Team news for May 2015

  • Jersey Boys

    11:11 27 May 2015
    By Ivan Corlett

    It may strike you that the crew members of Steam Yacht Gondola are unlikely to be at the forefront of modern fashion, but you’d be wrong.

    The style these days seems to be all about going retro and that’s exactly what the Gondola crew have done in putting together their new outfits.

    But they’ve not just gone back to the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, at least not the 1960’s, 70’s or 80’s. The new retro jerseys are based on the tops worn by the original Gondola crews back in the 19th Century.

    Below is a photo of some of the current crew modelling the new jerseys.

    Crew wearing the new jerseys

    Jack on the left is wearing one of the former tops as a comparison – he’s so last year!

    Hop on board soon and let us know what you think about our new look.

  • Something different every day.

    16:11 26 May 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Hello, my name is Daniel Simpson and I am the guest blogger this week while Roy is away. I am a member of the Ranger Operations team based in the North Lakes covering an area from Borrowdale round to Ennerdale. A major part of our work includes the practical jobs such as: dry stone walling, fencing and hedgelaying. We also spend time working at events such as the recent Keswick Mountain Festival, plus anything else which is asked of us from the other departments.

    On Tuesday myself and Jack from the Operations team spent the day working in Ennerdale. Jack and I work with the Wild Ennerdale volunteers several times during the year helping them with a variety of tasks.  Tuesday saw a great team effort with staff and volunteers from Wild Ennerdale, the National Park, Forestry Commission and the John Muir Trust all working together. But before the work began we met at the Ennerdale Scout Camp where Rachael Oakley the Wild Ennerdale Project Officer fuelled us with tea and cake.

    Tea and cakes.

    The large group of staff and volunteers were split into three work forces. Jack and I joined the team who were cutting down small spruce trees.

    Jack cutting down a spruce tree.

    Line of cut spruce trees.
    These trees would then be attached to large larch poles that will create an embankment on the edge of the River Ehen therefore reducing the amount of sediment that is washed into the river. If sediment continues to be washed into the river the young freshwater pearl mussels will be smothered and will not be able to receive the oxygen they require to survive. This job is just one way in which the severely endangered freshwater pearl mussels are trying to be saved by the Pearls in Peril Project.At the same time as we were cutting down the trees; the rest of the work party were removing a redundant fence as well as planting up a new woodland. 

    The following day I led a group of primary school children who had been staying at the Borrowdale YHA on a farm walk around Seatoller Farm. Whilst they are at the farm the children will hopefully gain knowledge of where their food comes from and how farming has helped shape the landscape.

    They seemed to be fascinated by the way Shepherds used to count their sheep using the traditional method of “yan, tan, tethera…” and the hefting system that exists in the Lake District fells which means the sheep know where to go when they are up in the fells. The hefting system is the way that a female sheep takes its lamb to the same area of fell that it was taken as a lamb for the first time.

    Children get the chance to touch a herdwick lamb.

    The hefting system is explained to the children.

    The next couple of days will be taken up with ensuring the car parks are presented to a good standard in time for the busy summer season by strimming the grass. As well as carrying out some drystone walling on theDunthwaite part of the property. All in all this blog summarises how mixed a week for the Ranger Operations team can be. 

  • Help from Newton Rigg students

    11:45 24 May 2015
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Over the past four Fridays the Ullswater Ranger team have been working with seven Newton Rigg Students at Wetheral Woods.

    Wetheral Woods is located in the Northern most reaches of the Central and East Lakes property portfolio. The Woods are located on the banks of the river Eden, on the outskirts of Wetheral Village.

    The woods are home to many interesting features, not least St Constantine cells, that have been dug into the red sand stone cliff face, right on the side of the river. It has been said that they were refuge for the monks from the nearby priory. The woods are also home to small leaved lime trees. This is the furthest north that they are found in the UK.

    Some area of the woodland have started to get a little tired over the years, not least a steep section of steps that link the top path to the lower one.

    This work would be an arduous task for the small Ranger team, with some 50 steps needing to be replaced. The team jumped at the chance to have Seven young fit students from Newton Rigg to help.

    Newton Rigg is and Agricultural College situated on the outskirts of Penrith. These seven students are studying a Countryside Management course and needed some work experience in countryside estate skills.

    The students broke up into two groups, one group concentrating on the steps, and another focusing on re surfacing some of the boggier sections of path.

    The groups swapped over each work so that they could all try their hand at each task. After a couple of weeks the students were progressing well up the steep slope.

    And by the final week the huge improvements in the path were clear for all to see with many local dog walkers thanking us for the improved access.

    A huge thank you has to go to the students and their tutor Pam, in helping to complete a task that would have taken the Ranger team considerably longer to complete.
  • Jessie's post (The Keswick Mountain Festival).

    09:25 19 May 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    My name is Jessie Binns and I am doing the guest post this week. I’ve worked in the Lakes for 6 years now with the National Trust, and one of the highlights of my year each year is the Keswick Mountain Festival.

    This year the National Trust was nominated as the official supported charity for the festival for the second year running. They have thousands of people entering the running, cycling and swimming races (which mostly take place on fells and in lakes that we care for around Keswick). 

    What we help them with is making sure that the families who come onto the ‘Festival Village’ on our Crow Park at Keswick also have a really good time.

    When I was talking with the Lakes rangers about what we should do on the National Trust stand this year, they started talking about a really inspirational film they’d seen at our ‘Outdoor Conference’ last October. Project Wild Thing is a funny, and moving documentary about one father’s quest to find out why his children prefer watching TV to playing outdoors. The National Trust helped to fund the film and so the rangers wanted to use our stand at Keswick Mountain Festival to launch a ‘Wild Summer in the Lakes’ to give families lots of ideas of places to go and things to do to make it easier to make the outdoors fun.

    So, on the stand we had den building, mud pie making and ‘extreme’ tree climbing to 35ft (thanks to the Lake District forestry team for this). Inside the yurt we had some amazing wild art activities run by the staff from Wordsworth House and Garden, who reminded us that of course William Wordsworth grew up roaming the riversides and fells of the Lake District and could be described as the original wild child!

    Working at the festival is both exhilarating and exhausting. I’d put our people counters on the main gate and they tell us that 16,898 people came onto the Festival Village at Crow Park over the weekend – and that’s just during the day, let alone the music concerts. The ranger team worked in shifts from 8am to 6pm with some covering the evening until 11pm – it’s a lot of work!

    I think my highlight was, after enjoying watching Seth Lakeman playing on the main stage on the Saturday night as the sun set behind the fells, seeing him bring his children into the National Trust yurt to do some wild art on the Sunday morning, it’s great that every family, no matter where they’re from, can connect with us and find something that appeals to them.

    The festival’s over for another year, the bunting has been washed, dried and put away and it’s time for some very tired rangers to have a well-earned rest.

  • A Reluctant Rock

    09:00 15 May 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

    The Upland Footpath team returned to the fells at the start of April to commence this year's projects. This coincided nicely with a stretch of good weather.

    Our first project of 2015 has been on the path up Tongue Gill to Grisedale Tarn, near to the village of Grasmere.
    View up Tongue Gill during our commute one sunny April day
    This path is on the Coast to Coast route devised by Alfred Wainright. This long distance route, of around 190 miles, goes between St Bees in Cumbria on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood's Bay on the Yorkshire Coast.  The Coast to Coast route is one of the most popular long distance routes in the UK. It is also well known worldwide and the number of international visitors we have met seems to reflect this.

    The team were able to start this project immediately as rock we were using had been flown into position during last year's helicopter lifts. This rock was donated to "Fix the Fells" by a private land owner who last year completed a hydro-electric scheme on Tongue Gill. This surplus rock was a by-product of the excavations during construction. We always try to use rock that is local to an area for our work so this donation was gratefully received.
    Rock donated from Tongue Gill Hydro bagged up & ready to be moved

    Rock being moved to site along Tongue Gill last May 
    As a popular route lots of work has been carried out on the Tongue Gill path over the years to tackle the problem of erosion.  Path work is then monitored as new erosion can develop and previous work sometimes needs "fettling". This year's project involves a typical range of remedial work including drainage, stone "pitching" (both repairs and new) and landscaping work to stabilise erosion and remove side routes.
    Recently completed stepping stones and a causeway through a wet section
    Drainage work in progress
    (University of Cumbria students, Jake & Theo, who volunteered for a couple of weeks)
    A memorable part of this project for the author of this blog led to the title "A Reluctant Rock".  Whilst working on a new section of stone pitching a suitable rock was identified. This rock was on the large side but was manageable and had several good faces making it an ideal step for walkers to plant their feet on as they follow the path.

    Towards the end of the first day, as time was running out, a slightly rushed decision to move the rock into position was made. Unfortunately the rock dropped into the hole at an awkward angle and refused to be manoeuvred into the desired position.
    The hole around the rock then had to be filled to leave it safe until the next time.
    The "reluctant rock" at the end of the first day
    On the return it proved very difficult to get the desired leverage on this rock with a metal bar and bedrock kept getting in the way. Lots of digging, levering and chipping away at the bedrock followed but still the rock remained largely uncooperative.
    Lunchtime on the second day fast approaching & rock is in a "new" position... 

    Determination and patience were needed plus a reluctance to be "beaten" by a rock and it was eventually coaxed into position by lunchtime (albeit a slightly later lunch than normal).

    The saga of this rock did provide a talking point and possibly some amusement to passing walkers. Comments to a colleague working further down the path mentioned the size of the rock and one couple commented on their return journey that "He's still working with the same rock....".
    After lengthy negotiations a compromise has been reached
    This reluctant rock was used for part of a longer section of work. Some side route erosion was developing next to some bedrock between two sections of stone pitching.  This is because some walkers have a tendency to avoid bedrock.

    To solve this we decided to add more stone pitching to join up the two current sections and to use landscaping techniques to stabilise and remove the side route. This can be seen from the before and after images below:
    BEFORE: Side route erosion developing to the right of a bedrock section 

    AFTER: New stone pitching section built & side route removed
    At the time of writing this blog our time on Tongue Gill is nearly finished.  This is ahead of schedule largely due to the volunteer help we have had. 
    We have several other projects this season including a return to Striding and Swirral Edges to continue work we have been doing there. We also have a project near the summit of Coniston Old Man where significant erosion problems have been developing. 

    Moving rock to the summit of Coniston Old Man in April
    (Project due to start in August)
    If you would like to know more about the daily work of the South Lakes Upland Ranger team they can be found on Twitter @NTLakesFells.

    Posted by: Nick, Upland Ranger
  • Jack's post (Repairing & replacing walls and gates.)

    11:05 13 May 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    I’m Jack one of the National Trust Estate Rangers who works with Roy. I’ve been working for the National Trust down Borrowdale for five years now. I love the job because I love working outdoors and the job is varied.   

    Last week the Ranger ops team carried out a project up at Watendlath. The project involved taking down a small section of wall and then rebuilding a quoin end.
                                        Before (Picture by Jack Deane)

    The start of the quoin end (Jack Deane)

           Jack and Dan rebuilding quoin end (Picture by Paul Delaney) 

    The stone left over from taking the wall down was used to extend a drain by building a stone culvert. The project also involved replacing two eight foot gates with two ten foot gates. Either side of the gates was then railed up to make it stock proof.

    New gates in place  (Jack Deane)

    Luckily the weather was on our side with the sun shining and blue skies. The reason for this project to be carried out was to make the gate way bigger for easier access. Also to make the field more stock proof for one of our farm tenants.  

    The end product (Jack Deane)

  • A Challenging Wall Repair.

    07:30 12 May 2015
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    A section of the old dry stone wall, separating the lower slope of Queen Adelaide's Hill and Millerground, collapsed recently. 

    The base of the wall is a good eighteen feet above Millerground footpath and as can be seen in the image the slope is exceptionally steep.

    On the "downhill" side the wall is about eight feet high and it took a while to retrieve the stone that had tumbled down the bank.

    Once the foundation stones had been reset, the rebuild could begin. (See image below)

    Walling on the Queen Adelaide's Hill side.

    The finished repair...on the Queen Adelaide's Hill side....

    ....and from the Millerground side.

     A view of the waterfall below the wall.

  • Reedbed Restoration on the West Shore of Windermere

    08:27 11 May 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

    Last summer, I wrote a blog about the tender storage areas that we constructed along the West Shore of Windermere [Improving the lakeshore]. We built these areas to store all the tender boats in a few places along the lakeshore. Not only did this tidy up the lakeshore visually, but it also has the added benefit of reducing erosion to the lakeshore – including damage to tree roots and bark from having boats chained to them as well as the damage to the very fragile reedbeds from people launching their boats through them. 

    New Tender Storage Area being constructed down at Harrowslack

     But of course, tender boats are not the only cause of erosion to the lake shore/reedbeds on Windermere lake. These sensitive environments are also damaged by the waves created by swash from boats and strong winds. The reedbeds are also sensitive to shading from encroaching woodland and vegetation. Over-grazing and nutrient enrichment also plays a part in the decline of reedbeds (Canada Geese, ducks and farm animals).

    What are reedbeds I hear you ask? Reedbeds are a succession of young reeds (common reeds; phragmites australis) which colonise open water. As the reedbed ages, the successive layers of vegetation build up the water level gradually turning it into increasingly drier ground, allowing scrub and woodland to develop. In themselves, reedbeds are excellent habitats for coots, moorhens and other breeding birds. Research carried out by the South Cumbria Rivers Trust (SCRT) has shown that since the 1870s, Windermere has lost 90% of its reedbed habitat. Through a series of historical and more recent GPS mapping they have been able to map the loss across the whole of the lake [Reedbed loss since the 1870s]. 

    Reedbeds being restored down at Ferry House, West Shore of Windermere
    Well now we have some great news for the West Shore. Our role as National Trust Rangers is to look after our special places, and this is one of those very special projects where we see something change from start to finish. We are working with the South Cumbria Rivers Trust to restore the reedbeds on the west shore as part of a wider project across the whole of Windermere. SCRT have been very lucky to get funding from the Waste Recycling Environmental Network (WREN) to potentially transplant young reedbeds from an RSPB site at Leighton Moss to try to rehabilitate historical areas of reedbeds, removing encroaching vegetation and cutting back trees that are shading these sensitive habitats. Newly planted areas will require the installation of fences and wave barriers to protect them as they get established. Quite what this will involve is still to be decided but I can see waders, lots of water and some great fun to be had with other rangers and volunteers! Watch this space.

    If you want to go and look at some fantastic examples of reedbeds, head to Esthwaite North Fen National Nature Reserve. Just at the north of the Lake, this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is an excellent site to see successional reedbeds. It is so good that the Freshwater Biological Association (based down at Ferry House) have been studying the succession of the plant community from open water, fen and grassland for the last 45 years. Key species along the lake bed/shore include stonewort, Canadian pondweed, lobelia and shore weed, as well as yellow and white water-lilies along the lake edge. Common reeds (phragmites australis), common bulrush and reed canary grass are prolific in the reedbeds themselves. The reeds succeed to wonderful carr woodland with species such as birch, crack willow, and ash. The area supports breeding birds (including great crested grebe, teal, tufted duck, red breasted merganser, pochard and sedge warbler) as well as mammals, invertebrates and microscopic life. Go down on a sunny day and see what you can find!

    Excellent example of healthy reedbeds at the Esthwaite North Fen National Nature Reserve

    Look out for the work we’ll be doing over the summer on the west shore of Windermere!
  • Leila's post (Digging drains!)

    18:50 05 May 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    I’m Leila, one of the rangers who work in the North Lakes with Roy.  I’m an Academy Ranger, which means I’m one of ten trainees taken on by the Trust every year to learn everything there is to know about rangering and I was lucky enough to get placed here.

    This week the National Trust Volunteer group from Yorkshire came up for their twice-yearly visit to Borrowdale.  With fourteen enthusiastic volunteers on their way we needed a big enough job for them to tackle, and we had just the thing – a particularly muddy section of path and a cunning plan to fix it…

    The path is downslope from the road and every time it rains water runs down onto it forcing people off the path to get round, the answer was to put in a side drain and culvert and resurface the path.
    This requires a lot of gravel and the day before the volunteers arrived was spent carting materials to site.

    The Volunteers arrived on Saturday morning braced for rain but keen to get started.

    Getting started

    The drain is essentially a ditch filled with chunky gravel that allows water to flow through between the gravel stones while preventing leaves and other debris from falling in and causing blockages. It needed to run the length of the footpath from where the water washes in at the top all the way to the culvert at the bottom – about 70 m! But everyone got stuck in and the ditch quickly began to take shape:

    Half way there
    At the other end a pipe culvert needed to go in to channel water out of the drain and away from the path.

    Ranger Andy explains how to build the culvert

    Culvert in progress

    Once the ditch was dug out we needed to fill it with gravel. Such a long drain required a lot of toing and froing with wheelbarrows.

    The pile of gravel soon went down and after the arrival of the second trailer load the ditch was filled.

    On the second day the path was finished off with lots more wheelbarrowing of gravel to cover the surface of the path. 

    The before and after pictures - a vast improvement!

    We are very grateful to all the volunteers for their help, in fact they worked so hard they finished early and took to the nearby path from Kettlewell Car Park with loppers to clear back vegetation!

    So once again huge thanks are due to our Yorkshire volunteers who did another fantastic job for us.

  • Spring snow.

    12:13 01 May 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Looking at fresh snow on the fell tops now and it’s hard to believe that we had such warm, sunny weather last time I posted – our new ice-cream cart even made its debut.

    Spring has definitely arrived though and the signs are there for all to enjoy. Trees are in bud, lambs are gambolling in the fields and wild flowers are adding their flashes of colour to the landscape. Dandelions are especially bold with their displays but they close up if showers are threatening.  They remind me of some of the stories we attach to plants, often with good reason but sometimes just echoes of long- forgotten origins.

    You can easily find the following on a short walk through Cockshott Wood and along the lake shore.

    Primroses – their name derives from the Latin prima rosa (first flower/rose). In folklore these are said to help you to contact the fairy world!

    Wood anemone (wind flower) - the Greeks believed the flower was a gift from the wind god Anemos (or Eurus), sent to herald his coming in spring.

    Vinca (periwinkles) – these are associated with creating harmony in life.

    Gorse (Whin, furze or kissing bush) – gorse has one of the longest flowering seasons which no doubt explains the saying, “When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion.”

    Hawthorn – the most famous of these is the Thorn of Glastonbury which flowers in May and also in December. Ours are at their best in Spring when they fill the air with their scent.

    Those are just a few examples but stories from your area could be quite different. You might find some surprises if you take some photographs on your next walk and follow up with a search on-line for more information.  

    You could also visit our website at if you’d like to find more about Spring wildlife experiences.

    P.S. The first swallows have been seen and the first cuckoo heard in Borrowdale.