Latest team news

  • An Ash Pollard and a Wall Gap..

    17:10 15 November 2019
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe


    A  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 root


    A 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 Knipe

    A 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 Knipe

    Long 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 Knipe

    NETTED 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. 
    Finally this is an image of the moth on touch-me-not balsam at St. Catherine's in late August.
    ******************************************************

    ELECROFISHING SURVEY...TROUTBECK.

    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 Walmsley

    After 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 Walmsley

    Since 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 aggregate

    The 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 Knipe

    Although 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.

    After stabilising the mortared section of wall with some additional mortar, the foundations were reset and the rest of the wall was built "dry" as in the original construction. 
    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.


  • Working on the footpath up to Boredale Hause

    06:34 03 June 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since our last blog post we've been busily working alongside the South Lakes team at Boredale Hause.

    Last year we completed work on the bridleway that leads up to Boredale and now in the second year of the project we're working on the footpath that runs parallel to, and just below, the bridleway.

     Starting work midway up the footpath

     Completed section of path

    We started midway up the footpath with the South Lakes team working on a section of path further down the hill.

     Stone on site and ready to begin work

    Completed footpath after landscaping

    As usual each team member worked on approximately a ten metre stretch and when completed leapfrogged over the person above them to advance further up the path.

     Starting work on another section

    Completed path

    The lower sections of the footpath were surprisingly easy digging for a change so we advanced fairly quickly.

     Work begins on a new section

     Getting further up the path

     Newly landscaped path

    As we got higher up the path we started to hit more bedrock, rubble and solid ground which has hindered progress a little but we're still making good headway. We're hoping that in two or three weeks we'll have the rest of the footpath completed and landscaped.

     Pile of rock ready to be dug in

     Advancing up the path

    Another completed section of footpath

    We've had a fair amount of dry weather since starting work in early April so a lot of the turfs are a little parched and the grass seed is taking it's time to grow but the recent rain we've had should hopefully help remedy things.
  • Bridge repairs at St. Catherine's, Windermere.

    06:40 08 April 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    As part of our low-level winter work we've spent some time over in Windermere repairing a couple of wooden bridges at St. Catherine's.

    Bridge before repairs

    As you can see in the photograph above the bridges were in quite a poor state and had already undergone several temporary repairs but it was now time to give them a new lease of life.

    Removing any old nails

    The first job was to remove the old treads, while taking off the treads many of the nails were left in the beams so we removed the tops with an angle grinder.

    Replacing the treads

    Since the beams were in a decent condition they were left in place and the new Larch treads were nailed onto the old beams.

    Making sure the bridge is always passable

    The new bridges are not on a public right of way and will mostly be used for forestry and farming operations. But since they are also used by people walking around the estate at St. Catherine's we made sure that the bridges were always passable removing only a few treads at a time and replacing them as we went along.

    Treads replaced and walled up

    Once the treads were in position we trimmed them all off using a circular saw and tidied up the dry stone revetments either side of the bridge. This would allow us to gravel up to the bridge and remove the lip between path and bridge.

     Fixing the uprights in place

    Once the path had been gravelled up to the bridge a non-slip surface was attached to the bridge.

    Attaching the rails

    A section of tread was removed to allow each of the uprights to sit flush against the outer beam so they could be bolted into place. The final job was to attach the handrails to the uprights. 

    You can see a couple of before and after photos of the second bridge below.

    Second bridge just after starting repair work

    Completed second bridge with new section of wall

    The repaired bridges, with new thicker treads, should now safely support any heavy vehicles passing over them as well as provide better access to anyone wandering around the estate. 
  • Baby giants

    16:26 28 March 2019
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Central & East Lakes countryside team are rightly proud of their collection of interesting specimen conifers at Aira Force (Ullswater), Skelghyll (Ambleside) and High Close (Great Langdale). Whilst our ancient and veteran trees in the wider countryside are normally native species, such as oak, ash and alder, we also have a number of notable and rather impressive non-native conifers. You might have seen the magnificent Sitka spruce at Aira, picked up cones from the Monterey Pine at High Close, or got vertigo looking up at the tallest tree in the north-west - a Grand Fir at Skelghyll woods. These 'designed landscapes' are a significant contributor to the cultural landscape that is celebrated in the Lake District World Heritage Status.


    
    The Tall Trees at Skelghyll Woods, Ambleside



    A few years ago a kind donation allowed us to plant some further specimen conifers at Skelghyll - you can read about it here. We got the chance to plant further trees thanks to the National Trust's Plant Conservation Centre, who regularly have surplus plants left over from their propagation of unusual or interesting plants from NT properties across the country. And so, one autumnal day, Central & East Lakes took delivery of a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), an ornamental Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) and an Asian fir species (Abies delavayi), all destined for Skelghyll woods.


    In a change from the windswept mountains, the C&E Lakes Footpath team spend most of the winter helping on lower-level countryside management work, and recently spent a day planting these trees in Skelghyll to complement our other young trees that will, between them, be another generation of specimen conifers.


    Upland Ranger Jonny firms the soil around the Coast Redwood

    Jonny and Leo plant the Lawson Cypress


    The trees were planted in chestnut paling cages to protect them from roe deer that would otherwise have a nibble.


    Ade and Leo building chestnut paling tree guards


    The Cedar of Lebanon, needing a bit more light, will be planted in the adjacent field behind Wansfell Holme to become a more open-grown specimen tree, joining Douglas firs and black pines already in this field below the woodland.


    Even the oldest of these kind of conifers in the UK are barely teenagers when it comes to those in their natural environments. Our impressive spruces, firs and redwoods will be, at most, 200 years old, dating back to the exploits of plant hunters like David Douglas in the early 1800s. Compare this to redwoods of 1,000 or more years old, reaching over 100m tall, and it puts our 'babies' into perspective!