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Spring Residential - Cragside

From 15th - 17th April SUCV returned to Cragside, Northumberland for our Spring Residential. Cragside is home to the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, which is set in stunning surroundings of gardens, streams, and woodland.

Our 10 enthusiastic volunteers met on Friday evening and drove to Cragside in the endless rain, which thankfully stopped by the time we arrived. We unpacked the minibus and settled into the bunkhouse – before an unfortunate misplacing of the keys meant we had locked ourselves out at 11.30pm. Luckily we managed to get back in with a little help from a neighbour and the National Trust ranger team!

On Saturday we had a day-long conservation task planned for us on the estate. A short walk up the drive into the woodland took us to one of the drainage channels which had become very overgrown, mainly due to rhododendron. This invasive species is a big problem on estates like Cragside – it spreads quickly and is able to outcompete native species. Our job was to use loppers and saws to cut down the rhododendron that was next to the drainage channels in order to create enough space to walk down either side. We also had to get a fire going to burn what we cut down, which was a challenge in the rain and hail but using a leaf blower seemed to help! We continued chopping and burning until about 4pm, when we went for a walk around the estate to see the house, gardens, and impressive iron bridge.

After dinner we walked through the estate and along the river to the nearby town of Rothbury and spent the evening in a pub (with wifi!!) where we played some games. You could definitely tell who was concentrating on the game and who was concentrating on using their phone… A fun walk back in the dark took us to the bunkhouse where we ate lots of toast before heading to bed.

We didn’t have a task set for us on Sunday, so we had planned to go for a walk around the local area. The rangers had left us a route for a 14 mile walk, but we decided this was too ambitious, so instead did a shorter walk which took us to a pub where we had lunch. The walk then took us back to Cragside via Rothbury and an ice cream van, before we began the journey home.

Everyone had an amazing weekend – we even managed to (successfully) recruit some new members for next year’s committee! Thank you to Liang for organising the residential and for cooking the dinners, and thanks to the National Trust at Cragside for having us!

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