News from John Atkinson for February 2015

  • Memories

    10:02 27 February 2015
    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

    At this time of year the Upland Rangers start to think about how the projects on the fells will go.   Most of the work we have this year are on sites that the team have worked on previously and each site brings back memories.


    Probably the biggest project for the team this year is on Coniston Old Man.  The overriding memory here was when we were given the task of removing a rather large boulder from one of the paths.  We managed to remove it safely to the side of the path using some serious winching gear.  For some reason, whilst moving the rock we all had a serious urge to see if we could get it to roll down the fell side and into the Tarn. We managed to restrain ourselves, but only just.  Would other people have this urge or was it just us?


    One of the jobs we’ll be returning to is Martcrag Moor, near Langdale.  Five years ago we completed a floating sheep fleece path through a peat bog area.  The theory is that the fleece stops the gravel from disappearing into the peat when people walk on it.  Whilst constructing the path we had many a horrified look from walkers who passed by.  We realized it could easily be mistaken for a mass grave for sheep.


    We then reacquaint ourselves with Raise Beck, above Dunmell Raise.  This path treks along the bottom of a steep sided Ghyll that eventually climbs up to Grisedale Tarn.  Memorable for one team member in particular due to the fact a sheep nearly took them out.  The sheep was grazing on the fellside above and whilst it was trying to get to some nice grass on the other side of a boulder field, it dislodged a rock the size of large Beach Ball.  The rolling rock gathered speed descending the steep hillside and only just missed the unaware Ranger by a couple of Feet. 


    Last but not least, we’re returning to Striding Edge.  Of all the sites we’ve worked on over the previous years, it’s this one that remains the most memorable for the team.  The best views, the longest walk in, the highest walk in, the most atmospheric and the record holder for the furthest a landscaping bucket has rolled when misplaced.











  • Wanted: willing participants to test out new and exciting play trail features!

    10:00 20 February 2015
    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



    I’ve said it before but I do love my job. The sheer variety of day to day work and projects we get to work on keeps me on my toes and eager to keep learning more!

    Testing out the dens: It can be a tough life being a ranger!

    The best part of it by far though is looking after and developing the Natural Play Trail at Wray Castle. Phase 1 saw the construction of a scrambleboard, a slackline, stepping stones, balance beams and plenty of den building material! Many people tell me that they love the trail and can’t wait to see what comes next! So we are excited to announce our phase 2 plans! 

    Scrambling up to the trail!

    Behind the scenes: 

    It might look like we just go out and have fun moving woodchip, digging in posts and constructing scrambleboards and climbing features! Well we do, but we also do lots more besides. We have less exciting but equally important jobs to do, in particular checking the trail regularly, and continually updating the checksheets and the risk assessments! All to keep the trail as fun but as safe as possible!

    Gathering materials for the trail can be an interesting task too! Last week, I found myself ordering a new slackline, more rope, screws, bolts and various bits of timber. Who would have thought that slacklines come in different colours?


    A slackline in ranger red? Yes please!

    An army of volunteer and ranger help: 

    Without the help, dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteers we wouldn’t be able to create the play trail! So a massive thank you to all who have been involved and will be involved in the future months!

    Dedicated volunteers! I had to order the sun especially!

    We have exciting plans for 2015 in the natural play trail. We will be looking for willing participants to come and try out our new features as we build them. These include: 

    1)      Climbing traverse – Test your climbing skills by traversing up and across the slope to join the main trail! Is it as easy as it looks?


    Lots of lovely colours :)
    2)      Another tyre swing – the current tyre swing has been so successful that we are going to put in another one!

    I can't wait to test this one!

    NB: some of the eagle eyed amongst you will notice that we have had to take down the tyre swing temporarily. Never fear, it will go back up very soon!

    3)      A horizontal spiders’ web – Using a large tree stump, we will construct a spiders web of epic proportions! You’ll be able to climb over, under or simply sit on it and admire the views around you! You'll have to come down and see for yourself as it starts to take shape...

    4)      Log stilts – Test your balance and stretching abilities…

    5)      A muddy pit – Mud, mud everywhere… come and find worms in our muddy pit, create mud pies or get your wellies on and get stuck in! *warning* parental advisory – muddiness very likely!

    Be like a volunteer or ranger for the day - getting muddy is fun!!
    6)      Most exciting of all: a treehouse – keep an eye out as we ask for your ideas very soon on the Wray Castle Facebook Page

    Ok, so perhaps this is a little too elaborate for the size of trees in our woods! But we are looking forward to getting your ideas! I can't wait to get my hands dirty constructing it!

    Watch this space! If you see us working out and about on the trail over the course of the next few months, come and have a chat! We love hearing your ideas and we are always in need of people to test our creations!

    You can keep up with developments on the play trail on the Wray Castle Facebook Page

  • Friends, Romans, Hedgelayers

    11:45 06 February 2015
    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



     Friends, Romans, hedgelayers … 

    One of the great things about working at High Wray it is that we are playing our part in helping to keep traditional skills alive. One such skill is hedgelaying, which is carried out all over the country with regional variations in styles and techniques. It’s a fascinating process with a long history – according to the National Hedgelaying Society in 55BC Julius Caesar mentioned a tribe in Flanders using techniques recognisable today.

    Hedge with a view





    A winter task often means chilly conditions!
    Hedgelaying is a job that can only be done in winter when the sap is not rising. It involves cutting hedge plants most of the way through their stems and ‘laying’ them on their sides to form a stock proof barrier. The traditional tool for this is the Billhook, although often today hedgelaying is done with a chainsaw.

    A billhook - lots of regional variations available ...
     As well as looking good, a laid hedge provides shelter for the stock, encourages new growth in the plants and makes good ground cover for wildlife. The regional variations come (amongst other things) with the differences in how steep an angle you lay the plants, how wide and high your hedge is and where you put wooden stakes to hold everything in place.

    Finished stretch of hedge, quite late in the season (note leaves on plants)
    Collateral benefits

    So it’s a satisfying, traditional skill that many regular local volunteers look forward to each winter – although for some we’re sure that has a lot to do with the fact that when you’re hedgelaying you generally have a nice big fire to burn all the excess bits of wood!

    Utilizing the fire in a vain attempt to dry out the thorn proof hedgelaying gauntlets
    We also run National Trust hedgelaying working holidays which adds an extra level of interest for us as we will often have some quite experienced people from other parts of the country turning up to ‘see how we do it here’. Not only do they bring different knowledge and experience we can pick up on, they sometimes bring all sorts of interesting tools and equipment for us to admire too.

    That's some very interesting equipment - A working holiday participant's wood burning kettle
    By the time we finish this year’s hedges the season will be over for the year and we’ll be moving on to other tasks. We look forward to this time, not because we don’t like hedgelaying but because the end of it heralds the start of spring and all that glorious sunshine that’s no doubt heading our way …..


    Find out more about National Trust working holidays here:


    By Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger

News from John Atkinson

Photo of John Atkinson

Lead Ranger.
I have lived and worked in the Lakes for most of my life both as a farmer and for the last 20+ years as a National Trust employee. Over the years I have worked right across the Lakes firstly as a practitioner repairing walls and footpaths and working on conservation projects. Then more recently managing upland access projects and advising on access and erosion issues, before gaining my current position managing the Ranger team in the South Lakes. I am also a very passionate supporter of rural skills and upland farming and sit on the national committee of the DSWA and also the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners. When not at work I run a 200ha upland farm with my family where we keep traditional breeds of cattle and sheep and assist in conservation grazing schemes.

Blog:
http://www.countryside-catchup.blogspot.co.uk/