I say summer, it doesn't feel like we have had one this year the weather has been terrible. We had a really good spring and folk were saying what a good summer we were going to have but they could not have been any further away from the truth. Still we have work to do and we just have to get on with it, rain or shine. Back in May we used a helicopter to lift some materials into High Force for some major footpath repairs, this is the only way to get the materials in due to the lay of the land. It’s a pretty expensive operation, £1100 per hour just for the helicopter but the work needs to be done. The helicopter was in the area being used by the National Trust to fly stone for other upland footpath projects.
Firstly we have to get the bags filled a few days before; here the fell rangers are filling 25 bags with stone to build some steps, the materials were brought in by wagon to this car park which was ideal to have the lift from. They have to pick out the best stone by hand and put it in the bags which was hard work.
As well as the 25 bags of stone we filled 75 bags with gravel to resurface the paths, luckily we could do this with a mini digger which speeds the job up a bit. Neil, our Ranger from Langdale has the ticket to use one so he came and helped us.
Luckily the day of the lift was perfect, clear blue sky and not a breath of wind. All the Central and East lakes Rangers came to help marshal the footpaths and the road around the site, as you can imagine health and safety was a major concern with lots of walkers about and a helicopter carrying nearly a ton of stone above.
As planned every thing went perfectly, it took about 5 hours to get all the bags flown in on site ready for us to get on and maintain the footpaths.
During July we had our working holiday, 11 volunteers signed up to come and help us with our conservation work for a week. They stay at High Wray base camp and travel by mini bus to Ullswater.
This year as previous years we got stuck into Himalayan Balsam pulling, this is an invasive plant that was introduced into Britain in 1839, it escaped from gardens and quickly colonised river banks and wet areas. It is an annual plant and can grow up to 3m tall and each flower can produce hundreds of seeds and when the seed pods mature they explode scattering the seed for up to 7m away.
Pulling the plant out and breaking it up is a good way of controlling it, it will only grow from seed so if we can stop it seeding we should be able to eradicate it.
The volunteers also helped us carry out some footpath resurfacing at High Force; we used some of the gravel that the helicopter flew in earlier in the year.
Firstly we had to put an edge in along the side of the path; it had been eroded away over the years from all feet that had walked along it. Then we could lay the gravel on the path.
Here the volunteers are loading the tracked barrows ready to take the gravel to the path; these mechanical barrows are a life saver, it would be impossible to push a normal barrow.
This is a finished section of path ready for the thousands of visitors we get here.
Other work we did this summer was replacing a wooden gate entrance into Aira Force with an iron one. Over the years we have been replacing wooden gates and handrails with iron which will enhance the feel of this Victorian landscape also they will last for a long time with less maintenance. Richard Airey our local black smith has done all our iron work in Aira Force including the iron seats in the glade area.
Here is the wooden gateway before we changed it.
We thought while we were changing it we would widen the gateway a bit to help get machinery in so we took the wall down and moved the stone stoop back. It wasn't as easy as we thought it went a long way into the ground!
Once the stoop was moved and the wall put back we hung the new iron gate and put in a new slamming post, this is the post the gate closes too. We have made this removable by cementing a sleeve in the ground that the post will slide in and out of so if we need to get any wider machinery in we can lift it out.
The finished job, I think it looks a lot better. While Richard was here we altered some railings and replaced a wooden rail with iron.
The wooden hand rail before
This is the man himself, he does all the welding on site. He does a good job and likes things to be perfect just like us.
The iron hand rail after.
We've had a busy summer so far, lets hope we get a good dry Autumn.