Hedge Laying

Whilst the house team tackles the world of mould, the complexities of the sandstone and celebrates a fantastic World War One feature, the estate rangers have tackled the world of blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel and celebrated a wonderful day with the South East England Hedge Laying Society (SEHLS).

Hedge Laying on the Scotney Castle Esate

Hedge Laying on the Scotney Castle , Tilers Field, Parkland Trail. SEHLS held a training day at Scotney Castle, and some of the Ranger team came along to learn.

What is hedge laying? – It is when an existing hedge line, having been allowed to grow for at least 12 years, is laid to rejuvenate the trees and shrubs in the hedge and reinstate it’s function as a stock boundary. Each individual living stem to partially severed (or pleached) with a range of hand (or sometimes power) tools, and placed up hill in the same direction.

Here is a volunteer, Tony, using tools to pleach the stems so that they can be laid up the hill. Enough is left attached to ensure the tree survives...

Here is a volunteer, Tony, using tools to pleach the stems so that they can be laid up the hill. Enough is left attached to ensure the tree survives…

Why hedge lay? – Across the country hedges are managed in different ways. Some are neglected, some are flailed with a tractor, some are grubbed out, whilst some are still laid in traditional ways. Laying is proven to be the best stock proof barrier as the stems are laid along the ground, then on top of each other, preventing any gaps in the line. To be extra secure the hedge is also staked every 18″ and binders are wrapped through the stakes to give the height back. It is in fact better than a wire fence because the thorns in the hedge deter stock from trying to break through.

Here you can compare a part of laid hedge, with a part that has only been flail cut over the years. Which one has less gaps and therefore a better stock barrier?

Here you can compare a part of laid hedge, with a part that has only been flail cut over the years. Which one has less gaps and therefore a better stock barrier?

Are there wildlife benefits of hedge-laying? – Yes there are many. Hedges are great wildlife corridors and sources of food for many insects, birds and mammals. The thicker the better, the thornier the better, the more shrub species the better as this provides great shelter for wildlife. Hedge laying encourages all of this. Dormice, Whitethroats, Brown Hairstreaks, Great Crested Newts and Stag beetles are just a few species that thrive in a hedgerow landscape. For more information go to http://www.hedgelink.org.uk/wildlife-and-hedgerows.htm.

A Whitethroat is a summer migrant that nests deep in thickets or hedgerows, but the male will sing and display on the top of the hedge during courtship.

A Whitethroat is a summer migrant that nests deep in thickets or hedgerows, but the male will sing and display on the top of the hedge during courtship.

SEHLS have there own website which (http://sehls.weebly.com/) where more can be found out about the history of the society and the benefits of hedge laying.

Here is more of the day in pictures:

A quick smile for the camera... Tony and Paul.

A quick smile for the camera… Tony and Paul.

SEHLS experts show the Scotney rangers what to do, we certainly learnt a lot that day...

SEHLS experts show the Scotney rangers what to do, we certainly learnt a lot that day…

Each trainee was given there own 'cant', a 10 yard section of hedge, to lay. If this was a competition event then points are scored for correct length of pleachers, correct angle of cut stakes and correct height of binders.

Each trainee was given there own ‘cant’, a 10 yard section of hedge, to lay. If this was a competition event then points are scored for correct length of pleachers, correct angle of cut stakes and correct height of binders.

Often a chainsaw is used to pleach larger stems, but traditionally tools such as a billhook and long handled axe would do all of the work.

Often a chainsaw is used to pleach larger stems, but traditionally tools such as a billhook and long handled axe would do all of the work.

Thanks to Martin for arranging the day, standing here by a very neat piece of laying...

Thanks to Martin for arranging the day, standing here by a very neat piece of laying…

We managed to pick up all the tools and equipment before lost in the dusk and mist...

We managed to pick up all the tools and equipment before lost in the dusk and mist…

If you want to see the work for yourself, you will find Tilers' field on the Parkland Trail, just follow the blue way-marker posts.

If you want to see the work for yourself, you will find Tilers’ field on the Parkland Trail, just follow the blue way-marker posts.

Thank you for reading.

The Scotney Castle Ranger Team.

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Every cloud has a silver lining…

photo 1

When you find mould pushing its way through the panelling in a historic room, your first reaction is to panic! However, even though no one obviously wants mould coming through the walls, this event led to a few hidden discoveries at Scotney Castle.

The new house at Scotney Castle has had its fair few problems with leaks and is prone to water ingress due to the building material being sandstone. After a very hot and humid summer, combining this with the damp of the stone, Scotney became the perfect haven for our mouldy little friends. So the House team and Consultancy set out to get rid of a growth of mould in one of the ground floor rooms, the Garden Lobby.

Our first task was to actually find a way to get to the mould behind the panelling so we called in our wood and furniture specialist to come and remove the panelling designed by the architect of the House, Anthony Salvin. This may sound a simple task but that was far from the case- after much cursing at Salvin for his craftsmen not attaching the panelling like a normal joiner would (apparently), our furniture expert then started exclaiming Salvin’s ingenuity and marvelling at the attention to detail. Each piece not only fitted perfectly together like a jigsaw puzzle, this puzzle was extremely elaborate with curved edges slotting into one another, with each piece being unique. The panelling therefore had to be painstakingly removed in the right order which took place over two days.

After the removal of the woodwork and eliminating our uninvited guests from the walls, while sporting some gorgeous plastic suits, another treasure was uncovered- the stonework.

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The exterior walls of Scotney Castle are constructed from sandstone quarried on site which now has been turned into the Quarry Garden in the grounds. The interior stonework which we exposed when taking off the panelling is made from chalkstone, which was probably quarried locally in Kent or Sussex. This lovely stonework still has the worker’s marks on from the shaping of the stone, showing the unfinished raw state of the stonework behind the panelling which has never been seen since the house was built in 1837-43. As well as exposing the stonework, the structure and support for the panelling is shown; wedges of wood are placed in between the blocks of stone creating a support to which the panelling can be attached.

photo 2

Now all we need to do is wait for the stonework to dry out, which on average will dry at one inch per month! So the stonework and exposed construction of the house will be on display to our visitors for at least the next year.

So although we had a rather unpleasant surprise of mould growing through the walls, this set back allowed us to expose the stonework of the house and furthermore see Salvin’s design and ingenuity of constructing not only the house but the decorative interior design as well.

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Conservation, Coats and Country Life

flower room

The New house at Scotney has lots of textiles from curtains and upholstered furniture to dresses as well as Mrs Hussey’s outdoor coats. To help look after this wealth of textiles, we have started a new volunteer Textile Conservation Group, and the first project that the group tackled was the Flower Room.

The Flower Room is located on the ground floor, in a corridor leading from the Butler’s Pantry and Kitchen towards the Hall. This little room was, as the name suggests, used to arrange flowers which Mrs Betty Hussey was very fond of. This is a tradition which is still kept up by our volunteers today with freshly cut flowers being displayed in the rooms. As well as the multitude of vases, the room was also used as a cloakroom where many of Betty’s coats, hats, scarves and boots are on display, just as she had them when she lived at Scotney.

So how do we go about looking after our textiles? Textiles are normally vacuumed to remove any dust from their surface and the frequency of their cleaning depends on how delicate the fabric is, and where it is on the visitor route- as the closer to the visitor route the more likely dust is to fall on it.

We use small vacuums, known as museum vacs, which allow the suction level to be changed, as hoovering a delicate fabric on a high suction is obviously not a good idea! Another tool of the trade is netting. If you spread a net over the top of a textile or attach it over the head of the hoover, it will stop any stray fibres from entering the hoover and therefore prevent you from unravelling the fabric.

Before starting any textile cleaning, we have to look at the fabric, check for any damage and any possible fragility. Also before hoovering a whole piece of textile, it’s always best to check if it actually needs cleaning! We check this by doing a dust sample. If you put a piece of muslin between the hoover tube and the head and do a test patch on the textile, you can see how much dust has come off. If your dust sample looks something like this picture, it is very much in need of a clean.

 dust sample

[Dust sample taken from a tapestry stool in the Hall]

As well as the dust sample allowing you to see if the piece needs cleaning, it can also be used to check if any fibres have come out of the fabric and then we can adjust the suction level on the hoover accordingly. This simple method helps to protect textiles by not over cleaning them as if we hoovered a fabric too often we would cause more cumulative wear and abrasion, so just by doing a little test patch we can stop any unnecessary damage.

The textile group started their work by hoovering a blue padded overcoat which hangs at the side of the Flower Room. This coat we noticed is also found being worn by Betty in a picture hanging opposite, taken at the front of the New House at Scotney Castle. This is really nice to have not just the jacket which Betty wore but also the evidence that she wore it out into the grounds, in this case with people preparing for a shoot. This to me really hits home that Scotney Castle is a home that was lived in, not just in Victorian times but right up to modern day- and is left just as Mrs Hussey had it as if she has just popped out for a walk in the gardens.

Mrs Hussey

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Anyone got a light?

One of the things that amazes me about the new House at Scotney is the amount of objects and knick knacks around the house- you don’t know where to look first and you are always likely to come across a new discover. Pieces of the collection that happened to catch my eye recently are an assortment of match box holders that can be found in several rooms around the house, placed by fireplaces or next to ashtrays, made in a variety of materials and styles.

Matchbox holders as well as variety of cases to hold matches, known as vesta cases and match safes, first became popular in the mid-19th century with the introduction of the friction matches. Friction matches at this time were a little too good at their job and would sometimes spontaneously burst into flames. Match safes were then introduced to protect the user from having their coat catch alight by accident!

There are over 20 matchbox holders at Scotney castle which would have been used for domestic purposes such as lighting the fire or for smoking. Matchbox holders used within a domestic setting tended to be of larger sizes, rather than the handy pocket size match safes which could be carried on your person. One example from the collection at Scotney is a silver matchbox holder with the initials E.H and date 1900 inscribed on the case. This matchbox holder probably belonged to Edward Windsor Hussey (1855-1952), the son of Edward Hussey III who built the new house. Along with this matchbox holder is a silver cigarette case bearing the Hussey crest which is of a similar date, carrying a mark on the base of London 1898.

EH 1900.cigarrette case cropped

Matchbox holders could come in a variety of sizes, styles and also materials. In the Library of the new House, to the side of the fireplace, are three jade matchbox holders. One is a plain rectangular box while the others have a little animal on top- a turtle and a frog.

jade

My favourite matchbox holder in the collection and the inspiration for this blog is a later example made of brass. This matchbox holder furthermore reflects the character of the last occupant of Scotney Castle, Mrs Betty Hussey. Mrs Hussey was a big cat lover and her last cat named Puss Puss still lives in the house today. This little brass matchbox holder depicts a cat sitting on a brick wall and captures the character of Scotney in Mrs Hussey’s time down to a tee.

cat

 

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The Cherry Pick of the Autumn Pictures

Autumn is upon us. The season, so Rev.William Gilpin populariser of the Picturesque tells us, most suited to representation in painting. It’s only this season that provides the richness, the roughness, the light and shade and the variety that, for the trained Picturesque eye, are the qualities that impart to a painting life and interest.

Some of those pleasures are there to be enjoyed in the garden here at Scotney today. After heavy rain this morning, the clouds passed and the sun came out, the grass, trees and shrubs glistened, and steam rose off he moat. Here are a few photos I took this morning as I walked around.

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The sharp eyed will have noticed on the first photo that part of the Old Castle is covered with scaffolding. This is part of the regular maintenance of the decoration and fabric of the building. The gardening team take advantage of the access the scaffolding provides to control and cut back the ivy and other climbers that add to the Picturesque impression of the buildings. The impression of neglect, the appearance of decay, ivy reclaiming human made structures for nature, all of these contribute to the effect desired by the creators of the Scotney landscape. But this wildness cannot be left untamed. Allowed half the chance nature would soon engulf the Castle in vegetation and the garden would be lost under a mass of trees, rhododendrons, ivy and other vegetation. As gardeners what we have to maintain is the appearance not the actuality of wildness and neglect.

To help achieve this, in addition to the scaffolding, we had the use of a cherry-picker or MEWP (Mobile Elevating Work Platform) two weeks ago. This wonderful machine reaches the parts that other work platforms can only dream of reaching. In Dave our Premises Manager we had a skilled driver, a veritable Nureyev in his ability to negotiate the pas de deux and pirouettes necessary to strip the ivy, hydrangea and wisteria from the walls.

The photos below show Dave and the gardener Dave at work on the Old Castle and Mansion.

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Wildlife, Hops and estate management

Dear All,

It has been a little while since I have blogged, so I thought you share some pictures and stories from the last few weeks on the Scotney Castle estate.

The most obvious place to start is in regard to hops. The last day of hop picking was today (Wednesday 24th Sept) which brings to an end a busy month for Ian Strang, Scotney’s tenant farmer of 30 years, and his team. Hop picking is a massive part of Kent’s history and the influence and power from the industry is evident from the wealth of Oasts (now many of course Oast houses), the movement of county boundaries and why Kent is the ‘Garden of England’. At the height of the hop industry in the late 1800s, Kent boasted 77,000 acres of hop gardens, now however, there are only 1000 acres left in the whole country and Ian Strang is one maybe as little as 50 farmers to still grow hops. The Ranger team is certainly proud to have this tradition continued at Scotney Castle.

Hop gardens, once a they filled the Kent landscape

Hop gardens, once a they filled the Kent landscape

Tractors bring hops from the gardens into the the picking shed

Tractors bring hops from the gardens into the the picking shed

A complicated machine and strips the hops from the bines

A complicated machine strips the hops from the bines

The hops are then dried in the roundels of the oast, cooled and then baled ready for transportation

The hops are then dried in the roundels of the oast, cooled and then baled ready for transportation

 I am also very proud of Scotney Castle’s estate guides who have delivered guided walks throughout the hop picking month to over 600 people. Although picking has now ceased for 2014, tours are still going ahead for another two weeks, so if interested then please check out http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scotney-castle/things-to-see-and-do/events/

Summer from a practical point of view has been all about fencing and installation of gates. The ranger volunteers have worked really hard all summer, many thanks to their commitment. Here are Tony and Nick erecting a fence along the front drive:

Nick is using a drivel to knock in fencing posts

Nick is using a drivel to knock in fencing posts

Tony is helping to put in struts for the straining posts

Tony is helping to put in struts for the straining posts

To finish here are some wildlife photos of the last few weeks…

Bank Vole 5a

This Bank Vole was happy to hang around for a couple of photos before it scuppered away in the long grass. We found it when we moved a log stack, which had only been there for a couple of days, part of a job to clear windblown trees on a field boundary. Photo by Alison Playle.

Can you spot the smooth snake?

Can you spot the smooth snake hidden in the grass?

I believe that this is a wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) but please feel free to let me know what you think...

I believe that this is a Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) but please feel free to let me know what you think… I saw it when I was brushcutting thistles in the parkland

Dormice monitoring has continued on the estate, this little fellow was found in september, quickly sexed and weighed then put back his nest... Photo by Lucy McIntyre

Dormice monitoring has continued on the estate, this little fellow was found in september, quickly sexed and weighed then put back his nest… Photo by Lucy McIntyre

Dormice are certainly at their cutest when in torpor, but this fella, in weighing bag is a little sweetie...

Dormice are certainly at their cutest when in torpor, but this fella, in weighing bag is a little sweetie with his white breast plate…

This is a Stinkhorn fungus, which I saw in the woods the other day. Autumn is here!

This is a Stinkhorn fungus, which I saw in the woods the other day. Autumn is here!

Thanks for reading. Mark.

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Guided walks and Charcoal

The Scotney Castle ranger team have been ever busy through the summer months. From making BBQ charcoal to sell in the shop to taking scores of visitors around on guided walks has made the summer eventful…

Senior Ranger Ross Wingfield leading a guided walk

Senior Ranger Ross Wingfield leading a guided walk

Long term volunteer hero Martin, with charcoal bags...

Long term volunteer Martin, with charcoal bags…

The cycle of Scotney’s work plan fits into shape through a virtuous circle. We spend a lot of the winter months clearing back overgrown paths, ride and woodlands which makes a great habitat for various species, such as butterflies and dormice, the wood that is cut is harvested to make charcoal and volunteer estate guides lead visitors to the best places to spot this diversity. It all fits into place.

So, where to start…

Guided Walks  Every day of the week a volunteer estate guides leads a guided walk across the estate. The theme of the walk may reflect the season. Earlier in the year the theme was ‘first signs of Spring’, the walk over the last week has been ‘summer butterfly ID’ and the next one will be on Hops.

Harvested hops...

Harvested hops… Come on a Hop tour this August and September and learn more about the process

Hop gardens at Scotney....

Hops grown in traditional gardens on the estate by tenant farmer, Ian Strang.

Estate Guides 2014. Ready and willing to give a great tour...

Estate Guides 2014. Ready and willing to give a great tour…

Charcoal 

Charcoal making is a really old traditional skill. Hornbeam or Alder is said to make the best charcoal, but at Scotney we use mainly sweet chestnut, as that is what we inherited from the plantings of the hop industry. Many say it is more of an art than a science to making it but there are a few things that need to be correct. Firstly the Kiln needs to be packed correctly with the right size logs. It also needs to be burn at the right heat and for the right amount of time. I haven’t cracked it yet, but Martin, shown in the photos below has come quite good at it:

Split the logs and transport to the kiln...

Split the logs and transport to the kiln…

Stack the kiln and light it waiting for the correct temperature before putting the lid on...

Stack the kiln and light it waiting for the correct temperature before putting the lid on…

Put up the chimneys and seal the air holes and leave until smoke turns blue/grey

Put up the chimneys and seal the air holes and leave until smoke turns blue/grey

Shut the kiln right down and leave to cool...

Shut the kiln right down and leave to cool…

Next morning, see what you have got!

Next morning, see what you have got!

Thanks for reading. look out for the next blog soon…

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