Team news for September 2013

  • Fun Guys at Sandscale

    16:14 30 September 2013
    By Jo Day

    Following on from August blog the remaining events were very successful including our Sand sculpture competition which involved four categories:
    Tallest castle, 

    Anything goes, 
    Sea Creatures (Was destroyed before a photo)

    Castle I would most like to live in.

    Now the weather has turned and it is now autumn the scrub bashing shall begin with help from our wonderful volunteers. Wildlife particularly birds tend to live on the leading edges of densely scrubbed areas. By breaking up scrub we’re forming a mosaic of habitats and allowing for a more diverse ground flora. 

    Three of our volunteers working hard

    But lunch is always the best part of the day with a great deserving cup of tea.

    It’s the time of year again for fungi; this year has been a really good year for it. The wet spring and the dry summer have really brought out the fruiting bodies.
    There have been some real beauts turned up at Sandscale including:

    The Blackening Wax cap 

    The Splendid Wax cap
    Keep an eye out on the estuary as our winter waders are starting to come in:

    The Redshank (Identifiable because of its orange legs and beak) 

    The Ringed Plover (Identifiable because of its white bib and black collar)
    August saw a new member to our team introducing Vicky Cooney our new long term volunteer ranger we hope she has many happy months with us.
    Just an average day.
    Hi I have been volunteering at Sandscale for four years during college and university where I studied Environmental Management, when I finished Jo and Neil took me on as there full time volunteer. I am very grateful for this opportunity and couldn’t be happier to work with such a great pair. Every day brings new challenges and there is never a dull moment whether it be building a fence or working with children at our events. Time definitely fly’s when you’re having fun and I look forward to the new adventures ahead!

  • Pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu and the Intern Wood Store

    09:00 27 September 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

    Summer has gradually been fading away over the last few weeks; and in the Intern house we’ve started to feel autumn creeping up on us. With a wood burner sat waiting to be used in the living room, we took a day off from working at Boon Crag to build ourselves a wood shed. With little to no experience in construction we set off on a wood building adventure…
    Firstly we needed a plan of where it would go, and what it should look like. This took a little while to sort out, but we got there in the end. We wanted it to be near the house so we wouldn’t have to venture too far out in winter, and be sheltered from the rain. We settled on a pallet base to raise the floor and keep the wood away from any ground water, with pallet sides reinforced by square posts.

    We attached cladding to the sides to protect the wood, and eventually had a frame that just needed a roof. Luckily we were able to lay our hands on some roof felt that was exactly the right size. We cut slopes onto the tops of the posts to create an angle for water to run off, and attached rails across the top for extra support.

    We laid out the felt onto the top and tacked on, before moving back against the wall.

    The next step is to fill with wood and settle on the sofa watching the fire!

  • Secrets of the Ranger - The Tree-Tube Cutter

    16:53 26 September 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Every year thousands of young trees are planted all across the country in lightweight plastic tubes which vary in height depending on the species being planted and what they need protecting from.  After a few years these need removing but this can damage the tree, unless you have the secret weapon!

    Why Use Them in the First Place?

    There is a wide variety of tubes available, shorter tubes measuring 18" high to protect shrubs from rabbits or mice which may nibble at the soft flesh, or tubes up to 6ft high to give the trees a fighting chance of growing tall without having their tops eaten off.

    The tubes serve another purpose which is to provide a micro-habitat as the air temperature will be slightly  warmer and more humid than outside of the tube and especially by protecting the very thin cambium of sapling trees from icy cold winds which makes them ideal for use when planting in exposed locations.

    Hundreds of native oak planted here on an exposed site have enjoyed the protection offered by simple plastic tubes

    The Drawback from Using Tubes

    The tubes are designed to split open and fall off the tree when it gets larger, some tubes come already perforated to allow this.  However in practice the tubes don't often fall off on their own and in fact can cause serious damage to a tree which has grown healthily for a few years.  So many people go to the effort of planting trees yet I often see them looking quite sorry for themselves and at worst strangled by the tubes that saved them as tiny whips.

    As the tree grows it fills the gap inside the tube and this becomes a trap for debris such as dead leaves.  When the tree has nearly filled the tube this rotting debris will hold water like a sponge up against the outer surface of the tree and can cause it to rot.  When tubes are taken off at this point the tree is often covered in thick green algae! 

    This guard has been on too long, moss and even an ants nest were found within!

    The other problem is that trees are usually wider at the base than the top, so at a quick glance the tree can appear to have plenty of room for growth at the top however the base may have grown to completely fill the plastic tube which is now collecting rainwater as well as the usual plant debris.

    The challenge when the trees get to this stage is to remove the plastic tube without causing damage to the soft outer bark of the saplings, but if the tubes are completely filled by the tree then how can we do this?  A regular knife will cut through the plastic and into the bark leaving a wound that will put the tree in danger of fungal infection.

    The Secret Solution!

    A simple hand tool used for opening cardboard boxes.  Many different types are available, the one I use has a metal blade that can be rotated and replaced as it gets worn or damaged.  The method is to simply start as the top and carefully slide the beak of the tool between the tree and the guard and the blade cuts the tube.  Sometimes it's difficult to get to the very bottom of the tube so I try and lift the plastic tube up the tree until I have enough room to continue cutting to the very bottom.  Once the tube has been cut all the way down it's a simple case of detaching it from the supporting post and removing it from the woodland.

    A plastic tool intended for opening boxes has another great use

    Simple but effective.  Also safe for the tree and the operator!

    Sometimes there is a need to cut the tube open but leave it on the tree.  When shedding antlers, deer will sometimes rub them on the young trees causing terrible damage.  The other advantage is that the tree has more room to sway in winds giving it the need to put on better and stronger supporting roots, so when the guard is finally taken off the tree is less likely to flop to the floor!  From experience, using wider tubes meant for shrubs but placing one on top of another works best for individual open grown trees as they have plenty of room, perhaps a little more light and yet are still well protected.

    When planting hundreds of trees there are usually a few that don't survive and leave empty tubes standing.  These can be re-used, if not in situ then they can be taken away and used again when the next planting season comes round.

    Look for tubes with a fluted top, this stops the tree from ring-barking itself on a sharp edge.

    So if you've planted trees in tubes please don't forget to check on them regularly, as this may save them.

    Ben Knipe
    Woodland Ranger

  • Tour of Britain cycling event

    16:18 25 September 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    Much of our time last week was spent with our preparations for the Tour of Britain cycle event.  This came over Honister, one of our high mountain passes, through Borrowdale valley into Keswick and then continued south through the Lake District National Park

    We had borrowed a giant National Trust logo that came as a massive jigsaw so we had a trial run at assembling it in the car park beside our offices.  Then with the help of my volunteers, it was installed high on the fell-side near the top of Honister.  The weather forecast was not good so I was quite concerned about the amount of wind it would need to survive overnight.  We roped it down and I went back with some planks to weight it down.  On the day I removed those just before the tour came through.  

    Sadly, the helicopter that was filming the event had camera problems so it didn’t appear on national TV coverage.  However, it was seen by the thousands who braved the cold, wet, windy weather to support that section of the event so it was well worth doing.

    I was in position beside the Rescue Team on the descent from the summit where we saw some who were even cycling up there in fancy dress!  For those who arrived by car, we opened up some of the fields in Trust farms and had Trust staff out managing the parking so that everyone could be in a good position to see the cyclists go through.

    Despite the weather, there were thousands of enthusiasts who were determined to enjoy the opportunity.  We were all a bit wet (or even a lot wet!) but it was a great atmosphere.

    Hi, it’s Daisy here.

    I’ve got a new friend Mia.  She’s great.  She’s a Golden Retriever.  She’s younger than me and is just a puppy. 

    I’m going to be on TV.

  • Queen Adelaide Hill's Benches.

    08:24 22 September 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Adjacent to the A592, Queen Adelaide Hill is an easily accessible vantage  point  with wonderful views of Windermere. It is just a few minutes walk to the summit.

    However the two old memorial oak benches overlooking the lake were ready for replacement.

    The legs of these benches had started to rot.

    The seating areas were also retaining rain water. It took a lot of warm sunshine to dry them out; so both the benches were wet for much of the time, and not really suitable for sitting on any longer!

    Thanks are owed to the National Trust joiners. On request, they constructed two excellent new benches from Douglas Fir wood as replacements for the old benches.

    The superb new benches on their way to Queen Adelaide Hill

    It can be seen how cracked and open the wood on the surface of the old bench  has become, allowing water to settle in the grooves rather than being shed from the seating area.

    The old benches were prised out of the ground using a bar and brute force. This image shows how rotten the legs had become, especially in the region of the top soil
    Out with the old bench.....
    The fencing mell or hammer came in useful.
    .....and in with the new.                                                         
    What a setting!
    Curious spectators.
    Enjoy the view, whilst retaining a dry posterior!  
    The view to the North, taking in the Langdale Pikes.
    The view towards the Southern end of the lake
    The views directly below the first bench.

    The M.V Swan"hugging" the west shore of Windermere, over a mile away.
    (Full telephoto)

    The first visitors to sit down on the new benches and take in the views.

    Even on a grey September afternoon, the views are still special.


  • Making a splash!

    17:06 21 September 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

    It's that time of year again when the Upland team host one of their working holidays, and as per last year the forecast for the first day was somewhat damp!  However as with most working holidays the group was keen, so armed with waterproofs, wellies and cake we set off undeterred up to Blea Tarn Moss (we weren't so cruel as to take them up Fairfield.....).

    It was a touch damp, I think they though we were slightly crazy to do this as a job!
    Arriving onto site the driving wind and rain still didn't put the group off (I however tried to hide in the back of a pick up), once a tool talk was given we set them loose, with a ranger offering supervision and advise each pair was given a section of path to call their own, and pretty soon some questions became clear...

    how are you meant to dig out the hole when you can't even see where you're meant to be digging....?

    digging, or at least using the 'spoon' to remove water!
    and well, if you can't even see where you're digging how are you meant to know when the hole is deep enough?!

    trying to work out if it deep enough yet
    These were very real problems, but looking at the positives, rolling stones into these mini swimming pools created some pretty satisfying splashes!

    Rocks + Water = SPLASH
    The group spent their first 3 days on the path down at Blea Tarn Moss and despite the challenging weather they did some really great work, completing the pitching on one section, made a really good start on the other, whilst also completing the particularly wet link between the two. 

    Looking down the finished top section, beautiful work!
    Following a (dry!) day off  the plan was to take the group up onto our main project on Fairfield, only just like Sunday morning the weather was somewhat to be desired.  But still the group just ploughed on, despite horizontal driving rain and occasional gusts of wind that did their best to knock us over!

    Miserable morning on Fairfield

    Slightly drier afternoon!
    Yet more great work was done and they really helped us to push the project towards an on time completion, the weather even gave them a break on their final day as the sun came out and gave them some great views, including out to the coast.  So thank you working holiday of September 2013, you have done a fabulous job and you would all be welcome back, hopefully with better weather! 

    By Upland Ranger Sarah

  • Repairing the path at Mires Beck, Ullswater

    10:20 19 September 2013
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    We've recently been working on realigning a section of path at Mires Beck in Ullswater. The job was relatively short and only took a couple of weeks to complete, but was essential nonetheless.

    You can see in the following photograph the secton of path that was in need of repair. A landslip had caused the edge of the path to fall away into the beck below. If left unattended it is highly likely that more of the path would have fallen out over the next few years.


    To avoid the most unstable area we decided to divert the path higher up the bank and rejoin it again above the landslip. We'd already flown a few bags of rock to site by helicopter earlier on in the year, but additional rock from the old path and the surrounding area was also utilised.

     Before starting work

    The next photograph shows the path shortly after work began. The old section of path has been blocked off with large boulders and the new route curves around to the left.

     Starting work on the new path

    The area where we were building the new path had a lot of water running along and just under the surface. To help remove this water we incorporated several drains into the path. Removing the water at regular intervals should also help prevent another future landslide.

     Drain building

    With much of the pitching stone removed from the old path, and with all of the rubble and soil that we generated from the new path also being used to cover over it, it wasn't too long until the original path line was indiscernible.

     Making progress

    While building the new path we removed all the turf that was dug off and put it to one side. This was later used to cover over the soil that we generated. This will help blend the path back in with it's surroundings and reduce potential erosion.

     The completed path

    The old path line was also blocked off at the top, meaning our new section of path blends in seamlessly with the original.

    Looking down the new path
  • Windermere Working Holiday Group

    15:41 16 September 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    On Sunday 8th of September, a Working Holiday Group, combining estate work with photography, met up with the Windermere Rangers. The 4 days of work  consisted of  walling and footpath work at Common Wood. One day was set aside for photography.
    The perimeter wall for Common Wood was in a bad state of repair.

    A large stretch needed to be taken down and rebuilt.

    This was to prove quite a challenge as a lot of undergrowth had to be cut back on the "wooded" side of the wall before any work could commence.

    The following images give an idea of the work involved.

    A close up of the wall shows how bad its condition is.
    Image courtesy of Dianne Lang, Working Holiday Leader
    With Thanks to Dianne for the use of her excellent images in this post.
    Clearing away the undergrowth and scrub to get at the wall was a big job in itself. Image courtesy of Dianne Lang.
    With the section of wall taken down, now is the time to dig out and reposition the foundation stones. Image courtesy of Dianne Lang.
    The repositioned foundation or footing stones, well dug in and ready for the  "infill', or  small  stones to  pack into the middle.  Filler or hearting are other names used for this. Insufficient filler will cause the wall to collapse in on itself, so it is important to keep the interior of the wall well filled!  
    The "batter frames" with string lines attached determine the shape of the wall. Most drystone walls progressively narrow as they get higher.

    A good perspective. The foundation stones are approx. 32" apart. The stones at the top of the wall approx: 20" apart. Image courtesy of Dianne Lang.
    The top stones or cam stones being placed at an angle
     and butting up to the string line
    The string line indicates the height of the top stones and hence the wall and allows for a neat finish
    Nice looking job!
    What a difference!
    Digging out new drains. Image courtesy of Dianne Lang.
    Nearly 5 tons of "M.O.T" stone was used to resurface sections of the path.
     Image courtesy of Dianne Lang.
    Thank-you for the delicious egg and bacon butties.
    Thanks to the Working Holiday Group for all their hard work and enthusiasm. Great Result!

  • A variety week.

    19:50 13 September 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    It’s been one of those weeks where each day has brought something different.  My volunteers and I managed to spend some time at the amphitheatre beside the Trust shop and did some more work on the footpath alongside the oak rail fencing. The area is looking very good now and it is a superb vantage point for having a picnic, enjoying the views and taking photographs.  

    Another project that is moving forward is at Force Crag mine.  Contractors will begin next week to do a huge amount of work on the scheme for de-watering and pollution control.  So, with Joe and my volunteers I spent some time making sure that the track along to the mine is accessible for the contractors. 

    Then I had to pop down to Sizergh (a Trust property near Kendal) to collect a lawn mower because the one on Derwent Island was broken and I needed to cut the grass there.  I’ve discovered that it isn’t as easy to cut grass in straight lines as I thought!

    We are also in the final stages of our preparations for the Tour of Britain cycle race that comes through Borrowdale on Monday September 16th.  We are expecting huge numbers of people in the valley to observe that.  I’m hoping for good weather and the opportunity to take photographs for the blog.

    Hi, It’s Daisy here.

    I helped Roy look after a 24 Peaks Challenge Group last weekend.  I only worked the second day.  We walked from Grizedale Tarn all the way through the Helvellyn Range to Great Dodd and down.  It was miles.
  • The Great Tree Take away (Tom aged 9)

    09:00 13 September 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

    The advantage (some would argue!) of living in the lakes is that we are never short of visitors.  Earlier this year while out walking with my nephew Tom we visited Skelwith Force only to find one of our oak trees had fallen into the river and got jammed in the waterfall.

    Oak tree in Skelwith Force

    Tom had been asking what a NT woodland ranger does and after a long and probably quite dull explanation I showed him the tree in the waterfal and said that part of my job was to fill in a job sheet for the forestry team telling the what needed doing and what equipment I thought they would need.

    Can I do one? he asked.
    Yes but you need lots of detail, saftey equipment, tools, hazards, environmental protection etc etc. 
    Can it have pictures?
    Will the forestry team do as I ask?
    Yes of course you'e the new woodland ranger.......


    Toms job sheet for the team

    I thought it was quite funny when I handed the sheets to the team untill they pointed out the drawing had me in the canoe!   There seems to be a helicopter involved somewhere too.
    I also like the way he told the team about the cake shop next door which didn't sell bacon cobs!

    Anyway it all worked out fine, the team managed to cut the tree up a bit and pull the bits out of the river (with the tractor winch not bits of rope like it says on the job sheet) and into our wodland where they will be left to rot down.

    Phil and Martin preparing the tree

     Martin cutting part of the tree

    Watching as the tree is wiched downstream

    Richard Tanner
    South Lakes Wodland Ranger

  • A wood-working week.

    07:49 09 September 2013
    By Roy Henderson

    Once again I’ve been working down by the lake alongside the Trust shop.  My volunteers have been working with me on resurfacing another section of footpath and installing more riven oak post & rail fencing.  Hopefully this will make it look inviting and accessible so that more people will use the amphitheatre area.

    I also had to go out and deal with a damaged tree branch that was suspended above one of our most popular footpaths down by the lake.  It had snapped between 4 and 4.15 pm on a Saturday afternoon and I was on the scene by 4.20 pm to tape and cone off the area for safety.  Our tree surgeons came in on Monday to remove the branch and make the tree safe. We check all our trees on popular routes every three months and this one had shown no obvious signs of disease or damage.  After the fall we discovered some signs of fungal infection at the top of the tree and the branch just broke away.  No matter how often we check, trees just carry on growing, ageing and eventually decaying and the ‘wear and tear’ is not always visible.

    On Sunday I came upon a man who was lifting his small daughter over the safety barrier of two sets of tapes and cones so that they could walk under the tree.  I was flabbergasted that he would put at risk what I guess is one of the most precious things he has.  When he saw me arrive, he quickly left the danger area.  Safety barriers are always put in place for a reason even if it is not immediately obvious to passers-by what the risk is.

    Daisy here.

    I’ve been to the vet.  I’ve got swimmers’ tail.  It really hurt but the vet is lovely and she sorted it out for me.  
  • My shameful secret !

    09:58 06 September 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

    I’ve got an embarrassing and shameful secret, something I’ve been keeping from my friends and work colleagues. Something that a Countryside Ranger , of all people should be in control of. I think they suspect   ; there ‘s been strange looks in the corridor and conversations cut short as I walk into the room.
    It’s something I thought I could deal with myself in private without outside help . I thought that was the best way , I thought I was strong enough.... I was wrong.

    First it was just one then it was more than one and before I knew it , it was out of control. I don’t want you to think that I did nothing , I did try ... god knows I tried, I put hours in trying to stop it , last year I thought I’d got on top of it , I got cocky I suppose and that ‘s when it really took hold .

    Well it’s time I faced my demons and came clean , so that you don’t  have to go through what I’ve been through , the skeleton in my cupboard, the shameful secret I’ve been trying to hide is   ......Himalayan balsam   it’s all over the bottom of the garden thousands of massive  plants with pink blousy flowers and then tens of thousands of seeds. There I’ve said it , and I feel much better now  that I’ve got it off my chest.

    It’s a plant that is familiar in the British countryside introduced in 1839  by well meaning and curious Victorians they thought this exotic heavily perfumed pink flowering  plant  originally from the Himalayan mountains would look good in the garden . It did indeed look good in the garden but unfortunately it didn’t stay there ! This aggressively mobile plant has spring loaded seed cases that can fling the seed several metres and it thrives in almost any soil type . This means that it can ‘walk’ out of gardens  , along railway lines and down river banks where it grows in balsam stands,  tens of thousands strong out competing our native flora , by shading it out and taking its moisture.

    For the last few years the National Trust ,  with hundreds of volunteers has been trying to eradicate this invasive species from our land in the Windermere catchment . We have been quite successful, I myself have lead volunteer groups pulling  balsam plants up by the roots . This makes my garden , one of the few remaining Himalayan balsam refuges on Trust land around Lake Windermere, something as I mentioned that is a bit embarrassing and not something I’m proud of . I have spent hours in the garden ,last year and this , pulling the plant up , but once the bracken has fallen over it forms a protective layer under which the balsam grows eventually poking its head up into the light to flower and seed . I am now involved in guerrilla warfare with it,  waiting for it to show itself and then pouncing on it and pulling it out or cutting the heads off it. It’s a battle that I think I am slowly winning now, I’ll find out for sure next year. 

    Terminator vs. Mr Bean

    If Himalayan balsam is  ‘ The Terminator’ of the plant world , an aggressive survivor that simply can not be stopped , then the touch- me- not balsam , our only native balsam  , is a bit more  ‘Mr Bean’.  It’s a nationally scarce plant found in the Lake District and North Wales, with an attractive yellow flower. The plant generally grows in small numbers in damp glades in woodlands and appears to be demanding in terms of light and moisture, it requires ground disturbance to spread. Balsam stands will grow and spread and then for no obvious reason ; disappear . We are lucky to have a good number of these balsam stands on our property in the south lakes  and now is a good time to find them in our woods . 

    This unpredictable plant is also special because it plays host to a very scarce moth ,the caterpillars of the Netted Carpet moth, rely solely on this plant for their food . So the future of one is tied inextricably to the survival of the other. 

    This is why at this time of year we are to be found on our hands and knees inspecting the underside of  leaves , looking for the small green caterpillars that will eventually become netted carpet moths. A job not made easier by the fact that the caterpillar is camouflaged and looks exactly like the seed pod and stem of the plant ! 


     As a result of some careful management  , grazing with cattle in some of our woods and  the spreading of seed , the number of plants  and moths are increasing . A significant success story for our native flora and fauna.

    Paul Farrington
    National Trust Ranger ( South Lakes )