Team news for September 2014

  • Balancing water levels for wetland habitat management

    13:02 30 September 2014
    By Jo Day

    Even during our dry summer the site, before work started, was still very marshy
    The area to the south of our reserve is predominately wetland with the lower section regularly being inundated by high tides. Over time the ditches that take water off these marshes have silted up and the old tile drains have collapsed.  This has prevented cattle getting into these areas to graze and therefore has changed the floral diversity of this area.
    Getting in the diggers to re-profile the old ditches
     As part of the higher level stewardship scheme for farm payments we embarked on a project to reinstate these ditches and install a sluice gate.
    The sluice was specially made for the job
    Sandscale has seasonally fluctuating water levels and the amount of standing water present can vary dramatically across the seasons and from year on year.  The sluice gate will allow us to control water levels to ensure sufficient water for breeding natterjack toads and a balance of wetland plants and grassland species.
    It took no time to put in place
    The new walk way was installed for ease of access
    The walk way over the ditch next to the sluice will allow access for the cows to cross the ditching system, so both sides can be grazed
    The sluice gate in action
    Before work began

    After digging the ditch
    In 2012 the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology initiated a new dip-well monitoring regime on the reserve and also analysed data from previous studies.  Over time this should provide key information to help inform water level management.
    After work, with the sluice gate in place

  • A galling discovery

    14:30 26 September 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

    It was whilst saying goodbye to a volunteer group recently that one of the party produced an Oak leaf he’d found, with lots of mysterious round growths on the underside. We had to admit to not knowing what they were, so set out to investigate and found ourselves entering a mysterious and very alien world. The world of Galls.

    No, not France, but the abnormal growths found on many plants usually caused by some sort of attack or penetration into the plant’s growing tissues, making it reorganise it’s cells. Galls can be caused by many different agents such as viruses, fungi, bacteria, insects and mites and there is a huge variety of them. They’re often very distinctive though so the causer can easily be identified by the gall.

    A good example of the possible variety of the growths can be seen in two galls you may well be familiar with – the so called ‘Oak apple’ caused by a small wasp and the ‘Witches Broom’ seen on Birch trees and caused by a fungus.

    Witches Broom - picture from Trees for
    Generally, these growths aren’t just caused for aesthetic reasons, but may provide their inhabitants with food, shelter or protection from predators. It’s often a parasitic relationship, causing harm to the host plant but this isn’t necessarily so. Sometimes it gets very complex too, which is what we found when investigating the aforementioned Oak leaf.

    A load of old Galls - the Oak leaf with it's occupants
     The wasp causing the Oak Apple gall was just one of many different species of ‘Cynipid’ wasp –  all causing different types of gall in Oak trees and our leaf was another one of them. If you must know, the wasp in question this time is Neuroterus quercusbaccurum. I feel confident in saying there’s probably not a common name for the wasp, but the flat disc galls produced this time is a common Spangle gall.

    Alien worlds! a close up on some of the Galls
    However, these flat discs are just part of the story. They contain the developing eggs of the wasp and in autumn will drop to the forest floor where the grubs will develop over winter under the cover of fallen Oak leaves. In Spring an all female generation of ‘agamic’ wasps emerges (meaning they can reproduce without mating) and lays their eggs in oak buds. These in turn produce an entirely different ‘currant’ gall in catkins and leaves, with male and female wasps emerging in June. These mate and fresh eggs are laid on the undersides of leaves, developing into more Spangle galls.

    It goes to show that few things in nature are as simple as they first appear and even a pile of fallen leaves can have a lot more to it than meets the eye ….

    By Rob Clarke, High Wray Basecamp volunteer centre
  • Contrasts

    13:29 25 September 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week was one of remarkable contrasts for me. 

    Firstly I attended a National Trust Rangers Conference at Speke Hall in Liverpool.  Speke Hall is a Tudor building situated beside Liverpool airport and that in itself is a startling contrast. 

    The conference was excellent. With rangers from many different types of properties to meet and some very good workshops there is always a lot to learn.  To keep costs to a minimum, we were all asked to camp.  I took our camper-van.  As you can imagine, it was a noisy night with planes taking off & landing and grass-cutting beside the runways throughout most of the night.

    I then returned to the Lakes and spent a night on the high fells helping to marshal a challenge event for the Youth Venture Trust.  Two of us camped up there overnight.  It was a clear night with fantastic star cover and silence.  It could not have been more different from the previous night beside an airport.

    Those two nights illustrated perfectly that the National Trust has an amazing range of experiences to offer you.

    I also returned to do some more work on Friars Crag.  You might remember that our foresters felled some trees and we used them to cover some old, decaying gabions that were protecting a stretch of shore from erosion.  We then covered them with material from our dredging operation that keeps the landing stage on Derwent Island usable.  I have now raked the top soil and seeded it.  Once the planting is well-established, we hope it will provide the necessary erosion control and will also allow visitors to walk along it.  We could have done the job with a dry-stone wall but this option would have cost about £15000.  Doing it this way means we have used our Trust manpower and local materials from other essential tasks.

    Ideally I would have preferred to do the planting earlier in the year to give the plants a good start but the weather forecast is good for a while so I’m hoping they will be sufficiently established before we have any storms.

    Daisy here;  

    My exam was cancelled.  I got all excited and it didn’t happen.  But I’ve been told it will soon and I’ve got a special jacket.  I’ve been swimming in the lake.  I swam too much and I’ve got labrador tail again.  Sigh!
  • Team day at High Close

    07:47 23 September 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    On the 19th September various teams from local properties got together at High Close for a day of team building. As well as spending a morning helping speed along one of several footpath improvements the day was a chance to share ideas amongst colleagues, discuss projects and learn about each other's properties so that we can share this knowledge with our visitors.

    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 1953 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.

    The first job was to put a wooden edging to the sides of the pathway, ready for gravel to be put in at a later date. This involved measuring out the pathway at each point, using a mattock to level the ground and then digging posts into the ground to attach the wooden rails to.

    Meanwhile, another team worked on invasive species control by uprooting and burning rhodedendron and cutting back the bramble to allow the area to be landscaped, in keeping with the history of the High close estate.

    After a lunch "talking shop" and ensuring we don't reinvent the wheel at each property the team were given the chance to bond over an archery lesson - many thanks to Millie from the YHA for being such a great teacher. It's fair to say we weren't natural archers, but we took great delight in the small progress we did make!

    A great day was had by all, morale was kept high and some great ideas shared. High Close estate is always open to visitors and the YHA run a small cafe - look out for a blackboard on the road entrance for opening times. There is limited parking available free of charge.
  • Art in unexpected places.

    14:10 18 September 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    This year the National Trust is working with C-Art (Cumbria Artists Open Studios) on a new scheme where, for three weeks, artists and their work will be found in extraordinary places.  In my valley, Borrowdale, you will be able to find installations and working artists in a number of places.

    At Ashness Bridge you will be able to find an installation featuring fleece, skulls and bones at the “Bark Barn” and the surrounding hillsides.

    Around the Bowder Stone and nearby slate quarry, you will find art inspired by the Vikings.
    You will also be able to see a ceramicist at work if you visit Watendlath Barn. 

    All of these events and installations are temporary so their places will return to their previous status after September 28th when C-Art ends.

    My favourite is where “Bark House” near Ashness Bridge has been wrapped in sheep’s wool. It might sound ridiculous if you haven’t seen it but I’m finding that the vast majority of people who see it have a big smile.  That’s not a bad reaction to it.  Of course, as for any art work, there are mixed reviews but these pieces are certainly generating reactions.  Different people will have different tastes.  Anything that stimulates reaction and discussion or persuades people to go to see other artworks, has to be a good thing to do.

    By the end of September it will be as though they were never there but a lot of people will have a different perspective on our landscape.  You can read more about the National Trust and C-Art here.

    Daisy here.  Roy’s back.  It’s great.  I’m going back to work.  I’ve been playing in rivers and lakes. 

    Life’s brilliant.  I’ve got an exam soon as well.  I’m a bit worried, it’s for the rescue training.  I’ll let you know if I pass.

  • The Tiller Boys

    13:42 16 September 2014
    By Ivan Corlett

    Sorry to disappoint you, but the Tiller Boys doesn’t refer to a line of feather-costumed, precision dancers high kicking their way along the deck of Gondola.

    Instead, I’m referring to the boys in the crew who, in an emergency, need to work the tiller to steer the boat.

    In normal operation the Helmsman steers the boat from his position up on the helm using the wheel.

    Steering wheel

    However, should the steering mechanism fail for any reason we have to be able to steer the boat using the tiller.

    Two of our new recruits, Jack and Dave, were put through their paces on an emergency tiller exercise recently to make sure they know what to do if we have a steering failure.

    At the stern of the boat there’s a removable hatch above the rudder where a tiller locks into place so that the boat can be steered by moving the rudder directly, as demonstrated to our new recruits by crewman Greg.

    Demonstration of using the tiller

    Using the tiller requires quite a lot of muscle so it’s a two man job and it also means the boat has to travel a little slower than normal as running at full steam makes it almost impossible to move the tiller.

    But it’s not simply a question of brawn, brain is also required. The tiller boys work under the direction of the Helmsman, who shouts out instructions to tell them to move the tiller to port or to starboard.


    And here’s where the brain is needed because if the Helmsman wants the boat to turn to port the tiller has to move to starboard and if he wants the boat to go to starboard the tiller has to move to port. The Helmsman therefore has to think which way he wants to manoeuvre the boat then ‘flip’ his instruction the other way around for the tiller boys.

    If things go wrong the boys can end up doing a funny little dance backwards and forwards with the tiller as the Helmsman corrects his instructions – not quite the dance of the tiller girls, more like the hokey cokey.

    Using the tiller

    Using the tiller

    I’m pleased to say that in our exercise, no such tomfoolery ensued and we sailed in a controlled fashion under precise instruction from the helm from our base at Pier Cottage all the way to Coniston Pier for our first pick-up of the day.

    Anyway, back to those Tiller Girls ….

  • Adding the final touches to the Esk Hause path

    12:59 15 September 2014
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since the last update we've been spending much of our time working, and walking, up Esk Hause. We've calculated that for this year, in total, to repair the Esk Hause path we've walked a distance of 185 miles just to get to and from the work site and spent over 90 hours doing it. We've also climbed, and descended, over 102,500 feet, that's like walking from sea level to the top of Mount Everest three and a half times!

    Turfing a section of path

    In between all the walking we've also been building a path which has generated a lot of soil and rubble. This is all used to landscape around the path to help the area look more natural after the path repairs have taken place.

    Starting landscaping around a drain

    To help the path blend in and stop rubble falling on to it we also turf along the edge. Turf that is generated while building the path is reused and if any extra is required it is cut from areas away from the path, and out of sight.

    Freshly landscaped drain

    As you can see in the following photo often very large quantities of soil and rubble are generated. To reduce the amount of surplus rock smaller pieces are buried and any larger, and more weathered, rock is half dug in to create a natural looking bank.

    Rubble and soil generated while building the path

    Once the landscaping work is finished the area changes from something resembling a building site to something much more natural. After the area has been seeded (often once a year, over several years) the landscaping work will be indistinguishable from it's surroundings.

    Path after landscaping
  • Improvements to the View Point Area, and the path at Aira Force.

    09:13 14 September 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Work was needed on the path leading down from the small National Trust car park on the Dockray Road to a view point close to Aira Force. The viewpoint area itself was due to be resurfaced. 

    The small wooden bridge that crossed the beck was old.
     For safety reasons it was removed and a concrete pipe was put there in its place. 

    Aggregate from Threlkeld Quarry was used for resurfacing 
    over the pipe.

    Kevin Tyson was contracted to do the excavating, and to fill the power barrows from the aggregate pile dumped at the car park...the nearest practical point. 

    The power barrow on its way from the car park to the site down the steep narrow path.

    Nic, explaining to interested members of the public,
    about the next stage of the work. Kevin was to level out part of the area prior to it being entirely resurfaced. It was a tricky job as Kevin had to reach over the railings with the excavator arm.

    A lot of concentration needed!

     Digging out the turf which the digger couldn't reach.

    Power barrow coming into its own, yet again, to take the turf away in order to landscape the area around the newly installed pipe.

    Resurfacing inside the viewing area.

    A "wacker plate" was used to firm up and compress the new surface.

    The new surface. Within a short time, it will weather to match the path surfaces elsewhere at Aira Force.

    The path above the newly installed pipe.

    The view, taking in Place Fell, St Sunday Crag and Glenamara Park.
    (Ancient Wood Pasture) See post ...Glenamara Park... on this Blog Site.
  • Trolls and creatures from the Black Lagoon

    10:00 12 September 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

    One of the best things about being an NT ranger is that we get to hidden places around the Lakes.  

    Coldwell Quarry is such a place, hidden in the woods near Outgate its a SSSI important for the exposed geological features in the quarried cliffs. 
    Unfortunately sometime in the past the quarry was not so secret and it had been used to dump waste fencing materials and other rubbish so it was up to us to clear it out, we didn't realise we would encounter a prehistoric creature in the process!

    Volunteer John standing next to the dumped waste
     using a pallat to stop sinking into the sludge.

    And what of the prehistoric monster??  I won't be cheeky about John, (without help from volunteers we would struggle to complete so much work).
    On day 2 of the job we found this Southern Hawker dragonfly newly emerged on our pallat (you can see the shed larval skin called an exuvia next to the insect).  Dragonflies have flown the earth for 300 million years, some fossils have a wingspan of 70cm!
    We were able to watch the dragonfly take it's first flight into the surrounding woodland after about 20mins where it will feed and mature before returning to the quarry to breed. 
     Teneral Southern Hawker

    Removing the rubbish and cutting back overhanging vegetation should improve the habitat, let more light in and make the geology easier to see if you can find the quarry!
    Rubbish removed and cutting back completed.

    Everyone knows that trolls live under bridges but not everyone knows about the old bridge over Blelham beck near the campsite at Low Wray, I didn't until I was asked to clear some trees growing on the bridge.  They had to be removed as their roots were damaging the structure.
    There's a bridge in there somewhere!

    Once again with help from volunteers we were able to clear the trees and ivy and find the old bridge.  The bridge is Grade 2 listed  and dates from the late 19th century when it's thought it was re-modelled as part of changes made to Low Wray farm by the Dawsons who owned Wray castle and it's estate.

    More trees removed.

    The bridge emerging from the woods.
    All bridges have trolls its just a matter of finding them!  After a couple of hours of graft our troll emerged from his leafy hiding place and stands ready to scare anyone who dares to cross his bridge!

     Wray the troll uncovered.

    Richard Tanner
    Woodland Ranger

  • Mountain School

    15:20 09 September 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    I write this having just returned from a week of mountain rescue training in the Dolomites.  Two groups each with twelve members drawn from six rescue teams will have spent a week enhancing their rope skills to the most up-to-date techniques. 

    I travelled out early with two other team members and we met up with our guides, Kirk and Christjan to recce good sites to use for our training.  I’ve worked with Kirk before so know him quite well but Christjan was new to us.  Both were excellent and had a lot to teach us. We were then joined by the rest of group one and were based in the mountain hut you can see in the photo.  It was ideally located with short walks in to big crags so we had as much time as possible refreshing existing skills and learning new techniques.  Group two followed for training in the second week.

    We were particularly keen to learn new techniques for using guiding lines.  Rescuing people from vertical crags is relatively easy.  It is much more difficult from smaller crags and across broken ground and this is when good use of guiding lines is safer for both rescuers and casualties.  The priority has to be to minimize the danger to rescuers.

    It is five years since I last did a similar training course and knowledge is constantly developing about things like stresses in ropes systems.  Kirk is at the forefront of such research so is an ideal trainer to develop our skills to the highest standards.

    At 3200 metres

    As it happened, the day after arriving back, we were called out to a rescue where we could put into practice our newly honed skills to rescue a couple of people from some very steep, nasty, uneven ground.  Of the nine who carried out the rescue, three had been on the course and were able to guide the others through using the most up-to-date techniques.

    All in all, it was an excellent course.  We learned lots and I really enjoyed being in the mountains enjoying the company of a group of like-minded people.

     Daisy here.  Roy’s been away but Che came to stay so that was quite good.

    Daisy here.  Roy’s been away but Che came to stay so that was quite good.

  • Rhododendrons and Lancasters.

    06:36 08 September 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Phytophora Ramorum is a fungus like pathogen that causes immense damage and death to many tree species.

    In the United States different strains of P. Ramorum have decimated native oak populations. The strains found in the UK have had negligible impact on our oaks, but have infected many Japanese Larch tree plantations here.

    Evidence has shown that Rhododendron acts as a host for P. Ramorum; the pathogen produces spores that are easily wind blown thus causing new infections.

    P. Ramorum has been found in Rhododendrons at a site on the A592  near St. Catherine's, National Trust. To reduce the risk of the pathogen spreading all the Rhododendrons at St. Catherine's are due to be cut down. The work started on Sunday 7th of September with tremendous help from the Cumbria National Trust Volunteers!

    Cutting back and burning the Rhododendron Ponticum.

    Pruning and clearing the outer branches to allow access for cutting the main stems with either bushman or chain saw.

    Work well under way.



    Time out was taken to watch  2 Lancaster bombers fly over Windermere from the vantage point of Adelaide Hill. 

    Wonderful weather and a good turn out on this very special occasion.  


  • Himalayan Balsam "Pull For A Brew" with South Cumbria Rivers Trust.

    08:09 02 September 2014
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The last organised volunteer balsam pull for this  year with South Cumbria Rivers Trust took place at  a site near Skelwith Bridge on Saturday 30th August. Vanda and I met up with Jen at 10 am. Sadly, no one else turned up; after waiting a while, our small band set to work.

    Invasive Himalayan Balsam at Skelwith Bridge. It readily out competes,
    and shades out our native plants, reducing diversity, and denuding river banks of understory
     vegetation. Winter die back exposes the bare soil to erosion. 
    A volunteer, working on a recent National Trust project, told me about several studies that indicated volunteering has surprising benefits for the volunteer. She summed it up: "Doing good for the community makes you feel good...and does you good!"

    Because it was so late in the season, bin bags were used to contain the ripe seed pods; they would be incinerated later. Many of the pods could be heard popping inside the bag!
    Cutting the stem with the seed pods ready to put in a bin bag. A single plant can produce 800 seeds and project the seeds up to 4 metres away; hence the plant can spread with phenomenal speed over a few seasons.
    An awkward site. I am in a silted up drainage ditch.
    Vanda, National Trust colleague,
    and Jen. South Cumbria Rivers Trust. and organiser of the
    Himalayan Balsam pulling events.
    It is easy to see why the Victorians were so taken with this plant.
    They had no idea of how invasive Himalayan Balsam would become away
    from its natural habitat. 
    Bees find Himalayan Balsam irresistible because it contains so much nectar.
    They often prefer it to native plants which means yet more Himalayan Balsam
    gets pollinated to the detriment of native species. This allows it to spread and

    become dominant over large areas very rapidly.
    Bees are drawn to this invasive species. Note proboscis already extended!

    Oh Yes, this is 'THE PULL FOR A BREW'. Chesters By The River, a bakery, café, and shop, heard that a balsam pull was to take place nearby and had kindly offered in advance to treat all participants to a cream tea.


    Thanks to all at Chesters.