Team news for April 2013

  • Repairing the bank on Lake Windermere

    07:30 30 April 2013
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    As part of United Utilities work on preventing flooding in Bowness-on-Windermere  a new pipeline has been put in place that runs through part of Cockshott Point and out into the lake. In order to do this a section of stone revetment, that helps protect the bank, had to be removed so it was our job to reinstate it.

    Before starting work

    To make sure everything stays in place we decided to bring in some large "keystones" to create the bottom course. These will help keep the rest of the revetment secure in the event of the lake rising and falling and potentially undermining the bank.

    Moving the keystones down the bank

    As the water level can rise rapidly after melting snow or heavy rain it was essential that we got these keystones in quickly. To help speed up the process we bought in a mini-digger to dig out the initial trench, move soil around and help shift some of the larger keystones.

    Digging the trench

    It wasn't too long until we had the line of keystones in place.

    Putting in the keystones

    With this done the next job was to get our levels right. With four people all working at slightly different speeds across a large section it's quite easy to wander off line a bit. So we set up string lines to keep everything even.

    Getting the levels right

    The revetment is built up in the same fashion as a drystone wall where a series of courses are created and each stone overlaps that underneath it. In just a few days we were starting to make good progress up the bank.

    Making progress

    After another day, or so, we reached the top of the bank. To finish the top course we used some good, deep, stones and tightened them to the courses in front.

    Getting higher up the bank

    With all the stonework in the ground it was just a matter of filling in the gaps with soil and seeding over the area to prevent the soil washing out.

     Filling in the gaps
  • The tale of the helicopters; part 2!

    09:00 26 April 2013
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    If you read our blog last week (the tale of the helicopter, part 1) you will know that the upland team have been growing in excitement for the arrival of our helicopter.  Well arrive it did and boy would we have been excited!  Only something else arrived at the same time... high winds, poor visibility and rain.  Not the best combination for flying stone attached to a helicopter up into the fells.  It was even more frustrating as the lift up at Blea Tarn was going to be filmed by ITV as part of a new series on the National Trust to come to your screens later in the year!  Despite the inclement weather we still did plenty of filming with the crew.  We took them to some of the paths around Blea Tarn and showed them what we do and the issues we are faced with in the uplands.  Hopefully they got some good footage and we'll not have embarrased ourselves too much!

    Ian talking to the film crew about path erosion
    Finally come Friday the forecast had improved enough for the helicopter to get off the ground and move some stone, so it was all systems go, for us that meant we had just a few hours to try and get all the stone lifted at Blea Tarn before the helicopter had to go out west and lift stone onto Yewbarrow.

    Can you spot the ground crew and all the bags to be moved?!
    Because time was tight, 3 of us were lucky enough to have hitched a ride from the valley bottom up to Blea tarn.  Although it only lasted just over a minute it was fabulous to see the fells from a different perspective.  From this point though it was all down to the pilot and his ground crew, our jobs were merely crowd control to ensure the pilot had as easy a job as possible, thankfully it was pretty quiet!  Supervisor Ian however, also played a key role as he was the man the pilot was aiming at for dropping the stone.  I'm not sure whether it would be a scary or thrilling place to be, but the pilot had a good aim and Ian is pretty experienced so it all went without problems.

    Ian in the yellow jacket directing in the stone, with the ITV film crew in the back ground!
    At the other end of the lift, the ground crew has to attach the bags of stone to the helicopter one by one.  This means that as the pilot comes into the load site he just has the ground crew's hand to aim at, into which he will fly the chain that is attached to the underside of the helicopter.

    Pilot guiding in the chain with just a hand to aim at
    The ground crew then threads the strap through all 4 loops of the heli-bags filled with stone and hooks it onto the chain.  With a thumbs up the ground crew heads to find the next bag while the pilot wheels away to the drop off site, where he will release the bag once he is happy with the placement.

    Ground crew off to find next bag, pilot off to drop off site.  Can you spot the mirror the pilot uses to help him see?
    It's amazing to watch this all happen, especially as it is all so seemless!  Whilst on crowd control there are normally plenty of people to talk to who are pretty interested to hear what's going on and why we use helicopters.  We do however have to remind them that it's not every week we get a ride in a helicopter and our normal mode of transport is our very own feet.  Still when we can we all enjoy the opportunity to get a ride and we normally end up with lots of photos!

    Langdale pikes
    Looking up Tongue Ghyll
    Allan Bank and Helm Crag
    All in all it's been an exciting week and because of the weather we're looking forward to the helicopter returning later in the month to finish the jobs that we couldn't fit in this week.  If you want to keep up with what happens and what else the team gets up to then please follow us on twitter  @NTlakesfells, where we can we try and update daily!

      By Sarah Anderson (Upland Ranger)


    18:08 23 April 2013
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Rumour has it that underneath this mass of ivy on a birch tree at St. Catherine's.....lurks a bat box!
    Be worth having a look for it, even after all these years!

    First step to finding the bat box is to cut through the main ivy stem... being careful not to damage the tree.

    Pulling the ivy away from the tree trunk.
    Loading up the trailer.

    Rope and ladder needed higher up the tree.
    Discovering the bat box.....still in good condition.
    Most of the ivy removed. Hopefully bats will be able to find the bat box now
    and make use of it.


  • Off the beaten tracks.

    07:42 23 April 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    Now that the lighter evenings are here, it is much easier to get out in the evening and as I had worked over Easter, I was also able to take some lieu time last week.  Some of it was spent walking the fells.  Even in the busiest times of the year, it is still easy to find some places in the Lake District to be alone and to find peace and quiet. 

    I am often asked, “What’s your favourite place?” but I usually answer, “You have to go and find your own.”  It is really easy to find quiet paths to walk and space to sit.  Most people tend to use the well-known paths like Catbells.  It’s a brilliant little hill and well worth its money but of course it is very popular.  You really don’t have to go far from there to find somewhere nice and quiet to sit in the sun and watch the world go by.

    The dry weather we’ve been having allowed me to get out and about on my bike and also to do some climbing.  I had an outing with a couple of mates from the rescue team.  We did Little Chamonix which is a route on Shepherds’ Crag in Borrowdale.  It is a relatively easy, beautiful route in a fantastic setting and, climbing in the evening, we were the only ones on the crag.

    We have also been out walking with Daisy.  She is a lot bigger now so she is only carried when she tires– I still have to scoop her up and carry her up steep sections!  We have had some rain recently but we did need it - everything has been incredibly dry and we have been quite worried about fires for a while.  The danger isn't over yet but the vegetation is mopping up some much-needed moisture and the lake level is rising.

    Hi, It's Daisy
    Life is brilliant but I don't like the rain. Sunbathing is the best.

  • The tale of the Helicopter lift, part 1...

    09:00 19 April 2013
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    As the snow melts away and we emerge into spring, the Upland Ranger team can normally be seen to be getting pretty excited, and that's not down to the weather supposidly improving as we come towards summer...instead its because the prospect of a ride in a helicopter gets ever closer!  Before that however, there is plenty to be done.

    These don't fill themselves!
    Helicopter lift are undertaken annually and allow the Upland teams to get materials onto work sites in the high fells.  This material is largely stone that will be used to build pitched paths (stone steps) and drainage, but we also fly up sheds and tools.  This year our team is filling bags for 3 main projects at Blea Tarn, Fairfield and Swirral edge.  Each bag we fill will contain around 500-800kg and we need to fill approx 270 bags, all of which get carried up by staff to the stone sites.  That roughly means that between the team we'll have moved nearly 162 tonne of stone, that's equivalent of moving the biggest bell in Big Ben 10 times! So alongside looking excited we also look pretty weary! 

    Ian carrying helibags up Tongue Ghyll
    Once the bags have been carried up the fell it's time to start filling them all with fairly sizeable stone, that will be suitable for the work it is intended for. So in the case of stone pitching, we look for stone that has a good, flat walking surface, alongside what we call a good face, which is the part of stone everyone will see as they walk up the steps.  Before all this however we take advantage of the empty heli bags to get out of the wind and have us a brew!

    Brew in a bag!

    View from the heli bags
    Refuelled and ready to go we fill the bags, getting the largest stones in the bottom four corners, medium stones on top of that and small stones filling in the gaps.  A gold standard for a day of bag filling is 10 bags per ranger, but that can vary according to the nature of the site.  For example on the site at Tongue Ghyll, there was a footpath directly underneath, so fillling the bags did take longer as we were being extra careful!

    Spot the rangers and count the heli bags!

    This year there was a particular last minute rush on filling the bags because the snowy weather made getting to the sites a lot more difficult that normal, but with a big push and some help from the Fix the Fells volunteers we managed to get them all filled, and could now start looking forward to the arrival of the helicopter and the beginning of the lifts.  Only as with the bag filling, the weather can either be our friend or our worst enemy, tune in next time to find out what happened next...!

    Our helicopter for the week and camera man from ITV

  • Natterjack Toad Walk 19th April

    15:33 18 April 2013
    By Jo Day

    Due to the bad weather and the late Spring our natterjacks appear to be late for their own event!  We will still be holding the guided walk as planned, however there would be a better chance of the full natterjack experience on the walk on the 26th April.

    Natterjacks like the weather to be a little warmer and the wind to have died down somewhat.  They don't however mind the rain, in fact it makes them feel a little amorous!

    Both walks start in the car park at 7.30pm.  We will have an introduction at the artificial scrapes, then make our way to the main breeding pool on site.  The walk is about 1.5 miles over uneven ground and beach passing by water courses on the way.  Bring a torch and warm clothing.

    For more info contact the Rangers on 01229 462855

    One of last years star attraction photo by Ken Jones
      Please note that it is illegal to disturb natterjack toads in any stage of their lifecycle with out a licence, a guided walk by our licenced rangers ensures the best view of these amazing creatures.
  • Volunteers Rock!

    20:04 15 April 2013
    By Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Jack Deane, Jessie Binns, Joe Cornforth, Mark Astley, Maurice Pankhurst, Paul Delaney

    The Southern footpath team have been preparing for a job, a stone pitched path between Grisdale tarn and Fairfield.  They will be joined later in the year by the other three footpath teams to get it boshed!  The first job was finding a suitable scree to take stone from, one that is not a SSSI  (site of special scientific interest)  with good rock and no endangered flora.  Here's a couple of protected flora you may of seen about on the cumbrian fells.

    Parsley fern
    woolly hair moss

    The scree needs to be as close as possible to the work site to help reduce flight costs and ensure the path blends in with the surrounding rock.  With the site found the team started filling reinforced bags to be flown by helicopter onto the work site.  There was 160 bags to fill so they needed to get cracking despite the snow making it difficult to find any stone.

    With 120 bags filled and the Heli lift only a week away, 11 of the fix the fells volunteers came in on a Saturday to give a helping hand.

    The first bags of the day, each bag holds a tonne!

    We got lucky with the weather and it turned into a cracking day, the sun cream even came out.

    By the time the last bags were filled we could of done with a nice cream tea from Wordsworth house and gardens.  Below is a short time lapse of Watendlath bridge and Langstrath beck around the time the team started filling bags, also the volunteers bag filling a couple of weeks later  (shot from too far away! but if you look closely at the screes you will see the busy fix the fells worker bee's).

    At the end of the Day having a well deserved rest after filling 40 bags of stone, Rock on!

    Photos by David Brooks

  • Our own amphitheatre!

    17:45 15 April 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    As I mentioned in the last post, much of this week has been spent working in the area around the shop at the lake-shore.

    A number of volunteers popped in to join me and help with constructing the sub-structure for the recycled decking that will be the base of the open-air classroom.  This is now being rather grandly referred to as an amphitheatre!  Eventually the base will be screened from the view of passing walkers by tree trunks that will also serve as seating.

    View from the 'amphitheatre'.
    There will also be an accessible ramp sweeping from the side of the shop around to a dirt-scree path behind the decking and then on to link with the path through Cockshot Wood. What we want to do is make it easy for as many people as possible to enjoy exploring the woods rather than just walking a tarmac road.

    As usual I had a steady stream of volunteers turning up and giving their skills, time and enthusiasm to push this project forward quickly.  We just could not achieve so much without them.

    Whilst we were working in the area around the shop, I had my attention drawn to a miniature garden on top of a short stretch of wall.  There will be hundreds or even thousands of people who pass it every day and don’t notice it.

    The hills, the lakes and even the trees are so big and splendid that they demand attention.  This little garden and many others wait for you to notice them.  So, when you pause in your exploring, it’s worth remembering to look at the small things. 

    Hi, it’s Daisy here.  I’ve been working with lots of new people and they’re all really friendly.  I’ve been saying “Hello” to people as they walked past me working outside the shop.  (I think that’s going to be my job.)

  • The end of an era ...

    09:00 12 April 2013
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    So far this year we’ve been exceptionally lucky with the weather. We had one day where we ended up building the drystone wall in the ‘Outdoors indoors’ room (see 26th March entry) at Wray Castle due to heavy snow preventing us getting to the real wall we were intending to go to, but apart from that it’s been fine every time we’ve had volunteers out with us.
    Not a usual walling problem - fitting stone next to a skirting board!
    So this run of decent weather (ie not raining) has meant we’ve been able to get back down to our ongoing project putting the new path in on Wray Bay, just down from the castle. We started work on this way back in August 2011 and have been plugging away, working towards the castle ever since them.
    Landing party! Brathay Trust arrive at Wray Bay .
    In a first for us, the weather was so good that on one of the days the group we were working with arrived by canoe! They were all local young people staying at nearby Brathay Hall and working with us as part of a Princes Trust project. They’d all never done anything like this before and were all saying they would be bringing their families back to look at their bit of path. The National Trust’s new director general happened to be at the castle on the same day so the group also got to give her a lesson in how to use the power barrow – which we think was probably a first for her too!
    Dame Helen Ghosh with her power barrow tutor ...

    It’s been great having a big project like this to work away at, but it’s coming to and end now. A recent day working there with Littledale Hall Therapeutic Community, a residential rehabilitation centre from near Lancaster, saw us put the final turf in place on the side of the path. Quite emotional really ….
    Littledale Hall putting the final turfs in place

    There’s a couple of days work left to do yet, laying the rest of the gravel path surface and tidying the site up. But it’s very satisfying to look back on the completed path and remember all the many different volunteers who’ve put their bit into the project. This path is a true testament to the statement 'we couldn't have done it without them' .....

     By Rob Clarke, Community Ranger, High Wray Basecamp

  • Preparing for our upland path work

    12:51 10 April 2013
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    It's now the time of year when we start thinking about getting back up on the fells and resuming our upland path repair work. This means spending a few weeks filling bags with stone in preparation for them being flown to site by helicopter to the paths that need working on.

    This year bag filling has proved slightly more challenging than usual as due to all the heavy snow we've struggled to get to our rock collection sites, and also finding any rock under the thick blanket of snow. You can see in the photo below just how bad it's been. In this instance we had hoped to get up and assess the path leading to Red Tarn in Ullswater to see exactly how many bags we'd need, but in the end this proved to be fruitless.

    Heading up to Red Tarn

    As Ullswater has suffered much worse with the snow than Grasmere we managed to fill a few bags on Helm Crag while waiting for some of the snow to melt elsewhere. These will be used for landscaping around the sub-soil path that we've been recently working on.

    Bag Filling at Helm Crag

    Another one of our jobs this year is repairing the path on Gowbarrow. This work will require building stone drains, culverts and resurfacing. The original path was worked on a couple of years ago using a digger to create a subsoil path, but in a few areas no decent material could be found on-site for surfacing it. This has lead to the path starting to deteriorate in patches. We therefore decided that we'd fly some gravel to site which we'll use to prevent it getting any worse. The gravel is locally sourced and compacts to a hard surface, it also doesn't wash clean so won't be too intrusive.

    Filling bags for the Gowbarrow job

    Thankfully we had the use of a mini-digger so it wasn't long before we had all the bags filled with gravel and ready to be flown. Now fingers crossed that the weather is a bit more onside during the helicopter lifts next week.

    The bags filled and ready to be flown
  • The Lakes at Easter

    14:47 08 April 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    Buttermere at Easter

    We have just had a superb Easter weekend.  The weather was brilliant, almost alpine with clear blue skies and lots of snow on the hills. In sunny, sheltered spaces it was even pleasantly warm.  So we had lots of visitors taking the opportunity to enjoy it.  Many visited our new shop and information point beside Derwentwater - it has been much admired

    This is the time of year when we begin patrolling the valley checking for inappropriate camping, potentially dangerous camp fires and discarded rubbish that needs to be cleared away.  Often these happen because people are really just not aware of the reasons for using a camp-site in an area like the valley.  Wild camping should not affect the enjoyment of others and should leave behind no lasting evidence that it ever took place.  Thankfully it was a busy few days with no problems.

    It is also the time of year when the Trust organises family activity days for Easter.  We had three in the North Lakes and I helped out with Mark’s Buttermere day and Chris’s Whitehaven day.  Andy organised the Borrowdale day.  

    Buttermere Easter event

    Whitehaven Easter event
    There were trails to follow, things to see and do, and the all-important Easter egg to take away at the end.  For me, it’s always interesting to spend time in different parts of our area.  At Whitehaven I spent part of my time showing children sea creatures and that’s not something I do in Borrowdale.  (They were all kept safe in a tank of sea-water and were returned to the sea at the end of the day.)

    This year we had record numbers of people taking part so it was a very successful holiday period.

    Hi, it's Daisy again:  Sunny is one of my oldest friends and I met him when I was less than eight weeks old. He came for a sleepover - for four sleeps. He's now my best friend.

  • Ben and Shirley’s Little Kingdom

    09:56 08 April 2013
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    …Tales from the Woodland Ranger…

    If you go into to the woods today, you might not see any elves drinking tea or fairies flying round but you might just see some scarlet elf cups.  These bright red fungi are easy to see and sometimes look far too bright at this time of year and possibly thought of as litter.

    A Scarlet Elf cup growing on dead wood on the floor of a Cumbrian woodland.  Photo: Nigel Gilligan.

    Back in February Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre (CBDC) asked their facebook followers to be on the lookout for these distinctive fungi around Cumbrian woodlands and to report back any sightings.

    In the National Trust woodlands around Windermere and Grasmere we came across quite a few and duly sent our reports in.

    But the story didn’t end there, because there are two very similar looking types of scarlet elf cup which can only be distinguished by expert, microscopic analysis!  So one lucky elf cup travelled first class, snug in bubble-wrap, to Scotland for a much, much closer look.

    What you see below are very close up images of hair-like structures called paraphyses which give the white furry look to the underside of the cups.  The paraphyses are connected to a layer of tissue called the hymenium.  On the hymenium are also asci, which produce the spores to help the scarlet elf cups to multiply around the woodlands. 

    Images of Sarcoscypha austriaca by Peter Wilberforce
    Here’s how Peter, the expert made these wonderful images:

    "To get the photos of the paraphyses, asci and spores I usually use a simple "squash" of a minute part of the hymenium.  I boil a small amount of material and then mount in water. The hairs are collected by gently scraping the outside of the cup.  These are then mounted in water and viewed under Normarski contrast lighting.  The photos are taken using a Nikon Coolpix 995 digital camera held over the phototube with a x10 wide-field eyepiece in place”

    Peter describes the hairs as having the appearance of "Shirley Temple's mop of golden curls"!

    A lovely close up image of scarlet elf fungi. Photo: John Malley.

    But if you don’t have Peter to explain this to you, then ask the wise old elf sitting under the bright red fungi, and join him for a spot of tea.

    Ben Knipe
    Woodland Ranger

  • Scenic Snow Shovelling to Tarn Hows

    12:12 05 April 2013
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    Thunderbird 2 to the rescue, as John clears the road.

     It was another case of Rangers to the rescue as we spent a day clearing the road up to Tarn Hows after the recent bout of snow. We had the Mountain Goat getting stuck, a member of the public throwing over their Landrover and a number of determined drivers battling through the snow to reach the tarn. When we began the road was in a treacherous state, but after a hard days work from John, Stuart and the tractor, we successfully re-opened the road.

    Its a damn sight easier than shovelling by hand!

    Even though there is still snow on the ground Tarn Hows has been extremely popular over the Easter break so far, with many families taking part in our annual Easter Egg hunt and stopping to watch the hungry birds taking advantage of the bird feeding station beside the car park.

    The old fashioned hand power still has its place!

    If you've never been to Tarn Hows, come and check it out. Its a great place to introduce your family to the countryside with well surfaced wheelchair friendly paths and a lovely relaxing walk with lots to see along the way. Come and see the picturesque designed landscape in the awe inspiring backdrop of the lake district fells. I still think this and I work here daily, so surely it must be good.

    Posted by Sam Stalker
  • All doom and gloom...

    13:51 03 April 2013
    By Jo Day

    I would have loved to bring you photos of the fells covered in snow whilst the sun shone on the beach, or the volunteers erecting a fence whilst Barrow off shore wind farm towered above them.  Instead our camera has become clogged up with sand and the lens now refuses to move, so I can’t.  This is a regular hardship we have to endure working on a beach!

    This time last year I would have been writing exciting news about our emerging natterjack toads, however this year there is no sign of them.  We have just put in our dams to raise the water levels in the artificial toad scrapes but they have been frozen ever since.  We have a natterjack guided walk on the 19th April and I’m starting to get a little nervous that there will be nothing to see.
    Birds are a strange one too.  Many of our winter waders have disappeared but with the exception of an early Chiffchaff on the 19th March, we can’t bring you news of the arrival of any of our summer migrants.
    Flowers remain dormant.  Only in the sheltered dips with full sunlight will you get a glimpse of our dune pansies and even then in small numbers.

    Easter remained fairly busy for us though, as a constant stream of people visited for a quick, bracing walk along the beach taking in spectacular views across the estuary.  We put on a display along the boardwalks about some of the creatures you might find washed up on the beach.  The high tides usually bring in some gems but unless they were keeping quiet, no body found anything note worthy.