Team news for March 2012

  • Ground Force & Deer Force

    09:00 30 March 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    No way to the upper part of the garden
    Ground Force
    In the South Lakes area, in addition to looking after lots of countryside and woodland, the National Trust owns houses that are let out to local people.

    An interesting job recently undertaken by the Upland Footpath team involved working in the garden of one of these houses.
    This needed a different approach to our normal work due to the formal nature of a garden compared to the countryside. The existing garden did not have good access to the upper part of the garden.

    The solution was to build some ‘dry stone’ steps from the lower patio up to the garden. Slate for this was collected from a nearby quarry and used along with existing stone in the garden.

    Ian making good progress

    The end result
    Almost all of the work was carried out by Ian, although Nick likes to think that the small contribution he made was crucial!

     Bark stripping
    The photographs below shows bark stripped from trees in two of our woodlands.  Bark stripping is a problem for living trees and, depending on the extent of the damage, may kill them. The fallen tree is quite striking as almost all of the accessible bark has been stripped.
    Bark stripped on standing trees
    Bark stripped on a fallen tree
    The explanation for this is deer (roe and red deer are both found in the Lake District) as they will peel and eat bark, particularly in winter when other food is scarce. Other animals, such as rabbits and squirrels, may have contributed to this damage particularly in the case of the fallen tree.

    Closer inspection can help determine what has caused the damage. For example, deer have no upper incisor teeth and leave broad teeth marks running up the peeled stem with torn or broken bark hanging at the top. The teeth marks from rabbits and squirrels are much narrower. So next time you see a tree with bark stripped take a closer look and turn detective!

    post & photos by Nick - Footpath Team Ranger
  • The joys of Spring.

    16:35 29 March 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Much of this last week was spent at High Snab Farm continuing the hedge-laying.  I still have a few more days to complete that before the sap starts rising with the early growth.  If we ‘cut’ the stems too late, the plant will lose too much fluid and will weaken or die.  We also don’t want to be disturbing a hedge when birds might be nesting in it.  This has been a big job but it shouldn’t need repeating for another 10–15 years.

    Early last Sunday morning Jan and I set out canoeing on Derwentwater in glorious conditions.  It was mirror flat calm for most of the morning which is longer than usual.  We had Reiver with us and we stopped at a few landing sites around the lake where she was able to have a walk and sniff around.  She can then think she has walked right round the lake without too much effort!  Between stops she sleeps in the bottom of the canoe on my feet as we paddle on.   

     I had a camera with me and managed to capture a few pictures of the birds we encountered.  The cormorants can often be seen in the Calf Close Bay area – indeed the name Calf Close is derived from the Old Norse “skarv” meaning cormorant.


    Greylag and Canadian Geese

    In the afternoon we went for a walk to the secret valley.  There are still places in the Lakes where you will see very few people and can just enjoy being alone.  So we have our secret place but I’ll leave you to enjoy finding your own.  A good start is to look at an OS map for parking areas where people begin a walk and just walk further than they do.  It is still easy to get away from hordes of people.  Enjoy your exploration!
  • Summer Was Ere!

    10:19 29 March 2012
    By Jo Day

    Well the weather is hotting up and so are our preparations for the new season. We have attended our biannual ranger's day, where all the rangers from the Lake District and South East Cumbria and Morecambe Bay get together to find out what has been going on in the area with the other teams. We spent the day at Grizedale Forest which is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission and had the opportunity of wandering through the woodlands looking at what they have to offer.

    Our regular ranger meeting took place at Acorn Bank where we worked together to transform an area of felled poplar trees into a wild play area....I don't know who will have more fun, the children of the rangers!

    As well as other rangers, we have been meeting up with our Interpretation Officer to put together some information boards to explain the ecology of our Natterjack Toads and the way we look after them.

    Back on the reserve, you might have seen us out with a big white globe above our heads and walking in strange patterns. Well against popular belief we haven't gone dune crazy we have in fact been mapping scub and water courses on site. We also nipped down to Plumpton Marsh to start mapping the erosion there too. All this information was collated using a real time GPS contained with in a rucksack with a handheld palmtop. The data will then be transferred onto the computer using Mapinfo and will be a great resource in the future to look at changes on site.

    We've had the Mind group in again this month and our regular volunteers have been helping them out burning up the remaining bracken scrub we cut down last month. The regulars have also taken up the boardwalk nearest the car park and replaced it with brand new timber. We've had a number of comments from our visitors about how good it looks, so a BIG THANK YOU goes out to our Vols!

    The Police have been visiting us as part of a new initiative to educate people the correct way to enjoy a protected site like Sandscale and also to crack down on the use of motorised vehicles on the beach and in the dunes.

    Wildlife Sightings

    As well as the usual practical conservation work the volunteers have been participating in Shoresearch to survey the rocky outcrops further out in the estuary. Our finds have included Common starfish, Shore crabs, a plethora of different sorts of shell fish and one of the biggest sea slugs our Marine biologist has ever seen!

    Our first Natterjack Toad calls were heard on the 23rd March when the sun was out, it has unfortunately turned pretty cold and might mean they won't be out again for a few days.

    As for our birds, the "firsts" are coming in already. The chiffchaff was heard on the 21st March, with a sighting of our first wheatear on the 27th March.

    Our WeBS count totalled 2007 birds from 33 different species, with an amazing display from a pair of Peregrine Falcons taking advantage after we had flushed some ducks up.
  • Dora's Field and Wordsworth's Daffodil trail

    19:26 25 March 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    We are getting ready for a new partnership where Dora's Field in Rydal will be opened as part of the National Garden Scheme "Wordsworth Daffodil Legacy trail". Saturday 1st of April will be the day where people can follow the trail from Cartmel to Carlisle with two National Trust gardens playing there part to the wonderful trail.

    To celebrate all things Daffodil and Wordsworth’s Lake District legacy seven locations throughout Cumbria are taking part in the National Gardens Scheme’s Daffodil Day – 01 April 2012.The properties involved are Holker Hall (Cark-in-Cartmel), Summerdale House (Nook), Dora’s Field (Rydal), Rydal Hall (Rydal), Acorn Bank (Temple Sowerby), High Moss (Portinscale) and Carlisle Cemetery (Richardson St, Carlisle). From 11am until 4pm they are all throwing open their gates and holding a Wordsworth Daffodil Day to allow the public to see a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils.
    Originally called the Rashfield derived from rush field as the damp nature of the ground would have originally supported mainly rushes.

    Purchased from the Backhouse family by W Wordsworth in 1826 as a defence strategy. The Wordsworth's were tenants of Lady Anne le Flemming at Rydal Mount behind Doras Field from May 1813, in 1825 Lady Anne announced her intention of giving the tenancy of Rydal Mount to a relative. Under threat of eviction, and desperate not to be forced away from the idyllic Rydal, William purchased the field and made it clear to Lady le Fleming his intention of building on the field in what ever way he wished (this would have been right in the view from Rydal Mount). Indeed pay a famous Kendal architect George Webster to draw up a design.

    In the event this contingency plan was not needed as the threat was withdrawn. The family retained the field and it was given to Dora, Williams daughter.When Dora tragically died William, his wife and Gardener went and planted hundreds of Daffodil bulbs in her memory.
     The field (0.6ha)was gifted to the National Trust by the Gordon Wordsworth in 1935 for the benefit of the public.  The National Trust maintains the paths and prevents the open areas from returning to woodland and losing the open views.  The are also benches to allow visitors to pause for a moment amid the hectic rush of life. 
     Volunteers helping resurfacing paths
    Crushed slate is used from our local quarry in Elterwater 
     Fallen limbs from trees are stacked to create habitat pile for Beetles and spiders and other small Fauna
     The Chapel of St Mary at Rydal was funded by Lady Le Fleming of Rydal Hall. Started in 1823, it was completed the following year. A tower, nave, and chancel make up the church, which has seen repairs and renovations during the 20th century. The ‘chapel’ has been dropped from its name. Located just down the hill from Wordsworth's home, Rydal Mount, he helped choose the church site, originally the Le Fleming orchard.

    So if your in the Rydal area on the 1st April, then please call in to Dora's field and say hello, we will have volunteers and National Trust Rangers on site to answer any questions and talk about the history and management of this wonderful location.

  • The boys go back to School

    18:12 24 March 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Regular readers? of this blog may be forgiven for thinking everything happens in Borrowdale! but North Lakes covers a lot of ground and this week our Loweswater based ranger team, Dan and Paul headed even further west to Ennerdale Bridge to start on an exciting new community project. At the  very heart of the village sits the small local primary school and our project  over the next few weeks is to re design and refurbish the school garden to make it a more interesting space for the children to play, learn and most of all have fun!

    ©Ennerdale and Kinniside School
    The clever stuff, designing the new garden and advising on useful planting schemes will be done by our fantastic gardener at Wordsworth House and Garden, Amanda and her small talented team of volunteers, working with the staff, parents and children and will include areas for quite sitting, noisy play, bug hunts and mini beast safaris

    The Ranger team and regular Thursday volunteers will carry out the physical tasks of removing unwanted trees and refreshing the hard landscaping, walls and seating areas.
    First task before the major works got under way was to clear an area of shrubs and trees so that a living willow hide could be constructed, (just the right size for kids but small enough to keep adults out!) Dan and Paul spent half a damp morning removing a trailer load of trees, and their stumps  (much harder than we thought) shrubs and branches to create this space and the effect was immediately noticeable

    ©Ennerdale and Kinniside School
    The hide has now been built and will grow with time to create a cool, shady secret place.
    This is just the start of an exciting project, involving a wide range of staff and volunteers, we even had our senior forester Martin kindly health check the  trees!! so check back here often and see how we’re getting on way out west, next on the agenda is to remove crumbling facing stone from the retaining walls and replace with new  sandstone, building in lots of planting spaces and bug houses

  • Upgrading a wildlife highway.

    19:50 23 March 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    It seems no time at all since the last inspections but once again it was time to make the quarterly checks on old mine shafts.  These are scattered around many places here in the Lakes and we need to make sure that fencing and warning signs are all in place.  The following picture will give you an impression of the potential danger.

    One of my visits was to a site I can drive to so Reiver was able to revisit a familiar haunt and enjoy a potter around.  She still likes to be out and about.

    Later in the week I was working with volunteers at High Snab Farm where we have been building fences and hedge-laying.  Hedges may go almost unnoticed amongst the magic of the hills and lakes but they are massively important.  They act as barriers for livestock; they add to the beauty of the landscape and, probably most important, they are mini-ecosystems.  So their upkeep is well worth the effort.

    We had two jobs to do at High Snab.  First we laid a hedge that we had previously planted and then we pitched in helping Tom (farmer) to install some new fencing.  So we are first scrubbing out some of the trees that would damage the hedge that we want to thrive on each side of a stream.  Then we will build fences on each side to contain the hedge and stream.  This will create a 4 metre-wide wildlife corridor.  There is an unexpected sense of urgency about this project because the signs of spring are so much earlier than we would expect at a hill farm at these latitudes.  We do need to lay the hedge before it bursts into leaf and it looks like that will be soon.

    Fortunately, my volunteers are great workers and are developing a range of skills very quickly so, if there are no unplanned hitches, we should complete it in good time.  A bonus for us is that High Snab is in such a superb location –  great place for the picnic lunch.

    This link will take you on a quick tour of High Snab and you can get an impression of life for one of the farmers at a Trust farm.
  • A Fresh start for Spring

    17:18 23 March 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    Craig clearing path edges at High Ground Farm
    It’s been a varied week as usual, with numerous jobs completed! A large portion of my week has been office based, as I’ve been working on a number of projects, including working with contractors on a National Trust campsite development and planning work for our staff and volunteers in the coming weeks.

    This week Craig has been working on a mini-digger completing a number of planned jobs around our property, including important maintenance to our path network.

    The week started with an influx of new seasonal staff for the South Lakes property and I was a part of the induction day. We began at Wray Castle with introductions to the National Trust and what Rangers do in the countryside, then it was off on a property tour! We visited Hill Top, the Beatrix Potter Gallery and Tarn Hows, before a tasty lunch at Boon Crag. Then we were off to Monk Coniston for a whistle stop tour around the restored walled garden and the impressive tree collection, whilst admiring the splendid views over Coniston Water.

    Wray Castle in all its splendour!
    In the outdoors this week I have had quite a variety of jobs! On Tuesday I helped Richard our woodland Ranger to move some rather large bits of a beech tree from a tenant’s garden, where a tree had been felled. This will then be chopped and then dried ready for burning in Hill Top Farm or our holiday cottages next winter. I have also carried out a safety briefing for users of Cathedral Quarry in Langdale and solved a drainage problem at a residents house.

    The fruits of our labour
    All in all it has been a challenging but enjoyable week, with the added bonus that Spring has arrived!

    Written by Sam Stalker Area Ranger
  • Nordic Walking..........ever wanted to give it a go?

    11:55 19 March 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Well here is your chance. The National Trust Grasmere Ranger Team, with the help of Debbie Jackman, nordic walking instructor, and Nordic Walking UK, are giving you the chance to try this rapidly growing sport, as part of our Grasmere Gallop 2012. Go to for full details, including your chance to try a `taster session` absolutely free.

  • I wandered lonely as a cloud

    15:24 16 March 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    On the 15th of April 1802 William and Dorothy Wordsworth were travelling back to Grasmere after staying the night at Eusmere in Pooley Bridge and in doing so came across the daffodils that inspired William to write the poem "I wondered lonely as a cloud". It was Dorothy that wrote in the Grasmere Journal how they had seen the daffodils under the boughs of trees and among the rocks on the lakeshore and William then wrote the poem in 1804. The daffodils can still be seen today in the same place near to Glencoyne car park on the shores of Ullswater, they are early this year and are just about out so if you want to see them you had better come in the next couple of weeks or so.

    Every January before the daffodils start to come through, we clear the brambles and dead bracken so the daffs can be seen in thier glory.

        I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills when all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils.

    Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

    William Wordsworth was a frequent visitor to the Ullwater area and wrote three poems about Aira Force the most well known being the "The Somnambulist" an ancient tale of Knightly love and death.
  • Signs of Spring & a shed load of work

    10:41 16 March 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    Snowdrops at Wray Castle

    After a very warm and wet winter spring is definitely not too far away now. 

    There are one or two early woodland flowers cheering the place up and the promise of more on the way.  When I walk through the woods here it's almost impossible not to notice the smell of wild garlic.Primroses have begun flowering, bluebells and cuckoo pint are showing through so it promises to be a colourful spring in South Lakes woodland.

    The birds are singing loudly now with males smartening themselves up for the breeding season, I have started hearing green woodpeckers 'yaffling' in the woods and greater spotted woodpeckers drumming on dead trees.

    Some of the fields already have lambs in them but most of the fell sheep will lamb in April and early May.
    Ewes and lambs at Low Cunsey
    After spending a good deal of the winter coppicing along the lakeshore bridleway by Windermere we now have a large stack of timber in the yard.  We have borrowed a firewood processor from Sizergh Castle and we are making headway into the stack.

    Craig hard at it feeding the processor
    Burning wood may not appear to be very eco-friendly, but only the carbon dioxide absorbed when the tree grows is released when logs are burnt so we are not adding to greenhouse gasses,  the timber comes from sustainable woodland management of the Trusts woods - wood does grow on trees after all! Timber felled in the winter needs time to season, so we have been cutting and splitting it and loading the wood into a drying shed which will keep the weather off and allow air to circulate which speeds up seasoning.  By this winter we should have a shed load (literally!) of seasoned logs.

    A shed load of logs!

    By Richard Tanner - Ranger (Woodlands)

  • Loweswater -Conservation of a Blue/Green Lake

    08:44 13 March 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Each of our lakes here in the Lake District has its own distinctive character. The diversity of their form is one of the things that make the Lake District so special. But behind their basic attractiveness lies a complex constitution complicated by numerous influences, both natural & man made.
    This Sunday 18th March, you can join our local Ranger Mark Astley, for a walk around Loweswater.

    Copyright Tom Richardson & licensed for reuse
    under the
    Creative Commons License

    Here is a chance to find out about the issues that effect this most tranquil and pastoral of lakes, and to hear about the Loweswater Care Project and how that will help us to look after this beautiful and special place. Park at Maggies Bridge Car Park. This can be a bit tricky to find, so look out for signs on the main Loweswater road. The grid ref is NY134 421 and the post code is CA13 0RU. Meet up at 11:00 and expect to be out until 3:00. Dress for the conditions and you may need some food. And finally, good news - the walk is free.
  • How to rescue a crag-fast sheep.

    19:25 12 March 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    I had a phone call recently from one of the Trust’s tenant farmers to say he had a sheep stuck on a crag.  They jump down to a ledge with grass but then can’t jump back up.  They eat everything on the ledge and then either starve or fall off the crag.  Farmers with crag-fast sheep ring me and I with other members of the rescue team will go to the scene.

    Over the years we have developed a technique where we try to approach from below the sheep.  I will abseil down on one rope whilst being belayed from the top with a second rope as a safety rope.  I go down below the sheep and will then climb back up to its position.  If the sheep panics and jumps off, which they often do, I will be able to catch them.  We’ve found that the best way is to approach them very slowly without looking at them and appearing to hunt them.  It’s also a good idea to take down some vegetation to throw onto the ledge.  They might be distracted as they eat.  As soon as they are within reach, they can be grabbed and manoeuvred off their feet so they are less likely to struggle and either fall or give the rescuer a good kicking. So far this has been a successful technique. 

    For this last rescue on Cam Crag above Langstrath. I’d climbed up to the ledge and the sheep worked its way to the back of the ledge.  After a few minutes, I was able to grab it and sling it with a couple of slings so that it could be hauled up to the top of the crag.  Rescuing sheep is carried out for animal welfare reasons (better than they starve or fall to death or serious injury) but it is also very good rope-work practice.  Rescuing a reluctant sheep is more challenging than rescuing a cooperative human!  It is also safer that we do it with our training and equipment than it would be for many farmers.

    We don’t just do this for the Trust’s farmers but, like other rescue teams, will do it for all farmers within their areas.  It’s always good to release a sheep safely and see it wander off to carry on grazing.

  • Continuing work at Allan Bank

    10:53 10 March 2012
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Over the past couple of weeks we've continued our work at Allan Bank, where our work has focused on a section of path which is very undefined. To cope with the number of visitors when Allan Bank opens to the public in a few weeks time we've had to make the route more obvious and also sustainable. 

    The first job was to decide which route to take and start clearing back the leaves and digging out a shallow trench.

    Starting to create the new path

    It's been great that we've had so much volunteer involvement as they've really helped speed things along. The Fix the Fells volunteers have managed to find some spare time in between their "day job" of attending to the upland paths, and managed to fit in several work parties.

    The path begins to take shape

    With the new path line properly defined, we've again used tree trunks that have been felled as part of our woodland thinning programme to edge the path.

    Edging the path

    The next job was to add some wooden risers to the steepest sections of path. These are needed as due to the incline it is more likely to erode and also more difficult to walk on.

    Digging in the risers

    With all the risers in place we needed to get the gravel from a pile next to the house over to the new path. First we had to shovel the gravel from the heap into a trailer, so we could transport it a short distance by road to the nearest access point. Once here it was shovelled out of the trailer and into a power barrow. Finally, the gravel was moved over to the new path and shovelled back out again. This was repeated numerous times throughout the day, and that's a lot of shovelling!

    Moving the gravel to site

    Once the gravel was nearer to the path it was then moved using wheelbarrows to exactly where it was needed.

    Gravelling between the risers

    By creating a path like this it will make it much easier for everyone to get around and enjoy the woodland at Allan Bank. Given a little time the path will start to blend in more with it's surroundings, but it'll still do the job it's been designed for.

    The completed section of path
  • Langdale to London....and back again.

    15:23 09 March 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Now, I`m prepared to bet good money that you were not expecting to read an article about a National Trust property in London on this blog. Let me explain.

    The Blewcoat School, located in the heart of London, moments from St. James` Park and Westminster, is a coffee shop with a difference. Managed by Janet, this beautiful Georgian building has an amazing history. That it survived the war and pressures of development, right in the centre of Westminster, is a story in itself.

    Janet and her brilliant team (including Rosanne, NT Council and Volunteer) have the ambition to produce the best sandwich in London. By my reckoning, something that they have already achieved! With free Wi Fi for all customers, this really is a little of oasis of calm in the centre of the city. 

    We are building links between our two properties, sharing information and promoting events for each other. Judging by the number of `hits` on the Grasmere Gallop web site, from the London area, then this is already proving to be really successful. 

    The Blewcoats School, Westminster. The best coffee shop in London!

    So, if you find yourself in London this year, perhaps for the Jubilee celebrations, the Olympic Games or just sightseeing, please call in and say hello to Janet and her team. Say that the Grasmere & Langdale Rangers sent you.

  • Different people, same results

    10:00 09 March 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    Ambleside uni getting to grips with the details.
    The numbers game
    How many volunteers does it take to lay a hedge?

    Actually, if you asked us here at High Wray Basecamp volunteer centre we could tell you as we're quite obsessive about keeping records .....

    It does depend on the hedge though. Some stretches, like the one we were doing with our snow bound working holiday last month are done by the same group of people over a number of days. But we work with plenty of volunteers who aren't staying for a week, but come for a day every month. 

    Ambleside Uni with their feline overseer
    One day at a time

    Our 'day groups' as we call them (clever eh?) normally come on the same week, with a different day each. A recent week saw groups from Ambleside campus of the university of Cumbria, Kendal College, Littledale Hall Therapeutic Community (a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre), the South Lakes Conservation Group and the Fix the Fells voluntary lengthsmen all work on the same stretch of hedge.

    Littledale Hall weaving the hedge together.
    Some of these groups such as the SLCG and Lengthsmen have done quite a bit of hedgelaying with us over the last few years. The students though were trying it for the first time (although the same black farm cat that joined us last year arrived again to offer it's experience to Ambleside Uni) as were the group from Littledale Hall.
    The lengthsmen by their finished section.
    It's the results that count

    So 'lots' is the answer to the original question. But you wouldn't know it to look at the hedge. We pride ourselves in helping everyone who works with us to do good work they can feel proud of and walking along it now you just see one well laid and tidy hedge. A great result for all concerned! 

    By Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger.

  • What did you do with your Leap Day?

    19:11 07 March 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Ready for action.

    Last week all the employees at the National Trust were given the Leap Day (29th February) off work to volunteer for a day in their local communities – a Local Leap.  This 'Local Leap' was to celebrate the importance of volunteering as the Trust, which itself enjoys the support of more than 62,000 volunteers, continues to build links with its local communities.  Here in the North Lakes we divided our time between parks in two local towns in Allerdale.

    Workington is working towards achieving a Green Flag status for one of its town parks.  We worked with the park keeper on litter-picking, clearing and planting flower beds and finally on planting some new trees.

    First the litter picking.
    Then clear a bed ready for planting.

    In Cockermouth we also worked with the park keeper litter-picking and planting more trees.

    More litter picking and a surprising find!

    We had a good day.  It was a rare opportunity for all our staff to enjoy working together on one project – we are usually spread far and wide across a large area of Cumbria.  It was a great opportunity to engage with people in the community who wouldn’t normally see us at work.  We could make our voluntary contribution to the community where we live as well as work.  We could also look back with some satisfaction on the results of our efforts.

    Dad needed the help!
    Tree-planting (Naomi a long way from her lake foreshore.)

    Mountain Rescue Team work continued .  The fell tops are once again covered with snow and ice so will need extra care.  You can read more here:
  • Hedge laying

    11:15 07 March 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder

    During the last few weeks here in Ullswater we have been laying a hedge that we planted 15 years ago. This work involves cutting back some of the side branches and then cutting most of the way through the stem of the tree and laying it down flat on the ground and from this lots of new shoots will grow up to create a new hedge. This hedge consists of Hawthorn,Blackthorn, Hazel and some Willow and once it is layed it will provide great habitat for nesting birds.

      The hedge before we started

    Laying in progress
    Close up of a layed hedge.
    The finished job.
  • Aira Force in full force

    16:01 06 March 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder

    Aira Force is a popular tourist attraction but most visitors come during the summer when there is little water in the beck. So here is a clip of the water fall in full force after a lot of rain and a quick thaw of snow off the fells. It is the highest I've seen it!

    Aira Force in full cry!

  • The Grand Fir of Skelghyll Woods

    19:28 04 March 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder

    Our Rangers in the Lake District have discovered the tallest tree of its kind in England growing in one of their woodlands. The Grand Fir, which stands at 57.8m high, has now been crowned the tallest tree in Cumbria and the tallest Grand Fir in England. 

    The Grand Fir of Skelghyll Woods
    Officials from the Tree Register, the body which keeps a record of the UK’s notable and ancient specimens, have confirmed the Fir’s giant status. Lead Ranger John Pring had called in specialist arboriculturists to help him measure the tree’s dizzy heights - and also decided to capture the experience on video, with the help of Dreamtime Film, an award-winning Cumbrian film company.

    The Grand Fir was planted in around 1860 as part of an arboretum at the Wansfell Holme country estate. The area is now known as Skelghyll Woods and is a mixed oak woodland with the addition of a small selection of conifers. John said: “A survey 20 years ago suggested that some of these trees were going to get really big. We decided to get them resurveyed this year and Toby Fisher, a local forestry consultant, kept coming back with the same figure for this tree. We knew it was something special and decided to get it more accurately measured. “It really is a rather splendid specimen so it was great news when it was confirmed as the tallest tree of its kind in the country, as well as the tallest of all the trees in Cumbria.”

    Mark Sigrist and Mick Lupton of Aspen Tree Management scaled the tree, then used a long badminton pole to reach the top of the tree’s highest branches where they weren’t able to climb. They also placed a camera at the top for some time-lapse photography and to record the amazing views across Windermere and beyond. John said: “I’ve worked with Mark and Mick on numerous occasions and they are used to me asking them for weird and wonderful things!  Not so long ago I sent them to the top of some lime trees armed with a freezer bag and a pair of scissors to snip the top shoots, known as ‘sun leaves’, for a research project. They’re more used to carrying chain saws up trees than little pairs of scissors!”

    At 57.8m or 189.6ft, the Skelghyll Grand Fir is higher than Nelson’s Column (51.59m) and taller than a dozen double decker buses stacked on top of each other.

    If, as thought, it was planted in 1860, that was the year Charles Dickens published his first installment of Great Expectations, Britain produced 20% of the world’s output of industrial goods, JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan was born, and the Pony Express mail delivery service was launched in Missouri.

    The Grand Fir, or Abies Grandis, originated in Canada and is widely seen across North America. The tallest tree in the whole of the UK is a Grand Fir, located in Argyll, which stands at 211ft (64m).

    See the film footage of the measuring of Skelghyll’s Grand Fir

  • Landscape Conservation

    10:00 02 March 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    Two different tasks by the paths' team this week highlight the range of our conservation work in the local landscape.

    An Industrial legacy
    The first was repairing a collapsed retaining wall at Hallgarth in Little Langdale.  The gap itself was relatively small but the amount of stone it was holding back was VERY big! Part of the industrial history of the area, the pile of stone is old slate quarry waste that was dumped there over half a century ago and the wall was built to keep it in place.  We think the wall may have come down due to the tree that fell. Here it is before and after our work.

    The hardest part of the job was removing the stone from where the wall had fallen because of the slate above continually filling the gap that you’re trying to clear.  The job reminded me of a certain kids' game that involves pulling out wooden blocks from a stack without it falling around you!

    We managed to get the wall up without too many problems. Thanks to volunteers Glen and Trevor who gave up their time to help complete the job.

    Influencing where your feet go
    Now the snow has disappeared we were able to get back to the regular maintenance of the upland path network.  We re-visited a footpath we worked on over a year ago in Langdale at the very appropriately and splendidly named Hell Gill. Here it is before and after.

    On one of the steeper sections, people were short-cutting the path and so eroding the hillside.  We worked on trying to get people back on to the path using subtle methods and as you can see we’re now winning the battle here. One down, plenty more to go!

    post and photos by Ian -  Footpath Team Supervisor