Team news for June 2015

  • From boardwalk to wild flower meadow.

    13:05 26 June 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    It’s been great to get stuck back into work with my regular volunteer group. We’ve been working on some repairs to the recycled-plastic boardwalk at the southern end of Derwentwater. It has been in for some years now and, if it had been timber, would have started to decay by now because the constant changing of the lake water level would have meant the timber would fluctuate frequently between wet and dry. Because it is plastic, it isn’t affected like that and it is still looking really good. Just one or two of the posts had sunk so we jacked them up and installed some bracing beams to give the walkway the support it needs.

    It’s also great to see some of the things I see during my working days. One recent morning I saw mother and daughter roe deer. If you are alert or will sit quietly and wait patiently, you will be surprised what you can see. I was able to take photographs of these and walk away quietly and they didn’t move. Really nice to see.

    Another good day was a ranger team meeting out on the Cumbrian coast with our coastal ranger Chris. He has done some fantastic work out there planting and reseeding wild flower meadows. They are looking especially good at this time of year.

    After the meeting we all pitched in and did some re-pointing of an old stone wall that he is working on. We were using traditional lime mortar. Many hands make light work and we were able to complete a good stretch of the wall.

    Daisy here,
    I’ve cut my paw on Derwent Island. I’ve been to the vet and have three staples in it. I keep on showing Roy but he doesn’t seem to do anything about it.

  • Faffin around in Northern Ireland...

    09:00 26 June 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

    Working for the National Trust has many great benefits, one of the main being you are a part of a national organisation and you have colleagues in loads of interesting and beautiful places, including over in Northern Ireland (which can be easy to forget...sorry NI).  As such Rangers across the Trust have the opportunity (thanks to the generosity of the Mayled family, in memory of Andy Mayled), to link up with other Rangers allowing them to learn, discover and experience somewhere new.  So what greater contrast than the high fells of the Lakes to the hustle and bustle of Northern Ireland's capital Belfast!

    From here..... here!
    This was the choice I (Upland Ranger Sarah!) made and over 3 days in June I swopped the 14 strong Ranger team in the South Lakes for the some what smaller 3 Ranger team in Belfast... 

    The Belfast crew, the green helps them blend in...
    Why Belfast I hear you ask?!  Well, I've done a wee bit of traveling, but hadn't yet made it to any part of Ireland, so when I heard about the Ranger link, heading over to Belfast seem a good way to kill two birds with one stone.  It also helped that I knew the Ranger, Craig, from the work I do as a rep with Prospect, the NT's union.  As such it wasn't long before we had dates in the diary, ferries booked and I was getting excited to be somewhere new and completely different.  Only as it turned out it was different...yet the same!

    Same old fencing job, different location!
    Let me explain.  You see, although the South Lakes has a 13 strong Ranger team, that team is broken down into more specialist teams and day to day I mainly work with the 3 other guys that make up the Upland team.  So rocking up to the Ranger office at Minnowburn and meeting Colin, Mick and Craig felt like a temporary exchange of the usual faces.  Accompanying them was a friendly bustle of volunteers, and lets not forget Bella!

    The South Lakes massif
    Over the 3 days I got to see some of the main bits of work the guys get up to in Belfast.  From working with school groups pond dipping and in the forest school, to practical work on one of their coastal sites in Port Muck, to the intricacy of project planning a car park development at Minnowburn where they can annually receive over 150,000 visitors.  It's what we as Rangers would expect to be involved in, it's just the balance of jobs or the habitats that may be slightly different. 

    Irish language school group
    Pond dipping

    A very Ranger suitable totem pole, all about cake!
     For example in Belfast the large majority of their volunteer input is from large groups, whether those are corporate groups wanting to get out and do something different, or school groups looking to have a mix of education and conservation.  Partnership working is also key, Minnowburn itself is only 120 acres within the much larger Lagan Valley, covering 3500 acres in total and welcoming between 2-3million visitors a year.  Being on the doorstep to a population of over 300,000 people living in Belfast the opportunities to work with communities are well taken, a great example being the community garden that sits just behind the Ranger office and comes complete with a wood fired pizza oven for those long summer evenings!

    Community garden, a great space

    All in all it was a really interesting week that I would recommend to all Rangers.  It makes a refreshing change for both sides of the link and allows for plenty of learning, even if to start with you don't know how to articulate what that learning is!  For me though its back to the grind stone and back to home sweet home.

    Home...literally- i can see my house!
    By Upland Ranger Sarah
    Follow us @ntlakesfells

  • The Triple Threat to Millerground.

    06:30 26 June 2015
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    National Trust land at Millerground, on the east side of Windermere, is one of the few public access points to the lakeshore and is a very popular lakeside walk.

    Wynlass Beck flows through Millerground and then into Windermere. Just a short distance upstream there is a large area of disused land where non native invasive plants have been allowed to run riot. 

    Unfortunately invasive plants, as their name implies, are very good at working their way downstream spreading into and dominating new areas very quickly. 

    A great deal of work goes into keeping National Trust land at Millerground as free as possible from these invasive plants, either through pulling them up, digging them out, or using chemicals as a last resort. 

    (1) Himalayan Balsam. Each plant may produce upwards of 800 seeds. Many of these seeds are carried downstream and this is how Himalayan Balsam is able to spread so rapidly.

    (2) Japanese Knotweed. The hardest invasive plant of all to eradicate. It reproduces vegetatively; if even small pieces of its root system or rhizomes are able to find their way downstream* new stands will quickly become established. *This is particularly likely to happen during floods or heavy rainfall.

    (3) Skunk Cabbage is a comparatively new invasive on this watercourse but if left can soon spread very quickly. Most years now Skunk Cabbage is found at Millerground and sprayed.

    Images of how bad it can get when invasive plants are left unchecked.
    Wynlass Beck upstream from National Trust land at Millerground.

    The sheer number and density of invasive plants is overwhelming. Vast stands of Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed have taken over this area. It is appalling.
    Millerground, being so close, is very vulnerable.

    A huge area is now dominated by these 'invasives' easily outcompeting native species which is a worry because Millerground is an important site for the native 'Nationally Scarce' Touch Me Not Balsam...  

    (Images above were taken at 6pm. June 26th. 2015.)
  • Landscaping and path repairs for the hydro-electric scheme

    12:07 19 June 2015
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Last summer work commenced on building a 100kW hydro-electric scheme at Stickle Ghyll that would provide enough clean energy to power Sticklebarn. Sticklebarn is the only pub that is both owned, and run by the National Trust and is conveniently situated at the bottom of Stickle Ghyll. An engineering project of this scale has obviously created a sizable visual intrusion so we were tasked with helping to reinstate the area and return it to a more natural state.

    Our first job was to repair the section of path next to the bridge and intake weir, where the water storage tank is located. After the tank had been installed the path was initially graveled, skimmed over with soil, and piles of rock were left along the edge of the path.

     Before starting work

    We gathered much of the usable rock by hand and moved it up to the path, in addition we brought in some extra rock that had been generated during the engineering work to make sure we had enough. The job was complicated by the first few metres of path being sat directly upon the large concrete water tank but it wasn't too long until the new path was starting to take shape.

     Pitching the new path

    Once the path was completed we set to work on landscaping the path to help it blend back in with it's surroundings. We brought in several tonnes of topsoil to cover over the spoil and gravel that had been generated while building the stone path. This was either shoveled or moved by power barrow to where it was required. We then dug in surplus rock and re-positioned some of the larger boulders, turf was added to a few spots and the whole area was covered liberally with grass seed.

     Freshly landscaped path

    We've been closely working with some local contractors on the larger areas of landscaping, their main work has been moving the topsoil and reprofiling with diggers. Once we'd moved the usable rock from the lower side of the path the contractors dumped several loads of soil for us to spread next to the path.

     Landscaping the lower side of the path

    In just a few weeks the seed was starting to grow and the path was again starting to fit in with it's surroundings.

     Path starting to recover

    The photograph below shows the wider area before we started and the rock pile that was used for building the path.

     Rock pile next to path

    With the new path in place, a lot of extra topsoil and several bags of grass seed the whole area has now been transformed. We'll continue to reseed the area through the summer and, given a little time, the area should once again be looking great.

     New path with the seed starting to grow

  • I'm back!

    22:57 18 June 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Regular readers of the blog might have realised it is some time now since I posted. I've been off work ill for the last three months. I've been in and out of hospital three times culminating with an operation to remove an abscess. The doctors say I will make a full recovery so, although there were times when it was quite grim, I feel incredibly lucky and happy. Things could have been so much worse and three months isn't very long in the grand scale of things.

    I'd like to say a huge thank you to the Rangers who stepped in to make guest appearances on the blog. I think they did a really good job and it's something I'd like to keep going in the future.Daisy’s been to play dates on Derwent Island with the two Labradors that live there. That was a huge help and she loved it. Lou has almost adopted her and I'm sure if there were a custody battle with Lou at one end of the car park and me at the other calling Daisy's name, Lou would win.

    So I’m now back to work with a renewed appreciation of what a fantastic job I have in what I think is the best valley in the Lake District (see other Rangers for alternative views). I’ve started with some gentle walks on the fells as part of my recuperation and to catch up with developments during my absence. It will take some time to regain my fitness after much of two months in bed and another month feeling a bit grim!

    One outing was to see the temporary paper bridge in the Grisedale Valley. It was an interesting pop-up in the landscape that was eventually removed leaving no lasting effect. I’ve also been mooching about on the fells with Daisy and her best friends Gus and Bryn.

    Work-wise, I have been spending a week at Millbeck Towers with a working holiday group and also, for one day, my usual regional volunteer group. Millbeck Towers is a National Trust holiday property situated in a beautiful position. 

    It has extensive gardens and there is some fantastic work being carried out to restore them. I am not a gardener of any kind but the people who have been doing the work have been superb. The work party has been staying in the house and there are plans to have similar working holidays based in the house in future.

    Daisy on a Trust vehicle

    Another excursion was to Castle Crag to see the work that has been carried out by a couple of the guys here. They have been pitching and building steps through a dry-stone wall and rebuilding the wall. This was done to replace an old ladder stile with something that will be maintenance free in future and to improve access. They have done a fantastic job.

    Daisy here.

    I’ve been going to Derwent Island. It was great. Lots of contractors to play with and Gus and Bryn – they’re Labradors like me.

  • The Netted Carpet Moth and the BBC at St. Catherine's.

    07:30 15 June 2015
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The BBC Natural History Unit plan to film and tell the story of the rare netted carpet moth and its reliance on touch-me-not balsam, a 'nationally scarce' annual plant.

    The moth is on the wing between mid July and August. Females lay eggs singly on the balsam.
    Netted carpet moth
    (Eustroma reticulatum)

    The yellow flowers are followed by pods that burst with explosive force when ripe...scattering seeds far and wide!
    Touch-me-not balsam
    ( Impatiens noli-tangere)

    The Lake District is a stronghold for the moth and the balsam albeit at just a few sites. 

    The BBC have chosen one such site at National Trust St. Catherine's for some film work.

     Conservation work at St. Catherine's, East Windermere, has resulted in many touch-me-not balsam plants growing annually in the wooded area just south of the Footprint building; there has been a corresponding increase in the annual moth populations.

     Emma, the producer and Tom, the cameraman, are setting up the camera on a post for time lapse photography of the balsam plants. (Thursday evening, 11th June).

    The camera in action.

    An image of the balsam taken from The Footprint. (June 12th)

      The balsam, The Footprint and the camera post seen from the wooded side. The dappled shade that the balsam thrives on is apparent in this image. The Footprint by contrast is in the full glare of the sun! (June 12th)

    The Footprint seen from a point further back in the wooded area.

    To give a measure of protection to the touch-me-not-balsam, James, N.T  Area Ranger, is erecting a rope barrier.

    The netted carpet moth. (Late July) on the loo wall
    at St.Catherine's!

    The caterpillar, the flower and seed pod. By October the caterpillars will have pupated, emerging as  moths in  July.
    The image above was taken in late August just six metres from the  Footprint steps!

    Other posts relating to the netted carpet moth and touch-me-not balsam are on this blog site.

    • Dens and treehouses!

      09:00 12 June 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

      Remember those long summer days during the BIG 6 week holidays which seemed to go on FOREVER (well perhaps it did to our parents…)… When the weather was great and there was fun to be found around every corner?

      I, for one, remember those days fondly - getting stung by nettles, grazing my knees through repeated unsuccessful attempts to ride my bike without holding onto the handlebars, finding little hide-aways to build secret hangouts, playing around in the local park looking for the perfect twigs to build a survival den. Usually arguing over who had the best or strongest design… 

      The dictionary tells me that a den is: an informal room or hideout; or a wild animals’ hidden home. Thinking back to my childhood and those long summers, we were rather like wild animals creating dens that no one would be able to find (or so we thought!). Scouting out the best spots for hidden hide-outs, in the pre-smartphone days when time had to be filled with fun found in the great outdoors (or sometimes the living room when the weather was particularly poor!)

      The rangers absolutely love building dens! Who says you have to grow up?
      Dens don’t always have to be your traditional sticks propped up against a main stem. I recently learnt about the concept of ‘made versus invade’ dens – this is the idea that dens can be ‘made’ from scratch using the more traditional materials such as twigs, sticks and leaves (like in the photo above) or they can be ‘invaded’ such as finding little nooks and crannys that might not otherwise be seen as so. Try finding a hollowed out tree, putting a sheet over an A-frame picnic bench or behind the sofa when the weather is too wet out! Do you remember that feeling of excitement as you inadvertently lose your whole day to developing and perfecting  your own hideaway?

      Happy den-builders at Wray Castle
      The best news is, you can come build the biggest, the best, the most complex dens at Wray Castle anytime as part of the National Trusts’ 50 Things to do before you are 11 and 3/4. Why not see how small you can build your den (for your favourite toy or an ant?) or see how many rooms you can build within your den. 

      Calling all Dads - this is your time to shine!

      We often find that parents, Dads in particular, and older siblings are the real den building aficionados. Keen to step up and show the younger members of the family how dens are really built; even without being invited to! So we are putting on a day aimed especially at the big kids! Come down to Wray Castle on Father’s Day for ‘Dens for Dads’ – The rangers are busy gathering plenty of fresh den building material behind the scenes to really get you into the competitive spirit… What will you come up with?

      On the 21st  June from 10-5pm; normal admission applies but the event is free. Check out the Wray Castle Facebook Page for more information or call 015394 33250.

      In need of some inspiration?

      The best thing about den building is making it up, the possibilities are endless… but just in case you wanted some inspiration to get you started, here are some top tips!
            1) First, you need to decide on a basic structure. Here are a few to think about:

      The classic 'tipi' - often build around a main stem, like this one, offering the most strength. Find yourself a well-appointed tree with a view and balance the other twigs around it

      The ultimate classic 'tipi' - It takes quite some skill and balance to construct this type of den with no middle support. Can you manage it without using rope?

      The 'bivi' den - made by balancing a long main stem between two v-shaped branches or nobbles in a tree. The walls are then made by balancing twigs up and down the length of the main stem.
      There is also the 'whatever you have lying around den' - never underestimate the value of sofas, clothing racks, cushions and duvets in the living room! 

            2) All dens need walls – so you have decided on your basic structure, what about adding some walls? If your den is in the woods, you can add moss, leaves or brash (or perhaps some old sheets if it is not raining) to make it water tight and more secretive!

      All dens need walls - the material from a branch that fell from the Blue Atlas Cedar in the Wray Castle grounds makes great wall material!
                3) All dens need a floor – if you are building your den in the woods, perhaps you can find some leaves to carpet your floor. Beware using of bracken though, you don’t want to get tics!

            4) Your hide-out needs some furniture… hunt around for logs and branches that will make your den fit for a king!

      Logs make great seats!

            5) Where can you go to build your ultimate den?There are lots of great places to go build dens - local woodlands and parks, National Trust properties such as Wray Castle, Allan Bank and Sizergh, local parks, your back garden (ask your parents if you can sleep out?!), your front room?

      Building the ultimate den in the Wray Castle Play Trail..

      You may have read my previous blogs about the play trail describing the new developments in the past few months. Or perhaps you have seen rangers and volunteers busy hard at work constructing more balance beams, log stilts and a giant spiders’ web… if you haven’t been down this year yet, come on down!! 

      Testing your balancing skills on the new balance beams?
      Jed, the dog, modeling the new spiders' web!
      Log stilts
      We have an even bigger plan for this year - to build the ultimate hide-out den, A TREEHOUSE!! 

      And we want your help to design it… come visit the castle and draw or build your perfect treehouse in the craft room – or if you can't come to the castle, why not send us a photo to the Wray Castle Facebook Page? Get thinking and designing and the rangers will combine the best ones to build the treehouse in the play trail this summer! We can’t wait to see your ideas!

      Let your imagination go wild!!

    • Joe B's post (Honister Heli Lift)

      13:29 11 June 2015
      By Roy Henderson

      My name is Joe Bagnall and I am the guest blogger for Roy this week. I am a part of the North Lakes Uplands Ranger Team; we’re responsible for conservation in the upland areas of Borrowdale, Buttermere, Crummock Water, Haweswater and Ennerdale. Our work mainly entails maintaining and repairing footpaths using several techniques. In the winter we work on lowland jobs alongside the property Estates Team.  

      In April the North Lakes Uplands team had their annual helicopter lift for one of the main uplands projects of the year. The team had seventy four ton bags of stone flown from the screes above the Honnister slate mine to the footpath leading up to the old tramway from the Mine’s carpark. The stone will be used to replace sections of the old pitched path that in places is falling out or has never been pitched and is eroding away.

      The heli lift took place on one of the nicest days that we have had this year; the team were assisted by two volunteers to help with the management of passing foot traffic whilst the helicopter was flying. The flight crew and helicopter were from PDG, a contractor that Fix the Fells has used for a number of years.

      Work will be starting on the path this summer alongside the Team’s other two main projects of the year on Dale Head and Carlside. 

    • Images from The Grasmere Gallop 2015.

      15:30 09 June 2015
      By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

      Helm Crag overlooking the event.
      Susie and Lizzie warming up before the run.
       Iain, piping the competitors to the start.
      Ready for the off!
      And they are under starter's orders.
      Drinks Marshals at Station D.
      Part of the 10k course around Rydal Water.

      Not far to go now.
      Approaching the finish.
      Made it!
      Robin, 17k competitor,  with his 'Runner's Medal'.
      A well supported event. Here's to the next one
      ....4th June 2016....

    • South Lakes on Screen

      09:00 05 June 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

      Rangers are fairly accustomed to strange requests, and we pride ourselves on our can-do attitude - but it still came as something of a shock when we were asked, ‘Can we do a high speed car crash in Tilberthwaite?’ This isn’t the only unusual one we’ve had over the past eighteen months – there’s also been ‘Can we take plaster casts of the quarry walls?’ ‘Can we build an enormous waterslide that chucks people into Tarn Hows?’ and ‘Can we zoom a huge drone above your woods?’ Contrary to what you might expect, we only said no to one of these requests (guess which one!), and they all came from one group of people – film-makers. With such a spectacular and characterful patch, it’s perhaps no surprise that lots of people making film and TV want to shoot here, and you can spot South Lakes in big budget feature films like Miss Potter and Snow White and the Huntsman, TV dramas like Safe House, the opening credits of Countryfile, and even a toilet paper advert!

      Blea Tarn Film Location
      A scene from Snow White and the Huntsman in Little Langdale - Universal Pictures
      Paying our way

      This summer we’re busy working with a film company making a new adaptation of Swallows and Amazons, another TV drama, and lots of smaller documentaries. Sometimes it’s almost a full time job. So why do we do it? The simple answer is that, as a charity, the money the film makers pay is absolutely essential to the National Trust, and allows us to do even more of our important conservation work. Every day film-makers spend using our land and buildings pays for woodland management, watercourse protection, visitor access routes, and all the other work we do to protect and look after South Lakes ‘forever, for everyone’. Filming is also a really important source of income for the Trust on a national scale – find out more here. These films also create great publicity - sometimes globally - and attract more visitors to experience our inspirational places.

      Accommodation Traditional Lake District
      Renee Zellweger at Yewtree Farm in Miss Potter - Phoenix Pictures
       Protecting our patch

      We work closely with our tenant farmers and the films' location managers to ensure that nothing the film units do damages the land or buildings – sometimes this means placing restrictions on where they can work, or asking that they lay temporary tracks before driving vehicles across fields. For Swallows and Amazons, the crew will have to leave their trucks at the road and carry their gear by hand into woodlands, in order to protect and preserve these special places. We usually supervise filming to ensure all the conditions are being met, sometimes long into the night, and places are often left better than when filming began because of repairs to walls or improvements to farm infrastructure. 

      And naturally, we’re not afraid to say no to those requests that we think are going to cause damage or degradation, or are otherwise inappropriate. So if you haven’t guessed already, the one we refused recently was the giant waterslide at Tarn Hows – although it did look like fun!

    • Joe's post (Fixing the Fells.)

      21:25 04 June 2015
      By Roy Henderson

      Hi, my name is Joe Cornforth. I am the guest blogger for Ranger Roy’s blog this week. I am the upland ranger working in Borrowdale, Buttermere, Ennerdale and Haweswater. I work in a three person team. We work through the summer months building and repairing paths in the uplands and during the winter we do estate work (walling, fencing hedging etc.)

      We work with a dedicated group of Fix the Fells lengthsmen once a month doing various tasks. Last weekend we had them in for three days building a bench path on Carlside.

      We were using a full bench path construction technique. We cut the full width of the tread into the hillside and used the excavated soil in the erosion scar from the old path. The tread is out sloped so that water runs off the path surface and the bank above the tread is then profiled and turfed.

      A large erosion scar has formed on the hillside so we are putting this new sustainable path in and landscaping the scar so that it re vegetates. We also put some drainage ditches in to stop water and gravity further eroding the scar.

       Over the weekend we had fifty volunteers helping us. The work they did would have taken our team two weeks to do.

      As well as the Carlside job we are working on Dale Head building a stone pitched path using stone that we flew in with a helicopter, The stone is bagged up from nearby screes.  We will be doing the same technique on Honister tramway later in the year.

    • The National Trust Ranger Academy

      15:08 04 June 2015
      By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

      National Trust Ranger Academy
      My name is Pete and I work as an academy ranger for the Trust in the Lake District. The academy scheme provides training, both theoretical and practical, to those with passion but without the background skills or knowledge. Myself and Bruna – an academy ranger based in Snowdonia – have recently spent a week at Blakeney Point in North Norfolk to help the team monitor a variety of sea birds and learn from them.
      The A-team: from left Josh, Paul, Sarah, Bruna, Pete and Ajay

      The ability to work between sites is one of the key strengths of the academy programme. Sharing best practice not only saves the time of wheels being reinvented, but is also a great way to be re-inspired and share time with like-minded people. Preserving areas for the next generation is not always an easy task, especially when it can mean change for the current generation, and the challenges that this change brings. However, we share the belief that conservation is worthwhile. We have been gifted with a glorious planet and so of course we want to share it with others – a little compassion goes a long way.

      The ability to engage, educate and inspire is just as important as practical skills, as we need future supporters, members and volunteers to continue our work indefinitely. It turns out meeting our core target of “for ever, for everyone” is quite a task! Education and engagement can prevent misunderstandings occurring. For example, the site of a tree being cut down can easily evoke mental images of mass deforestation. But with vast timber imports from Europe and further afield a sustainable wood industry is vital to stop deforestation elsewhere, especially in countries with less stringent controls. Conservation is a truly global concern and so it is important not to become too fixated on making our grass green if that comes at the expense of the metaphorical grass elsewhere. Wood is often a bi-product of our core woodland aims of habitat management, visitor safety and access. Having a varied age structure, different light levels and allowing some trees to reach maturity of a large girth (providing nesting holes/deadwood habitat) are important for a valuable habitat, and as such some trees are removed.

      Good communication is key. With such a large organisation this can occasionally be difficult but staff and volunteers are committed to sharing our passion, knowledge and expertise. Here at Blakeney, coastal ranger Ajay Tegala and the team do a fantastic job, speaking to almost every visitor to the point. This not only helps to educate and inspire the visitors but enables the rangers to point out safety concerns and help protect the vulnerable ground-nesting birds and fragile sand dune, salt marsh and shingle habitats. String fencing and signage deters boats from mooring in the tern colony (sandwich, common, little and arctic) and near other ground-nesting birds.

      Our time at Blakeney 
      We were extremely lucky to be greeted on our very first evening by a friendly visiting Bluethroat (Luscinia svecia).The Bluethroat was once a regular migrant to Blakeney Point, sometimes in numbers up to 25, but declined in the 60's and by the 80's were rare visitors. There is now just one Bluethroat spotted almost annually, and rarely two, so this was a great site to see. Another interesting sighting during beach patrols and nest surveys was several Garden Tiger (Arctia caja) and Brown Tail (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) moth caterpillars.
      Bruna looking out for the Bluethroat
      Bluethroat (Luscinia svecia), a rare migrant

      Brown hare (Lepus europaeus), fairly common on the Point
      Caterpillar of the Brown-tail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea)
      Birds-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), one of many Spring flowers brightening up the dunes
      Pied wagtail (Motacilla alba) chicks using one of the nest boxes - they have since fledged

      The only access to Blakeney Point is by the seal boats (externally run boat tours) or via a three-mile shingle walk from Cley beach – suffice to say, the ridge between the boat landing and the Lifeboat house (pictured at top of blog) is the busiest part of the Point! This also happens to be where several Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) choose to “nest”. I use the inverted comma's because their idea of a nest is simply laying eggs on the floor into a small scrape in sand, grass or shingle. They lay one egg a day to a total of four – however, females will sometimes share nests, hence the five eggs we found in one nest! This means they can share incubating duties and have extra defence against gulls (particularly common and herring) and other predators. In order to protect the eggs from accidental damage, and minimise stress to the female, we erected temporary fences around each new nest.

      Bruna enjoys spotting her first (of many) Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) nest

      A rare five-egg osytercatcher nest, the result of two females sharing a nest

      On Wednesday we were joined by two ecology consultants from ECON to survey the local fish population in relation to the food supply for little terns (Sternula albifrons) and sandwich terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis). We used a 50m net in Pinchen's creek, using smaller nets and buckets to remove the fish and crabs, take measurements and then return them to the water. Species found included Bass, Herring, Lesser and Greater sand eels, Flounder, Crangon and plenty of crabs. The plan is to return to survey at different tide levels and build more robust figures.

      Pulling the net across to sample the local fish population
      Measuring the fish before returning them swiftly to the water

      Over at Blakeney Freshes, ranger George took us out to monitor a variety of nesting birds. George was himself an academy ranger at Blakeney before securing his permanent role. There were a few Oystercatchers and lapwing still on nests but the avocets and a pair of lapwing already had chicks, who seemed to be doing well. Large drainage channels and sluices were dug out last year with the help of the RSPB to help regulate water on the freshes, and new scrapes dug out by digger with small islands. The avocets in particular took well to this improved habitat. The spot of the day was a pair of little ringed plovers with three chicks in tow, with a third adult being chased away by the pair. This may mean there is a second breeding pair – fantastic news for this schedule one species, which has just 1,200-1,300 nesting pairs in the UK.
      Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) male on grassland Norfolk, England
      The stunning Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), which has had breeding successes on Blakeney Freshes
      We both had a fantastic time and have learnt a huge amount - not least how to live for a week without running water or mains power - some of which we will be able to take back to our properties and use again in the future. Ten academy ranger positions are advertised near to the start of each year across England, Wales and Northern Ireland - please visit National Trust jobs for this and more. 

      To read more about the work of the National Trust at Blakeney Point and across the North Norfolk coast please visit their blog at