shropshire, visiting a number of beautiful places that our colleagues in the National Trust look after.
This was an opportunity for our Heart of the Cotswolds and North Somerset team to get together and share some valuable experiences with a set of outdoors staff across our regional border.
Our first port of call was the Shropshire Hills based at Carding Mill Valley at the foot of the Long Mynd. A hugely popular tea shop – 250,00 visitors per year- which acts as the centre for access to the stunning upland moorland with superlative views. We heard about the conservation efforts to protect and improve the fragile heathland that host species such as Red Grouse and Merlin. We looked at their efforts to improve access and provide high quality visitor information. We tasted their produce from the renowned tearoom. We spoke to their education officer about their 60,000 school children visits made to the valley each year. One or two of us even took a spontaneous moment to partake in some wild swimming in their tranquil but freezing, freshwater reservoir.
The late afternoon was spent at Wilderhope Youth hostel, an NT owned Elizabethan manor house that is let out for £10 per year to the Youth Hostel, an agreement that was set out when a member of the Cadbury family purchased the house for NT. This felt like a landscape that hadn’t been altered for centuries. Truly beautiful.
Day two was all based at Dudmaston Hall, outside Bridgnorth. A completely different environment, a large mansion house with a garden that merged so subtly with the wider landscape beyond. The sun shone and we saw the property at its best.
The staff again were fantastic. Hugely knowledgeable, resourceful and highly skilled. We met their Head Gardener and the Ranger team including their very own skilled craftsperson who looks after their carpentry workshop where they produce some wonderful timber furniture and ornamental pieces, sourced from their woodlands at Dudmaston.
We drove back at the end of the two days having seen lots and been hugely inspired.
Matt Stanway, Acting Lead Ranger, Cotswolds.