Team news for February 2014

  • Wet Working Holiday

    12:00 28 February 2014
    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 Trust here in South Lakes would struggle to get through the amount of work we do without the army of volunteers who support us, Fix the Fell'ers, Base camp groups, South Lakes Conservation Group,  regular day volunteers and loads of others all pitch in.  Last week we were reinforced by a working holiday doing various 'woody jobs'

     Cutting hazel from around landscape beech

    The first two days were spent clearing scrub and 1980s planting from the designed landscape around Monk Coniston.  This is important because some of the really impressive mature trees have become lost in scrubby woodland which has developed round them, thanks to the efforts of the volunteers we can 'see the trees for the wood'!

    More hazel removed

    After a morning spent meandering the East Coniston woods clearing scrubby growth from the hundreds of archaeology site in the woods (I forgot to take photos - sorry) the rest of the day we spent clearing beech regeneration from Tarn Hows wood.

     Another one down

    After a well earned day off the group returned for the last two days. 
    Following 3 days of tree and scrub removal it made a change to do some planting - after all what will future volunteers cut down if we don't plant anything now?

     Putting the stake in for another tree

    The planting is part of a joint project with Windermere Reflections to inprove water quality.  The site is being returned to native species like oak, alder, birch, and hazel after the larch plantation blew down in 2005.  The trees were planted in tubes to stop them being damaged by red deer which are found on the site, after two days the group had planted about 350 new trees.

      More trees planted

    The trees are planted quite close together so they will need thinning in perhaps 15 -20 years perhaps another working holiday can help?

    The weather throughout the week was terrible with loads of wind and rain but the group remained cheerful and got some really good stuff done. 
    On their last night we where invited to a meal with them at Basecamp.  How could we refuse an offer of crisp appetisers, spagetti bolognaise, left over apple sauce and custard (I don't like rice pudding).  The evening was great fun and even included a poetry recital!

    Working holidays run at properties all over the country doing all kinds of jobs so if you fancy a go check out the website.
    A huge thanks to this years 'woody' working holiday for the work they did, roll on 2015!

    Richard Tanner
    Woodland Ranger

  • A Code for Winter Climbers in the Lake District

    15:54 27 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week I mentioned the new Code for Winter Climbers in the Lake District that can be found in full here. This code was compiled by a group of Lake District climbers representing both winter and rock climbing interests. The project was supported by the BMC, FRCC, National Trust, National Park Authority and Natural England.

    Here are the key points for ethical climbing in the Lake District and a list of agreed crags that we should stay off with ice climbing tools to prevent damage. We could so easily damage fantastic rock routes for ever if we scratch our way up them with ice axes and crampons. But there has to be space for both winter and summer climbing as many people, including me. climb in both summer and winter conditions.

    The following voluntary code is a guide to allow for an accepted ethical ascent that has minimum impact on rock climbs, the natural cliff environment and the future of the sport:

    1. Winter climbing should only be undertaken under frozen and snow-covered conditions.
    2. The cliff should have a ‘wintery’ appearance with snow, rime or verglas covering most of the rock, not just snow covering ledges.
    3. Consider if your ascent would be feasible without axes and crampons; if you could brush the snow off the rock and rock climb the route then you’re doing a rock route.
    4. Turf can be an excellent winter climbing medium but should only be climbed on when it is solidly frozen or deeply covered in snow/neve and so unlikely to be dislodged. 
    5. Many summer routes have little vegetation or even ice. They are vulnerable to damage even in perfect/ideal winter conditions. This could involve loss of small holds, loss of flakes, modification of pockets and loss of protection placements. To prevent damage to summer routes please consider whether your proposed ascent is likely to cause such damage; if so, choose another objective.
    6. During any winter ascent there should be a presumption against the use of pegs if at all possible. Placement of bolts on mountain routes, as in summer, is unacceptable and counter to the area’s traditional ethic.
    7. Routes should be climbed from the bottom to the top of the crag in a single push, with no abseil pre-inspection. If a bivouac en route is required so be it, however abseiling off and resuming from your high point the next day is not a valid ascent. 

     Please keep off the following crags when climbing with winter equipment:


    Raven Crag, Walthwaite.
    Scout Crags - Lower, Middle and Upper.
    Raven, East Raven and Far East Raven Crags.
    Gimmer Crag – the South-East Face to the North-West Face inclusive.
    Flat Crag – from Conditionalist to BB Corner
    (excluding those routes).
    Black Crag.
    Lightning Crag.
    Long Crag.

    Dow, Coppermines & Slate

    Dow Crag – A and B Buttresses not including the

    Duddon & Eskdale

    All the low lying crags in both valleys unless via
    obvious ice lines.
    Esk Buttress – from Gargoyle Groove to
    Trespasser Groove (including those routes).

    Scafell & Wasdale

    East Buttress, except the obvious ice and
    turf lines.
    Scafell – from Moss Ghyll to Botterill’s Slab
    (excluding those routes).

    Buttermere & St Bees

    Grey Crag.
    St Bees.

    Gable & Pillar

    Kern Knotts – from Cat Wall to the Cracks Area
    (including those routes).
    The Napes – Tophet Wall and all the major
    buttresses excepting the gullies.
    Gable Crag – from Engineer’s Chimney to
    Engineer’s Slabs (excluding those routes).


    Shepherd’s Crag.
    Black Crag.
    Quayfoot Buttress.
    Woden’s Face.
    Bowderstone Crag.
    Sergeant Crag Slabs.

    Eastern Crags

    Castle Rock of Triermain.
    Raven Crag, Thirlmere.
    Raven Crag, Threshthwaite Cove.
    Dove Crag – North Buttress.

    Eden Valley & South Lakes Limestone

    Everything except High Cup Nick and various
    New and existing winter routes climbed on
    the above crags may no longer receive official

    In addition to the above list, there will also be a general presumption against recording future
    first winter ascents of any existing high quality rock climbs (** and *** for instance) unless
    they are natural ice lines. Such climbs may no longer receive official recognition.

  • A new play trail for Wray Castle

    09:02 24 February 2014
    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

    Building on the success of last year with the ’50 things’ den building area at Wray Castle, the rangers have been getting creative by designing a natural play trail in the woodlands above the area. Families can venture further off the beaten track and test themselves whilst having fun on ‘natural play’ features. We hope to inspire visitors ever further into the wonderful outdoor space at Wray Castle.

    This is the first stage of the development of the play trail for 2014. We will be adding to the finished trail each season based on where children are playing, what has been successful in the previous year, replace any features that have naturally decayed as well as to continually refresh the trail to tempt visitors back year on year.

    We had great fun doing research, trying out what other National Trust properties have to offer. Sizergh have a great trail that leads from the car park out into the woods by solving a series of clues, taking you on a fantastic adventure through trees, through walls, over fences and down a rock face! Be sure to go check it out!

    Sizergh's Wild Trail

    Staff and volunteers from the South Lakes Conservation Group began work on the Natural Play Trail last week. When finished, this trail will hopefully have balance beams, stepping stones, logs to climb on and up, a nice rest area and even a spiders web to try to crawl through without touching the web! We started by clearing away the tree roots and vegetation to create a route through the trees and round the woodland.

    Our own Foresters milled some larch for the stepping stones and balance beams… we had great fun and got very warm rolling the materials to site!

    Rolling the materials up to site can be hot work!

    The stepping stones and balance beams have to be dug into the ground to make sure they are safe and secure. 

    Digging in the stepping stones...

    Beams to balance on...

    The play trail will allow children (and adults!) to test themselves, push their boundaries where they are comfortable doing so as well as to encourage exploration and interaction with the natural world. .

    Watch this space as the play trail really starts to take shape over the next few months…

    Look out for other events planned throughout the summer such as ranger-led 50 things activity days and other self-led activities about the castle grounds to help you tick off your '50 things to do'.

  • Whiteless breast

    16:57 21 February 2014
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Buttermere is one of the few places left in the North Lakes with some grassy untouched paths. pre-emptive work can help keep the paths natural.

    "Pidgeon holes" a line of circular bare patches can occur on grassy slopes when a large numbers of walkers follow the same line up a hill. 

    Although these foot holes make the hill easier to climb, they quickly join together into a groove that water runs down creating a gully.

    The holes can be easily repaired using seed, turf and cloche netting  (a willow frame covered with chicken wire) that is used to protect the area while it regenerates.

       The willow is locally sourced from a basket weaver, Phil Bradley.
       All the work was done by Fix The Fells volunteers supervised by a National Trust ranger.

    How it looked with the closhe removed and after the local sheep had grazed it
                          When we removed the netting the local herdwick sheep had a field day. 

  • Replacing the fire rope door seal on the Footprint's wood burner.

    13:56 21 February 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Fire rope seals, set in to a groove  on the inside of wood burner doors, are designed to stop an excessive amount of air entering the fire chamber.

    Air leaks usually cause the fire to burn too fiercely, and "tarring" may occur on the door glass. 

    To have some control over the rate at which the fire burns, the rope seal needs to be in good condition. If not, the fire rope needs replacing.
    The Footprint stove's seal is starting to disintegrate. Part of the rope seal is missing
     causing air leaks."Tarring" noticeable on edge of glass. Replacement due!
    The wood burner door was taken off its hinges and laid flat on an old waterproof.
    Just the essentials! Coffee, flat bladed screwdriver, scissors, pick hammer, and tube of heat resistant fire rope adhesive. Wire brush out of shot.
    Getting the old rope seal out with the pick hammer.
    The old seal is out, and the recess or groove in the door is ready to be cleaned out.
    The new fire rope seal.
    The adhesive squeezed into the groove, prior to putting in the new fire rope.
    The new fire rope about to Get into the groove.
    Job done, and the door is ready to be refitted to the wood burner.

    With a good air tight seal, The Footprint wood burner stove should once again burn to its optimum efficiency.

  • An away-day.

    06:30 21 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week saw the day when rangers and volunteers gathered for a start-the-season meeting to catch up with news about what we have all been doing.  We all live and work in a large area of the country and it would be easy to become immersed in our work and never see one another unless we plan to meet up.  There is a lot to learn by sharing experiences so it’s important that we create the opportunities to do so.

    This time we met in Ennerdale where an innovative project known as Wild Ennerdale is being developed.  You can read a lot about that at the dedicated website here.

    During the morning we had presentations about a range of projects.  In the afternoon, the weather allowed us to have a walk along the lake shore to see some of the work that has already been done in the re-wilding of the valley.  This is a project that will be ongoing for many years but already the amount that has been achieved is impressive.  I still like to think of Borrowdale as the best valley but I do like to visit the others to see what’s new elsewhere.

    Another project I’ve been involved with has been the collaboration of the National Trust with the Fell & Rock Climbing Club (FRCC), the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), the National Park Authority and Natural England to draw up a code of conduct for winter climbing.  The outcome is a newly-published voluntary code that will encourage winter mountaineers to make ethical ascents that have minimal impact on rock climbs, on the natural cliff environment and on the future of the sport.  You can find out more about the details including a summary version of the code at this site.  This is big step towards minimising environmental damage whilst allowing shared use of the Lake District.  There has been extensive consultation and agreement with user groups so we hope everyone will be happy to observe the code.

    Hi, Daisy here,

    Che’s come to stay. He’s my best friend now.
  • A Valentine to Volunteers

    10:00 14 February 2014
    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

    This week it is the turn of the South Lakes Upland Ranger team to write this blog and in light of the date it seemed like a great opportunity to remind volunteers that we love them !

    Tackling erosion in the fells of the Lake District is a never-ending task and there is much more to do than the teams can possibly cope with. If it wasn't for volunteers we would struggle to keep on top of the maintenance of existing path work let alone undertake new projects.

    There is one group of volunteers that is particularly close to our hearts; the 'Fix the Fells Lengthsmen'.  A  'lengthsman' is a traditional term for someone who looks after a right of way.
    This group of  volunteers is involved in upland path work all year round and in all weathers. We frequently work with them and have got to know them fairly well. In fact two of our current team were first involved in upland work as volunteers under this lengthsmen scheme.
    A work party with Fix the Fells Lengthsmen last summer on a
    path project up Fairfield. A lovely day!
    Lunchtime with lengthsmen: sheltering last week with a few volunteers on a
     work party near Blea Tarn.  Not such a nice day !
    The volunteer lengthsmen carry out a range of important tasks. One of the main ones is the "drain run". This involves walking existing routes where path work has been carried out, clearing the drains  and clearing any gravel and loose material from the sections of " pitched" stone steps. It is also an opportunity to check the general condition of the paths and report back on areas in need of attention. The lengthsmen do an excellent job of coordinating their own drain runs and most weeks several drain runs take place around the Lake District.

    They are also involved in project work which might include repairing or building new drains, pitching sections of path with rock and landscaping to define the main path and remove shortcuts.  Much of this is done in work parties with the upland path teams and some mini projects are carried out independently.
    Lengthsmen building a drain on a route up Coniston Old Man.
    It is often a case of 'many hands make light work' and the progress from a work party day can be quite striking.
    A section of erosion developing on a path by Raise Beck.

    Fix the Fells lengthsmen hard at work on the eroding section.

    The results of the work party - a much better looking section of path. 
    The lengthsmen are a fantastic group & always willing to get involved & help out even at fairly short notice. Last year, when weather conditions had delayed preparations, they helped us fill bags with rock just in time for the helicopter lifts that moved the rock from the screes to the nearby project site.

    Today the South Lakes Upland Ranger team are out on a drain run with some of the lengthsmen and some potential new recruits, who will hopefully enjoy this "taster" day.
    More information on volunteering for 'Fix the Fells' can be found using the following link:

    The focus of this blog has so far been our main group of upland footpath volunteers that we have got to know (& love) over the last few years. We are also fortunate to work with lots of other volunteers.

    We sometimes have individuals who wish to work with the team, it might be just the odd day or other times a few weeks, perhaps using holidays.
    Two volunteers from the Netherlands helping us with our
    Fairfield path project last summer.
    Our volunteer centre at High Wray Basecamp frequently involves us with their volunteer groups. Examples might range from groups of college students doing outdoor courses to rehabilitation groups.

    Volunteers from a rehabilitation group working on our Blea Moss path project
    'West Runton' helping on the Blea Moss path project.
    (A group that have been coming to High Wray Basecamp for many years)
    Other volunteers include groups that enjoy the fells in their leisure time.  Aware that they are contributing to the erosion problems they also want to do their bit to help.
    Kendal Fellwalkers helping us on a drain run up Browney Gill in January
    (Weather looks nice here....but not for long....)
    We usually run two upland footpath working holidays each year.  This involves up to 12 individuals joining us for a week's "holiday" working on our upland path projects.
    Our working holiday group on the Fairfield path project last September.
    (Probably some of the worst weather we had on the fells last year.)

    It has only been possible to include a selection of volunteers that we have the pleasure to work with. However our message is the same to all volunteers:
    "Thank you !"

    If you would like to know more about the daily work of the South Lakes Upland Ranger team they can be found on Twitter @NTLakesFells.

    Posted by: Nick, Upland Ranger
  • To Cut or Not to Cut - The Ivy Debate

    16:09 13 February 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Over the years I've heard many times the same reaction by people when talking about ivy and trees -

    "Ivy smothers, strangles and kills trees"
    In this blog, with help from Brian Muelaner - Ancient Tree Advisor for the National Trust - I will be exploring the facts to find out the truth, once and for all.

    The Ivy Cutters

    Ivy which has been cut to reveal the stem of a tree growing close to a popular tourist destination.

    There seems to be a common held view that ivy (Hedera helix) will grow up a tree, smother it with dark green leaves and a myriad of thick woody stems, eventually causing the death of that same tree. The danger of this opinion is that people might cut away ivy from trees, with good intentions but without knowing the damage they could actually be doing.

    Brian says:

    "Ivy is much maligned and it is mistakenly thought that ivy strangles trees, this is totally untrue. Ivy sends up a vertical main stem and then puts out side branches which hug the tree as opposed to spiralling around it. Ivy's hugging branches open up as the tree grows"

    Only recently I walked around an important ancient wood in the Lake District and was horrified to see tree after tree with dead ivy - all had neat sections of their woody climbing stems cut out (to stop the cut pieces fusing together again) and the stark sight of dead ivy leaves over the tree stems.

    This in my view was an act of vandalism, and was akin to cutting trees down for no reason. How could this happen and why?

    The Real Deal

    Let's take a look at the facts...

    Ivy is a climbing plant

    There are 5 woody climbers in Britain which are ivy, clematis, honeysuckle, dog-rose and woody nightshade.

    Adapting to climbing takes time to evolve, with a specific beneficial purpose in mind. The plant will use energy producing the structures it needs to climb with, in this case very fine roots to fix the ivy stems to trees or buildings. There has to be a real advantage to climbing which will aid the plant to survive and reproduce, within that particular habitat. On ivy, only the branches that reach sunlight (often high up in the tree canopy) will produce flowers.

    "It uses trees and walls simply as scaffolding, clamping itself on
    by means of a mat of adhesive suckers. Only when these
    encounter soil or deep crevices does it put out true, feeding
    roots." (Mabey 1996)
    By using this ash tree as support, the ivy has grown up into the tree canopy where it'll get more light and produce flowers.

    Ivy is eaten by deer and sheep

    Holly and ivy are the only British evergreens that are both edible and non-poisonous to livestock (Rackham 2006).
    I pointed out to a colleague that the trees around the edge of his car park all had ivy on and that must make safety inspections difficult. Looking deeper into the woodland his trees were bare. This I believe was because deer were too afraid to venture to the edge of the wood and up to a busy car park to nibble on the ivy, instead staying deep in the woodland and browsing away on all they could eat.
    A browse line - where deer eat all they can stretch their necks up to - is often seen on ivy in woods and even gardens.

    In a woodland garden I found this scots pine which had a very clear browse line on it. Deer will be the culprits.

    Ivy is shade tolerant

    The glossy, dark green leaves of ivy are similar to other evergreen plants and shrubs, such as holly, which can tolerate a certain amount of shade and so be found growing under the canopies of trees. Leaves that grow in sunlight contain more chlorophyll and are a brighter shade of green than leaves growing in the shade, although both types of leaves can be found on the same tree or plant.
    Ivy is not restricted to shady places - it can be found growing in full sun on the edge of a wood or even on top of walls, where it will flower in abundance.
    It's now thought that ivy will grow all year round especially in the warmer south, and certainly making the most of early spring sunlight before the tree leaves start to unfurl.

    All around the world, plants that grow in shade will have larger leaves than those which get full sunlight.

    Ivy provides a habitat

    Ivy can support a healthy population of insects, which will also support a healthy bat and bird population (Read 2000).

    Ivy is a flowering plant and like all others provides nectar, especially in autumn, for flying insects such as hover flies. Ivy is also valuable for woodland birds such as the tree creeper and the blackbird.

    Here Brian pointed out that:

    "Ivy plays an extremely valuable role in providing late nectar and a protein rich berry when most other food sources have disappeared"
    He also added:
    "Several species of bat use ivy’s thick cover to safely roost and some will even use ivy as a winter roost if the ivy cover is dense enough"

    Ivy will increase the effect of wind 

    The effect that wind has on a tree is lessened when the leaves have fallen. If a large tree were to be covered in ivy then the wind 'sail effect' would be greater than if the tree has no ivy. If the tree was decaying, then this added weight and sail area might be enough to cause a collapse, but only a little sooner than otherwise.

    The increased surface area of the ivy leaves will also hold a huge amount of rain water, and in winter storms this may cause the tree crown to collapse.

    I recently saw a section of dry-stone wall in Ullswater blown over in strong winds due to a thick covering of ivy.

    Ivy will shade the stem of a tree

    Sun can have a scorching effect on the stems of trees and especially those with thin bark such as beech. Ivy on the south side of a tree would help to reduce any stress or damage caused by prolonged intense sunlight. If this ivy was then suddenly removed the tree could suffer and die.

    The stem of this woodland edge tree is shaded by the thick glossy ivy leaves.

    Ivy is not a parasite

    Beneath the soil surface in a woodland is a vast array of roots from trees, plants and fungi. The trees and plants will be competing with each other for water and nutrients and an underground battle will be going on. 

    Brian on this matter said:
    "It is mistakenly thought that ivy is a parasite, that the little suckers coming off the branches of ivy are taking water and nutrients from the tree, whereas they are just anchoring points to improve its hold on its host.  Ivy gets its sustenance from the ground just like the tree, so there is a small degree of competition with the tree, but a healthy tree can easily obtain all the nutrients and water it needs even with ivy growing up its trunk"

    Ivy will add weight to stems and branches

    Climbing plants cannot know if their chosen tree is in full health or suppressed and dying (in a woodland situation), if it is the latter then a climber might bring on the demise only a little sooner through its weight. If parts of the tree start to decay and the strength reduces then the added weight of the ivy might cause quicker collapse than normal.

    However in a healthy tree the added weight of ivy will trigger reactive growth in the branches, making them stronger and able to hold up the extra weight.

    Ivy is a native plant

    Ivy (Hedera helix) is a common plant of dry oakwoods here in the Lake District. We must protect and encourage all our native flora and fauna, especially those from protected and important habitats such as native broadleaved woodland. Native wildlife will rely on or benefit from all our native plants.

    When to Cut

    Lichens can be very important and if there is a chance that ivy could smother rare or important lichens on the stem of a tree then control might be needed. Light grazing is the best way to achieve this. (Read 2000)

    Buildings often have ivy or other climbers growing up them. Important buildings could be damaged especially those with soft lime mortar, paintwork or buildings which would suffer from damp. On these occasions, provided a bat survey has been carried out then I would be happy to see the ivy removed.

    BRE Digest 416, Bird, Bee and Plant Damage to Buildings states:
    ‘Ivy is a serious threat to buildings. Its stems produce short adventitious roots which grow in search of moisture and darkness.’

    ‘If these aerial roots secure a foothold in cracks or open joints they will inevitably cause damage. In time, they will disrupt the wall by forcing stones apart as they grow and thicken.’
     Interestingly, cutting ivy on buildings might make matters worse:
    "When ivy is cut off at the roots it tends to try and use
    adventitious roots within holes in the walls to provide alternative
    moisture sources – thus causing more damage". (Viles 2009 appendix 7.2)

    Tree safety is the one area where I admit I have purposefully severed thick ivy stems around the base of a mature tree, because the tree was in such a high risk area (busy roads & houses) I could not be confident that the tree was safe without seeing - after the ivy had died - the condition of stems and branches.

    If ivy has to be cut then great care must be taken.
    "If the tree...has a thick covering of ivy, it should ideally be surveyed for bats by an experienced bat worker prior to any work. Contact your local bat group to request a survey" (Read 2000)
    Brian Muelaner, Ancient Tree Advisor for the National Trust said:

    "It is important that ivy isn’t stripped off the tree…I recommend the cutting of one stem a year until all of it is cut, which spreads the impact over many years giving wildlife time to relocate"
    Brian also pointed out a time when cutting ivy might save an important tree:

    "When trees like oak go into ancientness around 600 years old they will naturally retrench: their upper crown will start to die back which exposes their inner crown to light and here new buds develop. If the branches are totally encased in ivy when the tree begins to retrench then the new buds are not stimulated and the tree would die"
    A tree in full health has its leaves above the growing ivy.


    From the evidence above we can be sure of these facts:

    • Ivy is not a parasite, it doesn't intentionally kill a tree it uses for support.
    • If a tree is already in decline or decaying then ivy may simply speed up the death or collapse of a tree.
    • The shading effect of ivy can protect trees from strong sunlight.
    • Ivy is a superb native habitat providing food, shelter and deadwood. Important insects, protected bat species and declining woodland birds all benefit from ivy.
    • The lack of ivy can indicate too much grazing in a woodland.
    • Cutting should only be done for public safety, protection of important buildings and conservation of epiphytes such as rare lichens, mosses and liverworts.
    After this, I now feel that there isn't a good reason to cut ivy if tree health is your goal. There are exceptions as I mentioned earlier, but after seeing this blog I hope readers will correct anyone who says...."ivy kills trees"!

    What You Can Do....

    • Don't cut ivy unless you really have to, and seek expert advice.
    • Plant more native ivy (Hedera helix) in your garden, near to trees.
    • Pass the message on that ivy is a great place for wildlife!

    Ben Knipe
    Woodland Ranger

  • Reflections.

    08:27 13 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    In sharp contrast to some of the outdoors work lately, I spent some time last week putting together materials for a presentation at an early season meeting for all the volunteers in our area.  This is where we reflect on what has been achieved during the year and remind ourselves of the vision for what we do next.  As an organisation the National Trust has thousands and thousands of volunteers and it is really important that we acknowledge and thank them for the vital part they play in what we do.

    I’ll be talking about two major projects my team has completed.  The first is the creation of what we have dubbed the amphitheatre.  This is the area beside our Trust shop where we have made what might be called a platform with seating that can be used by both visitors and local residents.  The second is the rebuilding of a water heck at Stonethwaite when we even felled our own tree and stripped off its bark before installing it.  These were two very big jobs done against the background of the routine maintenance and litter picking etc. that keep the valley safe and stunning.

    This is a part of my job that I especially enjoy doing because it gives me an opportunity to see the big picture of the phenomenal amount of work my volunteers have completed.  Usually we are focused on what we need to do next and that can sometimes seem daunting.  It’s only when we pause for reflection that we realise just how much we have achieved.  That’s the confirmation of how important our volunteers are and is also all the motivation they need to get stuck into the next big task.  Volunteers really are at the heart of all that the National Trust is able to achieve.

    Amongst the Trust staff there is much good-natured banter about the merits of all our volunteer teams but of course, I know that my volunteers, including my behind the scenes office helper, are the best!

    Daisy here,

    I’ve been in the office.  That’s boring.

  • Cairns, a help or a hinderance?

    08:33 11 February 2014
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Over recent years there's been a definite increase in cairns being vandalised. Much of this is presumably done with good intention, but based on inadequate knowledge.

    We've often heard people suggest that "there are too many cairns" or "stones are better on the footpath than on a cairn". In some ways this is correct, but cairns still have a vital part to play on the fells. Cairns were originally built to help people find their way along a poorly defined path, and many have historical significance.

    Large cairn on the right-hand-side of Stickle Ghyll

    You can see a cairn in the photograph above that has become excessively large and no longer really serves it's intended purpose. The path is well defined and even when the cloud is down you'd struggle to get lost on a pitched path like this. The cairn has also reached a height where it is starting to fall back onto the path, which narrows the path and may make it difficult to walk on.

    Having said that, there's very little surface stone around now so it's unlikely to get much bigger and cause much of a problem. It's also been around a long time, and it actually serves a purpose of keeping people on the path, which helps prevent erosion. So in this instance it'd be useful for those few stones on the path to be added to the top, but otherwise it can be left alone.

     Cairn at Rossett Ghyll, destroyed and thrown on the path

    The photo above shows a cairn that has been knocked down for no apparent reason. We actually built this cairn as part of our footpath repair work to help guide people down the path. It's at a point where the path originally split, one route headed straight down the ghyll and the other followed the path we'd worked on. Before working on the path, the erosion in the ghyll was clearly visible from the valley below, but we've spent a lot of time revegetating it and it's now started to blend back in with it's surroundings. So by building the cairn, anyone who's a little unsure which way to go will hopefully follow the path, rather than causing more erosion in the ghyll.

     Rebuilding the cairn at the top of Rossett Ghyll

    It seems strange that somebody would want to destroy this cairn, since it's not particularly visually intrusive and by looking at it you can tell there's been some effort made to build it and it's therefore likely to have a function. Also, why throw the stones onto the path, making it more difficult for people to walk on? This could possibly come from the idea that "stones are better on the footpath than on a cairn". The thought behind this statement comes from the fact of stones that are in the path are better left where they are, as they help it all bind together. Don't prise them out of the path to add them to a cairn.

    Repairing the cairn at Stickle Ghyll

    The above photograph shows another cairn needlessly scattered on to the path. This cairn was also built to help people find the path. In good weather it can be difficult to find this path, but in bad weather if you've never walked it before it's more or less impossible. This can, of course, have safety implications and there have been instances of cairns being removed, which has led walkers to become lost. This has led to Mountain Rescue Teams unnecessarily being called out.

    We'd only ever really recommend removing a cairn if it is obviously very new, eg. two or three stones, and looks like it has been built by one person for no apparent reason. In this case it may be worth throwing the stones off the path to discourage others from adding to it. In this day-and-age unless it's for safety reasons, or to guide people onto a path, there's no real reason to be building new cairns, or indeed add to them.

    So if you ever see a cairn and think you should add or remove stones from it, next time ask yourself a few questions.
    • Is the cairn performing a purpose? 
    • What would the surrounding terrain look like in bad weather, would the cairn then have a purpose?
    • Does the cairn really need any stones adding or removing from it?
    • What might the consequences be if I dismantled or built a cairn here?
    • Is the cairn old, and possibly have historical significance?
    If you're ever in doubt it's probably safest to just leave it alone, as generally if left alone it won't cause too much of a problem. Problems only really arise if a cairn becomes so large that the path splits either side of it which may lead to a wide erosion scar. But in this instance it's not a one man job to fix, and if we perceive it as a problem we'll arrange a volunteer work party to properly dispose of all, or part, of the cairn.
  • Claife Viewing Station - Stepping back into the limelight

    14:09 07 February 2014
    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

    Stepping back into the limelight

    Claife Viewing Station will be stepping back into the limelight again after a hundred years of being ‘out of fashion’. For years Claife Station has been an interesting ruined oddity  hidden amongst the trees above the ferry on Lake Windermere, but recent works to restore the views and an exciting new acquisition mean that the Station may once again be the centre of attention as it was when it was the Lake District’s 19thCentury  equivalent of  the ‘London Eye ‘.

    Claife Viewing Station ruin

    Recent forestry work to restore the views has made the Station more visible from the East and the South , further tree work is planned to the North which will open up the classic view across the Lake Windermere archipelago to the Troutbeck fells. These views enticed early  18th and 19th Century visitors to the Lake District in search of the thrill of the ‘picturesque ‘ , following the earliest guide books, they were guided to the best viewing points or ‘stations’  . Visitors, we hope,  will return in numbers again  in the 21st Century to discover the fascinating story of the Station and the Windermere catchment.

    North View from the Station

    In 2010 we acquired the Station Cottage and courtyard  at the foot of the hill below the ruin,  this  provided us with an opportunity to work with the public, local communities and other organisations to develop a visitor experience that will hopefully re-create some of those original thrills , while telling the story of the viewing stations, the picturesque movement and the past and future management of the Windermere catchment.#

    Building works underway at the cottage and courtyard

     In the next few months we will be repairing and restoring some of the features and stabilising the structure of the viewing station . Last year we replaced the cottage roof and this year we are replacing the external rendering  and  decorating  inside and out  . By early summer we will  have on site catering facilities and visitors will be able to enjoy refreshments in the cottage by the log burning stove or in the sunny courtyard. We will also be creating a new visitor experience and further improving the views. You may also like to visit the local Ash Landing Nature Reserve as part of your visit .

    Repairing the window arch on the Station building

    This was the location for those earliest tourists to Windermere, and we hope that you will visit us this Summer , see how the project is developing  and experience some of that same thrill that  they experienced.

  • Replacing a decaying boardwalk.

    10:14 07 February 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    For most of last week I was working with a group of National Park authority apprentices.  The National Park operates an apprenticeship scheme where the apprentices work with park rangers to develop a wide range of skills.  Last week was a collaboration between the National Park and the National Trust.  They came to spend the week with me learning how to replace a decaying wooden boardwalk with a new, recycled plastic one.  I’ve done quite a lot of this now so have a lot of experience to pass on to them.

    The recycled plastic we have used has several advantages over the old wooden one.  It lasts longer and needs less maintenance and it has a textured surface so is less likely to be slippery.  We have used our usual supplier in Liverpool that recycles plastic collected in the north-west of England so it has minimal transport impact on the environment. And of course it recycles plastic that might otherwise become long-life waste in landfill sites.

    The apprentices were a really keen and enthusiastic group to work with and, despite some inclement weather, we were able to crack on and complete a lot of work. 

    Our weather seems that it might be about to change to something a bit more wintery than we have had recently.  There has been some snow on the fell tops but it is still much warmer than we would expect in February so it is mainly rain in the valley.

    Daisy here.
    Have you seen how big cows are?  They’re great.

  • Pre Season TLC for Townend's paths and gates.

    14:32 06 February 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    3  bulk bags of gravel weighing 800 kg each were used.
    Work done recently at Townend House by Trust rangers and volunteer, Matthew Stanton, included:
    Resurfacing the paths and courtyard with 10 ml Dalston gravel.
                                                                                                                                  Preparation, prior to repainting the wrought iron gate and posts on the pathway to the house.
    The paths were looking quite threadbare after the 2013 season. Before.... 
    Matthew, coming back for more gravel. ....during....

    ....and after!
    The wrought iron gate.

    Using the drill attachment to get rid of the loose and flaking paint and rust.
    Specialist paint being applied.
    Excellent paint, and touch dry in half an hour!
    The double oak gates at the car park entrance had sagged over the years, and were becoming increasingly difficult to open and close. The gate hangings were adjusted and the small nuts and bolts holding the gates together were tightened up.

    This image clearly illustrates how "out of true" the gates were in relation to each other.
    This was causing them to jam and making it difficult to open and close them.
    The gates were also treated with a wood preserver stain.
    The gates now much easier to open and close after the adjustments.