Team news for January 2014

  • A year in a minute and a half

    10:00 31 January 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

    At High Wray Basecamp volunteer centre it’s often the trip up our track that is the first thing visitors comment on, with it’s fantastic view towards Ambleside and the Fairfield Horseshoe.

    ‘I could look at it all year’ has been said by a number of people, which got us thinking – could we show the view from the track for a whole year?
    So in 2013 every time we came up it in the morning we took a photo. Here they all are, fast forwarded to scrunch a year down to a minute or so. It wiggles about a bit as the camera’s ‘tripod’ was an old fence post with a home made frame (seen briefly at the start), which we had to slot it into each day. As well as this cows gradually pushed the original post over until it needed a replacement and there’s also a big gap in the middle due to holidays (Summer wasn't that short, honestly). 
    Just one day in the year - a sunny mid February morning
     Despite all this we think it gives an interesting perspective on the seasons changing and we think you can really understand why the view does attract so many comments.
    But it’s not just visitors to Basecamp that can marvel in vistas like this – the Lake District is full of them and looking at this every day makes us feel very fortunate to be playing a part in helping to look after it. It’s the most inspiring start to a day you could wish for!
    You can see the film here:

    By Rob Clarke, Community Ranger, High Wray Basecamp volunteer centre
  • Portal to the past. Gateway to Galava. (Ambleside Roman Fort.)

    08:52 31 January 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    A metal kissing gate, specifically designed for "large mobility vehicles," was installed between Council owned Borrans Park and National Trust Borrans Field, the site for Galava. (Ambleside Roman Fort.)

    The work was undertaken by National Trust Rangers, based at St. Catherine's, with volunteer help. (Last Summer 2013.)

    A large section of the boundary wall was taken down to allow space for the gate and cage; the wall was then rebuilt and "quoined up" to the gateway.

    The surplus stone was used to wall up the old roadside kissing gate for safety reasons......No pavement, and on a blind bend in the road.

    With the wall taken down, the kissing gate is being positioned
     and the cage sections bolted together.
    The kissing gate completed, and the walling well underway.
    The "quoin end" to the left of the image is being built up to the gate post.
    One of the completed "quoin ends" with top or cam stones in place.
    New path surfaced with 15/30 ml. stone from Elterwater Quarry.
    The approach to Borrans Park from Borrans Field.
    Overlooking Borrans Field from Borrans Park.
    The greatly improved access, over the old kissing gate, will now benefit everyone wishing to visit the site of the Roman Fort, Galava, from neighbouring Borrans Park.
  • Stopping The Rot

    14:00 30 January 2014
    By Ivan Corlett

    During the past few weeks whilst we’ve been working through Gondola’s winter maintenance tasks we’ve discovered a bit of rot here and there around the boat.

    First of all we found that the benches that sit either side of the smokebox had rotted quite badly so crew member Greg set about designing some new bench seats / storage boxes in solid mahogany.

    Bench seat designs

    It’s like having our very own Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen on the team - I suspect Greg won’t appreciate that comparison, but he is a talented designer! He’ll even be making the bench seats himself.

    The steps into Gondola’s saloons are also showing signs of wear and tear and will need replacing, as will the bulkhead of the purser’s office which, after a bit of 'damage investigation', is badly in need of attention.

    Purser's office

    A mass of varnishing and repainting work has been going on since Christmas. The external paintwork on the engine room is looking really good now – we’ve been using top of the range (and hopefully very long-lasting) high gloss paint to give Gondola a good shine. I can’t wait to see her back on the water in the summer sunshine.

    Engine room

    It’s not only the crew who roll their sleeves up during the winter maintenance programme - we’re very fortune to get help from volunteers from time to time. These two plucky helpers joined us from their usual spot at the National Trust Basecamp at High Wray and sanded down and undercoated the aft end of the saloons all in a single day, and they were still smiling at the end of it!


    We’re also hoping to get some help to make sections for the new helming position using apprentice labour, building on our skill-sharing initiative from last year when we worked with apprentices from BAE at Barrow-in-Furness. The wood for this task arrived in the last couple of weeks.

    Wood for new helming position

    That’s all for now. Check back soon for my next update.

  • New woodland.

    18:29 29 January 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    This last week saw us leave Borrowdale, the best valley, to go over to work in Buttermere where the valley ranger Mark mistakenly thinks he has the best bit!  A group of staff and volunteers made a start on a tree-planting scheme.  We recently clear-felled a commercial plantation and are replanting it with mixed hard-woods.  These new trees will very quickly become ecologically richer than a commercial soft wood plantation. 

    There were 13 staff and volunteers who first improved access to the site by collecting and burning the brash from the earlier felling.  

    We then planted 2000 trees. If you have seen them, you might wonder why we plant them in tubes.  These tubes give the new plantings protection from sheep and deer until they are established.  They are also corrugated inside so morning dew will run down and water them. 

    It was a good day with a lot to show for the hard work. 

    I’ve also been working with some rangers and volunteers on the Catbells terrace path.  We have had a lot of rain in recent months and we try to keep up with routine maintenance of the path drains and of the graded sections where they are designed to shed water.  

    The fact that we have kept on top of the routine maintenance in the past has minimised the damage.  Little jobs done now save big jobs in future.

    Hi, Daisy here.  

    I’ve been tree planting with lots of people.  It was great. There were lots of sticks. I ran around all day.  It was fantastic.

  • The Grand Boardwalk Project has Started!

    16:41 28 January 2014
    By Jo Day

    But first lets play eye spy to try and find these little busy bodies of the coast.  Four Turnstone

    So this was how the start of our boardwalk looked before.  The vegetation had grown over and the slippy wooden boards had warped
    Using a mattock we were able to prise the old board away from the rotten runner below, leaving a level bed of sand underneath.
    We lay new recycled plastic runners down in place of the old wooden ones.  This time we used 6 in order to build a stable platform less likely to bend as demonstrated by our old boards.
    First a pilot hole was drilled through the board, then the hole was drilled with a countersink bit in order for the screws to sit tightly below the surface to prevent any trip hazards.  Due to the nature of using plastic, we had to carefully allow 1cm spacing between each board in order for the plastic to expand and contract in the changing weather conditions
    The runners were drilled through and attached using a coach bolt.  This just prevents the boards moving away from each other
    The tools of our trade, includes three drills as it saves time changing bits.
    The story so far...come back and see more from the remainder of our project soon

  • Wildlife images

    19:49 24 January 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

     Wildlife images: (My personal favourites) Central and East Lakes area.

    White Clawed Crayfish. Near Windermere. (Austropotamobius pallipes)
    Above and below.
    Only crayfish native to UK and an endangered species.
    Cumbria is the main stronghold for this species in England.

    Female viviparous lizard outside St. Catherine's Office. Unusual in that they give birth to live young..
    Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)  near the start of the "Tall Tree Trail." Skellghyll Woods.
    Tree Bumblebee. (Bombus hypnorum) St. Catherine's. A continental bee that was first observed  in the UK in July 2001.
    Recently spread to Cumbria.
    Netted Carpet Moth Caterpillar, September,  St. Catherine's, on its food plant...Touch Me Not Balsam.
    (Impatiens Noli - Tangere)...the only balsam native to the UK.
    Netted Carpet Moth. July. (Eustroma reticulatum) at rest on outside loo wall.
    St. Catherine's. A very rare moth,  mostly to be found in the Lake District.
    Grey Wagtail. (Motacilla Cinerea)
    Peacock Butterfly. (Inachis io) High Close Gardens. Above and Below.

    Roland Wicksteed. Countryside Ranger.
  • Introducing our new interns!

    10:00 24 January 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

    You may remember last year we introduced to you some new interns in the form of Leila, Kim and Stuart.  They did some great work across the South Lakes working with the Coniston, Hawkshead, Woodland and Upland team over an 8 month period.  With their internship ending just before Christmas we recruited two new interns in the form of Jasmin and Paul.

    Paul and Jasmin
    They've been with us just over two weeks now and have been thrown into a few different projects including fencing, walling and some drain building at Wray Castle. 

    Getting stuck in with some walling!
    Over the next 8 months they'll have the opportunity to learn lots of different skills and learn about the way we manage our property in the South Lakes, from all angles.  We're also pretty sure that they'll get to learn the importance of never being separated from your lunch (a key ranger rule), the value of cake (especially when working with the Upland team) and the best way to dry boots so they're not quite as cold and horrible to put on the next day!   

    Hopefully they will enjoy their time in the South Lakes as much as Kim did and gain lots of useful experience along the way. 
  • Next round of hedge-laying.

    15:37 23 January 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    This last week I’ve been back with my team of volunteers to High Snab Farm to make a start on some more hedge-laying.  The weather is so mild at the moment that it’s a good opportunity to start to get the hedges down. 

    There are lots of styles of hedge-laying around the country.  Each will have developed as the most suitable for the conditions in the local area so it’s important to use the local technique. Here we lay our hedges relatively close to the ground and, although we weave the plants into one another, we do not do it at a 45 degree angle and add a stock fence because the wind would simply blow it over and rip out the plants. 

    We cut and weave them fairly close to the ground early in the year which gives new growth time to strengthen before the worst winds later on.  We lay the hedges in each area on a rotational basis to ensure there are plenty of nesting sites for birds. And the time for hedge laying is autumn through to early spring before the sap is rising.

    The volunteers enjoy returning to High Snab.  We always have a very friendly welcome there plus the bonus of cups of tea at lunch-time!  It was also a good opportunity for the volunteers to walk around the field boundaries to see the progress of the hedges they worked on last year.

    To add to the experience, we get to see any new changes Tom (farmer) has made.  Over the years he has farmed High Snab, he has worked extremely hard to make as good a fell farm as it can be.  You can read more about the farm, the holiday cottage and their camping barn here.

    Daisy here:  

    I’ve been bad, very bad.  I found a pie in a rucksack.  I’ve never seen Roy so cross.  Apparently dogs are only supposed to eat dog food.
  • Quarry works!

    10:17 17 January 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

    With a new year comes a new project for the Upland Rangers, and a interesting and challenging one at that!  With our team expertise in stone work, come the winter months it's an opportunity to tick off various stone work tasks around the property, such as the work at Moss Eccles . This time however we were off to improve one of the access routes into one of our local quarries.  A beautiful place to work, but rather a lot of different challenges to contend with!

    Spot the red jumpers! Beautiful work site, but many challenges...
    First off we needed to get stone onto site.  Working in a quarry there was plenty to choose from, but getting it to the path was a mission in itself, especially as there was rather a lot of steep ground to contend with and rocks have a tendency to roll!

    Step one, power barrow to top of site

    Step two- roll carefully down onto path!
    While we were doing this part of the job, we did close part of the quarry off to minimize risk to the public and it would appear that a local resident also took advantage, deciding to try out some of the more extreme pastures available in the Lakes!

    Spot the sheep...
     With two of the team were getting stone onto site, the other two were sorting out some of the drainage that had washed the old path out in the first place.  Diverting water away from the path is always a key task as, more often than not, it's not people erosion that's the biggest problem, but in fact water.  Which with the amount of rain we get in the Lakes makes drainage quite a priority!

    Drain at top of path...

    ...and another in middle!
    With the recent wet weather, water is something we've most definitely seen plenty of.  At one point Sarah even appeared to be making a swimming pool rather than a path, the splash however when a stone was dropped in was particularly impressive!

    Anyone for a swim?!
    Having been working on the path for a couple of weeks now it's looking much better than it did before and it won't be long before we've finished.  It will also hopefully be much easier for the numerous outdoor groups that use the quarry. 

    Part of the path being started....

    ...and it heading up and out of the quarry
    So if you're in the area and you see us beavering away feel free to come over and have a chat, but one small request, please don't cook bacon in the immediate vacinty, it affects our productivity!

    Interesting commute in and out to the work site
     Keep up to date with the team and our work by following us on twitter @ntlakesfells

    By Sarah (Upland Ranger)

  • New Gateway for the track to Orrest Head via Common Wood.

    06:58 17 January 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Accessible from the A591 to the east of The Windermere Hotel is a gated track; this leads to a footpath via Common Wood for Orrest Head, a well known viewing point.

    The field gate across the track has occasionally been left open; cattle have then sometimes taken the opportunity to go through and get onto the busy A591. 

    To reduce the risk of this happening again, a small walled up gateway below the field gate was reinstated, at the farmer's request, with a "self closing" wicket gate for access. The field gate is now bypassed and locked.
    Taking the stone away from the walled up up gateway. The tracked power barrow proving its worth.
    Most of the walling stone has been taken down in this image.

    The power barrow in the trailer. The stone will be taken by the power barrow down the Windermere lake path to Millerground; it will be reused for lake shore revetment work. (See previous posts on this subject).
    The wooden gate stoop ready to be "stoned in". The power barrow about to take the the last load of stone away for Millerground. The field gate gate can be seen behind the barrow. It is open but no livestock is in the field today.
    The "self closing"  hook and top gate band.
    The tension spring will assist the self closing effect.
    Painting on wood preserver stain. Looks good and will prolong the life of the wood.

    The finished gateway
     The 4 foot wicket gate, complete with a self closing catch, is much easier to use than the old field gate;  it just looks much more inviting, and will minimise the risk of cattle getting onto the road from here!

  • After the storm came the floods...

    10:37 13 January 2014
    By Jo Day

    Friday 3rd January saw a 9.97meter high tide with South Westerly winds of 48mph.  This meant that the Southern parts of our reserve that is often protected by Walney Island experienced mass flooding.  In this area we have 19 privately owned fishing huts which were all engulfed with waves, many reaching up to the windows even though they are all on stilts.  Here is the footage...

  • After the recent storms.

    09:43 13 January 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    We are all back at work now after the Christmas/New Year break although all the valley rangers turned out at some point during that time.  We had quite a lot of storm damage with trees that needed attention as soon as possible.  Some were blown over and some had damaged hanging branches over footpaths.

    Where we could, we dealt with them immediately but for some we needed to tape off and sign an area of potential danger.  For some we needed to call in our tree surgeons with their specialist skills.  We certainly needed them in the case of the tree that had fallen across the chapel on Derwent Island.  I had hoped that it was a job I could do with my chainsaw but it very quickly became apparent that we would have to call in the foresters.  So, on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Eve our foresters left friends and family and turned in to help save the chapel. 

    Needs moving without doing more damage.  How?

    Call in a forester who can climb an adjacent tree to fix a safety rope for himself. 

    Thomas can then safely reduce the canopy with a chainsaw. 

    Winching cable can now be attached.

    Trunk can now be safely felled at its base.

    Skilled judgement, winch, chainsaw plus a couple of wedges and tree is safely down.
    We are fortunate to have staff and volunteers who will turn out at any time to deal with an emergency.  Huge thanks are due to the foresters this time.  You can read more about them and their work on their blog.

    Chapel saved with minimal damage to roof and chimney stack.
    We’re also having to get to grips with the storm damage from water.  We have had isolated incidents of flooding that have caused pockets of huge amounts of damage.  Catbells Terrace path has again taken a hammering with the rain.  There has been a significant wash-out of gravel that has banked up to a height of about 4 feet against a stone wall.   So we are working to restore that path and thinking about whether it might be possible to minimise a similar event in future.  

    Washed out gravel  against wall.

    Water damage

    Storms are going to continue to occur and will reshape the landscape but we do want to keep paths usable.

    Water damage to paths

    Daisy here: 

    It’s great, it’s really windy.  I love running in the wind.  It’s grrreat!

  • 2013 through a camera lens.

    09:17 06 January 2014
    By Roy Henderson

  • Replacing steps at High Close

    13:29 03 January 2014
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    After completing our work at Allan Bank we recently moved on to some path repair work at High Close gardens, just outside Grasmere. The house and gardens at High Close date back to the mid-1800's when they were purchased by Edward Balme Wheatley-Balme, a Yorkshire merchant and philanthropist, and planted up with many rare trees and shrubs from all around the globe.

    The estate was left to the National Trust in 1951 and the house was leased to the Youth Hostel Association shortly afterwards. Much of the garden has been in disrepair for many years but recently a National Trust volunteer group has taken ownership of the garden and cleared back areas of rhododendron and unearthed much of the original path network.

    Steps in need of repair.

    You can see in the photograph above some old steps in urgent need of repair. Much of this original work has at some point been dismantled and the stone removed, presumably to be used elsewhere on the estate. This is not uncommon, as slate is an expensive resource, so as the garden evolved, pathways would have changed and it would have been decided that the stone could be put to better use.

    New steps after a few days work.

    We decided that the work should be in keeping with the rest of the garden, so it was on obvious choice to use slate from the nearby quarry.

    Steep incline where new steps need to be added.

    The slate was all hand picked at the quarry and loaded into our trailer. From there we drove it the short distance up to High Close where it was then moved by power barrow to each of the areas that needed to be worked on.

    New section of steps

    To build the steps, we used two or three large rectangular stones as the front of each step. These were filled in behind with smaller stones built in courses, much in the same way as a drystone wall. All of the slate had to be hand finished with hammers to make it all fit together tidily.

    Starting work on another section

    It's been slow work, with each step taking roughly a day to construct, but the effect looks really good and in a few years time it should blend in seamlessly with the rest of the stonework in the garden.

    Shaping a stone

    There's still plenty of work to be done in the gardens, and we're likely to be spending more time here in future years. To see some of the fantastic work that the volunteers have been doing to help restore High Close gardens click on the following link...Album of High Close garden restoration work