Team news for June 2016

  • Rhody Bashing on the west shore of Windermere

    09:00 24 June 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



    The woodlands of High Furness have had a long history of charcoal production dating back at least to the 13th century. The 17th century saw an increase in demand for charcoal from the Iron Industry and much of the woodland along the west shore of Windermere was managed for its production up to the mid 19th century.

    Charcoal was burned on site in turf mounds situated on charcoal burning platforms or 'pitsteads'.  These were large flat clearings made within the woods, either earthen or stone built. Over 250 of these pitsteads, along with 'collier paths' -  tracks for the transportation of the underwood and charcoal to and from production sites, can still be seen throughout the woods around Claife.

    One such wood, Pate Crag Coppice, was a working coppice from at least the 17th century through to the early early 20th. In the years since its coppice stools have grown into impressive multi-stemmed trees. But the woods have also suffered an invasion of rhododendron which now threaten this historic woodland.

    A non-native invasive species, rhododendron prevents native flora from growing due to its dense evergreen shade. It colonises an area through stem layering and by producing millions of seeds, and is difficult to remove thanks to its 'tenacity of life', making it the bane of conservationists. 

    Much work has been done by the rangers in recent years to remove rhododendron and improve woodland flora and bio-diversity. But the successful eradication of rhododendron requires a programme of managed removal, monitoring and control over a number years - aka Rhody Bashing.
    Rhododendron in Pate Crag Coppice.
    No rhododendron in Pate Crag Coppice.

    As part of Volunteers' Week (1-12 June) a group of 8 members from the South Lakes Volunteer Group joined us on a bright, hot Tuesday morning for a day of Rhody Bashing at Pate Crag Coppice. Led by Richard, our Woodland Ranger, and armed with bow saws, loppers, flapjack and lots of water we set off from the lakeside track over the steep and sometimes slippery terrain of the woods to one of the pitsteads that would serve as our base for the day.

    There are several ways to tackle rhododendron. You can pull up the seedlings by the roots, dry the roots and snap the stem; saw off branches at the base and treat the stump with herbicide; spray the leaves with herbicide where there is no risk of over-spray effecting surrounding flora or contaminating a watercourse; or use mechanical flailing.

    Given our number and the size of the near by rhodies, plus the steepness of the terrain and potential risk of over-spray, our method of choice was to cut and saw the branches down to the stump. We left about a foot standing with a few leaves sticking up to act as a flag. This is to help locate the stump and treat it with herbicide at a later date. The cut branches were then piled up ready to be burned. Yes, just what you need on a hot, sweaty day with no breeze. A fire. Luckily one of our number was an ex-fireman more than happy to get the fire going.

    Volunteer tackling a large rhody stump.

    Rhody stump with 'flag' of leaves.

    In a manner one can only imagine was similar to those who worked these woods for charcoal in years gone by we formed an effective production line from shrub to fire. One or two small groups where based up slope cutting off branches then lobbing or dragging them down slope to the charcoal platform. Another group cut up the pile of branches into smaller manageable stacks while the final group fed and managed the fire. In this fashion we cleared all the rhody sites we hoped to in good time. 

    Where the rhododendron once stood was now an expanse of bare ground. A reminder of just how damaging to the habitat it can be. 

    Bare ground where rhododendron once stood.
    The fire can be seen down slope in the background.
     
    An area of Pate Crag Coppice where the rhody has previously been removed.

    Light gets through and new life grows again.

    ~

    Rhododendron ponticum was present in Britain in previous interglacials but didn't re-colonise here in the post-glacial. Native to parts of southern Europe it was (re)introduced to Britain in 1763 and became abundant throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as an ornamental plant and as game cover. It has now widely naturalised. Particularly on acid soils and in shaded woodland.

    It damages the habitat it invades by dominating the area. It spreads laterally through branch layering creating its dense, impenetrable growth which prevents light from getting to other species. Its leaves and buds contain toxic chemicals making it unpalatable to grazing animals. These chemicals may also act as an inhibitor to the growth of competing species further adding to its domination. Its honey is poisonous to humans and bees. It can be a host for fungal pathogen Phytophthora.

    Where the native flora ceases to be so too do the animals which live off the flora and hence the animals that live of those animals and so on leaving the area virtually barren of all life except the rhododendron. Even in woodland, where trees can exist above its dense shade, no new saplings can seed. So as the existing trees die off only the rhododendron will remain.

    Such tenacity makes eradication costly, labour intensive and time consuming. Even after removing existing growth and treating with herbicides the millions of tiny seeds that are produced each year are easily spread far and wide by the wind making regrowth highly likely. A site needs to to be revisited over successive years to repeatedly control the regrowth before the site can be declared free of rhododendron.

    Yet, despite all this, in its exotic form the bright flowers and twisted branches can look quite spectacular.

    Rhododendron Wood at Leith Hill.

    But back to the bashing...

    ~


    A new day, a new site and a new volunteer group.

    Volunteers from a group formed by the Windermere Reflections project joined us at Wray Castle. Ornamental rhododendron can be seen lining the edge of woodland around the Wray estate, however, invasions further into the woods once again threaten the habitat.

    There's rhody in there somewhere.

    The rhody here were smaller and more dispersed than at Pate Crag. The difficulty, however, was in getting to them through the overgrown ferns and brambles.

    The site had recently seen some rhody bashing and piles of dried branches were lying waiting for us to put them on the fire. Again, luckily, we had a retired fireman amongst us to help manage the fire. This was important as we had no 'ready made' fire site like the charcoal burning platforms. Instead we cleared a suitable area of ferns, with paths to and from the site, where a small controlled fire could be set and managed.

    Piles of branches from previous visit.

    Dragging branches though pathways to the fire.

    Retired fireman Steve managing the fire.
     
    Like the day before the team worked efficiently cutting, treating, dragging and burning, despite the hot weather, until the thunder storm came and we all retreated to the castle for a well earned cup of tea.

    Rain stops play.

    As the rain subsided we returned to tidy up and pile the un-burned branches ready for the next visit.

    Stumps treated with pesticide.
    The blue dye helps identify which stumps have been treated.
     
    Both sites will need to be revisited on several more occasions over the coming years before the work is complete. Such is the ongoing task of Rhody Bashing.

    A huge thanks to all the volunteers from South Lakes Volunteer Group and Windermere Reflections for all their hard work in taking us one step closer to having rhody-free woodland.


  • Rebuilding roadside walls...good teamwork required!

    03:30 22 June 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The dry stone walls bordering narrow twisting Lake District roads are regularly hit by vehicles; this accident damaged wall, near Patterdale, is by the A592 just north of Kirkstone Pass.

    Repairing these walls safely usually involves traffic control; rangers and volunteers from different properties in the Central East Lakes region team up to rebuild walls; stop-go signs are used to keep the traffic to a single file past the work site. 
    The safety barrier is in place on the roadside with the keep left arrow sign. The corresponding keep right arrow sign is at the other end of the safety barrier. (Other signs warning motorists of roadworks and traffic control have also been put in position along the road) 
    The wall was on a difficult section of road to manage as there was a bend as well as a blind summit to contend with; rangers on the stop-go signs were issued with walkie-talkies as an extra safety precaution.
    Land-Rover and trailer being allowed through...
    ...and a car travelling in the other direction cresting the blind summit.
    The work is progressing well.
    A stream of traffic heading south towards the Kirkstone Pass.
    Nearly done.
    All done and dusted. 

    Thanks to good teamwork the job went without a hitch and with minimal disruption to traffic.
  • A big HELLO from Eve

    15:11 17 June 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 Eve and I am the new friendly face you will see here around Tarn Hows. I have recently finished university at Liverpool and have moved back up north to join the team, here at Boon Crag, as an Assistant Ranger at Tarn Hows for the next few months. Having been here for a grand total of 7 days now, I have already been involved in a range of work including assisting on guided walks, ending with free tea and cake, visiting our property’s sites in the sun and doing a variety of practical work around Tarn Hows- not too bad ey?!
    A lovely view over Tarn hows early in the morning.


    Born and bred in Cumbria, I love the outdoors and have a passion for nature. Therefore, I see myself very lucky to have landed a job in such a beautiful place and a great location as to Tarn Hows.  I will be here to ensure a very warm welcome to many of the 300,000 visitors that come to Tarns Hows each year, and I will be helping to maintain and conserve this incredible site. I will be helping to manage our off-road mobility vehicles as well as keeping the area looking at its best. 



    Me at my new office!
    Tarn Hows has bags of history and it is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The tarn is fed by a series of valley and basin mires, a nationally rare and protected habitat, which supports rare aquatic plant species and invites a diverse range of wildlife to the area. Future management work may involve removing some trees to encourage growth of aquatic plants.  Ancient woodland, also a nationally protected habitat, can be found of the south-west side of the tarn, rich with bryophytes and lichens. The tarn is also surrounded by old larch plantations, acid grasslands and areas of heathland. It’s a very diverse place with lots to see! I will be leading enjoyable walks around the tarn and surrounding area, (hopefully) filling your heads with lots of knowledge about the management, history and wildlife that can be found here and I am very much looking forward to it.

    Yellow Flag Iris currently in bloom by the side of the tarn.

     Orchid found at the edge of the basin mere by the tarn. You may be lucky to see one!
    I hope to develop visitor experience by offering a range of new public activities for everyone to get involved in to learn about wildlife,  biodiversity conservation and the specific work the National Trust does. This may include mini-beast hunts and bird watching. But it’s all early days yet!!

    Eve


  • Starting work at Seldom Seen

    09:31 16 June 2016
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    As usual, our upland footpath work season began with a few weeks of filling bags with material to be flown by helicopter to the work site. We filled around ninety bags with rock from scree opposite the path where we're working.

     Heli-Bags filled and ready to be flown

    The bags were flown a few hundred metres across the valley and dropped around each of the areas that we'd identified to be repaired.

     Unloading the first bag

    Many of the sections of path that we're repairing on Seldom Seen are only around a metre in length and will prevent the path from getting worse. The section below had started to wash out and then deteriorated further after the winter flooding.

     Short section of path to be repaired

    To stop the path getting worse, we built a short section of pitching and a stone drain. This will allow the water to be shed away from the path rather than run down it. Soil excavated while building the path was put downhill to fill in some of the gully caused by the flow of water. You can see in the photo below that rock has been dug in further along the path on the right hand side, to direct walkers onto one line and prevent the path getting too wide.

     Finished section of path

    Fixing the drainage on this path is one of the main aspects of the job, as water running down it is starting to cause problems, and the path has shown significant deterioration over the last few years.

     Building a new drain

    Another section that has badly gullied out can be seen below. The original short section of pitching and drain isn't really up to the job.

     Gullied section of path before repair

    For this section, we moved the drain about a metre downhill to the bottom of the pitched path. This drain is fed into by a small beck, which was realigned with the new drain. The path has also been extended through the gully and incorporates another drain at the top of the path to shed any water running down the path. There's still some landscaping work (grading banks, turfing and reseeding) to be done but it's a big improvement on what was there and will help prevent it getting any worse.

    Pitched path through the gully
  • Musings on the 8th World Ranger Congress

    13:29 10 June 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

    Back in April, in my previous blog I'd written about how I was heading to the World Ranger Congress in Estes Park, Colorado. What a fantastic experience. I couldn't possibly describe everything I did, all the inspirational people I met or all the things I learnt in one blog so I hope I've managed to capture the essence of the congress for you.
    Estes Park YMCA was to be our home for the week. A beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
    I was honoured and inspired to have been chosen to represent the National Trust and the UK while learning about the war on poaching in Africa, how to connect the disconnected in the US national parks, how much of our terrestrial and oceanic environments has some form of protected area status and how we should protect much more, fire management in Australia and the campaign for better funding and health and safety standards in Asia.
    Multi-nation flag parade including Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Norway and Kyrgyzstan.
    On day one, all the countries represented paraded their uniforms and flags (there were 65 countries in all!). This culminated in a reading of the names of the 60 rangers to have died in service since the last World Ranger Day. A moment to be proud of the ranger profession but also to reflect on the dangers that some rangers face in the course of their work.
    Reading out the names of the 60 rangers who have died since the last World Ranger Day, July 31st 2015
    The congress was a strong reminder of why the work we do is so important, not just for nature but also for the human race. It was also a reminder of how small the problems are we face here in the UK can seem in comparison to protecting endangered species from poaching or communities from crocodiles. Some of the rangers I met are working in far less fortunate situations than my own. Some don’t receive the regular pay we all receive or even have a basic uniform or safety gear (There was a ranger relief collection to donate old bullet proof vests, uniforms and outdoor gear to those in need). However different it all seems, we are all fighting the same fight – protecting special places.

    All 320 delegates with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop
    Sean Wilmore, the (newly re-elected) president of the International Ranger Federation highlighted how the 320+ rangers at the congress each represented 1000 rangers across the world. I really felt part of a big ranger family, especially now I have so many contacts around the world. Can you spot the National Trust rangers in red in the group shot? Chris Wood (from the North York Moors) and myself represented the National Trust's North region.

    The Countryside Management Association Delegates - including 5 National Trust representatives from around England and Wales
    The congress contained a series of very interesting talks, thought-provoking presentations and plenty of time to get to know our fellow rangers. Many of these talks would take a blog each to describe. One particularly inspiring talk was by ranger Christian Mbina of Gabon: "It is not a fight to save Africa. It is a fight to save the world." National Park Service director, Jonathan Jarvis, also gave a frank and heartfelt talk about the American National Park System - 'How do we engage the disconnected in our National Parks?' They are the future. Conservationist Harvey Locke, gave a talk thanking rangers for their important work and described his nature needs half theory - how we should protect more of planet earth.

    
    Ranger Christian Mbina of Gabon. He said his name badge should not say he is from Gabon, but from the world.
    National Park Service director, Jonathan Jarvis
    Obviously a gathering of rangers would not be complete without plenty of fun too. Everyone brought parts of their cultures with them, the Brazilians brought their amazing dancing, the Russian's brought some interesting spirits, the British brought Yorkshire Tea....There was plenty of live music, a swap shop for patches and pins (I've now got quite a collection!) as well as daily raffles with prizes donated from ranger's protected areas (I wasn't lucky this time). I took part in a field trip to Gem Lake in the Rocky Mountains National Park with the local rangers. It was great to get out of a conference room for a day!

    This was my first protected area gathering and I really hope it won’t be my last. The next WRC9 is in Nepal in 2019. I have started saving already.

    Please check out the 8th World Ranger Congress YouTube channel to hear some of these inspirational talks, I particularly recommend the ones by Shelton Johnson, Harvey Locke and Jonathan Jarvis.

    The Association of National Park Rangers in the US did a fantastic job of organizing and hosting the congress. This was in collaboration with the 100 year centennial of the US National Park Service.
    Trees and mountains, rather like home!
    Clair Payne
    Ranger 
    Hawkshead and Claife 
  • Juniper bracken bash.

    08:00 08 June 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Juniper is one of only three conifers native to the British Isles. The other two are Scots Pine and Yew. Juniper was one of the first trees to colonise Cumbria after the ice age glaciers receded. Juniper is well adapted to extreme weather conditions and thrives on the poor soil of the Lake District fells. Sadly only a few scattered stands remain of the dense forests that once covered the area. 
    There are two sub species of Juniperis communis (L). One is prostrate and forms a ground hugging mat, whereas the more common variety is erect and may grow between one and ten metres tall.

    Charcoal from juniper wood was prized in the manufacturing of gun powder owing to its consistent burn characteristics.

    Juniper berries are used to flavour gin. The word gin is derived from the Dutch word genever which means juniper.

    Many juniper stands have trees that are over two hundred years old. The few seedlings they reproduce are heavily grazed by rabbits, sheep and deer.

    Juniper's poor reproduction is of such concern that the Biodiversity Action Plan includes it as a priority species for Cumbria.
    Juniper overlooked by the Langdale Pikes.

    Juniper is a dioecious (two houses) tree species. Male and female flowers grow on separate trees. A reasonable number of male and female trees are needed to ensure successful regeneration.

    Funding has allowed for the planting of juniper seedlings in various locations in the Lake District including Middle Fell in the Langdale Valley. Bracken easily swamps the young trees so last week a Bracken Bash was organised by the Langdale rangers, based at High Close, before the bracken grew any taller.
    Rangers based at St. Catherine's, Windermere and Cumbria NT Volunteers joined the Langdale rangers to take on the bracken armed with hazel sticks.
    The sticks are used to bash the bracken back from around the young trees. The bracken is severely weakened by the bruising and by the bending of its stems. It uses up nutrients in attempting to repair itself and its future growth is much reduced.
    The Bracken Bash looking towards The Band with Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags in the background.

    Above the tree plantation on The Band is a juniper stand. The aim is to have juniper stands on Middle Fell once again in the years to come.
    Rare sight of ground hugging juniper on Middle Fell with another native conifer in the background...Yew.

    Juniper is an important habitat. It supports over forty types of insects and is host to many fungi and lichens. It's dense prickly foilage provides good cover for nesting birds.
    The Ring Ouzel, an upland bird of the Thrush family, feeds up on ripe juniper berries prior to its autumn migration to Southern Spain or the Atlas Mountains in N.W Africa.
    Juniper often grows on rocky outcrops where there is sufficient soil in the crevices and grazing animals find access difficult.
    Juniper can become twisted and gnarled over the course of many years...
    the stems contorting into fantastic shapes.
    Phytophthora austrocedri, a fungus like pathogen first recorded in Britain in 2011, is of major concern. It affects juniper and often causes the death of the host tree. Symptoms are that the foilage turns brown on infected juniper. The pathogen attacks the roots, kills the phloem (inner bark) and lesions form extending up the lower stem. Ultimately the tree will probably die once the main stem is girdled.
    The images above show juniper with suspected P. austrocedri.

    Sensible biosecurity measures include keeping to footpaths, keeping dogs on leads and cleaning footwear after leaving sites that may be affected.

    The increase in global plant trade and changing environmental conditions has seen an ever increasing rise in new  pests and diseases to the UK. For instance Chalera die back of ash is threatening millions of  ash trees in this country.

    I am old enough to remember the terrible consequences of Dutch Elm disease and the sadness of seeing the landscape changing almost overnight with the loss of so many magnificent Elm trees.

    Liam Plummer, newly appointed woodland ranger, is planning to publish a post on this blog site with reference to tree pests and diseases, ways to prevent the spread and ideas on protecting the landscape....watch this space.