Team news for January 2013

  • Wintry work!

    20:40 30 January 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    The main job this last week was the repair of a heck.  A heck* is like a swinging vertical gate across a river or stream that is designed to open when the stream is in full spate but otherwise is closed and acts as a stock barrier.  We needed to replace the top beam of a heck and this meant shifting the wood across the river. The wood we used was larch that I had felled in Trust woodland.  The bark was then stripped off as this means it will last longer.  We moved it over the river using a tensioned high-line (guiding line) and pulley system.  There were five hefty sections of wood the largest being 5.3 metres in length but, once we had the tension and angles right, it made the job a lot easier.

    Just to give you a sense of the weather conditions – we found that the water was freezing on the ropes which meant that knot-tying was a bit tricky at times.  I placed my watch on the Landrover roof at lunch-time and it read - 4C!  But, my regular volunteers don’t give up easily and they did another splendid job.

    Later in the week, I spent some time out with Joe (Ranger colleague) and we cleared some fallen trees with chainsaws.  This is part of our routine maintenance.  We respond immediately to any reports of potentially dangerous tree damage or blocked footpaths.  The cut timber is stacked to one side to act as eco-heaps.  These are habitats for insects, small mammals, fungi and also to encourage birds.  It all contributes to increasing and improving the bio-mass of the woods.

    As we seem to have had the snow across most of the country, I hope many of you have been finding interesting animal tracks.  Even in urban gardens, a fresh fall of snow is ideal for revealing what visitors you might have in the quiet of the night.  And, no matter where you live, it is always a good idea to put out bird food and some water each day.  If you are still and quiet, hungry birds will approach quite closely to feed and you will be helping them to survive.

    Otter tracks

    Red Squirrel tracks

    * Heck is a term used in a number of place names.  It has several possible uses relating to grids or racks.   It emerged from the language of the region south of the Forth/Clyde line to the northern modern English counties between the 7th and 12thcenturies.
  • A Spectacular Start to the Year

    12:23 25 January 2013
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, Paul Farrington, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    Since the Christmas break I have been out and about doing various things and along the way I've seen some sights that I think are worth sharing.

    I have been looking a footpath and peat bog restoration project up at Blea Moss in Little Langdale, this is a collaboration between the National Trust, Lake District National Park, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and of course our tenant farmer John Birkett. The aim of the project is to reduce the erosion that is occurring on the footpath in that area and to help to stabilise the peat areas on Blea Moss. Blea Moss is a nationally important site for a number of  plant species, including March Club Moss, Oblong leaved Sundew and Bog Orchid. Whilst I was there I saw this amazing atmospheric view through the mist.

    Juniper in the mist
    We have taken delivery of a second Tramper Mobility scooter which will be available to use free of charge up at Tarn Hows, just call to book a slot 015394 41172. The Tramper was bought second hand at a very reasonable price from a user who could no longer make use of it, this was made possible with a £2,500 donation from the Daneway Trust.

    The silver dream machine out in all weathers
     Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.... Well it looks rather lovely, but we've had a few cases of "Rangers to the Rescue" as a few people have tried to venture up the icy road to Tarn Hows in their cars and then we've had to go and grit the road to get them out. A Rangers' day is never dull and almost always different. Here's some lovely snowy views from our base, not bad eh!

    From the brew room window
    Boon Crag Yard

  • Orchard guardians and apprentice path builders.

    20:05 21 January 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    I’ve just had one of those brilliant weeks that convince me that I have one of the best jobs in the world.  The weather has been very diverse and one day, as I continued my checks of the old mine sites, I found myself above low-lying cloud.  The pictures give you a sense of what that looks like but there’s nothing quite like actually being there.

    Regular readers of the blog will know about our long-term project to upgrade the path around Derwentwater to access-for-all standard.  We have now embarked on the next phase of that and I recently made a field visit with a group of National Park apprentices and their supervisor plus The National Park’s Rights of Way Officer.  One of the discussion topics was what we have learned from our experience a couple of years ago of installing a recycled plastic boardwalk   Plastic performs quite differently from wood with temperature change and requires different expansion joints.

    The apprentices are going to adopt a stretch of the path on the western shore as one of their projects.  The Park Authority will finance it and the apprentices will carry out the job.  So they are now working on drawing up plans and specifications and, once they have been cleared with me, they will get to work.  This is a collaboration where we all benefit.

    I’ve also been to Watendlath on a visit with children from Borrowdale School.  Beside one of the Watendlath farms there is a long-disused community orchard that we hope to restore - it is the walled space in the centre of the picture above.  They have adopted the orchard as part of the Trust’s Guardianship Scheme.  On the day of their visit there had been an overnight snowfall.  Watendlath is a hanging valley approached up a steep hill so I checked the road condition early in the morning.  It was obvious that the snow and ice patches might be difficult for a minibus so we ferried the children there in our four-wheeled drive vehicles and the teacher’s Landrover.  Two trips successfully took us all to where we wanted to be and greatly enhanced their enjoyment. 

    They did a huge amount of work and have now surveyed the orchard and devised a plan for the work they will be doing to care for it. (One of the Trust’s experts in heritage fruit varieties will be visiting to identify existing plantings and advise on their care.) The children also met Helen who has lived all her life in Watendlath and she was telling them tales of when her parents first married and moved into the valley.  For the children, this is history being told by someone who was there.  Showing them that they can have fun as they care for their surroundings is exactly what we want to do and they certainly enjoyed that day.

  • Monday 21 January

    14:07 21 January 2013
    By Jo Day

    Work on site has been pretty impossible at the moment.  The reserve is under more water than has ever been seen in Neil's (Ranger supervisor) time here at Sandscale.  The only way to get about is on foot and with wellies on and it's tough going, having to break the ice.
    We have however put in a new stile and dog gate at the southern end of the reserve. We were having to fix the fence on a regular basis where people were cutting it to get through.  New signs have been erected at that end too welcoming people and giving some information about illegal use of our track there.  We experienced a slight incident last week where we had three motorcyclist using the track to access the dunes for some off road practise.  Fortunately we caught up with them and were able to advise them that  the area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature reserve and the law behind those designations. They left the area even phoning the police afterwards to apologise...a good result.

    We spent an afternoon with our student volunteer Vicky, just before Christmas surveying the erosion on the frontal dune ridge where it is exposed to the wind and the sea. 
    It was during this surveying that we caught sight of a single Snow bunting.  These are large-ish buntings which breed in around the Arctic areas like Scandinavia and Greenland, although they make their way to our coastal areas during winter months.  It was great to see and a brilliant record for the reserve.
    Also that day we saw a couple of Stonechat which are becoming far and few between for our records. 
    During our volunteer work party on the 19th December we were lucky enough to experience 19 Whooper swans flying low right over us, a beautiful sight and a reward for all the hard work the Volunteers were putting in.  The Short-eared owl is always a welcome visitor and we see the signs of them more than we see them but the 21st Dec was one such sighting....great stuff!

    We love hearing from you and what you have seen on the reserve.  If you have any records or photos please email them to me at or leave a comment below.
  • The BBC join us at Aira Force

    09:54 21 January 2013
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    At the start of the month we received the exciting news that the BBC was wanting to film some of our work at Aira Force. It transpired that their researchers had recently come across our blog and thought they'd like to film us for a new five part programme called "British Winter Up-Close".

    So a work party was arranged for the Fix the Fells volunteers to come and help us finish off the landscaping, and we also started work on a section of gravelled path.

    The BBC filming some of the volunteeers in action

    On the day of filming John Pring the Lead Ranger stepped in for the interview with Ellie Harrison (who also presents on BBC's Countryfile) and explained all about Aira Force and the things we get up to in the wintertime.

    The series travels around the country including pieces from RSPB Leighton Moss, The Cairngorms, The Shetland Islands and more features from The Lakes.

    "British Winter Up-Close" will be aired the week beginning 18th February on BBC2
  • Winter Wall Gaps

    10:00 18 January 2013
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    The Upland Footpath Team are mostly working in the lower parts of the countryside of the South Lakes at this time of year. The weather and the shorter daylight hours mean that it is not possible (or safe) to spend all of our time working on upland footpaths in the fells.

    Repairing gaps in dry stone walls usually forms a large part of our winter work. We have lots of woodlands with dry stone walls as boundaries and gaps appear for various reasons, such as trees or branches falling on them. It is important to maintain these walls to keep the sheep and cattle in adjacent fields out as they can be damaging to the woodland.
    One of the wall gaps, re-building has commenced....

    Nearly finished... Sarah & Luke finishing off the wall

    It is not all wall gaps and there is plenty of variety to our winter work, the team go wherever their help is requested.  Examples include hedgelaying with a volunteer group, installing field gates, emptying cattle grids and drainage work on lower level paths.
    Hedgelaying with volunteers near Coniston this week
    The upland paths still get attention in the winter and we try to do some maintenance at least once a week.  This usually means walking a path route and emptying the drains, clearing the 'pitched' stone path surfaces and generally checking the condition of the path. This is known as a "drain run".
    We timed a drain run up Dollywaggon Pike perfectly last week as we escaped misty weather in the lower valleys and enjoyed some of the nicest weather so far in 2013.

    "Views" at Tarn Hows, near Coniston

    Slightly better views near the summit of Dollywaggon Pike

    The weather recently has been quite variable and at the start of this week it snowed.
    The surrounding countryside was very picturesque but it does make our work more difficult.

    Tarn Hows in the snow this week

    Post by Nick, Upland Footpath Ranger

  • January Snow

    21:11 17 January 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    This week saw the first snow of year fall. As much as 7cm of the white stuff fell on parts of Cumbria. With the conditions just right i was able to capture some beautiful snow scenes of our fells.
    Wetherlam and Coniston fells

    Great Langdale
    Elterwater under the cloud
    High Close YHA with Loughrigg in the background
    High Close garden view point
    View point bench
    Beautiful Douglas fir ( Pseudotsuga menziesii) in winter
    Even though the snow makes it difficult to get around it does make the countryside a winter Paradise and fells look grand and tall. With more snow scheduled for the weekend we should capture some more interesting images of the lakes in winter.
  • Bonfires and some vanity

    12:04 16 January 2013
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Volunteers and Rangers after a long hard but fun day
    It may seem odd to start with a picture of the end of a job but without the freely given help of our regular Thursday volunteers the end would be a bit away yet. On the Buttermere side of the property we have Jim  ( and Theo) Phil and David, who when he promises to behave is often joined by his much much better half Christine, Borrowdale rangers Andy and Jack are supported by Rod and Robert.
    One day a week may not sound a lot to some people but when we get this team together on a busy project a truly astonishing amount of work, and fun results.On this occasion rangers Dan and Paul were in the last throes of a large hedge laying project at Dunthwaite on what turned out to be a very wet and boggy site.
    Hedgelaying is a country craft which has been practised for hundreds of years, Caesar described the process of hedgelaying in detail in 57BC in his Gallic War when he encountered laid hedges in the territory of the Nervii in Flanders, but it is just as relevant today as it always has been. As a hedge grows it becomes more tree like and gaps appear,laying the hedge restores this living boundary and provides an effective wildlife corridor allowing small animals and birds a route from field to field unseen by predators.
    A newly laid hedge and the new growth of the following spring
    The downside is that it produces a lot of 'brash' unwanted trees and branches which are removed as part of the process, our preferred method of dealing with this would be to use a mechanical chipper but the wet and boggy conditions prevented this so we reverted to the traditional method, a damn good fire.... or in this case two!
    Now, you can almost guarantee that if you gather a group of men of a certain age in a field they will all know the 'correct' way to light a fire, some favour diesel and tyres, some like firelighters and some just stick to paper and dry kindling, everyone is correct of course with the proviso that my method is always best, this time we used bags of old jackdaw nests, removed from a barn some months ago and kept for this very purpose.. Forward planning in the NT??? What ever next!
    We have mentioned the wet and boggy conditions, what we failed to mention was the steepness of the site, as the morning progressed it became evident that the fire at the bottom of the hill was much more popular but after what seemed a rather extended lunch break everyone gathered at the much larger and beautifully constructed fire at the top.
    I was doubtful that we would clear the field that day but this is were our merry band excels, driven by an unwillingness to admit defeat and I suppose the enjoyment of showing us 'young'uns' how it's done, they pulled ,dragged pushed and stumbled until they had gathered every piece of brash from the site, a slow trudge down the field dragging bags of firewood and they were off for a well earned pint, no doubt looking forward to the next Thursday's task........................more hedgelaying and burning!!!!!!!!

  • Regular maintenance.

    15:38 12 January 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    A Winter evening.

    Third from the left will make her debut soon.

    A highlight of my week was the visit last weekend to choose our new dog.  She comes from a lovely litter of puppies and a good-looking mother.  Now we have to be patient for a month until she is old enough to leave her mother.  In the meantime we can try to settle on her name.  Whenever we think we have one, another idea pops up.  With Reiver we were actually in the car bringing her home before we made a decision and it’s beginning to look as though that might happen again!
    A fine-looking mother (right).

    Back at work I had to turn my attention to an old mine site where one of the shafts had opened up a bit more.  Although it is fenced and capped because so many people use the area, in this case the cap needed attention.

    These old mines often closed when they went bankrupt and detailed surveys were not carried out to map all the workings.  In many cases the records are incomplete and we really don’t know where all the shafts are located.  On my quarterly checks, I look to see that all fencing is in good repair but also for any signs that there might be an unknown shaft in danger of opening up. Once we know of a shaft, we fence around it and in some cases we also cap it so that, even if people go inside the fenced area, they won’t fall down it.   We do know the mining areas and have some plans for them but we also know they are incomplete.  

    The square-cut shaft shown in the picture above was unknown to us until about 12 years ago.  So that's one of the reasons I monitor the areas at 3 monthly intervals and a network of local walkers will also notify me if they see anything out of the ordinary.

    The Bowder Stone

    White patches are chalk marks from the hands of climbers.
    I’ve also been doing some work at the Bowder Stone abseil point – a location near the Bowder Stone that is used frequently by groups like the Calvert Trust.  It provides opportunities for people with disabilities (including wheel-chair users) to abseil down a sheer or slightly overhanging cliff face.  At this time of year it is quiet so it is the ideal time to do some maintenance work including renewing the signs at the top and bottom. 

     If we have any frosts, I’ll return to do some de-scaling work on it.  That involves my abseiling down, checking the rock face for loose flakes and knocking them off so that the site is as safe as we can make it.

    The Bowder Stone is part of Grange Fell which was purchased by public subscription for the National Trust.  The fund was set up by Princess Louise who was then President of the National Trust (1910) in memory of her deceased brother King Edward VII.  It is one of the best-known landmarks in the Lake District.

    12:20 11 January 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The old gate, high up on the footpath to Threshthwaite Crag, a long way up from Troutbeck Park, had degenerated into a ramshacke old stile. It needed replacing! The gate gives access through a wall that once formed part of a deer park enclosure.
    An image of the old gate. Very difficult for walkers to negotiate especially with dogs!

    A new 2' 6" gate was brought up by landrover along the Roman road that leads onto High get as close as possible to the site.
    A suitable flat stone was found on site, and chiselled out for the bottom gate bracket to pivot on.
    The hole in the old stone top was far to big for the top gate hanger.
    The answer was to use an off cut from an old fence post to fit the gap; the centre was then
    drilled out to allow for a good fit for the top gate bracket.
    A close up of the "made for the job" offcut with the drilled out centre.
    The bottom bracket ready to be fitted to the gate.
    The gate needed to be a "self closer". We had an old length of chain and a drilled out stone that we thought would come in handy. We were right! A suitable "anchor stone" was located nearby and levered into position.

  • Hedge Line News At Birdhouse Meadow

    11:00 11 January 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Birdhouse meadow is a species rich water meadow, well known locally for its wild flowers. It is located at the North end of Windermere. The old hedge, very much a feature of Birdhouse Meadow, is in the process of being laid. The lake periodically floods this area which has sometimes made work on the hedge, for the Trust Rangers….difficult!

    from their obvious use as stock proof boundary markers, laid hedges provide an excellent habitat for birds, small mammals, and a wide variety of insects.

    Animals also use hedges as corridors to cross fields or commute between woodlands, in comparative safety!
    The old hedge before work started.......

    .......and after!
    A newly laid stretch of the hedge being woven in.
    Hedge laying, especially an old hedge, creates a lot of brash!
    Burning up the brash on site.
    Any fire wood is taken away to be seasoned, ready for use in the NT footprint buildings wood burner.
    An example of a pleach.
    This is an angled cut that makes the stem flexible enough to be laid. In this instance a chainsaw was used; much quicker than using an axe or a billhook on a stem this big.
    A view of work in progress.
    Ash tree standards.
    Ash tree standards are often to be found in local hedges; sadly they face an uncertain future owing to the potential spread of Ash die back disease.
    Another section of hedge due to be laid in 2013.

  • A Year at High Wray Basecamp

    10:56 11 January 2013
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    At Basecamp we are full to bursting with enthusiastic groups keen to get their hands dirty for our beautiful Lake District countryside. This was my first year in the Lake District meeting and working with so many people on some fantastic conservation projects. Here are some of my highlights of the year…

    Volunteers from West Runton Scripture Union: Hard work but a beautiful view!

    1) The Wray Bay path – Partly funded through Windermere Reflections, we have been out in force building a solid footpath along the shores of Windermere in the Wray Castle grounds. We’ve had lots of volunteer help with this project with some days being wetter than others! We exceeded our target length for the year, creating a footpath that’s suitable for electric wheelchairs, bikes and pushchairs, increasing access to the wilder Western shore.

     Fix the Fells Camping Working Holiday: What a place to set up home for 3 days…

    2) Fix the Fells Camping Working Holidays – I really enjoyed the Fix the Fells camping working holidays up on Martcrag Moor in the Langdale Valley in June and August. This involved a long walk in with everyone carrying their own kit to spend 3 nights up on the fell. The group worked hard in all weathers to improve the route through eroded peat bog. I don’t know how we would have managed without all the cake…

     Working Holiday volunteers: The end of the holiday saw a nearly finished frame!

    3) Green woodworking working holiday - Perhaps my favourite highlight was our first green woodworking holiday to build a new woodshed for Basecamp. Our old one was very old and rickety so what better idea than to spend a week constructing a new one in traditional methods!? The oak for the main frame came from the National Trust woodlands felled by our very own foresters. The good news is the shed now has a roof, cladding and some wood drying inside.

     Littledale Hall Therapeutic Community: The reward for a hard days rhododendron bashing

    4) Rhododendron Bashing - Everyone loves a bit of destruction and a roaring fire. We’ve been attacking the rhodi problem on the property as part of a large grant scheme. We couldn’t do this without the help of all our volunteers! We aim to make 2013 an even more destructive year for those rhodis!

    So what for 2013?

    My highlights of the year wouldn’t be so memorable without the good humour and hard work of our amazing volunteers and other rangers. We look forward to working with all the great characters that come with our groups (as well as meeting new ones!) to help conserve and protect the Lake District.

    Let’s hope the weather is kinder to us in 2013…

    Clair Payne
    Ranger (Volunteers)

  • New challenges for the New Year

    15:07 10 January 2013
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    January is a time when we tend to think about how we're spending our time, and how we'd like to be spending it better.

    If your new year's resolution was to spend a bit more time outdoors in this beautiful area, and maybe to help make a difference to a charity and to give something back, we might have an opportunity for you.

    We're really excited about a new project that's just starting up. Over the next twelve months we'll be taking a pop-up visitor information tent to popular locations in the Borrowdale and Buttermere valleys and use it to talk to visitors.  We want to find out more about what they're doing on their day out and to gather feedback about how we could make their visitor experience better.
    Meet people from all walks of life as a volunteer
    So if you like finding out what makes people tick, you want to spend some time outside two of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District, and you want to be part of a one-year project that will help shape the future direction of how we engage with visitors to the two valleys, why not contact us for an informal chat over a cuppa to find out more?

    You can read more information here on the volunteering pages of the National Trust website, email contact us via Twitter @NTNorthLakes or telephone on 017687 74649 to speak to a real live human being!

    2013 could be the year to be the change you want to see in the world...
  • A tale of dogs.

    06:40 08 January 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    Dock Tarn

    So, here we all are at the beginning of a new year.  There are things planned to be done; no doubt there will be unexpected happenings and there are already things to anticipate with pleasure – more on that later in this post.  Over Christmas and New Year there were just a couple of phone calls related to work but fortunately they were small incidents that could be dealt with quickly.  Our weather tended towards grey and damp most of the time but it didn’t stop us going out with friends and dogs for walks.  The photographs are from a walk in the Watendlath and Dock Tarn area.

     Jan and I also did some dog-sitting with three dogs belonging to friends. 

    We enjoyed having them so much that Jan began her not-so-subtle campaign for us to have a new one of our own.  To be honest, it really didn’t take much to convince me.  The upshot of that is that, by the time you read this, we will have just returned from a trip just south of Edinburgh to see a litter of four-week old black Labrador puppies.   They are too young to leave their mother at present but, all being well, we should have our new resident dog in just a few weeks.  So this is what we anticipate with pleasure!
  • Magic wands , veteran trees and nasal hair trimmers

    11:27 04 January 2013
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    Here we all are at the start of another new year, January  can be a time for quiet reflection with the passing of the old year and start of the new.  I’ve noticed recently that the  Christmas presents I receive seem to have changed  , gone are the ice axes and electric guitars to be replaced by scarves and this year my first pair of slippers.  I never thought I would see the day when a Remington nasal hair trimmer would be quite a useful present , hours of endless fun ( they do ears as well you know !)

     At the age of 49 though I am a  youngster , a mere babe,  compared to the venerable elders that are to be found in the British countryside , I ‘m talking about  the characterful old veteran trees that are scattered through our woodlands and fields many of them 300 – 400 years old,  some ,  much older.  We are fortunate in the South lakes area to have a good number of these  trees  on National Trust land.   To previous generations these trees were an important part of their economy or were objects of special spiritual or social interest.

    champion alder at Boon Crag Coniston

    Just like people, the older trees  get  the more interesting they become…. and just like people as they get older , things start growing in un-usual places ,  bits stop working and start dropping off !  This can result in  veteran trees being  host to a wide range of birds, insects , fungi and other plant life, and makes them worthy of extra attention and protection. In the last couple of years we have surveyed all our veteran trees around Coniston and Hawkshead , noted their condition and made recommendations for future management.

    pollarded ash at High Arnside Yewdale

    Some of the oldest and most interesting are ash pollards . A pollarded tree is a tree that has had the top cut off  8’ -10’ above ground level ( so that the sheep and cattle can’t  eat  the new growth ) new branches grow  and then they will be removed every 20 years or so. A tree managed in this way can live for hundreds of years , and  develops an unusual  distinctive shape different to a tree that has been allowed to grow naturally .

    These old pollards are often covered in mosses , ferns and lichens,  their hollow trunks provide habitat for insects, and also provide nesting and roosting sites for many bats and birds. Sometimes other species of tree start growing in the bowls between the branches that fill with soil and water, so it is not un-usual  to find a rowan or a birch tree growing out of an ash pollard. The wood from these ' trees on trees ', grown in the ‘ middle earth ‘ were supposed to have magical qualities and made particularly fine wands for witches and wizards apparently. For centuries the wood of ash trees was also used on a more practical level for tool handles, fences and for fuel and the foliage was fed to the sheep in winter.

    The Trust is working not only to re-pollard many of these trees before their trunks split and rot , but is also creating new pollards, by cutting the tops off young ash trees. The recent spread of the ash dieback disease ( Chalara fraxinea ) to Britain and its’ affect on veteran ash pollards is of particular concern and we will be monitoring this closely in the coming years.

  • New Year's Day: Walking off the winter blues

    21:15 01 January 2013
    By Tom Burditt

    View of Morecambe Bay from NT The Lots, Silverdale

    Over the Christmas period, even Rangers need to batten down the hatches and spend some time indoors, especially given this awful weather – the howling winds, driving rains and leaden skies.

    But it’s not long before the yearning to be out takes over again...the need for fresh air, to open up lungs and get the skin tingling, the widen open spaces to lift the soul. Being inside and inactive for too long just makes me feel gloomy. But where to go? With young kids the Fells and Dales are too wild in this wet; and most of the paths round here that go over fields have turned into mud that is not much fun once the novelty has worn off.

    So over Christmas, I’ve become just one of the many visitors to the National Trust’s land in Arnside and Silverdale.  It’s not just that they’re close to home, or familiar: the rugged limestones around here are so close to the surface that they do make the walking better than in most places after all this rain. You can also get those wide and expansive views at much lower altitudes than elsewhere in either of our nearby National Parks: Arnside Knott, the Eaves Wood Pepperpot, Holme Park Fell or even Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. Better for when there’s rain around that can sneak up at any time, and when the continuous wind on higher up fells makes your ears ache and everything a real struggle.

    Perhaps the best thing about exploring Morecambe Bay though is that those views out westwards, out over the glistening mud as wave upon wave of squally showers sting your face between bursts of brown sunlight (shine a torch through a glass full of milky coffee and you get a similar effect)...those hopeful, inspiring views out over all that space are the perfect thing to take you out of yourself, to lift  the winter melancholy, lethargy, and sloth. And you don’t even need to trudge through miles of muddy paths, or have to cling to the side of a mountain to get to them.

    The easiest places to get to the views are at Silverdale:
    The Coveand Lots

    and Jack Scout

    Or at Silverdale Shore (not National Trust; signposted from Silverdale village) you don’t even need to leave sight of your car!

    So come on out: the fire, warmth and food of home are so much better when you get back to them after a bit of soaking and a chill.
    Caught out in a sudden rain shower on The Lots
    Happy New Year!