Team news for February 2013

  • Footpath Repairs in Stagshaw Gardens

    11:58 28 February 2013
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    After finishing our work at Skelghyll Woods we moved on to nearby Stagshaw Gardens which is renowned for its impressive rhododendron and camellia collection.

    Our original plan was to replace a section of pitched footpath, which was a little awkward to walk on, with some more formal stone risers. Though once we started removing the old pitching we soon discovered that the path was sat right on top of a section of bedrock. This made it impossible to carry out the planned work as there was no way we could sink the slate riser stones deep enough into the ground. We therefore decided to alter the route of the path and put in a gravel path instead.

    The line of the new path

    Once we had decided on the route we dug out the tray for the gravel  to sit in. Using the pitching stone we'd removed, we built a stone revetment (wall) to support the lower side of the path where it cuts across the angle of the slope.

    Looking up the new path

    The soil that was dug out to form the tray was moved and placed against the revetment to help landscape the area. It was incredibly wet while we were working on the path so we'll have to go back and check whether we need to put in any drainage. It'll also give us the opportunity to seed the area and get it looking its best.

    Looking down the new path

    With the new path in place it will now be much easier for all visitors to enjoy the garden when in full bloom later on in the year.
  • Welcome to the Lakes...

    09:22 28 February 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

    This is a special 'extra' Rangers' blog post to mark the arrival of National Trust colleagues from around the North West region (and some from further afield too!) joining us today in the Lakes for our annual pre-season Spring Conference. As the conference is in the Low Wood Hotel, Ambleside it's a 'home fixture' for the South Lakes team and the rangers have something special up their sleeves.

    8.45 getting our exhibition stand ready before delegates arrive


    11.15 Conference in full flow at the Low Wood .....


    While our Ranger colleagues are busy at Brockhole making the outdoor activities ready for the delegates who will be arriving at lunchtime.





    11.45 The first group takes to the boat from the Low Wood jetty heading for Brockhole ....


    First the boat trip .... and those brilliant views!



     Then arriving at Brockhole...



    At Brockhole and ready to try their hand at various activities organised and run by the Rangers, like flying a kite, Tramper riding and the popular broomstick-making.




    Then back to the Low Wood for lunch with finished brooms clutched in hand ... And then the second group, who had lunch first set off for their turn.....



    2.15 By now everyone was back in the conference room for the afternoon session.

    A great time was had by all; lots of people were saying this was the best conference they had attended and refreshed from their trip out they were set up for an interesting afternoon with presentations from the other speakers including our new Director General Helen Ghosh.

    With weather like this and the chance to 'get out and closer to nature' to enjoy it we think the 2013 Conference will be remembered (for all the right reasons!) for a long time (and thanks to Windermere Lake cruises for the lovely boat trip too).


    post Linda
    photos (sent as they happened and seen on our stand in the conference room) John M and John A.
  • Spring is sprung

    16:18 27 February 2013
    By Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Jack Deane, Jessie Binns, Joe Cornforth, Mark Astley, Maurice Pankhurst, Paul Delaney


    Ah spring, when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, but alas as we are mostly greying, old and grumpy (excepting of course the dashing Ranger Dan) we are content to enjoy the sunshine and the crisp cold mornings.
    It’s a grand time of the year for us, we’ve seen the last of our hedge laying season and are looking forward to getting our property in good fettle for the rush of springtime visitors, and also we can now catch up on the some of the little jobs which crop up.

    Ranger Dan and myself have been busy clearing fallen trees from our woodland paths and felling trees on the edge of our Dunthwaite estate, opening up drainage ditches and generally tidying up the appearance of the roadside woodlands, we took the opportunity there to try out our carving skills…steep learning curve ahead but at least one family who wandered past enjoyed our efforts.. A nice smile from them all.
    Not bad for a first effort
     Of course not many of our blogs go by without mention of our regular Thursday Volunteers and last week's adventures certainly bear mentioning. We were joined by David and Phil on the task of repairing some high fell walls alongside the Coffin Road above Holme Wood in Loweswater, a steady steep walk up in glorious sunshine brought us out onto the open fell and tremendous views over the valley.

     Some days walling can be a frustrating challenge but not this day, excellent quality stone certainly makes the job easier and with the sun on our backs, birdsong in the air and a degree of concentration we had two gaps mostly complete by lunchtime.

    Phil concentrating perhaps too much?
     Once the walling was finished off and we had ambled gently back down through the woods we had some time on our hands.
    In these harsh economic times we are all conscious of making the most of our resources and saving money where we can. We were aware of the need for a rescue boat for Loweswater and our other lakes and had in our spare moments begun designing such a craft, today it was decided was time for a test launch


    We're gonna need a bigger boat!!!!



    Work in progress I think you’ll agree?





  • A first for Daisy.

    17:35 26 February 2013
    By Roy Henderson




















    This week I’ve been working high on Seatoller fell above the wad mines.  Joe (colleague ranger), a volunteer and I have started work on replacing a ladder stile. 


    The weather was good so it was also an opportunity for Daisy to have her first outing on the high fells.  She is still too young to do a long walk so I did carry her for most of the way up the hill.  But, once there, she loved running about in the sunshine exploring.

    I'll try anything once...

    ... but I liked the chew better ...


    ... and there was even a packed lunch!
    We were working with some hefty pieces of timber that had previously been taken up the fell by volunteers.  The weather stayed fine and dry all day and we made good progress.  Joe and the volunteer will return to complete it - more examples of the huge contributions made by volunteers to what we do.


    Later in the week we had been working in Watendlath so we were able to light a fire in the stove in the camping barn (bothy) to welcome the first group to use it.  It was looking superb when we left it so we hope they had a brilliant weekend.



    It won’t be too long before I am back in Watendlath working with Borrowdale School’s pupils.  We might be nurturing the next generation of orchard experts!
                                                 
    Hi, Daisy here.  
    He carried me!  What's that all about?  The indignity!!  I think sheep POO is great!  Roy doesn't seem to think so.



  • Sharing good practice.

    16:25 22 February 2013
    By Roy Henderson


    As usual, last week’s half-term brought an early influx of visitors and the weather treated them well considering it is only February.  It could even have been described as warm at times!  It also suits us well as we in the Trust have been working to complete before Easter the projects I mentioned last week.

    At the weekend I then went off with several other members of the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team to join the Kintail team for joint exercises.  Last year they joined us for rope-work exercises and this year we intended to share and practise winter rescue techniques.

     





    On the Saturday, 15 of the Keswick and Kintail teams worked on the Falcon Ridge.  The RAF was also involved winching a new form of vacuum mattress with integral helicopter lifting strops. 









    We stayed on the ridge line as far as possible because the warmer temperatures meant that there was an avalanche risk crossing snow.  We did have to negotiate a snow basin at one point in the day and, although all 15 of us were very experienced mountaineers, we were concerned and very cautious about the risk.  We were very careful about our route choice as we crossed the basin.  We had a good day though and gathered in the evening for a few shandies to round it off!



    On the Sunday a group of us were back on the hill.  We had planned to do some ice-climbing but the weather was so warm that what we hoped would be ice-falls were actually waterfalls! It was much warmer than we expected and indeed was 15 degrees when we returned to the cars.  But it was great walking weather.




    Overall it was a fantastic weekend.  Good practice was shared and we saw the new vacuum mattress with integral strops in action – that’s something we can consider adopting in the future.


    Hi, it's Daisy here. He left me! He left me! He left me!




    He came back!!



  • Take The Steps To The Station

    08:33 22 February 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

    This month the Path Rangers have been working on a footpath at Claife Station, which is on the west side of Windermere, near to where the car ferry comes across from Bowness. In one of the earliest guide books for the Lakes published in 1778 by Thomas West, the author referred to this site as special for its picturesque views of Windermere and the surrounding area. A decade or so later the Station or “Belle Vue” as it’s sometimes known, was built by the Rev William Braithwaite and at the height of its fame, the building was used for gatherings, dinner dances and tea parties.  In the late 19th century the Station had fallen from popular imagination and pictured below is how the building looks today.

    The Station
    One of the main access routes to the ruins is up a stepped path from Ash Landing Car Park and over the years some of the steps have fallen out and so the Path Team was called upon to try and return the steps to their former glory. The work involves taking out the old steps and re-setting them back into the ground. Hopefully the new work should allow easy access to the ruins for everyone to enjoy the views and the Station.

    Always one step ahead
    As far as worksites go, this has to be quite special. Below is a picture of the view from the steps.There are plans afoot to develop the whole site in the near future so watch this space for future developments.

    View from the worksite
    Another task the team have been involved in is some upland path maintenance with the Fix the Fells Lengthsmen, doing a bit of a spring clean on the Nab Scar path just outside of Ambleside. Most of the work involved stopping short cuts on the route. The picture below shows the footpath on the right hand side and a short cut that has developed in the centre. Although it may not seem too bad a problem at the moment, if left, the scar could get worse with a heavy loss of vegetation to the side of the path. To solve the problem we try and encourage people back on to the original path line by blocking the short cuts.

    Nick working on a shortcut
    Whilst working on the path we noticed this sheep on the photo below.It’s obvious the sheep doesn’t like the path or the surrounding green grass to walk on but prefers to get around on top of the dry stone walls.  I guess it has more options as to where the best grazing is.

    The grass is always greener
    Finally, our fleet of vehicles here in the South Lakes is currently undergoing a bit of a makeover and here is a picture of the first one to arrive back.  Look out for them on the road when you’re out and about in the Lakes.


    By Ian Griffiths - Upland Ranger South Lakes
  • Improving facilities.

    19:09 18 February 2013
    By Roy Henderson


    Much of our attention at present is concentrated on improving two of the Trust’s facilities for visitors.

    One is the upgrading of the shop on the shores of Derwentwater.  It is located where the launches depart between the Theatre by the Lake and Friars Crag. 

















    There has been a big project over the winter months to expand it into an improved shop and visitor information point.  

    There will also be a ramp to access an open area behind the shop that can be used as an open-air classroom and a place where visitors can enjoy their lunch.  It won’t be a picnic area in any formal sense but there will be some seating spaces on logs and some superb views over the lake.



    Behind the shop is woodland.  During the first week of the Easter holidays I’ll be there with anyone who wants to volunteer to help out with the clearing of paths in the wood to make them accessible for those with limited mobility.  I will be organising a whole week of work there from Monday 1st to Friday 5th April inclusive.  The sessions will run from 10am-3pm (anyone not available for the whole period is obviously also welcome).  If you join us, come and introduce yourself – it would be good to meet a blog reader. 



    The second is the refurbishment of a bothy at Watendlath.  Access to this with a car is along a single-track road past iconic view-points like Surprise View and Ashness Bridge
















    It is in a superb tranquil hanging valley and is ideal for that escape from the hurly-burly of modern life.  It is perfect for spectacular, quiet walking in the Kings Howe area.  You might even spot the otters!



    The builders have been busy over the winter and the bothy has been transformed.  Small groups can now hire a section with 5 bunks, cooking facilities, showers and toilets.






    Information is now available on-line here.

    Daisy meanwhile is growing rapidly and, as excited, playful puppies do, she creates plenty of mischief!



    Hi, my name is Daisy dog and I'm a truly modern dog having just been electronically chipped. I've heard Roy talking about apps but I'm not sure how to download them or even what they are.  I can run really fast now.

  • Ranger Recovery Services

    20:50 16 February 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

    
    Final few feet to the top, Hawkshead Hill
    

    As you may have notice, this week there was a just little bit of precipitation! Wednesday morning bought about five inches of snow to Coniston and the surrounding area, and with it came the adventures of trying to get up even the smallest of slopes without a four wheel drive.






    Even the rangers made a tactical retreat at lunch time, but not before we got involved in the recovery business for a bit.
    The  picture above is a guy that very nearly made it. He had got to within ten foot of the top of Hawkshead hill, and no further.  We did get him to the top; all he had to do then was get down the other side!  
    These ones are of one of the rangers, Sam, towing one of our holiday cottage visitors out of the Claife Estate woods.
    Recover agent, Mr Sam Stalker
    
    Out of the woods at Trees holiday cottage, Claife
    


    Although it did cause mayhem, it was rather pretty and it just goes to prove that as a ranger your never a hundred percent sure what the day will bring.
    
    Sunset from High Cross
    


  • The Tall Tree Trail and The Brash Barbeque

    18:01 13 February 2013
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    A lot of brash needed to be burnt up after extensive forestry work in Skelghyll Woods . Many branches from the big conifer trees had snapped under the weight of the recent snow fall adding greatly to the piles of brash. Some of the largest of these branches had fallen onto the footpath making access difficult. Several fires were lit in the area and gradually the brash started to disappear.
    
    
    
    Grand Fir. Skelghyll Woods. Tallest tree in Cumbria.
    
    
    One of several brash fires at Skelghyll.
       
    An interested onlooker.
     
    Starting to look a litttle tidier....Honest!
     
    Well, all this dragging  brash to the fire sites does bring on a big appetite. Be a shame to waste the heat. Grubs up!
    Almost there.
     
    Some of the larger brash was cut up for firewood, to be used in the Footprint Building's wood burner.
    All this work, in particular the tree felling, is in preparation of the forthcoming "Tall Tree Trail." The tree clearance will enable a new path to be created; this will allow people to wander amongst, and wonder at some of  the tallest conifer trees in Cumbria. The gaps that have been opened up will also allow for the planting of specimen conifers that our future generations will see in all their majestic glory.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Volunteering Open Days Sat 16 & Tue 19 February

    12:33 09 February 2013
    By Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Jack Deane, Jessie Binns, Joe Cornforth, Mark Astley, Maurice Pankhurst, Paul Delaney

    Do you fancy meeting & talking to people in the beautiful Lakes valleys of Buttermere and Borrowdale?

    We're holding two open days where you can drop in any time between 11am - 3pm to meet friendly staff and volunteers and find out about our new volunteering opportunities.

    Meet new people in the great outdoors through volunteering with us
    We're launching a new visitor research project this year, to get to know better the visitors who enjoy the countryside we care for, find out what makes them tick, and find out how we can improve their day out in the great outdoors. With no clip-boards in sight, this is a great project for people who want to spend time outdoors in beautiful settings, and who enjoy talking to people and finding out more about their views.

    We also have opportunities in our new enlarged shop & visitor information point on Derwent Water, opportunities in our Volunteer Support Team, helping to improve communication among all the small groups of people who volunteer with us from Keswick to Whitehaven. Plus, for the less outdoorsy among you, there are opportunities to get involved at Wordsworth House & Garden, in the house, cafe, shop and in the garden too.

    We hope you'll drop in and see us - to find out more about the roles, enter your postcode here to find volunteer opportunities close to where you live - Find an Opportunity with the National Trust

    The dates & venues are:
    • Sat 16 February - Theatre by the Lake, Keswick. 11am-3pm
    • Tues 19 February - Wordsworth House & Garden, Cockermouth. 11am-3pm
  • Daisy's debut.

    21:14 08 February 2013
    By Roy Henderson




    Despite the wintry spell of weather we are having, I’ve been working outdoors with my volunteer team repairing a recycled-plastic board-walk.  Some of the kick-boards along the edge had been knocked off so they had to be replaced.  That’s just the kind of routine maintenance we expect to have to do. 


    We also revisited  Force Crag Mine where there had been a quite a big wash-out under the water flume that is diverting water away from the archaeology that we are trying to protect.  So we had to do some fairly major repairs there.

    I then returned to Watendlath orchard with some members of the Northern Fruit Growers Association who are advising us about the care of the trees.  They will be back to work with the children of Borrowdale School on their next visit.  The next step in restoring the trees to a healthy condition will be some pruning and the children will be able to help with that.


    And finally some news of the newest member of my team - we collected our puppy Daisy at the weekend.  She and some siblings were leaving on the same day so their mother Storm will have missed them in some ways but might be relieved in others because they were becoming so big and boisterous.  Daisy has settled into her new home very quickly and has even been joining me at work.  She is growing very rapidly and in a week gained almost 25% in weight.  She is also learning very quickly and, at a little over 8 weeks recognised her name, would come when she was called and was house-trained barring the occasional accident.  Every morning her legs and nose look just a bit longer.



















    If you regularly follow the blog, you will no doubt see and read a lot more about her and her exploits!
  • Massive goalposts!

    11:36 08 February 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

    What have massive goalposts got to do with woodlands I hear you ask.......

    In the South Lakes woodland we are often moving large loads of timber around which means large machines, either our forwarder working in the woods or timber wagons collecting timber and taking it to sawmills around the country. Where extraction routes pass under power lines we use goalposts to warn drivers so they don't crash into powerlines with their timber cranes and black out large parts of the Lake District!

    Craig cutting a pipe.
    In this case we had to use large concrete pipes to hold the uprights as we couldn't dig holes because of bedrock.

    1-0 to the rangers, Goalposts finished.
    The heavy snow a couple of weeks ago brought down a lot of branches mostly from oak trees which meant that the whole ranger (and footpath) team split up to clear up what we could from roads and footpaths, even with all that manpopwer it still took 2 full days and the forestry team are still dealing with loads of braches stuck or hanging up trees.

    Damage to an oak on the shore of Windermere.
    With all the melting snow becks have been very full and in some cases have flooded.  One of our farm tenants asked if we could do something to stop his fields flooding and getting covered with gravel from the beck.
     
    Sycamore tree diverting the beck across the field.
    An afternoon spent with a chainsaw and mini digger solved the problem (we hope!)  We cut one of the offending limbs back which allowed some gentle digging to deepen the beck, the material we dug out was then used to create a bank to stop the flooding across the field.

    Digging out the beck.
     
    Work finished hopefully the beck will stay in its channel.
     

    Richard Tanner
    Ranger - Woodland
  • Dreading half term??

    11:00 08 February 2013
    By Jo Day


    Bring your kids along to our free
    Wildlife Explorer Day
    Thursday 14th February 2pm-4pm

    Find some frogspawn, seek natural treasures on the beach and spot some birds

    Come along to Sandscale Haws for a fun day exploring with the rangers!  No need to book, just turn up at the Sandscale Haws car park, Hawthwaite Lane, Roanhead, near Barrow in Furness.
    Remember to wear warm waterproof clothes and boots or wellies.  All children must be accompanied by an adult.

    Call 01229 462855 for details or email joanne.day@nationaltrust.org.uk
  • Sand Dune formation in action

    16:22 06 February 2013
    By Jo Day

    
    The view of our dunes from the estuary
    
    Every time we step out onto the beach we are never quite sure how the frontal dunes are going to look.  Our dunes are constantly changing as they are susceptible to the wind and the waves.  A wind as low as 5 meters per second can lift a grain of sand and move it along the beach.  Marine debris, litter or vegetation can intercept these grains trapping them, forming little hummocks of sand, these are called embryo dunes. 
    Embryo dunes forming near our car park
    The main dune system at Sandscale consists of three dune ridges separated by areas at ground water level, these are called dune slacks. The fore dunes (yellow dunes or white dunes) rise to about 10m along the northern edge of the dune system and about 15-20m on the more exposed westerly point.
    Two of our dune ridges
    The steepening of the beach at the northern edge, the high tides, heavy winds and human pressure are all leading to increased erosion at the northern end of the site.  With the changes in the Duddon river channel sculpting the frontal ridges into shallow bays and points
    Heavy erosion near our blow out
    Storm waves are destructive in nature as they break steeply with a powerful backwash however they also provide accumulation of larger stones and shingle up the beach. Much of this material, and the rocks which compose the shingle, originates from the western and central fells of the Lake District and further north from western Scotland
    
    Erosion from the waves in progress

     
    

    
    
    
  • Path repairs in Skelghyll Woods

    08:50 06 February 2013
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    We've recently been working in Skelghyll Woods, just on the outskirts of Ambleside. We've been improving the drainage as over recent years the path has started to become steadily eroded in areas.

    As there was little suitable rock on site we hand-picked the rock from the local quarry. We brought the rock in using our 4x4 and trailer then loaded it all into our mechanincal power barrows.

    Loading up the power barrows

    It wasn't long before we had distributed the rock around the woodland ready to build the drains.

    Moving the rock to site

    After all the materials were on site we set about constructing the stone drains and replacing a section of pipe. With these in place the path should now be much better prepared for any future heavy downpours.

    One of the completed drains

    Skelghyll Wood last year hit the headlines for being the home to The Grand Fir. The Grand Fir stands at 57.8m high, and is the tallest tree in Cumbria and also the tallest Grand Fir in England. It was planted in around 1860 as part of an arboretum at the Wansfell Holme country estate.

    Specialist arboriculturists were called in to measure the tree and the it was all filmed with the help of Dreamtime Film. Here's the video that tells the tale...



    We've been working hard on improving access around Skelghyll and we're also planning to create a new trail around the site that will be in place in the next few months. So this Springtime why not pen in a visit to see the tallest tree in Cumbria?
  • A Mermaid's Purse

    12:13 03 February 2013
    By Tom Burditt


     

    My wife Nancy and I, and the kids, are walking along the strandline just after the turning of the tide.
     
    The wind is driving in from the South-west, meaning that it funnels right up Morecambe Bay – it has had nothing to stop it since the Isle of Man and it seems to take great pleasure in making our eyes water and whipping up the shallow muddy sea into proper waves worthy of a rocky Atlantic shore. Even though this is tame little Silverdale with its neat little fields, and smart houses, its tiny rocky coves and its acres of salty mud.

    (Last Wednesday, driving from Arnside Knott to Sizergh the storm had surged right up the Kent Estuary, flooding the road and slopping the waves right over the car windscreen).

    After the snows the weather has well and truly turned again; and when it’s like this the best chance of wildlife is down on the shore. The rising tide pushes the winter waders right close to the land, and onto the little rocky outcrops. Hundreds of birds huddle together so close that you can see not just the red of the redshanks’ legs and the shelducks’ knobbly beaks but the red rims around the oystercatchers’ eyes. Feathers flutter. The birds in the green fields back of the beach, nibbled into lawns by winter sheep, are curlews.

    The storm winds also have a habit of dredging up interesting treasures from the sea, and the stinking litter-strewn mess of seaweed, flotsam, driftwood and seagull carcase that makes up the strandline is the best place to look. My wife is 10 times more observant than I and stoops to pick up something that’s caught her eye.
     
     
     
    It is dark green, almost black, the size of a large and particularly disgusting-looking pillow of ravioli, pointy at the ends and rough textured. A Mermaid’s Purse I say, though I’m only partly sure and it could easily be a piece of dried bladderwrack, tattered by the waves and with its bladder burst.

     
    Walking back along the beach, following the tide out so that we just make it round the headlands and back via Silverdale Cove to Silverdale Shore, we hope to find some sea potatoes (sea urchin shells) but other than bright purple mussel shells and a £5 note the maybe Mermaids Purse still remains the highlight as we head through the village back home.

    The Shark Trust, the UK charity dedicated to shark conservation, are running the Great Eggcase Hunt at the moment and looking at their website http://www.sharktrust.org/en/great_eggcase_hunt
    it soon becomes clear that our find is indeed a Mermaids Purse. I had never really heard of them as coming from anything other than from dogfish, but following the Shark Trust’s brilliant instructions and keys, and a good soak in a basin of water to bring the eggcase back to its true size and shape, it becomes clear that our case was once home to a baby Thornback Ray.
    When grown up these are truly spectacular fish – with wondrous markings: gold, silvers and browns in intricate camouflauging patterns of blotches, swirls, rivulets and sandy speckles not unlike the low tidal creeks of Morecambe Bay itself.  They have a wingspan up to a metre wide, and can grow to 1.3 metres long, with a row of up to 50 sharp-thorn like spines sunning down the length of spine and tail. Over 44 rows of teeth grace the eerily smiling mouth which hoovers up the shrimps, crabs, sandeels and bottom dwelling fish that are their prey.

     
     

    Despite being Britain's commonest Ray, they are still described by the IUCN as "near threatened". They live all round our coastline, but especially in shallow muddy or sandy coastal waters, coming close inshore to spawn. It is likely that our eggcase was laid on the sands somewhere out there on the Bay’s sea-bed last summer; that the ray grew in there through the autumn and hatched out as a 12 cm long (but see-through) baby around Christmas-time.
     
    The kids are wide-eyed; and so are we. Out there in the Bay it’s not just the waders and the cockles; the flukes and plaice. Out there is a whole world of wildlife that we can’t see, and can only just start to imagine.

     
    Out there, there be monsters.
     

     
    For more information on the Silverdale shoreline and how to get there, go to:

     

     
  • Hit by snow but avoiding bullets!

    17:13 01 February 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 winter, apart from one really bad Friday, we’ve not had too much heavy snow to contend with. That’s generally good news – it might look nice but it makes doing any practical work difficult. So we were pleased that the most of one of our snowfalls had melted off for a recent hedgelaying day out with the South Lakes Conservation Group. It was still a bit chilly for one of the group’s scotty dog Hamish though, who spent most of the day perched on a rucksack to keep his little paws warm.

    Hamish admires the view from his rucksack seat
    We weren’t so lucky with the snow when we came to look at the work for the project at Blea Moss (see the 25th January entry in this blog) with the upland footpath team. A heavy fall had covered the ground meaning we found ourselves in the slightly surreal position of looking at path work when we couldn’t see the path! Luckily, the path team had written the specification for the job in better - less snowy - weather so we were able to get a good idea of what needs doing.
    
    Footpath workers in the snow, a Cumbrian version of gorillas in the mist?
    
    Blea Tarn looking very wintery indeed
    Perhaps the most unexpected part of this job is the target shelter. Erected in the second world war, this is a large rectangular metal barrier on the hillside that was used for target practice by troops. Seems reasonable until you realise that someone had the job of hiding behind it and then popping out to see how accurate the shots had been, before radioing the results back to the trainees. It’s a historical oddity and becoming an attraction in itself, but the feet of all the people heading over to look at it are eroding the hillside.

    The target shelter, looking remarkeably robust after all these years
    This summer though we’ll be beavering away with volunteer groups to put a proper path in to the shelter, along with some information. If you’re up the Little Langdale valley, keep a look out for us – we’re just glad the target isn’t in use anymore!


    post and photos  Rob