Latest team news

  • Tree planting in Grasmere and peat bog restoration work in Ullswater

    08:09 05 March 2018
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    It's been a busy few weeks since our last post so here's a taster of what we've been up to.
    Earlier on, in mid-February, we spent a week tree planting on the slopes of Helm Crag. The work was funded by Natural England. We planted 1800 scrub woodland species over an area of 6 hectares, working alongside other National Trust staff and assisted by some of the Fix the Fells volunteers.

    As the trees develop, they will help stabilise the soil and reduce rainwater runoff. They will also provide a valuable habitat for birds, such as Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer, mammals and insects.

    You can read in more detail about the work on the Central and East Lakes Rangers blog... here, so here are just a selection photos of the work over a very wintery week.

    Having a quick debrief on the first day

    Planting out the trees

    Looking towards Dunnmail Raise on the last day

    Later on in the month we spent a day carrying out some peat bog restoration work up on Matterdale Common with the Ullswater team and staff from Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

    Over 70 per cent of peatlands in England are in a damaged state, often due to drainage, overgrazing, forestry or regular burning. This damage prevents the peat remaining waterlogged, causing plants to die off. Without vegetation cover, bare areas of peat are formed which rapidly erode. This damage can be repaired by revegetating and blocking drains to help raise the water table. 
    The project has been overseen by Cumbria Wildlife Trust who've used digger contractors to do the main bulk of the work, but as a member of the Cumbria Peat Partnership we were eager to lend a hand with areas that couldn't be done with machinery.

    Our main job was to plant heather on the bare areas of peat to help speed up the regeneration process.

     Heather plants ready to be planted out

    So we took the trays of heather out into one of the two stock excluded areas on Matterdale Common and planted up in the barest patches.

    Planting out the heather 

    Areas of peat that have eroded (often as a result of grazing, historical peat cutting and water damage) may form steep banks, known as hags. These hags continue to erode, due to water flow and wind damage, forming large areas of bare peat that plants struggle to survive on.

    By reprofiling the banks to an angle of around thirty degrees it gives the heather seedlings a much better chance to flourish. Many of the hags have been removed using the diggers but we were able to get to a few areas that the diggers couldn't reach and to also work on some of the smaller hags.

     Grading one of the peat hags

    You can see the area where we were working in the photograph below and also the difference between the grazed and ungrazed areas. The area in the distance was fenced off about 10 years ago allowing heather and other peatland plants to return, this should further improve following the recent work.

    Bundles of heather used for blocking drainage

    You can learn more about peatland restoration on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website... here.
  • High on a hill live lonely old tree planters!

    12:07 27 February 2018
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    On a wintry February half-term week and in full view of the busy (and often snowy) Dunmail Raise near Grasmere, National Trust staff and volunteers were hard at work on the slopes below Helm and Mungo Crags. Their mission? To traverse these steep and rocky slopes in the name of restoring scrub woodland…
    Tree planting above Grasmere - there could be worse views!

    The power-barrows - and their operators - relish a challenge...

    Funded by Natural England, this involved planting 6ha of the slopes with typical ‘scrub woodland’ species – hawthorn, blackthorn, crab apple, holly and rowan, along with some silver birch, aspen and alder. Upland scrub is a valuable and often under-appreciated habitat; far from being “scruffy” and in need of tidying, the presence of scattered shrubs and trees provides valuable homes for insects, lichens, birds and small mammals, which in turn feed larger birds and mammals. The flowers of species such as hawthorn and crab apple keep pollinating insects happy, whilst their fruit can be a bounty in the autumn. And the roots of these trees and shrubs help to stabilise soils and improve the ability of slopes to hold water, reducing and slowing the water running off hillsides into rivers during rainy periods.
    The scrub woodland will provide habitat and ecological benefits in the centuries to come

    Fresh from their success as ‘Volunteers of the Year’, the Lake District’s Fix the Fells volunteers put in an impressive show of numbers to help plant the 1,800 trees that went in the ground during the week. Students from Myerscough College also came up during their holiday, learning how to plant and linking this to their Upland Management course.
    A good turn-out of staff and volunteers helped achieve a great number of trees being planted in difficult conditions

    We were also joined by volunteers from the University of Cumbria, as well as stalwarts of the Ullswater and Great Langdale volunteer teams. Staff from the National Trust’s regional office just over the valley in the Hollens also pitched in, experiencing first-hand a hillside they would normally look at from afar in their warm and cosy offices!

    Planters struggle on, despite driving rain and steep slopes

    The planting was far from easy;  on a couple of days the weather threw its worst at us, as Allan Bank Manager Dave and Woodland Ranger Liam tried to capture in this video!

    The weather may have been trying, but all involved can look up at this prominent hillside with pride. There are still more trees to plant, hopefully in more amenable conditions!, but even so, look west next time you’re passing on Dunmail Raise and you’ll see a great example of the National Trust’s ambitions to restore a healthy, beautiful, natural environment.

    The planted intake is visible from far below, and even from Dunmail Raise

  • Hedge Laying in the snow at Townend.

    17:00 06 February 2018
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The hedge bordering Townend House car park had been flailed for many seasons up until now.  
    Last season the hedge was allowed to grow so that it could be re- laid more effectively.
    This image shows the new growth from the previously flailed stems.
    The hedge consists of thorn , ash and hazel.
    This image shows a section of laid hedge.
    Another view with the road beneath running alongside.
    Pleaches at the base of the stems (usually made with a billhook) give them the flexibility to be laid down. 
    The stems are interwoven to give the hedge strength and support.
    The hedge was planted along the top of the roadside wall many years ago.
    The difference in levels between the car-park and the road is considerable, making hedge laying a challenging job.
    The view from the car-park of a heavy snow fall.
    Later in the day working conditions improved when it stopped snowing..
  • Woodland boundary repairs in Ullswater

    08:14 02 February 2018
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    After finishing our path repair work up at Hole in the Wall we've as usual, for the time of year, concentrated on working in the valley bottoms, so far mostly around Langdale and Ullswater.

    Since the new year our main work has been carrying out repairs to a woodland boundary in Ullswater. The plantation where we've been working has been recently thinned which will allow more space for selected trees to develop and let more light get through to the woodland floor. This in turn should lead to an increase in woodland flowers and encourage a wider range of other species to use the woodland.

     Lower wall before repair

    The work has consisted of two dry stone wall gaps on the east side of the lake below Place Fell. The lower gap had extremely tricky access with the wall being on top of a steep rocky slope which also meant a lot of carrying rock back up the hill before we could start.

     Lower wall after repair

    The upper wall, although easier to access, was a much larger job and the stone was a lot more challenging being smaller and irregular.

     Upper wall before repair (bottom side)

     Upper wall after repair (bottom side)

    We soon had both walls up and they will now hopefully last a good few years before being in need of any more repair.

     Upper wall before repair (top side)

    To allow woodland plants to flourish the woodland ideally needs to be stock-proof. So the final job once we'd finished the walling was to reattach the wall-top-fence to make it difficult for both sheep and deer to gain access.

     Attaching the wall-top-fence to the upper wall after repairs
  • A Tribute to Volunteers 2017

    08:00 13 December 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Examples of the invaluable work of volunteers and around the Windermere area.

    Working Holiday Group

    Lake-shore revetment work Cockshott, Windermere.

    Windermere School working at St. Catherine's.

    Thinning out ash and disturbing the ground to encourage growth of Touch-Me-Not Balsam in Spring..
    ..and collecting leaves for adding to the walled garden compost bins.

    Cumbria National Trust Volunteers.

    Tidying up the area in and around High Lickbarrow Farm

    and taking down an old redundant fence.

    First year Forestry students, University of Cumbria

    working on a double fence line to protect a soon to be planted hedge at High Lickbarrow...

    ...under somewhat challenging conditions!

    Stuart, long term volunteer, at St. Catherine's

    constructing a 'hedgehog house' from scrap wood.
  • Stuart...Recycling Superstar!

    13:34 06 December 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Stuart, long term gardening volunteer at The Footprint, has become an inspiring member of the Windermere team here at St. Catherine's.

    Stuart always has an eye on recycling so we find all sorts of useful and interesting objects refashioned from old gates and pallets. Above, he is completing his latest creation...a beautiful eco-home for hedgehogs.

    This old gate is tanalised and therefore unsuitable for firewood but rather than skip it Stuart has repaired the walled garden shed with some of the timber and made some trellis fencing with the rest.

    Stuart brought this Jasmine in from his own garden at home; here it is in the planter that he made from scrap wood with the trellis fencing behind.

    These images show planters created by Stuart for herbs and flowers which are offered for sale outside the Footprint in the Summer; donations go towards "The Walled Garden Project". 
  • Wet! Wet! Wet!

    16:51 27 November 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The recent heavy rainfall made Stock Ghyll Force near Ambleside look particularly impressive.

    However the volume of water has caused many problems. For instance, the little clapper bridge over Wynlass Beck at Millerground  became choked with debris.

    The bridge was giving a good impression of being a weir.

    Finally the debris was cleared away and the water could flow freely under the bridge once again.

    Nothing to do with the above post, but I went to the Lakeland wildlife Oasis at the weekend and took this image of one of the magnificent snow leopards!

  • Making progress at Hole in the Wall

    07:37 31 October 2017
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Just a quick post with a few before and after shots of the path repairs at Hole in the Wall in Ullswater. We've been working on the path for around six months now so it's still very early days for the development of vegetation in the landscaped areas but it gives a good indication on how things are taking shape.

    The following two photos are of the lowest section of path, that we completed first, so it's had the longest time to "green-up".

     Lower Section (before)

    Lower section (after)

    As we progress higher up the hill the work has been more recently completed so this is reflected in the development of the grass.You can see in the following two photos how we wind the path through the eroded area, this reduces the gradient and also helps the path appear more natural, much like the difference between a canal and a meandering river.

     Middle section (before)

     Middle section (after)

    The final pair of photographs show a section of path towards the top. We've completed more work above it but the grass seed has only just started germinating.

      Upper section (before)

      Upper section (after)

    We'll be back working on the path next year so we'll put more grass seed down on any bare areas and, if required, revisit the path in future years to put extra seed down. We'll then let nature do it's thing and allow any wild seeds from the surrounding vegetation take hold and eventually we'll be left with a much narrowed and sustainable footpath winding it's way through the heather and bilberry up to the Hole in the Wall.
  • 'Til the cows come home.

    15:30 15 October 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The National Trust Scout Beck herd of the rare Albion breed were brought in today, Sunday 15th, from their grazing land to High Lickbarrow Farm. From here they were transported to their Winter quarters. Along with the cows there were 17 calves born earlier this year in May.

    The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia are due to hit on Monday 16th so the timing was just about perfect!

    Six helpers including 3 National Trust staff herded the cattle along a kilometre route to the farm. It all went pretty smoothly with only the occasional break away attempt.

    In this image the cattle are approaching the entrance to High Lickbarrow in orderly procession.

    These "first" heifers (about  18 months old) were brought in a week earlier from their grazing allotment at Moor How, near Newby Bridge.

    An image of one of the 18 month old heifers at Moor How with a glimpse of Windermere and Grizedale Forest in the background....

    ...and here she is at High Lickbarrow on her birthday in May 2016! Just a few hours old!

    The herd will return to their 'home' at High Lickbarrow in May ready for a new season. Some animals have been sold to farms in Cornwall and Derbyshire which will contribute to improving the bloodline, and increase the numbers of this rare breed.

    To find out more about the Albion breed...The Albion Cattle Society have a website that is very informative. 

    "....dedicated to raising public awareness of this dying breed and help save it from extinction".

  • Red Squirrel walk at Aira Force

    10:39 02 October 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    On Wednesday 27’Th of September a trial Red Squirrel walk and talk was held at Aira Force.


    The event was held in partnership between the National Trust, Ullswater Steamers and Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group (PDRSG)


    43 eager and excited years 1&2 children from Stainton Primary school arrived at Aira Force, where they were treated to an interesting and informative talk by Andrew and Julie from the PDRSG.



    Once the children’s brains had been filled with all sorts of exciting squirrel facts they where taken on a tour of Aira Force by the National Trust Rangers, in hope of seeing one of our little fury friends.



    We looked high we looked low but sadly we did not see one. We believe we have about 6 pairs in Aira Force, unfortunately they didn’t want to come and play that sunny Wednesday morning. The best time to catch a sighting of red is often at dusk or dawn when it is quieter and there are less people around.


    All the children had fun though filling in there Red Squirrel trails as they walked around the path ways of Aira Force.



    Once we had completed the tour, the children where then treated to a ride on the Ullswater Steamer from Aira Force to Glenridding, where they were each given a goody bag packed full of Red Squirrel memorabilia.

    these talks will hopefully become a more regular event next year.