Team news for February 2015

  • Maintenance and renewal.

    16:38 27 February 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Many people who are familiar with the work of the National Trust don’t realise that it is a charity and has to raise funding for all that it does. Some of that comes from membership fees, some from bequests and some from admission fees to properties. But there are other ways to do it including finding sponsors who want to support the Trust’s work. So we have fund-raisers who specialise in finding and matching sponsors to projects. The fund-raiser for my area is Liz Guest and she visited for a day recently to take a look at what projects might be appealing to sponsors.

    We had a drive around the area looking at potential sponsorship opportunities. We have several memorial seats in the valley that are beginning to look slightly ‘tired’ and it would be good to replace those. Initially Liz will contact the families of the original donors if possible to see if they want to support them. If for any reason they can’t, a wider audience will be given the opportunity to ‘adopt’ one.

    When we were at the top of Castlehead we found a family sitting on the seat up there. We explained what we were doing and they told us that they got engaged sitting there so it was a very special seat for them. They could see that it was more than past its best but even so they wanted to have it and they offered £100 which is a fantastic contribution towards our work in the valley.

    We will have several that will be offered widely for sponsorship. I’ll let you know on the blog when they become available. We just can’t do all that we do without donations and sponsorship. We recently received a donation to be used in the Surprise View area. This will go towards helping us to improve access for everyone including wheelchair users. We also intend to carefully and sensitively install another seat. We do make good use of all the donations and sponsorship we receive and are always aware of our responsibility to the many generous givers. A huge thank you to you all.

    Elsewhere in the week, routine maintenance continued and I spent a day with a chainsaw cutting back branches that were overhanging a fence line on Crow Park. There’s always plenty of work like that to be done.

    Daisy here: Roy always makes me stay well back when he is using a chainsaw.

  • Memories

    10:02 27 February 2015
    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 this time of year the Upland Rangers start to think about how the projects on the fells will go.   Most of the work we have this year are on sites that the team have worked on previously and each site brings back memories.

    Probably the biggest project for the team this year is on Coniston Old Man.  The overriding memory here was when we were given the task of removing a rather large boulder from one of the paths.  We managed to remove it safely to the side of the path using some serious winching gear.  For some reason, whilst moving the rock we all had a serious urge to see if we could get it to roll down the fell side and into the Tarn. We managed to restrain ourselves, but only just.  Would other people have this urge or was it just us?

    One of the jobs we’ll be returning to is Martcrag Moor, near Langdale.  Five years ago we completed a floating sheep fleece path through a peat bog area.  The theory is that the fleece stops the gravel from disappearing into the peat when people walk on it.  Whilst constructing the path we had many a horrified look from walkers who passed by.  We realized it could easily be mistaken for a mass grave for sheep.

    We then reacquaint ourselves with Raise Beck, above Dunmell Raise.  This path treks along the bottom of a steep sided Ghyll that eventually climbs up to Grisedale Tarn.  Memorable for one team member in particular due to the fact a sheep nearly took them out.  The sheep was grazing on the fellside above and whilst it was trying to get to some nice grass on the other side of a boulder field, it dislodged a rock the size of large Beach Ball.  The rolling rock gathered speed descending the steep hillside and only just missed the unaware Ranger by a couple of Feet. 

    Last but not least, we’re returning to Striding Edge.  Of all the sites we’ve worked on over the previous years, it’s this one that remains the most memorable for the team.  The best views, the longest walk in, the highest walk in, the most atmospheric and the record holder for the furthest a landscaping bucket has rolled when misplaced.

  • Goodbye potholes!

    16:52 24 February 2015
    By Jo Day

    Car park at the start of the day

    As most of you will probably know (and you can see by the above picture) our car park at the end of Hawthwaite Lane has been in dire need of some TLC for a few months now, with it being more pothole than car park and some of the potholes being big enough to lose a small dog in! You’ll probably all be glad to know then, that we have just had a contractor come in (Neil Martin) on Tuesday to level it all out and get rid of all those troublesome potholes! He had some great pieces of kit and the car park looks excellent now that it’s all been leveled off. 

    Doing a grand job!

    It’s all still a bit wet at the moment due to the rain we’ve recently had so we’ll have to see how well it beds down but fingers crossed it’ll stay level and pothole free for the next few months.

    This is however only a temporary fix at the moment as we currently have some plans in the works to redesign and improve the car park area. We’re hoping to have these completed soon and have a brand spanking new car park by the end of this year.

    We now have a pothole free car park!

  • Aira Force Tea Room - OPEN

    07:37 23 February 2015
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    After a winter of refurbishments, Aira Force team room is finally open again and back under the management of the National Trust.

    There has been a team room at Aira Force in some form or another for at least 65 years (possibly even longer).

    This picture was taken in the 1960’s. There have been quite a few changes since those days.

    Although the wooden structure has gone, the main part of the building is still standing, with a new stone extension (added around the 1970’s).

    The tea room has been owned by the National Trust ever since Aira Force was acquired, but it has been let out to various different tenants throughout the years. It was decided last year that it was about time this beautifully positioned building with fantastic views of Lake Ullswater came back in hand, and be run by the National Trust.

    The inside and outside of the building had seen better days.

    A complete refurbishment was needed, work started in late 2014 with the complete gutting of the inside. As with any refurbishment there are always problems arising that hadn't been planned for.

    However with such a fantastic team every one knuckled down and helped out to get all the finishing touches completed on time.

    A vast improvement, I think you will agree?

    The team room is now open 7 days a week, 10:30am-16:30pm. Please drop in to see the improvements for yourself.

    By late spring Ullswater Steamers will have also built a pier on Aira Green, only a few hundred yards from the Tea Room. This will mean that visitors can hop on a steamer at Glenridding, have a lovely stroll around Aira Force, then enjoy the delights of the Tea room, before heading back to Glenridding along the new Lake side path.

    What better way to spend a spring afternoon!
  • Wanted: willing participants to test out new and exciting play trail features!

    10:00 20 February 2015
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, Paul Farrington, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    I’ve said it before but I do love my job. The sheer variety of day to day work and projects we get to work on keeps me on my toes and eager to keep learning more!

    Testing out the dens: It can be a tough life being a ranger!

    The best part of it by far though is looking after and developing the Natural Play Trail at Wray Castle. Phase 1 saw the construction of a scrambleboard, a slackline, stepping stones, balance beams and plenty of den building material! Many people tell me that they love the trail and can’t wait to see what comes next! So we are excited to announce our phase 2 plans! 

    Scrambling up to the trail!

    Behind the scenes: 

    It might look like we just go out and have fun moving woodchip, digging in posts and constructing scrambleboards and climbing features! Well we do, but we also do lots more besides. We have less exciting but equally important jobs to do, in particular checking the trail regularly, and continually updating the checksheets and the risk assessments! All to keep the trail as fun but as safe as possible!

    Gathering materials for the trail can be an interesting task too! Last week, I found myself ordering a new slackline, more rope, screws, bolts and various bits of timber. Who would have thought that slacklines come in different colours?

    A slackline in ranger red? Yes please!

    An army of volunteer and ranger help: 

    Without the help, dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteers we wouldn’t be able to create the play trail! So a massive thank you to all who have been involved and will be involved in the future months!

    Dedicated volunteers! I had to order the sun especially!

    We have exciting plans for 2015 in the natural play trail. We will be looking for willing participants to come and try out our new features as we build them. These include: 

    1)      Climbing traverse – Test your climbing skills by traversing up and across the slope to join the main trail! Is it as easy as it looks?

    Lots of lovely colours :)
    2)      Another tyre swing – the current tyre swing has been so successful that we are going to put in another one!

    I can't wait to test this one!

    NB: some of the eagle eyed amongst you will notice that we have had to take down the tyre swing temporarily. Never fear, it will go back up very soon!

    3)      A horizontal spiders’ web – Using a large tree stump, we will construct a spiders web of epic proportions! You’ll be able to climb over, under or simply sit on it and admire the views around you! You'll have to come down and see for yourself as it starts to take shape...

    4)      Log stilts – Test your balance and stretching abilities…

    5)      A muddy pit – Mud, mud everywhere… come and find worms in our muddy pit, create mud pies or get your wellies on and get stuck in! *warning* parental advisory – muddiness very likely!

    Be like a volunteer or ranger for the day - getting muddy is fun!!
    6)      Most exciting of all: a treehouse – keep an eye out as we ask for your ideas very soon on the Wray Castle Facebook Page

    Ok, so perhaps this is a little too elaborate for the size of trees in our woods! But we are looking forward to getting your ideas! I can't wait to get my hands dirty constructing it!

    Watch this space! If you see us working out and about on the trail over the course of the next few months, come and have a chat! We love hearing your ideas and we are always in need of people to test our creations!

    You can keep up with developments on the play trail on the Wray Castle Facebook Page

  • Shipping diggers over to Derwent Isle.

    00:30 20 February 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    I’ve briefly mentioned before a big project that the Trust is undertaking to replace services to Derwent Island. This entails running an LPG gas supply pipe and a pipe to remove waste water along the lake bed. During part of this work the pipes will float and create a temporary pontoon so there will be some disruption for regular users of the lake. The launch operators and regular wild swimmers have all been kept informed about this and can make alternative arrangements. Our aim is to minimise the impact in any way we can.

    The specialist contractors who are doing the job are very professional and I have complete faith in their doing a superb job. You can see from the photographs what they had to do to get two mini- diggers and two powered wheelbarrows over to the island. It hardly seemed possible until I saw their skills in action. Fortunately it was a still day with flat calm on the lake and they just drove the machinery straight on and straight off the boats. The boats were impressively stable.

    To create space for the diggers to work, I’d had to clear some branches and brushwood but these will regenerate quickly and in a short time they will have grown back. My volunteers did a great job moving the wood around to a site for future burning.

    This is a very unusual job and it is a great relief to see that the contractors are so good at what they are doing.

    Daisy and a friend’s dog Che spent the day running around with the two dogs that live on the island

    Daisy here:

    Che’s been to stay.  It was great.

  • Wintry hills.

    12:48 13 February 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    I had an interesting and very enjoyable experience recently with two photographers from the National Trust’s head office in Swindon. They were visiting with a brief to take photos of snow on the fells of a wintry Lake District. 

    We had lots of snow at the time so we had a tour of Borrowdale and were joined for part of it by my volunteers. I took them up Dalehead where there were superb views and a beautiful sunset. It was a great day and I enjoyed working with such enthusiastic guys.

    Eventually I will be sent some of their photographs and I’ll pop some of them here on the blog. Meanwhile, I’ll post now some of the ones I took. 

    You won’t see me of course because I was behind the camera! The full collection will be stored in the Trust’s photo library and might be used anywhere by the Trust so watch out for them.

    Daisy here:

    I’ve been out playing on mountains. John Malley was with us as well and his dogs.  They’re great.
  • Millerground Enhancement Group. Path improvements on Queen Adelaide's Hill.

    08:30 13 February 2015
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Queen Adelaide's Hill is situated to the east of Windermere, above Millerground, with magnificent views over the lake's widest point. 

    It is a large drumlin, a rounded, elongated hill formed from an accumulation of glacial debris, with gravel making up a large proportion of the heterogeneous mix of glacial till.

    View of Fairfield and Loughrigg to the north.
    View of Belle Isle and Claife looking south.
    The Queen Adelaide's Hill path on its eastern flank was in need of attention; it had become very slippery.

    The Millerground Enhancement Group decided to make the route to and from the top of Queen Adelaide's Hill safer. Cutting back the turf and exposing the drumlin's gravel gives a much grippier surface on the steep slope.

    Members of the Windermere and Bowness Civic Society, students from Windermere School, and National Trust rangers working together on the path.
    Completed section of path near the top of the hill.
    The 'hairpin bend' is so steep that steps were deemed necessary! (Putting in the 'risers')
    Many hands make light work. A great deal was achieved in under two hours.

    This post will be updated when more path and landscape work has been completed.
  • Running repairs.

    13:40 06 February 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Regular walkers on the most popular of the Lake District fells have probably come across sites that are showing signs of erosion. Often this begins with heavy trampling and destruction of the vegetation that is holding soil in place. Once exposed the soil is vulnerable to being washed away by the heavy rains we can have. The soil finds its way into streams, rivers and lakes. So we then have damaged slopes and silted water courses and lakes, neither of which we want.

    Last week I was working on two such sites. One of these on the slopes above Braithwaite has been managed for some years now. Where path erosion is a concern, we have created a parallel stretch of path with a simple gating system. The gate is just an oak beam that can be swung across to close either of the paths. After a few years, when the path in use begins to show too much wear and tear, we swing the barrier across to close it and walkers then have a regenerated stretch to use running quite close beside it. The barrier is quite low in height to minimise its visual impact but it encourages walkers to avoid using the damaged stretch that needs some time to recover. The damaged area will be seeded and allowed to recover and then we’ll repeat the process as necessary. This is a system that we are finding is working very well.


    Not too far from this, a new path is developing that goes straight down the hillside on a bracken-covered, steep slope of approximately 45 degrees. It’s likely to be used by just a few people, possibly fell runners, but the steepness of the slope means that it is particularly vulnerable to erosion. If the bracken is trampled, water will use the channel to run off the slope taking with it soil and maybe even causing land-slips.


    The problem can be avoided if we can persuade people to use the existing footpath that has a hard-wearing surface. So I’ve put a simple post and rail fence at the top of the problem path and a sign at the bottom explaining why we want people to use the established path. I think that many people just don’t realise how much damage can be done by the huge numbers who now visit the Lake District.
    I will be monitoring the situation in future and, if necessary, will have to install more fencing and signs. I really don’t want to do that because it spoils the landscape that people love.

    Daisy here: I’ve been running up and down really steep hills with Roy.  It’s great.

  • Friends, Romans, Hedgelayers

    11:45 06 February 2015
    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

     Friends, Romans, hedgelayers … 

    One of the great things about working at High Wray it is that we are playing our part in helping to keep traditional skills alive. One such skill is hedgelaying, which is carried out all over the country with regional variations in styles and techniques. It’s a fascinating process with a long history – according to the National Hedgelaying Society in 55BC Julius Caesar mentioned a tribe in Flanders using techniques recognisable today.

    Hedge with a view

    A winter task often means chilly conditions!
    Hedgelaying is a job that can only be done in winter when the sap is not rising. It involves cutting hedge plants most of the way through their stems and ‘laying’ them on their sides to form a stock proof barrier. The traditional tool for this is the Billhook, although often today hedgelaying is done with a chainsaw.

    A billhook - lots of regional variations available ...
     As well as looking good, a laid hedge provides shelter for the stock, encourages new growth in the plants and makes good ground cover for wildlife. The regional variations come (amongst other things) with the differences in how steep an angle you lay the plants, how wide and high your hedge is and where you put wooden stakes to hold everything in place.

    Finished stretch of hedge, quite late in the season (note leaves on plants)
    Collateral benefits

    So it’s a satisfying, traditional skill that many regular local volunteers look forward to each winter – although for some we’re sure that has a lot to do with the fact that when you’re hedgelaying you generally have a nice big fire to burn all the excess bits of wood!

    Utilizing the fire in a vain attempt to dry out the thorn proof hedgelaying gauntlets
    We also run National Trust hedgelaying working holidays which adds an extra level of interest for us as we will often have some quite experienced people from other parts of the country turning up to ‘see how we do it here’. Not only do they bring different knowledge and experience we can pick up on, they sometimes bring all sorts of interesting tools and equipment for us to admire too.

    That's some very interesting equipment - A working holiday participant's wood burning kettle
    By the time we finish this year’s hedges the season will be over for the year and we’ll be moving on to other tasks. We look forward to this time, not because we don’t like hedgelaying but because the end of it heralds the start of spring and all that glorious sunshine that’s no doubt heading our way …..

    Find out more about National Trust working holidays here:

    By Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger
  • Sunset over Wetherlam and The Langdale Pikes, after a beautiful day in February, viewed from the east of Windermere.

    18:30 05 February 2015
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe