Another week, another schedule of jobs to do at Ashridge. A five thousand acre estate produces endless tasks, so it was good to see a high turnout of volunteers last Thursday being given a varied selection of tasks – maintenance of the rights of way, along with signage installation, housekeeping in the greenhouse, and the removal of more alien plants.
There was also a ladies circle led by Pete recording wild flowers on Stepps Hill. Not the easiest of tasks when there is such a profusion of flowers this year – it’s rewarding to announce an abundance of something beautiful and appealing because of the maintenance regime on the hills.
Since 2012 the N T has been focusing on improving the quality of experience for the volunteers. They wish to involve volunteers in every aspect of their work, making sure that staff members are confident and able to work alongside us. They have just announced a considerable breakthrough in N T membership now topping five million so we can expect more visitors, although there is still work to do because the Visitor Enjoyment ratings remain “stubbornly below target”.
Ashridge are now planning to inspect all of the legal rights of way with a regular maintenance routine, involving the pruning and cutting back of encroaching vegetation. To this end all legal pathways on the Estate have been allocated a designated number to enable easy location, details of which can be found on the Zonal maps which can be accessed from the banner headline above. All car parks have been named, and new information boards are being erected at the busiest places giving local details and routes with “You are Here” identifiers so that visitors can find their bearings. The distinctive maroon livery has had to give way to a battleship grey house colour, but the iconic silver omega signs will be retained in most places.
Variegated mint might be favoured in a garden, being a strong growing attractive perennial but it soon gets out of hand forming an extensive colony, so we can find it dumped in the woods by a thoughtless gardener. Another alien plant to be dealt with by the volunteers!