Latest news from Ben Knipe

  • High on a hill live lonely old tree planters!

    12:07 27 February 2018
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    On a wintry February half-term week and in full view of the busy (and often snowy) Dunmail Raise near Grasmere, National Trust staff and volunteers were hard at work on the slopes below Helm and Mungo Crags. Their mission? To traverse these steep and rocky slopes in the name of restoring scrub woodland…
    Tree planting above Grasmere - there could be worse views!

    The power-barrows - and their operators - relish a challenge...

    Funded by Natural England, this involved planting 6ha of the slopes with typical ‘scrub woodland’ species – hawthorn, blackthorn, crab apple, holly and rowan, along with some silver birch, aspen and alder. Upland scrub is a valuable and often under-appreciated habitat; far from being “scruffy” and in need of tidying, the presence of scattered shrubs and trees provides valuable homes for insects, lichens, birds and small mammals, which in turn feed larger birds and mammals. The flowers of species such as hawthorn and crab apple keep pollinating insects happy, whilst their fruit can be a bounty in the autumn. And the roots of these trees and shrubs help to stabilise soils and improve the ability of slopes to hold water, reducing and slowing the water running off hillsides into rivers during rainy periods.
    The scrub woodland will provide habitat and ecological benefits in the centuries to come

    Fresh from their success as ‘Volunteers of the Year’, the Lake District’s Fix the Fells volunteers put in an impressive show of numbers to help plant the 1,800 trees that went in the ground during the week. Students from Myerscough College also came up during their holiday, learning how to plant and linking this to their Upland Management course.
    A good turn-out of staff and volunteers helped achieve a great number of trees being planted in difficult conditions

    We were also joined by volunteers from the University of Cumbria, as well as stalwarts of the Ullswater and Great Langdale volunteer teams. Staff from the National Trust’s regional office just over the valley in the Hollens also pitched in, experiencing first-hand a hillside they would normally look at from afar in their warm and cosy offices!

    Planters struggle on, despite driving rain and steep slopes

    The planting was far from easy;  on a couple of days the weather threw its worst at us, as Allan Bank Manager Dave and Woodland Ranger Liam tried to capture in this video!

    The weather may have been trying, but all involved can look up at this prominent hillside with pride. There are still more trees to plant, hopefully in more amenable conditions!, but even so, look west next time you’re passing on Dunmail Raise and you’ll see a great example of the National Trust’s ambitions to restore a healthy, beautiful, natural environment.

    The planted intake is visible from far below, and even from Dunmail Raise

  • Hedge Laying in the snow at Townend.

    17:00 06 February 2018
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The hedge bordering Townend House car park had been flailed for many seasons up until now.  
    Last season the hedge was allowed to grow so that it could be re- laid more effectively.
    This image shows the new growth from the previously flailed stems.
    The hedge consists of thorn , ash and hazel.
    This image shows a section of laid hedge.
    Another view with the road beneath running alongside.
    Pleaches at the base of the stems (usually made with a billhook) give them the flexibility to be laid down. 
    The stems are interwoven to give the hedge strength and support.
    The hedge was planted along the top of the roadside wall many years ago.
    The difference in levels between the car-park and the road is considerable, making hedge laying a challenging job.
    The view from the car-park of a heavy snow fall.
    Later in the day working conditions improved when it stopped snowing..
  • A Tribute to Volunteers 2017

    08:00 13 December 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Examples of the invaluable work of volunteers and around the Windermere area.

    Working Holiday Group

    Lake-shore revetment work Cockshott, Windermere.

    Windermere School working at St. Catherine's.

    Thinning out ash and disturbing the ground to encourage growth of Touch-Me-Not Balsam in Spring..
    ..and collecting leaves for adding to the walled garden compost bins.

    Cumbria National Trust Volunteers.

    Tidying up the area in and around High Lickbarrow Farm

    and taking down an old redundant fence.

    First year Forestry students, University of Cumbria

    working on a double fence line to protect a soon to be planted hedge at High Lickbarrow...

    ...under somewhat challenging conditions!

    Stuart, long term volunteer, at St. Catherine's

    constructing a 'hedgehog house' from scrap wood.
  • Stuart...Recycling Superstar!

    13:34 06 December 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Stuart, long term gardening volunteer at The Footprint, has become an inspiring member of the Windermere team here at St. Catherine's.

    Stuart always has an eye on recycling so we find all sorts of useful and interesting objects refashioned from old gates and pallets. Above, he is completing his latest creation...a beautiful eco-home for hedgehogs.

    This old gate is tanalised and therefore unsuitable for firewood but rather than skip it Stuart has repaired the walled garden shed with some of the timber and made some trellis fencing with the rest.

    Stuart brought this Jasmine in from his own garden at home; here it is in the planter that he made from scrap wood with the trellis fencing behind.

    These images show planters created by Stuart for herbs and flowers which are offered for sale outside the Footprint in the Summer; donations go towards "The Walled Garden Project". 
  • Wet! Wet! Wet!

    16:51 27 November 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The recent heavy rainfall made Stock Ghyll Force near Ambleside look particularly impressive.

    However the volume of water has caused many problems. For instance, the little clapper bridge over Wynlass Beck at Millerground  became choked with debris.

    The bridge was giving a good impression of being a weir.

    Finally the debris was cleared away and the water could flow freely under the bridge once again.

    Nothing to do with the above post, but I went to the Lakeland wildlife Oasis at the weekend and took this image of one of the magnificent snow leopards!

  • 'Til the cows come home.

    15:30 15 October 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The National Trust Scout Beck herd of the rare Albion breed were brought in today, Sunday 15th, from their grazing land to High Lickbarrow Farm. From here they were transported to their Winter quarters. Along with the cows there were 17 calves born earlier this year in May.

    The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia are due to hit on Monday 16th so the timing was just about perfect!

    Six helpers including 3 National Trust staff herded the cattle along a kilometre route to the farm. It all went pretty smoothly with only the occasional break away attempt.

    In this image the cattle are approaching the entrance to High Lickbarrow in orderly procession.

    These "first" heifers (about  18 months old) were brought in a week earlier from their grazing allotment at Moor How, near Newby Bridge.

    An image of one of the 18 month old heifers at Moor How with a glimpse of Windermere and Grizedale Forest in the background....

    ...and here she is at High Lickbarrow on her birthday in May 2016! Just a few hours old!

    The herd will return to their 'home' at High Lickbarrow in May ready for a new season. Some animals have been sold to farms in Cornwall and Derbyshire which will contribute to improving the bloodline, and increase the numbers of this rare breed.

    To find out more about the Albion breed...The Albion Cattle Society have a website that is very informative. 

    "....dedicated to raising public awareness of this dying breed and help save it from extinction".

  • Red Squirrel walk at Aira Force

    10:39 02 October 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    On Wednesday 27’Th of September a trial Red Squirrel walk and talk was held at Aira Force.


    The event was held in partnership between the National Trust, Ullswater Steamers and Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group (PDRSG)


    43 eager and excited years 1&2 children from Stainton Primary school arrived at Aira Force, where they were treated to an interesting and informative talk by Andrew and Julie from the PDRSG.



    Once the children’s brains had been filled with all sorts of exciting squirrel facts they where taken on a tour of Aira Force by the National Trust Rangers, in hope of seeing one of our little fury friends.



    We looked high we looked low but sadly we did not see one. We believe we have about 6 pairs in Aira Force, unfortunately they didn’t want to come and play that sunny Wednesday morning. The best time to catch a sighting of red is often at dusk or dawn when it is quieter and there are less people around.


    All the children had fun though filling in there Red Squirrel trails as they walked around the path ways of Aira Force.



    Once we had completed the tour, the children where then treated to a ride on the Ullswater Steamer from Aira Force to Glenridding, where they were each given a goody bag packed full of Red Squirrel memorabilia.

    these talks will hopefully become a more regular event next year.


  • Bridge Over Troubled Waters....

    14:51 21 September 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The low stone wall on the bridge to St. Catherine's...over Wynlass Beck...was regularly clipped by vehicles and required frequent repairs. 

    We had some 'sleepers' left over after constructing raised beds at St. Catherine's.

    These sleepers were cut to shape and used to replace the vulnerable stone work and after several months are still in place and undamaged.

    Mission accomplished!
  • St. Catherine's 'Moth Night'/Caterpillar Survey.

    15:30 14 September 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    A 'Moth Night' was held at St. Catherine's in late July. Among other species the rare netted carpet Moth was seen.

    An excellent image of the moth seen on its food plant... Touch-Me-Not Balsam....courtesy of Guy Broome.

    The moth lays its eggs, during its life span, on the underside of the plants' leaves in July and August.   

    Above is an image of the caterpillar during the annual survey that takes place in late August or early September. This caterpillar is probably fully grown and ready to pupate soon.

    In this instance the caterpillar is forming a triangle between the plant stem and leaf. The caterpillars invariably face 'down hill'... particularly when at rest.

    An image of a smaller caterpillar. The caterpillars out-grow and shed their skin 5 times...called instars...before they reach full size.

    The above image shows a caterpillar feeding on a Touch-Me-Not seed pod...the most nutritious part of its food plant.

    Note how well camouflaged the caterpillars are, making it difficult for predators and surveyors alike to spot them!

    Up to 50 caterpillars per 100 plants were recorded in some areas whereas in less densely populated areas only 1 or 2 were found per 100 plants.

    For more information on the moth and its food plant, including the conservation work involved,  please click on the link below.

  • It's an ill wind....

    12:10 13 August 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The path at the back of Bridge House regularly needs resurfacing with so many visitors using it. 

    Some drainage work was also needed as can be seen in this image taken after heavy rainfall.

    After several successive storms, tons of lake-shore gravel was dumped on Jenkyn's Field, on the eastern shore of Windermere, well above the normal shoreline. 
    This lake gravel looked ideal to re-surface the path at Bridge House, less than a mile away, as well as clearing the field to some extent.

    In this image the power barrow, probably our most useful "bit of kit" was loaded up.

    It was a tight fit between the wall and the hedge.



    after a couple of power barrow loads...

    ... some after shots.