Team news for May 2014

  • The wild, wild west

    12:38 30 May 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

    Bowness, Ambleside and Windermere are great places to visit whilst holidaying in the Lakes, they provide a welcoming environment as a base for your stay. However, for the first time hiker, walking can be a little thin on the ground (no pun intended) and maybe you lack a bit of confidence in finding your way around a Cumbrian fell or negotiating footpaths?

    Well I would like to tell you about a neat little bridleway that is situated on the western shore of Lake Windermere, which might seem like a different world when looking at it from Bowness, but I assure you come rain or shine the bridleway is a fantastic introduction to hiking and the transport links to and from it run regularly and like clockwork.

    This flat 4 mile walk starts at Ferry house, just under the shadow of the currently in development Claife Viewing station. Viewed as the London Eye of it's day, it was built in 1799, and was the destination for the earliest tourists to the Lake District who would admire the very best view of the Lake through different coloured glass windows. It was deemed as a 'adventurous' place to visit as it took visitors out of their comfort zone and took them to an area that was seemingly inaccessible.

    To reach the western shore of the lake, you can board a ferry from either Bowness; Ambleside or Brockhole which will take you down to Ferry House. At this point I reccomend a quick toilet break before setting off on your adventure.

    From the toilets and keeping the Lake on your right at all times, follow the road for apx 100metres until you get to a footpath through a gate. Follow this path to a quiet lakeside road and turn right, and quite literally follow your nose.  Eventually the road becomes a track (bridleway) and you just keep heading north for apx 4 miles where you will see finger posts for Wray Castle. By this point you will have worked up a thirst, so nip into the Cafe at Wray Castle for a well earned brew and cake.

    Your ferry home can be boarded from the jetty at Wray Castle and you'll have one of the best nights sleep you've had for a long time.

    It really is that simple! The views are spectacular along the path, especially at Red Nab and if you don't fancy doing the full route, you can catch a ferry back from Bark Barn which will shorten your journey by one mile.

    It's also worth noting that with this path being a bridleway, you can use your bikes.  Windermere cruises provide a bike service. Look at the map attached to alter your route accordingly.

    Good luck and enjoy your visit, and if you see any of our Rangers (usually in red) be sure to say hello.
  • A Natural Play Area, a Drain, and Tree guards. What do they have in common?

    16:46 29 May 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Answer: They constituted  three of the tasks that Central and East Lakes Rangers, with a Working Holiday Group, got to grips with over the course of two days.

    Ben Knipe, Woodland Ranger, who organised the work. Chain sawing in the background. (At work on the "Natural Play Area").

    The "Natural Play Area" is set among the magnificent champion conifers that make up The Tall Tree Trail situated in Skelghyll Woods, near Waterhead. For more details, please have a look at the post..."Champion Trees of Ambleside" on this Blog Site.
    Ready to lever up one of the balance beams into position.

    Hack sawing the threaded bar to length, prior to bolting up the balance beam to the supporting uprights.

    First phase completed! More "Natural Play" apparatus will be constructed in the future. All the wood  materials are found nearby.

    Meanwhile, in the same neck of the woods, a traditional open slate culvert is being constructed to replace an old, unsightly broken pipe.

    Tamping down the base stones.

    Excellent job!

    The next day, the rangers and volunteers went tree planting and constructed tree guards as part of a project to enhance the wood pasture at Troubeck Park Farm.

    Ben Knipe, Woodland Ranger, explaining what the work will involve. Note the trailer in the background with the posts and rails needed to construct the tree guards.

    The long haul! Carrying  the rails up to the tree planting sites.

    The tree has been planted. Constructing the tree  guard is now well underway.

    Countryside Ranger, Ray Gregory, working with two of the working holiday group on another tree guard.

    A completed guard, complete with young oak tree that will in time take the place of the fallen tree.

     A tree guard, overlooking Beatrix Potter's favourite farm...Troutbeck Park Farm. More tree guards may be seen in the top of the image.

    As can be seen, a great deal was achieved in two days with the help of such a willing and able Working Holiday Group.

  • Mountain Festival

    15:23 24 May 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    It’s great to be able to report that all the hard work preparing for last weekend’s Keswick Mountain Festival paid dividends.  Huge numbers of people visited and took part in the many activities that were on offer. 

    The superb site of the Festival village was Crow Park on the shore of Derwentwater. The Trust’s stand just inside the entrance to the village was ideal and we had lots of children visiting and participating in ...

    ... making mud pies,

    building dens 

    and climbing trees. 

    These are from the 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾  listIt also meant that we had lots of opportunities to talk to people about the work that the Trust carries out in the mountains and valleys. 

    All the staff and volunteers from the Trust enjoyed the event and it seemed to be the same for the visitors.  During the day there was a really good atmosphere around the field and you couldn’t wish for a better setting for the evening music events.  Even the weather behaved well!

    Daisy here:

    The aerial ropeway made a scary noise when people were sliding down it.  I didn’t like it at all.  But the field was great.  Loads of people to say ‘Hello’ to – great fun.

    I’m going on my first proper training day to be a search dog this weekend.  I’m so excited.
  • 64 kids, 3 rangers, 50 things????

    13:51 24 May 2014
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    School visits to our woods are becoming a fairly usual occurrence these days, and so when our friends at Lorton Primary rang to say they’d like to come out for a 50 things day at Holme Wood in Loweswater, of course we said yes, and then we looked at the numbers! This wasn’t going to be easy but was certainly doable with a bit of slick timing and a fairly flexible pan, a quick plan was cobbled together and Rangers Dan ,Paul and Mark talked it through got the kit together and hoped for fair weather amongst the thunder storms of previous days.

     The morning arrived and before even getting to the wood the children, and staff with parent helpers, had already completed one of the tasks, to take a long walk! Our narrow lanes weren’t suitable for the school buses so the day started with a 1.3 km hike along the farm track, where the mobs of lambs took minds of the long walk, and made it a tad slower as well!

    Once on site we split into groups with Ranger Dan taking charge of the younger kids who set off pond dipping, we didn’t actually have a pond, the lake had to suffice. They would follow us, using a treasure map and making a stick trail on the way.

    Rangers Mark and Paul led the rest of the group in to Holme wood, where after a swift talk about the day and a bit of health and safety we split again, Paul taking 2 groups off den building whilst Mark’s group set about lighting fires without matches, and then cooking marshmallows and trying out the rope swings over the lake.

    We’d had to time each session to about 30 minutes, necessary in order for everyone to have a go at most tasks but we needn’t have worried, the quality of den building was impressive with some very sturdy examples and some good innovative designs being created well within time, really good to see how the builders organised themselves and got a system going, and all with the smell of roasting marshmallows drifting through the woods.

    A couple of whistles from Mark and the groups changed over, and now the infants and Ranger Dan had caught us up and were busy bug hunting, turning over piles of bark and leaves and finding all sorts of weird and wonderful mini beasts , using magnifying glasses and work sheets to identify their captures.

    Lunch time! So far we’re on schedule for the day, Things are being done, den building, rope swings, map reading, going on a  long walk, cooking on a campfire, after lunch we have mud pies, climbing trees out over the lake, slack lining, dam building, pooh sticks and grass trumpets, we need a snack for sure.

    The afternoon sessions flew by with everyone having had a go at everything, the long walk back to the buses was accompanied by varying degrees of grass trumpet playing and laughter, it was as once again brilliant to hear our woodlands filed with giggles, both from the kids and the staff and parent helpers, who it must be said were excellent we really couldn’t have managed the day without their help, Thank you.

    We had lots of kids asking if they could come back?  Of course you can, just let us have a wee rest first!



  • Half Term Happenings

    09:02 24 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    Mini-beast safari 

    Thursday 29th May 2pm-4pm

    Take a journey in to the sand dunes to explore the hidden world of minibeasts.
    • Free activity, all equipment provided. 
    • All children to be supervised by an adult. 
    • Booking not required

    More Information: Jo Day - Sandscale Ranger, 01229 462855,
  • Track and drainage work at Millerground.

    15:23 23 May 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The leaf mould covering the track at Millerground was getting quite thick. Neil at the controls of a JCB, scraping up the mud and leaf mould. 
    The track was wet in places, owing to drainage problems.
    In addition to cleaning the track, Neil dug a trench in order to catch surface water coming from Queen Adelaide Hill's steep slope above Millerground.
    The slope at the bottom of Queen Adelaide Hill. The Millerground track is below the dry stone wall boundary.
    Cobbles were used to make a "French drain" in the recently dug trench. 
    The finished drain. It allows water to flow freely into a pipe situated further down the slope which then empties into the beck.
    The track is now much drier underfoot, and the new drainage system is coping well, even during  recent torrential rain.

  • The John Muir Legacy

    14:40 23 May 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

    Who was John Muir?
    John Muir was born on April 21, 1838 in Dunbar Scotland. He immigrated with his family at the age of 11 to Wisconsin in the United States. John would walk the fields and woods of the Wisconsin countryside, where he became more and more enchanted with the natural world.
    In 1860 he enrolled at Wisconsin University, where he got good grades but after 3 years left to travel. In 1867 Muir suffered a blinding eye injury, which would change his life. When he eventually regained his sight, he devoted his life to the Natural world.

    John turned more seriously to writing, publishing 300 articles and 10 major books that recounted his travels, expounded his naturalist philosophy, and beckoned everyone to "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings."
    Muir's love of the mountains gave his writings a spiritual quality and his readers were inspired and often moved to action by the enthusiasm of Muir's own unbounded love of nature.

    In one particular article, Muir drew attention to the devastation of mountain meadows and forests by sheep and cattle and as a result worked to remedy this destruction. In 1890, due in large part to the efforts of Muir, an act of Congress created Yosemite National Park. Muir was also personally involved in the creation of Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon national parks. In 1892, Muir and a number of his supporters founded the Sierra Club, the USA’s largest environmental organisation to protect the newly created national parks. 

    John Muir died on December 24, 1914 from pneumonia aged 76 but his legacy taught not only the people of his time but ours the importance of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage.

    What is the John Muir award?
    The John Muir Award was launched in 1997 and is an environmental award that encourages people of all backgrounds to connect, enjoy and care for wild places.

    The 4 John Muir award challenges
    Discover a wild place
    Explore its wildness
    Conserve- take personal responsibility
    Share experiences

    As part of the conservation challenge of the award, we were joined by year 9 students from John Ruskin School to help clear gorse from one of the rights of way. The gorse had become so overgrown in places that the path was becoming impassable. With the help from the two groups that undertook the task, the area is looking much better and we’ve had a great response from walkers using the path and how good it was to see young people getting out and making a difference in countryside. Refreshing comments if I may say so myself.

    Students assessing where to start?
     Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a member of the pea family and can be found in all kinds of habitats from heaths and commons to towns and gardens. It generally flowers from January to June. Gorse is a large, evergreen shrub covered in needle-like leaves and distinctive, coconut-perfumed, yellow flowers during the spring and summer. Gorse is an important shrub as it provides shelter and food for many insects and birds, such as Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and Yellowhammers. Gorse however, can quickly become invasive in an area, forming dense, impenetrable stands if not managed.

    Having fun with the loppers

      We have planned several other days with the School, with task to remove the never ending amount of rhododendron in some of our woodlands.  

    I have found some inspirational quotes from John Muir, hope you like them as much as I do;

    “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

    “Camp out among the grass of glacier meadows. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

    “Fresh beauty opens one's eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty."
  • Working Holiday

    10:34 16 May 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    National Trust Working holidays are an exciting and interesting way for people to volunteer and make a difference in conserving the environment and the UK’S heritage. Working holidays have been a part of the National trust for over 45 years and involve people of all ages involved in all types of projects helping us in our work.

    The volunteers bring with them a wealth of knowledge and new ideas, skills and experience that the National Trust and others benefit from. The holidays ensure that vital work gets addressed leading to the continued preservation and improvement of a wide spectrum of properties and makes a contribution towards visitor enjoyment and bring locations to life

    Volunteers have the opportunity to work in some amazing places, gain new skills and enjoy, often unique, experiences.

    Over the last week a team of volunteers have been hard at work at High Close. As part of a larger ongoing volunteer project of reinstating the footpath infrastructure and opening up the grounds for visitors to enjoy the group began work on reinstating the footpath from our new visitor car park into the grounds

    The path had been cleared by Cumbria Probation Group ready for the working holiday group to begin setting the edging stones and resurfacing the path.

    The group started work on laying the edging stones....

    Once the edging was in place this was backfilled with stone to surface the path...

    Some work was also done on the banking to remove invasive American Raspberry and to landscape the area ready for grass seeding

    We didn't work the group all week, the volunteers got a break and spent the day at Tower Wood on Lake Windermere. Our instructor for the day was Loz who took the group out to enjoy some Kayaking, Sailing and the high ropes tower

    A great day was had by all ....

    By the end of the week the volunteers had completed the path which now provides valuable access to visitors to the Lake District at High Close. Thank you to all the volunteers for their hard work over the week.

    To find out more about the different types of  National Trust Working Holidays visit the National Trust Website Here

  • Excuse me, where's the...

    07:24 16 May 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

    Hello! My name's Sarah and I'm an Upland Ranger.  Strange way to start a blog I bet you're thinking, but I'm the only female Upland Ranger in the Lakes and quite probably one of the very few that exist around the UK, and I want to give you a little insight into my world...

    It's a muddy old do...

    Fix the Fells has 14 Upland Rangers across the Lakes, between us we look after many of the access routes into the fells.  As of April 2012, according to the Lake District National Park Authority there are 1913 miles of rights of way in the Lakes.  If that was laid out end to end it that would get you from Lands End to John O'Groats AND back again with a bit to spare!

    South Lakes Upland Ranger team
    So it's a fair old do looking after it all and the upland routes can be the most challenging but inspiring to work on.  Take our current project on Striding Edge for example, that's a pretty special office in my eyes and a real privilege to have the opportunity to work on it.  Yet there is something that niggles me here..... Where on earth am I meant to pee?!

    Striding Edge.....
    Now I'm no stranger to wild wee-ing as 99% of my working life is spent outside, but sometimes I arrive onto my work sites and the concept of baring my bum to the world really doesn't appeal.  Striding Edge is one of these places.  If it's not the steep drop either side of the edge, it's the masses of people that go walking up there when the weather's good.  Add the bright red ranger jumper and well I may as well declare to the world that I just gotta pee, because I've been holding it in since 7:20am and I won't get home til 5:30pm!

    Swirral Edge had the same problems
    I guess that brings me onto something else, the wet knicker rule.  No, not because I couldn't find somewhere to pee (close call some days though...) but because the weather is so horrifically wet it's gone through me waterproofs, working troos (thick troos at that) and finished its journey at my knickers.  What a bad do.  So much so I would like to be able to declare the day done.  And trust me there have been many many of these days because whatever the weather, we go out! Alas, I've not had much success in implementing this rule, maybe wet boxers aren't quite the same....

    Wet knicker day
    You see, I do exactly the same as the guys do, yes including hauling around some pretty beefy rocks (no gym membership needed for me).  Indeed on our current working holiday we have out with us I have earned myself the nickname 'rock whisperer'.  I guess this comes from my manual handling technique.  As I don't quite have the strength or bulk to move some stone I really rely on technique, so it may look like I'm telling the rock to be light/move itself, but in reality I'm just trying to find the best balance point and easiest way to move stone without doing myself in.  After all, footpath work is a marathon, not a sprint.

    Winches can also be helpful with big rocks!
    As the only female upland ranger I also currently hold the "Our Woman At The Top" crown/tiara for Heart of the Lakes, other teams have a 'Man at the Top' for other business. This is one of Fix the Fells fundraising methods, whereby anyone who books a holiday cottage with Heart of the Lakes has the option to tick a little box that donates two pounds towards Fix the Fells, a great way for visitors to the Lakes to give something back, so if you've ever ticked that box - thanks!

    Sarah with all the previous 'Men at the Top'
    I must say I do feel a great sense of pride to be doing the job I do and to work with the team that I do.  We all share a great respect and love for the mountains in which we work.  As offices go it can be as inspiring as it is exhausting, somehow stunning in the sunshine or pouring rain and forever challenging and changing.  And although I may be the only full time female worker, we have many female Fix the Fells volunteers who regularly go out on drain runs and work parties.  Together us guys and gals, staff and volunteers work together to protect these mountains that so many of us enjoy.  So when you're next out on the fell and you see a collection of workers digging away come and say hello, and if you see a wee lass on site, make her day by saying "good job boys AND girls", trust me, it's a small gesture that goes a long way!

    Not a bad office!
    If you are interested in the work Fix the Fells does we have a volunteer day in Langdale on 8th June, everyone welcome, click here for more info! 

    We are also on twitter, follow us @ntlakes fells

  • A festival of the outdoors.

    10:13 15 May 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    It’s been a busy time this last week as we finalise preparations for the Trust’s part in the Keswick Mountain Festival.  This takes place from May 16th to May 18th and there will be lots to do for all age groups.  The best place to start a Festival visit is at the Festival Village on Crow Park opposite Theatre by the Lake.  Entry to the Village is free between 10 am and 6 pm and you will be able to find the Trust easily because we are just inside the main entrance. 

    I spent 3 days recently outside the Trust shop distributing 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4scrapbooks and pointing people in the right direction for a trail we had set out. You could also build a den, explore inside a tree, hunt for bugs, go bare-foot walking, skim a stone, create wild art and climb a tree. It seems from the huge number of conversations I had that many people are planning to join in with some of what is on offer at the Festival.  It was a Bank Holiday weekend and very busy and I have to admit that I was shattered after my days outside the shop.

    I’ve also been working with volunteers to set out seven more Geocaches on the summits surrounding Borrowdale.  There were already some in place but we wanted to fill in the gaps so that people can enjoy a complete sky-line route around the valley peaks.  This will be a hard challenge for the fit and active.

    For family groups with a variety of ages, fitness and interests, there will also be plenty to do.  On Crow Park you will be able to take part in some more of the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 activities.  We've chosen to do building a den, making mud pies, navigation with a map and compass, and climbing a tree.   There are lots more things on the list and, although the Trust does lead some activities at events like the Festival, you can just check the list and go off yourselves at any time to enjoy them.  You can find the list here.  Just print it and away you go.

    It would be nice to meet blog readers if you are coming so be sure to introduce yourselves.

    Daisy here,

    Roy was stood outside a shop for hours and hours and I was on my lead.  I hated it.  It was boring.  People stroked me and said, “Hello” but I couldn’t run around.

  • Coralroot Orchids are Back!

    15:50 13 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    • Coralroot Orchid grows in the dune slacks amongst Creeping Willow. It is
    generally found in the younger dune slacks within relatively open areas.
    Associated species include Variegated Horsetail, Glaucous Sedge, Early Marshorchid,
    Marsh Helleborine and Round-leaved Wintergreen.

    • Plants are typically less than 10cm tall and do not tend to stand out amongst
    the other vegetation.

    • The orchid derives much of its nutrients from a fungus that grows in
    association with Creeping Willow.

    • Over 1,700 plants were found in intensive surveys carried out here in 1989.
    Recent counts are much lower with the highest being 332 in 2009.

    • Coralroot Orchid appears to be declining at Sandscale Haws and on other
    sites in the UK. Reasons may include succession in dune slacks with few
    new areas being created as well as changes in both climate and hydrology.

    Please note: Coralroot Orchid is extremely difficult to find at Sandscale
    Haws. To avoid any accidental damage to populations we encourage you to
    contact the Rangers for advice before visiting. At times it may be possible to
    arrange a site visit with a Ranger to view the plants

    Call 01229 462855 for details or email
  • A couple of small jobs.

    18:12 12 May 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Some of our work involves basic maintenance, or dealing with situations as and when they arise.

    The following are two recent examples:

    A small section of the private road to Long Green Head Farm, and Troutbeck Park Farm was eroding quite rapidly. 

    Digging out to create a firm foundation for the revetement and tarmac.

    The repair two weeks later and holding firm.

    Heavy vehicles such as tractors and "feed wagons" use this narrow, single track road so a prompt repair was needed before it got any worse.


    Two trees had fallen across the boundary fence between the National Trust wooded area at Post Knott and the neighbouring field owned by Matson Ground Farm.

    The fence was no longer stock proof so the trees needed to be removed as soon as possible and the fence repaired.

    A chain saw was needed to cut up this much.

    Now on to the next fallen tree

    Nearly done.

    The wood and the brash now tidied away and the fence has been straightened and is stock proof again.

  • Wasp patrol!

    15:14 09 May 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

    There are lots of signs of spring around at the moment such as swallows returning to the skies above the volunteer centre and great swathes of bluebells in the woods. Unfortunately there's also the return of wasps looking for a place to build a nest, which gives us an unpleasant dilema.

    Wasps build amazingly intricate structures for their nests, which they make from a paper like substance they produce by chewing wood and mixing it with saliva. If you ever see a wasp on fence or shed around this time of year and aren't too nervous, get a little closer and you may be able to hear it scaping wood off.

    Not just on wood either - this nest was appearing in our metal tool store!

    Initially, it's just the queen building a small nest to lay a few eggs in. When these hatch, they are sterile females that quickly build a larger nest around the queen as their numbers increase.

    It's this point that we need to avoid. Here at High Wray volunteer centre we have a number of tempting buildings that wasps really like to build nests on. The thing is, they're all buildings that we and anyone else staying here need to access (boot store, tool store, drying room etc) so we can't really have a giant wasp nest in there as well.

    Hence the wasp patrol. This time of year we take regular patrols round our outbuildings and knock off the nascent nests before they get a chance to get established. A few goes at this and the queen gets discouraged and goes somewhere else, meaning we've hopefully not caused too much harm to these much maligned creatures. It's not a nice thing to have to do, but hopefully the queen will find herself a nice quiet spot to make her home and Basecamp volunteers can get on with their day in peace!
  • An army of volunteers.

    22:54 08 May 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since I last worked with a group of Yorkshire volunteers but they returned for their annual visit last weekend.  They have been volunteering for the National Trust for many years and spend an annual weekend with me.  It’s always nice to meet up with them again and they always complete a lot of hard work.

    We began the weekend working at Braithwaite with a group of volunteers from the village.  Some time ago I made a site visit with Jamie, the Trust’s archaeologist, and he noted the damage that was being done by trees and vegetation to the remains of an old mill dam.  This is an important part of the history of the village when it had a carding and woollen mill followed by a pencil mill in the 19th century.  The village is actually much older and there has been settlement there at least since the 10th century when the Norsemen arrived.


    There had also been consultation with village residents with a decision to retain a mixed age and heights of vegetation as well as diversity of species so that there would be a wide variety of habitats.

    The combination of the two groups of volunteers made a sizeable working party so we set to and made terrific progress towards protecting what remains and indeed in revealing its presence.  We also cleared part of the old mill race.  There must be many people who have walked past or over them without even realising that they are there.

    On Sunday I had just the Yorkshire contingent working with me.  We went up Cat Ghyll next to Great Wood.  In places where the vegetation is predominantly gorse, it had overgrown the footpath.  This is a pitched stone path that we built a good few years ago and the encroaching gorse was beginning to make it difficult to use.  So, we got to work and chopped it back to clear the path.  There’s plenty of gorse left!

    Whilst we were there, we popped up to the top of Falcon Crag to enjoy the view when we had our lunch. 

    It was a very good day with all the volunteers doing their usual fantastic work.  I could not possibly do that much work in a weekend.  It can’t be said too often that the Trust’s thousands of volunteers are at the heart of everything that we do. A big ‘Thank you’ to every one of them.

    Hi, Daisy here.

    I’ve met more friends. It’s great.  Loads of people came.  We worked in the ditches and the mud and played.  It was great.  And the next day we went up a big mountain and that was great.

  • Toad Story

    12:02 03 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    Guests on our natterjack toad guided walk
    We are lucky to be part of the Duddon Estuary which is home to approximately 25% of the entire population of natterjack toads in the UK.  Here at Sandscale Haws we have about 1000 breeding adults and are one of the best places to see them up close.  As they are such a vulnerable species, it is illegal to not only handle them, but to also disturb them in any part of their life cycle.  For this reason Neil and myself hold a license, this allows us to monitor their population and give educational demonstrations out on site.
    By monitoring the size of the toad population over many years, we can ensure that we have the balance of our reserve management just right.  Our tall, rank vegetation is grazed by our livestock, this keeps the grasses and rushes low in order for other flora to thrive.  Trampling of the ground by cattle also exposes bare sandy patches which allow pioneer plant species to establish, as well as providing areas for the natterjacks to burrow into for shelter.  This rich floral community provides habitat for thousands of insects of which our toads will amble after for it's dinner.  Natterjacks being short-limbed need this flora to be kept short to journey over, this is done by  the grazing.  In summary, by keeping the numbers of grazing animals at the right levels, in the right place, we can ensure a happy, healthy population of natterjack toads.
    Fresh spawn. Photograph by Rod Mills
     Monitoring is done by walking around the margins of all our pools at least once a week during breeding season (mid-April and mid-June) and recording the number of spawn strings seen.  Fresh-laid spawn can be easily recognised as a double row of spawn, after a few days it becomes transformed in to a single row (see previous blog for photos).

    Natterjack toad on left, Common Toad on right
    The skin of toads appears warty with large glands behind their eyes.  The largest distinguishing feature to separate the natterjack from the common toad is the yellow line down the middle of it's back.  Every line is different and can be used to identify an individual, very occasionally, though, you will come across a natterjack with no line.  In this instance the colour of the iris gives the game away, with the common toad having a copper or amber colour and the natterjack having golden irises.
    Natterjacks are generally smaller reaching a length up to 7cm, with the common toad getting up to 8cm.  Between the sexes, the female is usually the largest, requiring more body weight for egg production.  The male can also be recognised by two darker inner edges of the first two toes on it's front legs.  These are called nuptial pads and help him provide a firm grip on his female whilst in amplexus (mating).  Along with darker toes, the males "wear the trousers" in the toad world and when on his back can be seen to have a line of darker pigment on his back legs that the female toad doesn't have.

    2014 monitoring so far...

    So this is what our more mature spawn looks like at the wait they are tadpoles!  It is not possible to distinguish between the species of tadpoles at this stage, however the common toad tadpoles are marginally bigger as they were laid earlier in the season.  Also side by side the natterjack tadpoles have a slightly more pointed nose and appear less active than the common toad tadpoles.  The common toad tadpoles like to move about as a shoal in the deeper areas of a pool, whereas the natterjacks are loners and prefer the warmer more shallow areas.  As they grow, natterjack tadpoles will develop a white chin, and as they grow legs they get their yellow stripe, starting in the centre of their backs.  Hopefully in the weeks to come I can show you more of their development...

    Summary of spawning history

    Number of pools used
    Spawn count total
    385 so far
  • Fleeced! (The Sheep and The Jackdaw)

    07:22 01 May 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    These images were taken during a routine "patrol and litter" round in April.

    This jackdaw was seen helping itself to wool directly from a sheep's back for nesting material. Jackdaws are highly opportunistic. Why bother picking up scraps of wool from the ground, when the source is so readily available?

    Jackdaws are known to eat sheep ticks, so they may combine wool gathering with snacking! The sheep seemed surprisingly relaxed and insouciant about what was happening.

    That's a good beakful!