Latest team news

  • Continuing our work at Boredale Hause

    06:41 06 August 2018
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    We've been working on the path leading up to Boredale Hause for around three months now and although there's still a fair amount to do, it's really starting to take shape now.

    When working on a long length of path like this, we each work on a stretch of about ten metres at a time. When that section is completed and joined up with the team member working above, we leapfrog higher up the path and continue like this until the whole length of path is finished.

    Starting higher up the path

    You can see in the photo below how the full width of the erosion is used to help meander the path, making it easier to walk on and reducing the visual impact.

     Completed section of path

    Due to all the dry weather we've had this year, we've struggled getting grass seed to germinate on sections of path that we've landscaped and many of the turfs that were carefully removed while building the path have dried out and died.

    Starting another new section

     Section almost completed

    We've reseeded a couple of times and hopefully now that we're getting a few more showers, the grass will start to grow and cover the bare areas.

     Starting a new section while working around some buried bedrock

    As we've moved higher up the path, we've started to encounter more areas of bedrock. Most of this is just below the ground surface and can be removed with a crowbar or sledgehammer if it's in the way of the path. Dealing with bedrock adds an extra layer of complexity to the process of building a path, as well as substantially increasing the level of exertion required.

     Approaching the bedrock outcrop

    One notable section was a large outcrop higher up the path. Generally, exposed bedrock like this is much harder and more difficult to break. Since bedrock becomes slippery when wet, many people try to avoid walking on it, which causes more erosion in the area... exposing more bedrock, etc, etc. So rather than stopping the path at the foot of the outcrop, we continued around it until a weaker section was found that could be chipped out to form the new path line.

    Continuing around the bedrock outcrop

    The new path line works really well and we're also leaving access to the exposed bedrock section alongside the path for the more adventurous mountain bikers to descend.
  • Starting repairs at Boredale Hause

    19:41 03 June 2018
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    It's that time of year again and work has now officially started on this years upland path repairs. Our biggest project this year is repairing both the footpath and the bridleway that lead up to Boredale Hause which is a joint project with the South Lakes upland ranger team.

    Work started towards the end of March by filling heli-bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass.

     Filling bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass

    Due to the amount of rock required for the repairs (over 380 bags), we gathered rock from a second site at the end of Grisedale valley. Both rock collection sites are a good distance from Boredale so moving the rock was a long drawn out affair. The helicopter took roughly six minutes between each drop, which is two or three times longer than the average lift.

     Moving the stone to site

    Once all the rock was in position, it was time to start on the repair work. The South Lakes team started on a lower section of the bridleway and we positioned ourselves higher up the path. All the photos are of this higher section.

     Lower Section (before)

     Lower Section (after)

    As some of the repairs are on the bridleway, the Lake District Mountain Bike association was consulted for suggestions to make the path more easily passable on bike. It was decided that any undamaged stone culverts (underground drains) would be left in place and additional stone drains would be designed so that they could be circumnavigated.

      Lower-Middle Section (before)

     Lower-Middle Section (after)

    We've only been working on the path for about two weeks at present so there's still a fair way to go, but you can see we're starting to make progress.

    Upper-Middle Section (before)

     Upper-Middle Section (after)

    To make the path easier to walk and ride on we're, as usual, trying to meander the path through the eroded area, this helps reduce the gradient and makes the step height a little lower.

    Upper Section (before)

     Upper Section (after)
  • Footpath repairs at Aira Force

    07:11 08 May 2018
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Since our last post we've spent a fair amount of our time working at Aira Force, on a section of footpath above High Cascades.

    Old path

    The section of path that we've been working on had previously been repaired many years ago, but as the path was a bit "rough and ready" visitors were avoiding it which had caused the area next to the path to become eroded. This can be seen in the photograph above.

    Path before commencing the rebuild

    As the area is not very accessible, it was decided that some of the stone would be flown to site by helicopter. This was supplemented with useable stone from the original footpath and additional stone that we were able to gather from the surrounding area using our mechanical power barrow.

     Completed lower section of path

    To make the path blend in a little better, we adjusted the line to make it snake through the site rather than cut through in a straight line. The line was partially dictated by bedrock, which came to the surface at a couple of locations. To avoid having to chip away too much, we gave it a wide berth where possible.

    Working in the snow 

    Our work was hampered on a couple of occasions by heavy snow which prevented us getting over to Ullswater or making it impossible to safely move large stones around. But on days with just a light scattering of snow we continued regardless.

     Middle section after moving rock to site

    After a few weeks of work we had pretty much completed the stone path. The new path is much more user-friendly and incorporates a couple of large stone drains to shed water away and prevent damage.

     Middle section after completing the stone work

    Unfortunately, due to the pressing job of gathering stone for our upland repairs, we weren't able to complete all the landscaping work in time. So we're hoping to get a bit of time later on in the year to tidy away some of the leftover rock and reseed the area and then the new path will be looking better than ever.

    Completed top section of path
  • Natterjack Toad Night Walk at Sandscale Haws.

    07:19 30 April 2018
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Sandscale Haws, near Barrow in Furness is an important site for the nationally scarce Natterjack Toad. At 8 pm I went on an organised Natterjack Toad walk, here, led by two National Trust rangers, Neil and Andy, on 7th April 2018.
    One of the board walks at Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve.
    A sand dune breached by a storm. The landscape is very dynamic. The dunes are often shifting and changing shape.
    Natterjack toads are nocturnal and have evolved to breed in transitory water bodies. The name 'natterjack' is derived from the loud mating calls made by the males. The jack (or toad) that chatters!
    Sandscale Haws.
    One of the pools at Sandscale Haws where the toads were in fine voice. The males' mating calls can be heard up to a mile away on a still night!
    Searching the area by torchlight for toads...
    Success! A young male is seen. Note the distinctive yellow band running along its back. 

    I enjoyed my experience at Sandscale Haws and this was in no small part due to the knowledge and enthusiasm of the two N.T rangers Neil and Andy who led the walk.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK BELOW.

    Sandscale Haws website

    Below is an impressive video of a Natterjack in full cry!

    Natterjack Calling
  • Let Battle Commence....(the ongoing work to eradicate Himalayan Balsam.)

    13:40 04 April 2018
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    At Millerground , nationally scarce native Touch-Me-Not Balsam seedlings are starting to appear. 


    Unfortunately seeds washed down-steam last Autumn have allowed invasive Himalayan Balsam seedlings to be  present as well... encroaching on Touch-Me-Not. (see image below taken April 4th.)
    The cotyledon, the embryonic leaves in seed bearing plants (see above image) are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed..

    Even at this very early stage it is possible to spot which are native plants and which ones are invasive!
    To give the Touch-Me-Not seedlings their best chance the Himalayan balsam seedlings have been pulled up..Hard to believe that in a few short months these seedlings would have had the ability to grow upwards of 10 feet tall!

     Himalayan Balsam is by far the tallest annual plant in the UK and will easily out-compete Touch-Me-Not, and indeed, other annual plants...
    Above is an image of Himalayan Balsam taken in late June; this large woodland stand has become a mono-culture in that no other plants can grow such is its dominance.
    Early to mid Summer is the usual time to start control work before the plants have a chance to set seed.
    Strimming can be highly effective.
    In this image the Himalayan Balsam has been pulled up by hand and then snapped below the bottom node. 

    If  left on on the ground intact Himalayan Balsam can sprout new roots and survive very easily.
    The image above is of Touch-Me-Not balsam also taken in late June. Under the right circumstances it too can form a mono-culture but in much smaller stands than its invasive cousin.
    As mentioned in previous posts Touch-Me-Not Balsam is the food plant for the rare 
    Netted Carpet moths' caterpillars.
    Finally here is an image of a Netted Carpet Moth on Touch-Me-Not Balsam.
  • New natural play area at Aira Force

    06:43 28 March 2018
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed


    A new natural play area has been built at Aira Force. A small unused patch of grass next to the Tea room was identified as the perfect spot.

     



     

    For some time the catering team had witnessed children climbing (and falling off) the wall that surrounds the Tea room, not only is this dangerous for the children, but it spoils what is a fantastic view of the Lake.

     



    The work originally started the week commencing Monday 26’Th of February. As some of you may remember that was the week the ‘Beast from the east’ arrived.

     

    We managed to get one day of digging in before the snow hit, and the Tea room turned from this.

     



     

    Into this.

     



     

    After the snow had melted and we could get the digger back on site we carried on clearing the top layer of turf and soil. This provided us with the basis to start constructing the play area.

     


     

    The idea was to use local timber that had recently been felled in the valley, thus saving costs and using a local natural source to build the play features.

     

    There were plenty of ideas from the rest of the team on what should be installed; they ranged from a wooden crocodile! To a bird hide mad from logs. It was finally decided that some natural balance beams and stepping stones would be most practical and user friendly.

     

    Once a rough outline of where the obstacles needed to go, the digging, cutting and chiselling could take place.

     





     

    Finally a wooden edge was put in to help prevent the gravel from the path, and the bark from the play area mixing. This was ably put in by some of the Aira Force volunteers (Roger, Diane and Martin).

     



     

    Once the edging was in the play bark could be laid and the grand opening could take place




     

    A special thanks to one of the Rangers daughters in helping to cut the ribbon.
  • 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