Team news for March 2018

  • New natural play area at Aira Force

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


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

     



     

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

     



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

     

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

     



     

    Into this.

     



     

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

     


     

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

     

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

     

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

     





     

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

     



     

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




     

    A special thanks to one of the Rangers daughters in helping to cut the ribbon.
  • Tree planting in Grasmere and peat bog restoration work in Ullswater

    08:09 05 March 2018
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    It's been a busy few weeks since our last post so here's a taster of what we've been up to.
            
    Earlier on, in mid-February, we spent a week tree planting on the slopes of Helm Crag. The work was funded by Natural England. We planted 1800 scrub woodland species over an area of 6 hectares, working alongside other National Trust staff and assisted by some of the Fix the Fells volunteers.

    As the trees develop, they will help stabilise the soil and reduce rainwater runoff. They will also provide a valuable habitat for birds, such as Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer, mammals and insects.

    You can read in more detail about the work on the Central and East Lakes Rangers blog... here, so here are just a selection photos of the work over a very wintery week.

    Having a quick debrief on the first day

    Planting out the trees

    Looking towards Dunnmail Raise on the last day

    Later on in the month we spent a day carrying out some peat bog restoration work up on Matterdale Common with the Ullswater team and staff from Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

    Over 70 per cent of peatlands in England are in a damaged state, often due to drainage, overgrazing, forestry or regular burning. This damage prevents the peat remaining waterlogged, causing plants to die off. Without vegetation cover, bare areas of peat are formed which rapidly erode. This damage can be repaired by revegetating and blocking drains to help raise the water table. 
    The project has been overseen by Cumbria Wildlife Trust who've used digger contractors to do the main bulk of the work, but as a member of the Cumbria Peat Partnership we were eager to lend a hand with areas that couldn't be done with machinery.

    Our main job was to plant heather on the bare areas of peat to help speed up the regeneration process.

     Heather plants ready to be planted out

    So we took the trays of heather out into one of the two stock excluded areas on Matterdale Common and planted up in the barest patches.

    Planting out the heather 

    Areas of peat that have eroded (often as a result of grazing, historical peat cutting and water damage) may form steep banks, known as hags. These hags continue to erode, due to water flow and wind damage, forming large areas of bare peat that plants struggle to survive on.

    By reprofiling the banks to an angle of around thirty degrees it gives the heather seedlings a much better chance to flourish. Many of the hags have been removed using the diggers but we were able to get to a few areas that the diggers couldn't reach and to also work on some of the smaller hags.

     Grading one of the peat hags

    You can see the area where we were working in the photograph below and also the difference between the grazed and ungrazed areas. The area in the distance was fenced off about 10 years ago allowing heather and other peatland plants to return, this should further improve following the recent work.

    Bundles of heather used for blocking drainage


    You can learn more about peatland restoration on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website... here.