Team news for August 2016

  • Shiver Me Timbers!

    07:39 23 August 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The historic yeoman farmer's house, Townend, was recently extensively restored after wet rot was discovered in the structural timbers.
    Under instruction from Stephen Haigh, Buildings Archaeologist, we cut out sections from the old timber so that a dendrochronologist could analyse them at a later date.
    Simply put, Dendrochronology is the science of dating wood through the analysis of the patterns of tree rings aka growth rings.

    Hopefully it can be determined in which year the timber was felled thus giving a valuable insight into the history of this wonderful house.

    In the images above Stephen Haigh has chalked sections of wood to be cut out for the dendrochronologist to examine.
    The timbers removed from Townend have been labelled  to indicate which part of the house they were used for during its construction.
    A cut through a comparatively sound section of wood...
    ...in contrast this one is rotten for much of its length!
    'Chain Saw Carnage'!
    Stephen Haigh's liaison with the dendrochronologist has resulted in these samples being cut from the timber. Meticulously labelled, they are to be sent away for analysis.

    This was one of the more unusual jobs we have been involved with!

    Any updates will appear here.




  • New Bench for Holme Crag, Jenkyn's Field.

    11:52 18 August 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Many years ago there used to be a bench on Holme Crag, a rocky outcrop  of Jenkyn's Field,  jutting into the north east side of  Windermere near to Waterhead.

    Holme Crag as seen from the lake.

    Thanks to a National Trust supporter, who chose to celebrate the birth of his grandson with a generous donation to our work in this area, we were able to commission a local blacksmith to fabricate a new bench.
    To give the new bench a firm foundation an oak sleeper was cut in half. Two parallel trenches were dug, at a set distance, within which the sleepers were placed...see below.
    A certain amount of landscaping was needed to get the bench as level as possible on its newly positioned supports. 
    The base of the bench was drilled back at St. Catherine's to allow it to be firmly attached to the two sections of sleepers... using coach screws.
    Approaching the bench (after a brief steep walk) you'll be rewarded with...
    ...a splendid view of the North West shore of Windermere and somewhere to sit and enjoy it!
    Subsequently the area around the bench has had lake gravel spread around its base.

      
  • Fenced out!

    09:00 12 August 2016
    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



    Hello, my name is Amy and I am the new Long Term Volunteer here with the South Lakes team. As part of my degree at Aberystwyth University I have to undertake a placement in a relevant industry to my chosen degree of Countryside Management and Conservation. Even though I have learned a lot in lectures the time I spend with the National Trust will be just as important if not more, putting what I have learned into practice as well as increasing my knowledge of key practical skills.



    Before shot
    Having worked in the Coniston area for the last month I have now moved over to the Hawkshead side where we are currently extending fences into Lake Windermere. These fences are not to exclude people from areas of land (step stiles have been added for access) but instead cattle. Cattle can prevent natural regeneration of woodlands from occurring by grazing off young shoots from the trees. Currently the under story of the trees is pretty bare, with the extension of the fences these shoots will be allowed to grow and an understory can develop.




    Adding the rails

      

    However extending fences into a lake is not as easy as it seems, firstly working in water is much harder than working in bare ground as very quickly the water loses its clear appearance and becomes slightly cloudy with the disturbance of the ground. Secondly there are many rocks in Lake Windermere, all of which affect how easily or straight it is to get a post into the ground. 


    Finally once the posts are in the ground and up to the wobble test it is time to attach the rails; for the majority this was the easy task but hammering in water is a new and weird experience. For this fencing task waders were a must as we all found out!





    The completed fence into the Lake.




  • Chopping down the trees

    14:58 05 August 2016
    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




    Why are you chopping down the trees? This is a common question we get asked whenever we're tree felling.

    In fact the landscape we see today may look natural, but it has been shaped over many centuries by the people that have lived and worked here. The woodlands were a vital resource for the local iron, leather and bobbin-making industries, as well as providing timber and firewood.

     Luke marking up the trees that were to be felled

    Woodlands in Britain were historically managed by Coppicing. The word coppice comes from the French word ‘Couper’, meaning to cut, a method which involves cutting down trees and allowing them to re–grow from the stumps, known as stools.

    One of our conservation projects this year has been at Hoathwaite, near Torver, which is a National Trust campsite and a tenanted farm managed by Sam Inman. This project has been to improve and protect biodiversity and water quality.

    The start of the project saw the team coppice the alder trees along the stream edge, not only to maintain local traditions but to allow the dormant ground flora a chance to thrive without the shade from the trees.

    The South Lakes volunteer group having a well-deserved lunch

     Ben one of our upland rangers busy burning the brash

    We then had a local contractor double fence the entire length of the field along with a nice new stock crossing. The tenant farmer Sam Inman allowed us to set back the fence from the beck to create a “buffer zone” protected from grazing stock. This provides places where plants can grow up, providing more cover for birds, insects and small mammals and helping to consolidate the banks with their root systems and prevent bank erosion alleviating siltation. 


    Some of the coppiced Alder stools with new growth

    The lovely new stock crossing 

     One section of the new double fence line with more coppiced stools

    Since the fence line has been erected the ground flora has started to thrive, with species such as Ragged Robin, Common Birds-Foot Trefoil, Meadowsweet, Sheep Sorrel, Marsh Willowherb, Red Campion, Meadow Buttercup, Common Marsh Bedstraw, Common Mouse-ear, Yellow Pimpernel, Red and White Clover to name a few.


    The other section of double fence line full of vegetation


    Without the generosity of our donors we would not be able to carry out important and beneficial projects such as this. Thank you for your support to enable us to continue our conservation work.









  • Summer Branch Drop.

    07:30 03 August 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Last week a loud cracking noise disturbed the peace and quiet of a hot, still afternoon at St. Catherine's. Within seconds a large oak branch crashed to the ground, narrowly missing the Spirit of Place sculpture that stands at the entrance.
    This occurrence had all the hallmarks of Summer Branch Drop (SBD). Once considered a rare event, anecdotal evidence now suggests, it may be more common than was first thought... Mature or veteran oak trees, along with beech and horse chestnut, are particularly prone to shedding branches during prolonged heat waves or in calm weather, after heavy Summer rainfall.

    Why, on windless hot Summer days, do branches showing no apparent defects suddenly and mysteriously crash to the ground?  One theory is that when the demands for transpiration (water evaporation from leaves) overwhelms the tree's vascular system... the tree responds by shedding branches. Other theories include tissue shrinkage, internal cracks, difficult to detect rot, and/or ethylene gas being released inside the branch....but there are no definite answers. Consistent warning signs have not yet been established or confirmed.
    Above is an image of where the branch split. The wood looks perfectly sound, and even with the most rigorous  inspection, it would be nigh on impossible to predict, prior to the branch being aborted, that it would fail.
     Liam, Woodland Ranger, is seen here cutting up the branch.
    Waste not. Want not. More firewood for the Footprint log burner!
    The brash will provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Hopefully it will provide cover for hedgehogs... numbers of which are, sadly, in steep decline
    This veteran oak at National Trust owned Jenkins Field is adjacent to the A591 near Ambleside. A very busy road and the pavement is used by many walkers.
    In successive years this tree has shed branches in late Summer. The evidence of one branch failure can be seen in the image above. The road was blocked on this occasion until the branch was cut up and removed; the police directed traffic while this was going on! Mercifully no one was underneath the tree when the apparently healthy branches were discarded.
    The concern that the tree might abort yet more branches in the future prompted the National Trust, at considerable expense, to reduce the crown of the tree to ensure the safety of walkers and motorists in its vicinity. Close examination showed potential weaknesses in some branches so more pruning was done than was at first envisaged. In the image above a split branch and a cut branch next to it can be seen. 

    Overall the risks associated with SBD are small and even in hindsight the cause is usually a matter of speculation or an educated guess!

    The National Trust carry out regular and thorough tree inspections. Identifiable problems, or quantifiable risks are dealt with as soon as possible.