Team news for July 2011

  • Green Fingers

    13:53 28 July 2011
    By Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder

    With help from our two long term volunteers (Dave and Joyce) work has continued on restoring and maintaining the small garden behind our information centre in Grasmere (sadly no public access).
    Today we installed two willow screens at the back of the garden ready for planting up honeysuckle and other climbing plants.
    The willow screens are simple to install. We constructed a small post and rail fence to act as a frame and support. The hurdles are then attached and strained back using wire wrapped around the rails and posts.

    Joyce has been battling the dock leafs growing out of the grass for a few weeks now, thankfully it looks like the docks are losing the fight and we can start to see the green grass again. Joyce has also spent time planting up the borders around the building so not to lose its country cottage look. Dave and Joyce have been fantastic and have put many hours in supporting National Trust Rangers in the area.

    Site preparation, removing old tree stump.
    Knocking in the fence posts.
    Green Fingers.
    Up a bit, down a bit.
    Ready for attaching the screens.
    Tying back the screens.
    Job done!

    Our new Information centre opened in April this year and is proving to be a fantastic one stop shop. Part retail part information centre it is full of ideas to help visitors decide what to do in the area, from walks to picnic sites there is something for everyone.
    Pop in and speak to Vivienne or Christine who are on hand to offer knowledgeable advice and ideas and pick up a treat on the way.

    The building itself is worth a picture or two, named 'Church Stile, a row of 17th century cottages in the centre of Grasmere, was for much of its history a small inn. The first identifiable owner was Robert Harrison who died in 1662, and by the end of the 18th century the inn, then known as Kirk Stile (or Steel), was in the hands of Robert Newton. William Wordsworth, his brother John, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge stayed here during their tour of the Lake District in 1797. It ceased to be an inn around 1840 and around 1896 was leased to Robert Hayes, a member of the local gardening family, who had opened a market and nursery garden some years before. The building was bought by the National Trust in 1968 with bequests from several local residents.

  • Rock Star

    09:38 28 July 2011
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner

    We work amidst the most stunning scenery - fantastic, but kind of stating the obvious. The job sometimes brings more subtle pleasures such as the joy of handling rocks that are round about 350 million -yes, that is 350 million! - years old. The rock that Robert, our Thursday volunteer, is holding is called Purple Breccia. There are several different types of rock within the mass of the stone, giving it a kind of conglomerated nature . And it is the most fantastic colour, a really rich reddy purple.
    Imagine a volcano exploding! That very first dramatic release of energy that rockets rock and gases high into the sky. A broken and destroyed crust falls back to earth and is covered by the ash spewing from the volcano. Take a bow Purple Breccia! Well, that's the theory - or at least one of them! As with all things geological, there is always more than one theory.

    Purple Breccia in starring role in wall, can you spot it?
    Because of its amalgamated nature the rock breaks down into irregular lumps, and it can be quite difficult to work with, but the results can be very attractive. Purple Breccia occurs in only a few locations in the Lake District and if you are walking by the Borrowdale road or the lakeshore under Falcon Crag, keep your eyes open for this colourful, and distinctive rock.

  • Herdwick Sheep

    08:10 25 July 2011
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Perhaps the main influence on the Lake District landscape is that which is exerted by upland hill farming. It's hard to imagine that without any human intervention by grazing with sheep or tree felling, many Lakeland valleys would be densely wooded up to the higher fells.

    Cumbria has two native sheep breeds; the Rough Fell, which tends to be more common around the Shap fells to the east of the County and the Herdwick which is distributed over much of the central and western Fells.

    Herdwick ram

    Both native breeds are considered threatened by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) as over 75% of their population are found within a radius of less than 20 kilometres. This makes them extremely vulnerable to disease epidemics such as Foot and Mouth and Bluetongue. The most at risk of the two breeds is the Rough Fell which is listed as Category 2, Endangered.

    Rough Fell ram

    Although the Herwick is commonly seen around the central Lake District fells, it is listed as a Category 3 breed, which is classed as Vulnerable. The Herdwick is believed to have become established from a flock of 40 sheep that were washed ashore from a Norwegian ship that was wrecked off the Cumbrian coast in the tenth century, but nobody really knows for sure.

    The Herdwick is an extremely hardy breed and can survive up on the high fells throughout the winter. Sheep owned by different farms remaining mostly separate due to their ability to become heafed (or hefted). Heafing is when individual sheep return to the area of fell where they were weaned as lambs. So if a lamb is brought up on a particular area of fell it will, by and large, remain in that area without the need for any fences.

    When first born the lambs are very dark brown (almost black) in colour and as they mature firstly their faces start to become paler.

    Herdwick lamb

    The main body of the sheep also becomes lighter over time and at the age of around one year you have what is referred to as a hogget, or hog. 

    Herdwick hogget

    Eventually the hoggets lighten even more in colour to the characteristic grey fleece of the sheep that is most commonly encountered. The fleece these days is worth very little, though it is extremely hard-wearing so is excellent for making rugs and carpets and can also be blended with softer wool to make it more suitable for knitting.

    Freshly sheared Herdwick ewes

    Herdwick meat and woollen products are now much more widely available from farm shops and specialist retail outlets around Cumbria, so next time you see some why not give them a try?
    All photos credited to K. Burrows
  • East of Eden

    19:24 18 July 2011
    By Tom Burditt

    Our patch of "South and East Cumbria and Morecambe Bay" stretches into some surprising areas, and none more so than Longcrag Farm at North Stainmore, just a couple of miles from the boundary with county Durham.

    It is a place with no visitor access, so as I arrived in my car up the long steep stone track off of a dead end country lane, I felt incredibly privileged as well as (if I'm honest) a little like James Herriott on one of his visits. The farm's setting is truly breath-taking. There is a plunging beck by the side, and behind it the ground rises steadily up to the large 'allotment' - a field surrounded by rugged walls and old fences that is essentially no different to the miles of unchanging blanket bog that stretch out to the horizons on the upland commons beyond.

    To the right the view is blocked by a stone wall of millstone grit, running along the crag itself that gives the farm its name. It is only the flashes of lighter grey sky between the dark rough stones that show that crag and wall aren't one and the same.

    But turn round and look to the south and west and the view is vast. Can there be a bigger view in the whole of England? The wide Eden Valley with ridge after ridge of pennine hills rolling away to the south in a rising limestone sea towards the grittier peaks of Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent. The A66, the little town pockets of Kirkby Stephen and Brough, the old railways, the barns. Westwards the dramatic terraced scarp-line of the North Pennines with its conical peaks and scars, names as terrifying as their appearance. Cross Fell, Cauldron Snout, Wild Boar Scar (not to mention Hell Gill, Black Fell and Hangingstone Scar opposite).

    I am here with some of the members of the National Trust's biological survey team, all the way from headquarters near Swindon, a world away. Gordon is mapping the vegetation, Peter is surveying for invertebrates with his large net, and our own John Hooson is identifying everything he sees.

    Although I am feeling slightly out of my depth alongside all this expertise, even I can appreciate the bird life on display. Impressive doesn't do it justice - for such a small farm the birds are staggering. Spring comes late up here, with snows often lying into May or even June and today in mid-July it is clear that breeding season is still in full swing - chicks unfledged, adults still displaying. Lapwing - I count over 20 - continuously call and peewit overhead. 2 curlews are constantly on the wing. One repeatedly traces the outline of a square over our heads, nervously staking out the territory in which we stand and in which, somewhere, there must surely be chicks. Suddenly it swoops off in a dummy flight, drawing our attention away...Two red grouse, perhaps seeking sanctuary from the surrounding moorland where the shoots are now only a few weeks away, fly massively across our path. Grey partridge scuttle through the rushy corners and along wall bottoms and once I come across a tiny speckled partridge chick, almost perfectly camouflauged.
    John tells me he has seen the daddy of them all: black grouse! but I miss them. I'm too sidetracked by the view, the wheatears flitting busily between the walls, the skylarks overhead, fragmentary snatches of the sounds of drumming snipe which are just as quickly snatched back by the wind.

    Wild though this lovely place may seem, it is certainly no wilderness. Walls have been painstakingly built and loving restored. Livelihoods have been eked out of the boggy, wildflower-rich turf. The current tenant tells me philosophically of having been cut off for 6 weeks last winter, but also of her passionate love of rare-breed horses and of her success at breeding one of the rarest of them all: the Cleveland Bay. Only 11 filly foals in the world last year, but 4 born here. The ones I see are curious but aloof, with both the hardness and softness of the summer hills within them.

    Back near the house is a huge hole; in fact at some 20 metres across and 20 metres deep it would easily contain the house, and its outbuildings too. It is carpetted with northern marsh orchids of a purple colour so rich that your eyes actually struggle to focus on them; they seem to float and shimmer rather than grow.

    There are globeflowers, water avens, devils-bit scabious. As we say our goodbyes, we ask the tenant about the hole. "Oh that", she says. "That fell in one night 20 years ago, made a hell of a racket. It was an old mine that caved in - they're all over these hills. Lead mines, barytes mines".

    Everywhere around us here the wild and the people are mingled. Voices that are snatched away by the wind call the horses home. Or was that just the curlews crying?
  • Bow Fell Web Cam

    15:04 18 July 2011
    By Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder

    Today the Rangers have been installing the first web-cam to give views and weather updates from the Bow Fell, Rosset Ghyll area. This is the first of ten web-cams to be installed in the Lake District. These can be accessed by clicking here or click NT Lakes Outdoors in Our Links section for other great outdoors ideas.

    Sadly nothing but rain and mist at the moment, but keep checking as the Sun will shine soon.

  • Hello and Welcome From the National Trust Ranger Team

    21:59 17 July 2011
    By Neil Winder

    Thank you for visiting our new blog. Over the coming weeks we will be adding news, images and useful information from the Grasmere and Great Langdale Rangers. We will be giving you a insight into our work, from practical countryside management, updates from our hard working volunteers to working with local communities, plus much much more. This is a fantastic part of the Lake District not just famous for its lakes and fells but the people that live and work here. We hope you enjoy our blog and it becomes a great resource and a one stop shop for gathering information about the National Trust in this area.

  • Small pleasures

    21:48 14 July 2011
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner


    I'm Naomi, and my job managing the Derwentwater Foreshore Project takes me backwards and forwards between the NT North Lakes office and the lake shore. Fortunately the distance isn't too far, so most days I take the 15 minute walk down there instead of driving.

    One of the things I absolutely love is this footpath alongside the Borrowdale Road. It may just look like a way to get from A to B, but it's absolutely crammed full of wildlife. Yesterday I popped down to the Foreshore to take down some leaflets and the path was just crammed full of birds and butterflies, and all kinds of wild flowers- tufted vetch, stitchwort, buttercup, crosswort, meadowsweet and knapweed... the list goes on!

    I always think it's funny that the Lakes is full of the world's most amazing mountains, spectacular walks and rare wildlife, but sometimes it's the places right on your doorstep that give you the most pleasure! I recommend having a stroll along there while it's still summery weather and see what you think....

  • All in day’s work

    09:46 13 July 2011
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner

    Andy and Jack walling
    The roar of passing traffic, the sound of horns, the lingering smell of diesel and the fear of falling!   possibly not what you’d expect in the day  of a countryside Ranger but all in a day’s work for the North Lakes team when the need arises.

    Today saw an opportunity for us to make a start on a long standing repair to a section of wall on the busy Borrowdale Road, quite apart from the obvious danger of passing traffic the ‘back’ of the wall posed it’s own problems, a steep drop of perhaps 20 feet and a very narrow ledge on which to stand made for some delicate footwork between the wall and the necessary safety fence, but after a few hours we are finally up to a safer level and progress from here on should be much safer and more rapid.

    This is just one of the very varied tasks we tackle here in North Lakes to maintain the area to make our visitors experience more enjoyable.

  • Work Continues at Stickle Ghyll

    12:26 11 July 2011
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Over the last few weeks we have been steadily working our way higher up Stickle Ghyll. The section that we are working on has proved to be extremely challenging, as much of the path has become so badly eroded all the soil has now gone and it's right down to the bedrock in many areas. Where the bedrock isn't actually showing it is often just below the ground, right where you want to build the new path! This makes it extra difficult to repair the path as it usually means that the bedrock has to be chipped out with either a crowbar, or sledge hammer, and the path has to be adapted to fit around any underlying rock.

    Typical section of bedrock

    The photograph above shows one such section. You can see the bedrock to the right of the photograph and if you look more closely you can see that it stretches right across the path too. What you can't see is that it is also about 30cm (or less) below the current level of the path.
    Because of this underlying rock the left hand side of the path had to be built up with large boulders, so that the path could be properly tightened between them, and the bedrock that can be seen on the opposite side of the path. Without these large stones, the path would have just been sticking out of the ground, perched on the rock below, and would have quickly fallen out. In addition to this, even more care than usual was put into the selection of each pitching stone. As not only had the path to be suitable to walk on, it also had to fit around the bedrock underneath the path.

    Section of completed path
    Now this section of path is finished you'd never know the full extent of the bedrock. If the path had been left unrepaired it is likely to have eroded right down to the underlying rock and people would have tried to find an alternative route around it. This would have made the erosion damage much worse, and also made any future repair work even more difficult.