Latest team news
Conservation Work at Millerground and Moor How.
13:17 31 January 2020
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeIn late January, Windermere rangers cleared a bramble-choked bank at Millerground above the public footpath leading to the lakeshore.Bramble growth was choking out native bluebells that the Millerground Enhancement Group, in conjunction with the National Trust, had planted in previous years.In addition, this area is home to native touch-me-not-balsam, which is the only food plant for the rare netted carpet moth. Pulling out the brambles not only gives more light for the plants it also has the affect of disturbing the ground. Empirical evidence has shown that touch-me-not requires some ground disturbance to thrive, and in the absence of wild boar, us Rangers will have to do!Waste not, want not! The pulled out brambles were then transported to Moor How and put to good use as a barrier......to protect any potential tree or flower regeneration.While at Moor How a small-leaved lime was planted in one of the twelve tree cages that have recently been constructed here. This is a native tree often found in ancient woodlands in the south of the country, and Cumbria and the northeast are its northern-most strongholds. It has distinctive heart-shaped leaves, flowers that provide nourishment to many bees in the height of summer, and can be extremely long-lived.The tree had a tree guard placed around it to protect it from being ring barked by rabbits or small gnawing rodents.Finally, Natural England and Butterfly Conservation advised that if small, designated areas of Moor How were "scarified", it would assist marsh violets and primroses to colonise said areas.Time for the Rangers to be wild boars again... with some help. The power-barrow was brought in to "scarify" the ground. Skilful skid turns and drifts were performed......and a border collie, well trained in the art of conservation, soon had the ground well and truly "scarified"!Another chosen area...Before......and after. Well done Blue (and power barrow).Breaking up the rank and thick grasses (dominant through previous over-grazing) has exposed mineral soil. Native wildflowers and tree seedlings will now get their chance to shine.
Finishing off the footpath at Hole in the Wall
08:28 06 January 2020
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleyOur last upland work of the year, indeed the decade, was completing the section of footpath just below Hole in the Wall, on the way up to Striding Edge.Joining up the path
We still had a sizeable section of path to complete and it was a race against the clock to get all the work finished before the onset of winter.Newly landscaped section of pathAlthough there was a lot of rubble to dig through, most of the path was 'relatively' easy digging although we hit one section of solid bedrock towards the top of the path that slowed things down a bit. This all had to broken and prised out of the ground before the footpath could be built.Bedrock
You can see some of the bedrock that was taken out of the ground to the side of the path in both the previous and following photographs. When large quantities of rock are produced it often makes the landscaping difficult, especially in areas such as Hole in the Wall where there isn't a lot of surface rock visible.Path before landscapingTo blend the area in with its surroundings, much of the rock had to be moved away from the path and buried. Then soil that had been excavated further up the path was carried downhill and used to cover over the rubble. Once this was done, as usual, the area was turfed and seeded.Path after landscaping
You can see in the following photograph how the original path was widening as people wandered away from the original line (here covered by stone).Starting a new section
With the new path in place and the surrounding area landscaped with soil and turf, the footpath has been narrowed. Given time and plenty of grass seed, the areas around the path will become nicely vegetated. Any water running down the path will be shed away by the stone drain you can see in the photo below. All this combined will vastly reduce the amount of soil erosion.Finished section of path
With the new path completed, the final job was to pitch up to an older section of path above where we were working. The path had originally been put in at ground level but over the years the soil has eroded away and had left a high step up on to the path. Eventually the path would have started to fall out, and people were already starting to avoid the step up (as seen to the left of the photo below). By adding this extra metre of path the original work will last much longer and the damage caused by people avoiding it will be prevented.Pitching up to the old sectionWith the job completed and first few snowflakes of the year proving that winter was fast approaching it was time to head down off the fell and commence our winter work lower down in the valleys.
New Oak Gate for Low Wood.
10:26 25 November 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeThe old oak gate to the entrance of Low Wood...forming part of the National Trust High Close estate...was replaced recently by a new oak gate constructed in the same style by accomplished N.T joiner, Ricky.The top bar of the old gate, weakened after many years.The gate stoop.The original gate hangings were removed with some difficulty from the old gate, wire brushed and painted, ready to be used on the new gate.The newly painted top hanger is put in place on the new gate complete with new coach bolts.The excellent new oak gate, ready to provide years of service.
An Ash Pollard and a Wall Gap..
17:10 15 November 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeA wall gap by an ash pollard in a National Trust field adjacent to the A591 near Troutbeck Village.Ash pollards are difficult to age accurately as they usually hollow out, but it is likely this one is around 200 years old.Once the stone from the fallen wall had been cleared back, it was clear to see the problem was at least in part due to a large root from the pollard tracking above the ground and spanning the width of the wall towards the road.Here is a close up image of the rootA large flat stone was located nearby to bridge over the root allowing some movement from it without it disturbing the wall too much.The completed wall from the roadside.Hopefully the pollard and the wall can now co-exist a little while longer in harmony!
Count The Duke In.......Primrose planting for the Duke of Burgundy.
07:34 21 October 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeA rare British butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, has been in sharp decline over the years through loss of habitat, climate change, and intensified agricultural practices.Conservationists, including the National Trust in partnership with Butterfly Conservation have been hard at work in trying to protect this species from the danger of extinction.
The butterfly is mainly to be found in Central and Southern England with isolated colonies in Southern Lake district and The North York Moors.
Unlike warmth loving butterflies, the Duke is intolerant of open downs and will not prosper in dark, dense woodlands. It is extremely picky about its habitat!
However, it does thrive, albeit in low numbers, on extensive or lightly grazed grassland and scrub (see above image), or open or coppiced woodlands...
...just as long as there are sufficient numbers of primroses, (see image) or cowslips. These plant species are the only food-plants for the Duke of Burgundy's caterpillars.Under a Natural England HLS ( Higher Level Stewardship) scheme, National Trust land at Moor How is grant funded with the Duke of Burgundy very much in mind.
Taking a break from the National Trust's farm at High Lickbarrow, a small herd of the rare Albion cattle, up to the age of eighteen months, have Moor How as their grazing allotment from May to October each year.
They have been called conservation grazers as they help to establish the right conditions for the Duke of Burgundy. Cattle do not graze as close down to the ground as sheep. Unlike sheep, cattle use their tongues to pull tufts of vegetation into their mouths. As they graze, tussocks of grass are formed in which the caterpillars can pupate successfully.
As cattle have such wide mouths they do not overgraze or target certain species of plants...this results in a highly diverse habitat benefiting both insects and small mammals.
A "first heifer" at Moor How.The Duke of Burgundy has not been seen at Moor How as yet but with a colony close by it is hoped that they will spread to Moor How given time. This has been proven to work in areas where clusters of suitable sites have been maintained. For instance, last Summer, numbers of these butterflies have increased significantly in Kent, Sussex, and North Yorkshire.Primroses have been brought in to supplement the primroses already growing at Moor How.They have been planted throughout the year, with the last batch planted in October 2019.
The light grazing regime, coupled with the increasing numbers of primroses planted, should ultimately make Moor How a highly suitable site for the Duke of Burgundy.
Hopefully there will soon be news that the first Duke of Burgundy butterfly has be seen at Moor How!
Home Sweet Home.
18:02 03 October 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeLong term volunteer ,Stuart, has constructed several barn owl boxes. Three of the barn owl boxes, now occupied, have been positioned inside suitable National Trust barns.In the image ,above, is a dilapidated old barn owl box on an oak tree near Galava Roman Fort......and here is its replacement, courtesy of Stuart...a highly des. res. for any barn owl that may wish to settle in the area.With the resurgence of red squirrels in the Ambleside and Windermere areas, Stuart has also constructed some magnificent red squirrel boxes. The entrance hole is large enough for reds but too small for greys. The entrance hole is protected by a metal surround to stop greys from making the hole bigger.One of the red squirrel boxes has been positioned on an oak tree near Stagshaw Gardens where reds have been seen recently. Hopefully, it will provide a good nesting habitat for reds and be a safe haven from predators.
Partnership Working on September Surveys.
02:00 28 September 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeNETTED CARPET MOTH SURVEY... EAST WINDERMERE.In early September the annual survey for the rare netted carpet moth took place in the Lake District. In the larval stage (caterpillar) the moth depends entirely on nationally scarce annual touch-me-not balsam plants... their only food source.The survey was led by Dr. Paul Hatcher of Reading University and John Hooson, Wildlife Adviser for The National Trust. The fact that they have led these annual surveys since 1990 is a testament to their dedication.One day was spent at the East Windermere sites including National Trust St. Catherine's.A splendid view of a touch-me-not stand at St. Catherine's through the open door of the staff toilet...mid August. Over 100 caterpillars were recorded on these plants which is a great result as this is not one of the larger sites.Volunteers and colleagues from South Lakes National Trust were of great assistance in the survey work.Volunteers can be seen here at another site...not National Trust owned... about half a mile from St. Catherine's. This site, once in decline, has improved through the removal of invasive species. 26 caterpillars were found here.9 caterpillars were recorded at the Windermere School site; kind permission was granted by the school to survey the area.Regrettably no caterpillars were found at the Millerground site.However the numbers recorded elsewhere at East Windermere makes for encouraging news for future populations in this area..A not fully grown caterpillar found under a touch-me-not leaf at Hodge Howe. By October the caterpillars will have pupated in the ground ready to emerge as adults in mid July.******************************************************
In late September two rangers from St. Catherine's met up with Jayne Wilkinson of South Cumbria Rivers Trust. An Electrofishing survey at Troutbeck...where it runs through National Trust farm land at Stonethwaite... had been scheduled.
Surveys take place between July and September throughout the catchment area.
To quote SCRT...
"A 50 metre stretch of river is chosen at each site and the following is recorded:.AVERAGE WIDTH..DEPTH..RIPARIAN VEGETATION..PH.TEMPERATURE..CONDUCTIVITY.The voltage and pulse width of the electrofishing equipment is then adjusted according to the recommended settings for the respective water conductivity and fish species. This ensures the safety of the fish and the operators of the equipment.The electrofishing operator is aided by two assistants who are then responsible for netting the fish and transferring them to holding tanks. After the 50 metre stretch has been completed the fish are then surveyed, recording fish species and length. In order to minimise stress, surveys are completed as quickly as possible and the fish are then returned along the length of the survey site.Electofishing and its results give us a clearer picture of what species are in the river, numbers and fish health. It points us to issues and improvements that can be made to help fish migration, including: changes to barriers affecting migration, highlighting any pollution points and potential habitat improvement work. It's a great monitoring technique to ensure fish, river, and catchment health."Jayne is working her way upstream in a "zig zag" pattern using the electrofishing back pack equipment. Pete is about to net a fish. Trout and salmon were the fish to be surveyed.After 6 metres a number of trout and salmon have been caught.They are swiftly transferred to a large trug with an aeration system to keep them well oxygenated.A juvenile salmon about to be measured. They have a more concave tail than trout and their upper jaw does not extend beyond the rear of the eye as it does with trout. They are also more streamlined in shape.This is a trout. A positive id can be made here. The adipose fin is red. On the salmon it is not!Jayne was happy with the results of the survey. 111 trout and 36 salmon in a 50 metre stretch is good. As a rough guide only 60% of the fish in a 50 metre stretch of river will be caught for recording purposes.
Gowbarrow helicopter lift and a return to Hole in the Wall
10:15 22 August 2019
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleyAfter all our work bagging the rock and aggregate for the footpath repairs on Gowbarrow, it was time to get everything flown over to site.Looking down on Ullswater from the helicopter
A quick flight over gave us the opportunity to look down on some of the previous repair work. The path line is through some really boggy areas and was getting rapidly wider as people tried to avoid the worst areas. After the addition of aggregate and some stone drains, the path has narrowed considerably and the erosion has been completely stopped. The vegetation is now slowly returning to areas that had once just been bare peat.Gowbarrow summit from the air
The lower sections on the Dockray side of the path are being repaired using the aggregate and we're using the rock on the steeper section of the path, which had previously been pitched. This section of the path is also going to be re-aligned to avoid a section of bedrock that's proving awkward for some people to walk on.Flying in aggregate to Gowbarrow
Either side of the helicopter lifts, we've been working on the footpath near Hole in the Wall. We're continuing the upper section of footpath that we originally started in 2017.Start of this years work before landscaping
Although considerably wider than the usual footpaths that we build, due to the number of walkers using it, the new path is still much narrower than the eroded path was and is more contained.Start of this years work after landscaping
As usual, we're removing any turf before it's covered with spoil and then using it to line the stone path. Re-turfing like this tends to work really well. Where we've worked on the path lower down, areas of Heather have already began growing in the turf as well as other species of flower such as Bedstraws, Eyebrights and Tormentil.Middle section completed
We still liberally apply grass seed, but it tends to struggle to germinate at these higher elevations. However, the low levels of grazing up here means that grass is more likely to grow longer, flower and set-seed. So hopefully over time the area will self-seed itself, although we'll still give it a helping hand with the addition of extra grass seed if needed.Upper section completed
Finishing at Boredale and preparing for helicopter lifts
06:38 08 July 2019
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleySince our last post much of our time has been spent repairing the footpath up to Boredale Hause.
Towards the top end of the footpath the path-line follows a natural gully, but this has been much worsened by water and footfall.Starting work in the gully
The gully was steep through the lower section but levelled off as height is gained. There was also a fair amount of buried rock and areas of bedrock that made constructing the path more difficult.Path progressing through the gully
Nearby large boulders were moved and incorporated into the landscaping to help protect the edge of the path and give the work a more natural feel.Completed section of path
Due to the steepness of the bank in the gully a vertical edge was formed next to the path as we built the footpath.Top of gully before landscaping
This edge was graded back into the slope and turf edged before seeding. All the spoil that was generated while creating the footpath was moved and used for landscaping work and also seeded and spot-turfed.Top of gully after landscaping
The last section that we worked on was a short section of path incorporating a stone drain that led up to a section of bedrock.Working on the top section
Once again the spoil generated was used to landscape the path before turfing and seeding.Completed top section
The path gains height and joins seamlessly into a section of bedrock that is incorporated into the footpath.Tied into the bedrock
With the footpath up to Boredale Hause completed we began preparing for the upcoming helicopter lifts.Loading the power barrow with pitching stone
Back in December 2015, during Storm Desmond, a large quantity of stone was washed down Glenridding Beck and had to be removed to prevent more flooding. So early in 2016 we took the opportunity to pick through the rock and store it for future path repairs.Bags full of rock ready to be flown
As suitable stone around Gowbarrow Fell is hard to find we're using some of the rock retrieved after the floods to repair a steep section of path on the Dockray side of Gowbarrow.Loading a power barrow with aggregate
Through flatter, peaty, sections of the footpath we're using stone aggregate to build a more solid and sustainable path.Filling a heli-bag with aggregateThe areas of path that we had previously worked on have been really successful. Further erosion to the path has been stopped and areas surrounding the footpath have now nicely revegetated. You can see how we previously worked with the aggregate on Gowbarrow by clicking on the link to this previous blog post... link.
The Curious Quoin End of Wansfell Holme(s)
13:04 14 June 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeAlthough you may be distracted by the view of the lake just south of Ambleside, look the other way and you'll see Wansfell Holme on the hill above you. An early Victorian Summer mansion, it sits at the heart of the designed landscape that spreads upwards into National Trust woodlands at Skelghyll. Stand on Jenkyn's Field and look upwards back inland - you'll see the Tall Trees of Skelghyll framing the skyline behind the house itself.A gap in the Wansfell Holme boundary wall into Skelghyll Woods presented us with an unusual problem.Apart from its daunting height of 8 feet in places, the wall had been mortared in the original construction at the wall ends or quoins, whereas the rest of the wall had been built as a traditional dry-stone wall.This had the effect of much of the mortared wall near the gateway staying up while the non-mortared wall adjacent to it had collapsed mainly through shifting foundation stones over many years.In this image the stone has been cleared back and rebuilding the wall is well on its way.This image shows the finished result with the rebuilt dry-stone section of wall blending in with the mortared wall.The mansion framed by the gateway is Wansfell Holme; the owners back in the early 1800's would have had the wall built as a boundary between the woodlands and the fields that formed part of their estate.The wall is situated along the route of The National Trust Tall Tree Trail.The owners of Wansfell Holme in the 19th century were avid tree collectors. They planted many conifers in what was once their woodland. The Grand Fir in this image was one such tree and is the tallest tree in the North West, as well as being the tallest Grand Fir in England.