Tuesday, 5 November 2013

"Cold blows the wind tonight sweetheart..."

..and did it!
Unlike 1987 we were both well informed and well prepared for the storm that swept through the UK during the last weekend of October.  It was pretty powerful and wind speeds in the South East were recorded as being in excess of 90mph.  A very different picture to the one that I caught on the Friday before...

The calm before the storm
The scene that greeted Richard, Sheila and Anthony on the following Monday was not as bad as it could have been and although Anthony's gazebo was tossed aside like an old rag the vine house stayed up.

Gazebo akimbo

Sadly, on a more serious note we did suffer a fair amount of damage to some of our significant specimen trees.  Our beautiful Magnolia × loebneri 'Leonard Messel' by the Ha Ha had its central stem torn out.  Our most prominent Tulip tree also had its top ripped off and there was similar damage to a number of other trees.  Here you can see how a young Beech tree has had its canopy snapped off:
A small Beech tree by the West Glade
The wind seemed to seek out any structural weakness and exploited areas of decay.  I was particularly worried about a couple of our old giants, the Lime at the top crossroads and the Beech by the Ice House.  Thankfully they laughed this storm off as nothing  more than a puff of insignificant air.  Overstood coppice is always prone to failure and never more so than when on muddy river banks.  This is why the Spring Walk is currently closed off, we'll be clearing this as soon as possible. 
Anthony examining a fallen Alder coppice stool

Anthony again tidying up a Willow after it received a bit of a battering
For safety reasons we've also had to remove a Larch and a Birch that were partially uprooted and leaning heavily.  This twin stemmed Pine being surveyed by Richard is also destined for the Bothy fireplace.
Our Ranger colleagues encountered a similar picture on the estate with some significant damage to an old Beech pollard amongst other things.  However, all in all things were not as bad as they could have been and thanks to a speedy response from the team (special thanks to Anthony for putting aside his rotavator to take up a chainsaw and rejoin the old team) the tidy up is almost complete.
Despite the high winds there is still Autumn colour to admire and the Autumn Tree Trail will continue to run until all the leaves are gone.  So, we hope to see you soon before our season draws to a close.
P.S.  The title of this blog is a line from an old English folk song called "The Unquiet Grave" from c.1400.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A quick seasonal round up.

Well folks its that time of year again.  Misty mornings leading into bright sunny afternoons.  Yes, Autumn is here and your trusty garden team are keeping an eye on the daily changes occurring to our trees and shrubs.  We hope that you might be able to come to see for yourselves just how amazing things look at this special time of year.  To whet you appetites here's a selection of pictures of some of our early autumn eye-catchers.  There'll be much more to follow and so have a look at our Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/#!/ScotneycastleNT?fref=ts and this blog for updates as to how the Autumn colour is coming along.

A tantalising preview of colour from the Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) by the Boathouse.

Another reliable star is the Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) growing through one of the Yews at the Old Castle.  The contrast of the rich red against the deep green is really striking and can be seen (by the keen eyed) from as far away as the top crossroads.
Autumn is also great time to see fungi and here's one of the coolest - Orange Peel fungus (Aleuria aurantia).

This one is called Jelly Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula) for obvious reasons. 

We can't talk about this season of "Mists and mellow fruitfulness" without talking about the fruitfulness.  Here's a Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) loaded down with berries.  The blackbirds will make short work of them though over the coming weeks.
Whist we're on the subject of Sorbuses (Sorbusses?  Sorbusii?), err... Rowans.  Here's a beauty, I'm not too sure of the exact species but it's likely to be a variety of Hupeh Rowan.

One final Sorbus, this time Vilmorinii.  One of the newly planted trees at the bottom of the hill opposite the boathouse.

Our last picture for this post is the bizarre looking fruit of the Strawberry Dogwood (Cornus kousa) on the edge of the West Glade.  These alien looking fruit are apparently edible but don't taste like strawberries and are in fact tasteless, so we don't recommend you try them.

We will shortly be transferring our content across to a different blog site and so keep an eye out here or on our Facebook page for notification of this.  In the meantime we hope to see you here at Scotney before the winter really sets in.  Oh, and one last thing, this year we'll be running the Autumn tree trail again and so ask at visitor reception for your free copy.


Sunday, 22 September 2013

How Fashions Change

You might have thought that, in the 21st Century, something as traditional as marriage might have gone out of fashion. But if the attendance at the Scotney wedding fair is anything to go by the desire to dress up flamboyantly, hire classic cars, eat vertiginously balanced cakes, and generally live it up in the pursuit of wedded bliss is alive and kicking.

As well as a large tent (nothing as plebian as a marquee!) containing a plethora of wedding related stalls, the area around the Old Castle where weddings take place has been set up as it is for the ceremonies and on the bastion a new addition to the Picturesque view has appeared. This is a pink, shoe-hatted, mannequin attired completely in a dress made of various types of foliage set off by a discreet and judicious use of grapes. I thought it would be good to compare 21st Century fasion with its 19th Century predecessor.

The photo on the right shows Mrs Rosamunde Hussey, wife of Edward Windsor Hussey, standing on the bastion in the 1890s. On the left is mannequin that has graced the same spot this weekend. I'll leave you to draw any conclusions there are to be drawn about what the changes of fashion between the two pictures say about the respective social and cultural mores of our time and the late Victorians.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Monk(s)eying Around

It's been a busy and blisteringly hot couple of weeks.  We are now ready to welcome our many younger visitors as the summer holidays get under way, more on that later.  Here's a quick roundup of what's been happening:

Last week Anthony and  I were cordially invited to Monk's House in  Rodmell a tiny village near Lewes http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/monks-house/ by the Bateman's https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/batemans/ garden team.

Len, Andy and Pete were busy carrying out vegetation clearance work prior to an extension of the car park.  Our role was to help on a small climbing job to reduce an overhanging Ash tree.  With our Go-Kart garden van loaded up with tools we set off for the 60 mile round trip.  Anthony was pleased that he opted to wear chainsaw protective clothing all the way there, as wearing the equivalent of a 15 tog duvet is great for shifting those excess ounces.  It was an arduous day for all of us and the beating sun together with the heat from the many machines running combined with the aforementioned safety clothing made for much puffing and blowing and red faces all round.  We finished our part in time to get back to Scotney by the end of the day but Len and the guys had several more hot dusty days left before their work was complete.
Here's Anthony asking me if I want ice and lemon in my G&T.

Pete (sensibly wearing shorts) running the chipper.
This week we said goodbye to Meidy and Maja two of our long term volunteers from Europe.  Meidy was on a study trip from France and Maja was visiting from Switzerland.  As we welcome our long term volunteers we are all learning a lot more about our European neighbours.  It would appear that Belgian buns are, bizarrely, unknown in Belgium according to Gilles, not all French people say "Sacre Bleu" according to Maud, the famous 'Swiss Roll' does not originate from Switzerland according to Maja (despite Duncan bringing one in to prove they exist) and French people don't rely solely on the bicycle when shopping for their daily baguette according to Mehdi (although he happily cycled the treacherous route from Scotney to Sissinghurst by bike!).  To all mentioned above thank you once again for all of your hard work and help during your visits.  We look forward to seeing you again in the future.

Meidy was also able to try his hand at some tree climbing just before he left and as you can see from the picture below he enjoyed himself immensely (and also wore his stripey shirt that all French men wear).  Mark from our Ranger team also joined in the climbing session and retained his smile despite me droning on about knots and harnesses etc. 

Meidy happy at height.

Mark smiling through the blisters.

Saying goodbye to Meidy and Maja, from left yours truly, Meidy, Charlotte, Paul, Ant and Maja (Duncan behind the camera).

For all our grown up readers out there you will be very well aware that the summer holidays have now started.  If you have young ones who are looking for some great things to do outdoors why not head down to Scotney and seek out information on our summer activities. We now have a '50 things to do before you're 11 ¾' (https://www.50things.org.uk/) base just in front of our visitor entrance and it looks like this:

Here's Rory ready to send you off on an exciting mission. 

So let the summer fun commence and fingers crossed for the weather to remain fair and as always if you have any questions about the garden or things that we are working on just stop us and have a chat.


Sunday, 23 June 2013


Despite fairly unseasonal weather the grass continues to grow and we continue to mow.  At Scotney we can generally get all of our grass cutting done in a couple of days as long as the weather stays dry.  We have a whole range of equipment that we use for grass cutting from large ride on mowers to our latest addition battery strimmers.  We used to carry out our grass cutting on our closed days to minimise disruption to our visitors however, now that we are open all the time there may be occasions when you will encounter us working.  We hope that this doesn't impact on your visit and we are using new methods (such as the battery strimmers described in our previous blog) to help reduce noise.

Our G23 general purpose mower.  Just like a domestic lawn mower (only bigger) it cuts and collects.
In addition to Scotney we are also currently tasked with maintaining the garden of our neighbouring property at Sprivers in Horsmonden http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sprivers-garden/  So, tasked with this mission on Monday and after juggling with a couple of trailers we managed to get our G23 ride-on mower safely stowed.  With our pedestrian mower and new battery strimmers also on board Duncan (my wingman) and I took off Top Gun style in the truck and the van to Sprivers.  Because the grass hasn't been cut for a while it was quite a struggle for our G23 and so next week we will need to deploy our flail mower, known to his friends as 'Twenty Five Sixty'.  Here he is, isn't he handsome?:

After negotiating the rather long truck/trailer combo through the gates of Sprivers Duncan and I got started.
Long Vehicle
The front view of Sprivers
We generally take it in turns to use the machinery and so this week I got the ride on work to do whilst Duncan tackled the pedestrian mowing (and there was a lot!).  So with 'Highway to the Danger Zone' courtesy of Mr Kenny Loggins ringing in our ears we got going.  Working together seamlessly just like Maverick and Goose, Duncan and I finished the mowing by the end of the day and Sprivers was once more looking lovely.

Duncan pedestrian mowing the lawn at the front of the house.
The end result of Duncan's hard work.
A lot of the grass at Sprivers will be left to grow long to provide habitat as well as minimise our machinery workload.  I think a path mown through long grass always looks nice anyway:

After a productive day we loaded up and took off for USS Scotney, arriving safely on deck at sixteen hundred hours for tea and medals.  Who says gardening isn't a glamorous profession?


P.S.  Next sprivers open day is on Monday 8th July 11am-3pm.

Animal Magic

Here at Scotney we have a diverse selection of resident wild creatures.  There are the newts described in my previous blog, there are our sleepy dormice and of course the glamorous dragon and damsel flies that we are renowned for.  In contrast to these 'celebrity' animals we also have those that are more down to earth:

This handsome chap is our friendly blackbird who comes to call every day.  We supplement his diet of worms with some soft fruit and he is often here before we start work waiting for a raisin or two.  He joined our team last summer and after a short absence over the winter rejoined us this spring, he is one of our more demanding team members!

You may have noticed there is a bird feeding station in the garden by the discovery room.  This is a great place to spot birds of all shapes and sizes.  They get through the food quite quickly and so we have a store of peanuts and seeds nearby.  Last week we had a break in and an unnamed goofy grey fluffy character made off with a stomach full of bird food.  Paul our Garden and Estate Manager was not best pleased and set to with a plan to outwit this peanut pilferer.  Using his best carpentry skills he constructed a squirrel proof repair that would foil any future attempts on our peanut stash.  As you can see, we may need to go back to the drawing board on this one...

Grey Squirrel - 1, Garden and Estate Manager - 0


Newts at Ten.

Not really, it's actually newts at seven (7pm).  Just a reminder that Ross our senior Ranger and his team will be featured on BBC1 Countryfile tonight.  The film crew visited a few weeks ago to look at the landbridge and the newts in the old swimming pool - make sure you tune in.

The Ranger Team (From left; Ross, Mark and Martin).

Three cute little smooth newts.