Team news for September 2015
05:18 29 September 2015
By Roy Henderson
Learning to love our beautiful bogs
09:00 25 September 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
Anyone who’s walked the Lake District will have had an experience where they’ve sunk up to their knees in a bog. But next time you’re cursing your soggy feet, bear in mind that bogs aren’t all bad – they’re amazing habitats that also provide all sorts of important benefits for humans.
A typical boggy scene facing the hill-walker (LDNPA photo)There are a couple of types of bog in the Lakes. Blanket bogs cover vast areas and sit on top of flat plateaus; these are mainly found in the north and east Lakes, and are more typical of the Pennines and Peak District. Much more common, especially around our patch in the south Lakes, are flush bogs. These form in smaller, flat hollows on hillsides and hilltops where the movement of rainwater slows down, leading to permanent waterlogging.Sphagnum mosses Sphagnum mosses are easily overlooked but they're beautiful species in their own right. Good quality bogs can hold around ten different species. (Photo Rob Clarke)The wet ground is colonised by carpets and hummocks of sphagnum mosses, which are ‘keystone species’ in bog formation (species which produce an environment that other species need to survive). Sphagnum thrive in the acidic flushes and create a layer of peat, made from the dead plant material that doesn’t decompose due to the cool climate, waterlogging and its own acidity. As the peat doesn’t decay (as long as it remains waterlogged) it can build to many metres deep. This wet, peaty environment then provides a home for other specialist plants such as cottongrass, bog asphodel, cross-leaved heath, and the insectivorous sundews; they subsequently support a specialist range of invertebrates, as well as birds like curlews. Sundew growing amongst Sphagnum moss (Wikipedia photo)How bogs help usPeat bogs aren’t just great for wildlife, they’re vital for us too. By slowing down the flow of water off the hills, they reduce flooding downstream, and help improve water quality. As the plant material that is sat, undecomposed, in peat is primarily carbon, they are also a huge carbon store – in the UK, they’re our biggest resource of carbon (with 22m tons stored in the Lakes alone) and have a net cooling effect on the climate. South Lakes rangers puzzle over the identification of a Sphagnum moss at one our important bogs (photo Rob Clarke).Bogs in troubleTheir importance for carbon storage and water management can mean that threats to bogs have serious consequences. Over the last few decades, peat has often been drained to improve grazing for sheep, and was traditionally a source of fuel (although this practice is fortunately fairly rare in the UK today). Dry, degraded peat bogs are prone to erosion from rain, which unlocks stored carbon, increases the speed of run-off, and requires increased treatment where water is collected for drinking. Eroding peat bogs in the Lakes are thought to be emitting about 32,000 tons of carbon every year.Here at South Lakes, we look after our flushes by damming drainage ditches to ‘re-wet’ bogs that have previously been drained, and by clearing the encroachment of trees where necessary, which can also dry them out. We also build appropriate paths through bogs to ensure ease of access and stop people ploughing through sensitive habitat. Elsewhere in the country, huge projects are underway to re-wet entire blanket bogs, often paid for by utility companies because it’s cheaper to improve the water quality at source than to treat it when it comes out of the reservoir. It’s likely that ‘eco-system services’ like this and carbon storage will become an even more important part of our economy in future.So, next time you’re confronted with a bog on your fell-top ramble, try not to curse and remember all the wonderful things the unsung heroes of Sphagnum and peat are doing for wildlife, and for us!
Tour of Britain
06:47 25 September 2015
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeOn Thursday September the 10th a blur of Lycra clad cyclists whizzed past the entrance to Aira Force. The Tour of Britain had come to town.The Tour of Britain’s origins are believed to date back to just after the Second World War. The event has grown and grown ever since. This year saw competitors such as 2012 Tour De France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish winner of 26 Tour De France stages, taking part.With two of the eight stages starting or ending in Cumbria the locals had really gone to town in decorating road side verges, trees, gardens and anywhere else they could think of to place what has become a local landmark, of bikes that had been painted yellow.It was decided here at Aira Force we needed to enter into the spirit. So in keeping with the ethos of naturally made items, we thought we would make a bike out of some leftover timber we had in the yard.After a day of sawing, bolting and painting, what started the day as a pile of wood, was now a giant wooden bikeI wonder if Sir Bradley could have won the Tour De France on this!!!?It took four Rangers to load it onto a trailer and deliver it to the bottom of Park Brow (just outside the tea room)The bike being secured into position.On the day of the race the sun came out and the local primary school came down to cheer on their favourite cyclists.The 120 or so competitors shot past in the blink of an eye.Overall it was a great day enjoyed by all. And if you look closely enough on the highlights, you can just about pick out the yellow wheels of the bike as the helicopter shot pans down Ullswater.
Working on Walls.
13:21 21 September 2015
By Roy HendersonAmongst the many obvious beautiful features of the Lake District landscape, the stone walls are easy to overlook. They are built from the stone in the immediate area surrounding them and, when conditions are right, they have been colonised by lichens, mosses and other small, resilient plants. They blend into their background and become a part of the landscape in a way that brick-built walls never could. Well made walls will also stand for hundreds of years if they are carefully maintained so we in the National Trust do regular repairs.So last week, some of my time was spent working with walls. I returned up Cat Gill to repair the wall that had been damaged by a fallen tree branch. The others were busy on a different job but this one was small enough for me to manage. Walling isn’t as simple as just stacking rocks on top of one another. There’s a skill in selecting the right size & shape then placing it in the right position to make the wall strong and stable. It’s very satisfying to be working outdoors and to see the outcome of the work.Another day last week was spent with a large group from the National Park on a guided walk. It’s always useful to do these with a different group and to hear their views on the experience. We walked from Seatoller up to the Allerdale Ramble, around the back of Castle Crag, dropped down to the river Derwent and walked back along the river to Seatoller. These are popular paths with visitors and we like to check occasionally that there are no problems that need attention.At the weekend, I was working with my regular Yorkshire volunteers who were here for their second visit this year. This time we worked over on Derwent Island.The work included some walling, some fencing and the digging of a trench around an outbuilding over there. The plan is to eventually convert the building to a different use and the trench will stop it becoming damp. We also fenced off an old waste water system which is now redundant since we installed the new piping to remove the waste water from the island.It has to be said once again that the volunteers did an amazing amount of work.Daisy here:I’ve been playing on Derwent Island with my bestie friends. They’re great.
The silver lining
11:30 18 September 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 SherwenThere has been lots in the media about tree diseases over the last couple of years, Ash Dieback and Oak Processionary Moth are just a couple.
In the South Lakes woodland we have been battling a disease which affects larch trees called Phytopthera ramorum (Pr). Its a fungal like disease which eventually kills the tree. It's spores spread on the wind and in water so conditions in Cumbria mean the disease is a real threat, particularly our larch trees but sweet chestnut is also affected.
The Forestry Commission fly over the county in May and try to spot individual trees which may be affected from the air - they show up as having yellowy needles - healthy trees are a lovely pale green. Once spotted the trees are tracked down on the ground (not easy even with a GPS!), felled and tested.Peter Fox (FC) testing a suspect tree.The inner bark is removed and tested with a special kit in the woods, if it's found to be positive further samples are sent to a lab to confirm the diagnosis.Pr. larch on FC land above Windermere.If a tree is confirmed with Pr. we work with the Forestry Commission (FC) and are served a Statutory Plant Health Notice (SHPN) around the affected tree. A radius of 100m is often used though in some circumstances it can be wider, any susceptible tree within the area is felled.Once the SHPN has been identified it's a matter of deciding the best way to deal with the trees contractor or our own forestry team?Moss Eccles Plantation before work started.Harvester at work felling the trees.Job half done.The harvester felled and converted 4.5ha of 30 year old larch in 8 days! It took much longer to move the timber to market as the wood was a the end of a long narrow track.Plantation behind Basecamp before work.Harvester at work.Moving the felled timber with a forwarder.Not all sites are suitable for large forestry machinery the final site was steep, rocky and had power lines running through it, it was felled by our forestry team.NT foresters snedding felled larch.The timber from the infected sites can be sold (the disease doesn't affect the timber) but it has to be moved by licenced hauliers to licenced sawmills to be processed.In order to reduce the spread of disease all equipment used on a Pr. site has to be cleaned before it leaves the site this includes chainsaws, tractors and boots.Matt not enjoying having his boots cleaned.You can help reduce the chance of spreading the disease through Cumbria's woodlands by cleaning as much mud and soil form your boots, tyres and paws as possible between woodland walks.And the silver lining? Many of the larch plantations were planted in the 1960s on sites which were native woodland and though things can look a bit bleak right now felling the trees because of the disease does give us the opportunity to try and establish more native woodland to fill the gaps.
Working Holiday Group at Millerground.
12:53 17 September 2015
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeThis post is in recognition of the invaluable help we received from the Working Holiday Group who were with us between the 6th and 11th of September at Millerground and for half a day at St. Catherine's.The main gateway to Millerground.National Trust land at Millerground is one of the few public access points to Windermere's eastern shore. It is extremely popular, especially as it is within easy reach of the nearby towns of Bowness and Windermere.Millerground is at the base, on its west side, of a large drumlin known as Queen Adelaide's Hill. Drumlins are elongated hills formed from glacial deposits. This glacial till or moraine consists largely of gravel and, as a result, is very soft and easily eroded.When lake levels are high, and especially during Winter storms these banks, consisting of glacial till, are all too easily undermined by strong wave action, putting the raised lake shore footpath at risk.To combat this, the undermined areas are filled in with stone and then larger stone is pitched at an angle to protect the repaired area. See below.With the help of the recent working holiday group the last 'at risk' sections have now been repaired and barring extreme Winter storms should now be good for many years to come.Queen Adelaide's Hill, above Millerground... formed by a glacier.Members of the working holiday group are seen here collecting both smaller stones for filling in the undermined areas, and larger stones for the revetment or stone pitching work.This shows an undermined area in the process of being repaired. If left for too much longer the footpath above would be compromised by being undercut.Another section well on the way to completion.The surface of the footpath was upgraded in several places with several tons of resurfacing material..MOT road-stone. A lot of blind or partially sighted pedestrians use this path.The new surface being raked in.We were lucky with the weather; the mist from temperature inversions gave way to sunshine for most of the week.On the Wednesday, the working holiday group had a day off and took to the water with Windermere Outdoor Adventure who have a base at Millerground. Here, Lee is giving instructions and a safety talk.Paddling due south. Wednesday was the only overcast day!Group photo.The group stopped at Cockshott Point to stretch their legs and have a chat with the fell rangers who are working on a major lake-shore revetment project there.A stop in-front of some of the revetment work completed the day before at Millerground!Later in the day the group went sailing.The sails ready to be hoisted.On the Friday, 2000 bulbs were planted at St. Catherine's.Mission accomplished! Group photo by the 'Spirit of Place' Sculpture at St. Catherine's.
Ramblings of a Long Term Volunteer
09:30 11 September 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 SherwenIt’s hard to believe that it is six months since my last blog back in March at which time I was one of the new faces on the block at Boon Crag, just starting my time as a Long Term Volunteer. What an incredible time it has been! With so many highlights I thought I’d share just a few of the most memorable with you.
Spending at least part of everyday outside is an enlightening experience. The passing of the seasons and the changes that they bring play a pivotal part in every person’s life; however during the last 6 months it has been noticing the small, subtle changes that have bought me the greatest pleasure. I can clearly remember seeing my first spring flower, a Wood Anemone, on my morning walk to work. Looking at things on such a small scale really does highlight the remarkable variety of life that we are surrounded with, so much of which would fit right in place in an ‘Alien Movie’ if it was just on a larger scale!
Wood Anemone appearing was one of the first signs of spring Is this an alien, or a newt eft??Sometimes when you fully immerse yourself into a situation it is easy to forget where you came from. Although I am all too aware of skills and knowledge that I still need to acquire, I really do feel that over the past six months I have begun to acquire the skill set that is needed to be a modern day ranger. Part of the beauty of this job is that you never stop learning and someone will always have a different solution to the same problem. New kissing gate on the iconic Cumbria WayTalking to people that we meet as we are carrying out our work is part of the job that I really enjoy. Sharing a passion for the great outdoors creates an instant bond between people who have never met until that instance, and it is really rewarding to hear stories from people enjoying the land we work so hard to conserve.Following from this, our 50 Things incentive has once again been hugely popular this summer. Having attended many similar activities when I was younger, I have really enjoyed helping with the activities the rangers have run at Wray Castle during the summer holiday period. Hopefully we have inspired a love for the great outdoors; you never know, some of the kids might now no longer want to be a doctor and may want to be a ranger! Exploring the canopy, #1. Climb a tree #35. Discover what's in a pondOur Upland Rangers, comprising of a team of 5 who work as part of the Fix the Fells partnership, have one of the best views from the office of any job in the country (on a clear day …). Their main project this season is combating erosion near the summit cone of the Old Man of Coniston, and I was fortunate to spend some time with the team up there. We even had some sunny days! After a hard morning of grafting what could be better than a curry ... Apart from maybe a quick nap ...After a 45 minute walk up to the summit and a quick brew, the work on the pitching commenced. Working with stone is a very different experience to wood; it’s not so easy just to shave a slither off to make something fit, but is all the more rewarding when you find the right sized belter that fits snugly exactly where you intended. I was told on my first day that within a few weeks I would be having conversations with the stones I was using, and sure enough towards the end of my time up on the fell they were getting pretty in depth … mostly involving cursing because the stone just didn’t quite fit. The combination of hard work and having a great laugh made this month was one of my favorites so far. Or even better, a refreshing swim in Lowe Water after work! My legacy on the Old Man ... fingers crossed they're still there!It has always been my dream to work outside, and being fortunate enough to spend this time in the Lakes has been the icing on the cake. I am extremely excited that this has only been the start of my career as a ranger and will be spending the next two and a half years at Boon Crag in the role of Academy Ranger. During this time I will be learning many more practical skills on the property in combination with the theory and tickets during my time spent at college. Life really is good at the moment, and who knows what I'll have to talk about for the next blog!
Fungi, temperature inversion, Brocken spectre and more.
17:47 09 September 2015
By Roy HendersonI’ve just had a working Bank Holiday weekend and enjoyed some superb weather. For those who were out and about early on the hills, one morning there was a temperature inversion where the valley bottom and lake were carpeted with cloud. From a modest height, there was a stunning view down onto a cloud. If you look closely at one of the pictures, you will see a Brocken spectre. The sun was behind me, the cloud was in front of me and this is my shadow being cast on top of the cloud.Bank Holiday visitors who popped into Bark House near Ashness Bridge will have been able to see a weaver at work and to see some of her beautiful work. How we use Bark House is still evolving. At present you will often find volunteers there who will tell you something about the area and there have been occasional events like the weaving demonstration. The log fire is a great attraction of course and likely to be more so as the days become cooler!I’m also posting photographs of the work some of our guys have done on fences, footpaths and steps on the way up to Watendlath. As you can see, they have done a great job. They can be rightly proud of the result of their hard labour.Meanwhile, I’ve surveyed the footpath in Cockshot Wood to see what the next stage of improvement should be. Ideally we want to link to a new venture by Theatre by the Lake. The theatre is currently rebuilding the cafe between the theatre and the trust shop and the plan includes having a wheelchair accessible link to our woodland path. We want to continue improving accessibility on our path so that wheelchair users can do a complete circuit of the wood and include the theatre's new cafe, the Trust shop and of course the play trail.Another footpath job was to check out a report I’d received about damage up Cat Gill. A branch has fallen and damaged a stretch of retaining wall. This is a job I want to do sooner rather than later. At this stage it can probably be fixed in a day with my volunteers rather than leave it to worsen and perhaps need the footpath team having to do a major repair.Whilst I was up there I took the following photograph of a fungus I didn’t recognise. I would like to know more about fungi so have been trying to identify it. After some searching, I’m hoping I’m right that it is a cauliflower fungus (ramaria sp). As a friend says, “Every day should be a school day.” As ever, the usual words of warning are to never eat any fungus unless you can 100% identify it as being safe to eat.Daisy here:I’ve been playing out. It’s great up above the clouds. Wow!
Back to enjoying my home territory.
14:23 04 September 2015
By Roy HendersonAfter a really good holiday in Canada, I’m now back to my work in Borrowdale. Returning after a spell spent elsewhere always reminds me how lucky I am to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Canada is a superb place to visit but no matter where I’ve been on holiday, I’m always pleased to be home. It was also good to see my regular volunteers again and to hear John’s good news. He has now started a full-time job which is great for him and we wish him every success with that. Of course I’ll miss having him as a frequent member of our team but he fully intends to carry on volunteering as often as he can fit it into his new timetable.John was able to join us last week working on clearing brambles and gorse that have started to invade or overhang some footpaths. This is the kind of thing that rangers across the country will do regularly to keep rights of way and other networks of footpaths open and in good condition.Another job last week was in response to email from the Calvert Trust outdoor centre that provides outdoor experiences for people with a range of disabilities. They drew my attention to some maintenance that was needed at the Bowder Stone abseil point. This is an abseil point I put in place for the National Trust and is intended for group use. The Calvert Trust makes good use of it because it is accessible for wheel-chair users. A big stone that is part of a retaining wall had started to move so we have bedded it in firmly again and will do more work on it during the winter.The abseil point is for group use and we ask leaders to do their own risk assessment and to be qualified to a minimum SPA (single pitch supervisor) level or the equivalent for a military group. If two groups are using the site and the Calvert Trust turns up to use it, we ask that one group moves to another site. The Calvert Trust needs to use this site because of its accessibility but others can find alternative sites - Wodens Face, a natural crag, is literally just around the corner on the way to the Bowder Stone. With the use of a Larkin frame wheel-chair users can abseil from Bowder Stone point easily.
A Larkin frame in use.Daisy here:I’ve been out to work with Roy. It’s great.
Crest is Best
09:00 04 September 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 SherwenThis week's countryside blog comes from the Upland Ranger team based in the South Lakes area."Crest is best" is a catchy little phrase that was introduced to the team recently by Richard Fox, Fix the Fells Ranger for the Lake District National Park Authority. This phrase nicely sums up the approach we would ideally like walkers to take on two upland paths that we have been working on over the last few years.
The projects in question are Swirral Edge and Striding Edge, two iconic routes to the summit of Helvellyn. These have been joint projects and we have worked alongside both the Western and Northern teams.The main year for the work on Swirral Edge was 2013, although we have been back each subsequent year to continue the work.
April 2013: On route to fill heli-bags with rock for the Swirral Edge project April 2013: Western team looking down at Swirral Edge
Will the snow clear in time to start the project......
April 2013: The snow did clear in time - helicopter lifting rock to Swirral Edge
"Squirrel over Swirral"On Striding Edge we started the actual project work in 2014. We continued the work this year and currently expect to return each year to carry out further work.
June 2013: Initial visit to Striding Edge to plan project for following year .....it was worth the wait. Helicopter now moving rock to site for Striding Edge projectThe key reason for the work we have been doing on these sites is erosion, the underlying problem that drives all of the work the upland teams do. The erosion is damaging to the upland habitats and also unsightly. In addition material that gets washed down into the lakes and rivers below is damaging to those habitats.The focus of our work has been some particularly bad areas of erosion that had developed on the sides of Swirral and Striding edges and also multiple routes on Helvellyn headwall at the end of Striding Edge. These areas had been deteriorating with some becoming very unstable. In places these routes also seem more difficult or dangerous to negotiate than the actual arêtes.Our challenge has been to stabilize the ground and prevent further erosion and hopefully give these upland areas a chance to recover.We have used several techniques which have included using additional rock to stabilize parts and to disguise side routes. We also carried out work to make any preferred routes clearer and easier to follow to try to stop walkers straying into problem areas. June 2013: Working on side route erosion on Swirral Edge with the Western teamVarious other landscaping techniques have also been used to remove side route erosion along with specially mixed grass seed to help the vegetation recover and stop further erosion. BEFORE: Section of side route on Striding Edge with work in progress....In summary, we believe that “Crest is Best” for a number of reasons, including:
- the crest is rock and can withstand the repeated footfall of many visitors without an erosion problem occurring
- the erosion is both damaging to the upland habitat and the lakes and rivers below
- the sides routes aren’t necessarily safer as they are unstable and, in our experience, some of these routes are more challenging/dangerous than following the arête
- there are rare flora in places on these edges and on Helvellyn headwall; the more people spread out the greater the potential damage to theseBased on the team's experiences, if people want to enjoy walking Striding or Swirral edges we suggest choosing the day carefully. They are not nice places to be on wet and/or windy days and, even though we know the edges quite well, we would save the challenge for another day.These projects have become favourites for some of the team members, the locations can be very atmospheric. To conclude this blog here are a few favourite Striding Edge images: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 or for more about Fix the Fells follow this link: Fix the Fells
Posted by: Nick, Upland Ranger
Netted Carpet Moth Survey. (East Windermere) 2015.
07:30 03 September 2015
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeThe netted carpet moth is one of our rarest moths; its caterpillars or larvae depend on touch-me-not balsam, a 'nationally scarce' annual plant. It is their only food source.The Netted Carpet Moth (Eustroma Reticulatum) is classified as vulnerable in the Red Data Book and listed as a priority species by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Its main stronghold is within the Lake District.Touch-Me-Not Balsam (Impatiens Noli-Tangere) with larvae in late August. Caterpillars pupate in the ground by October. Adults emerge in July and are 'on the wing' until mid August. The females lay eggs singly on the underside of the plant's leaves.Since 1990 larval count surveys have been undertaken by Dr. Paul Hatcher of Reading University and John Hooson, National Trust Wildlife and Countryside Adviser, with help from Trust staff and volunteers.The fifth Quinquennial Survey started out at St. Catherine's near Windermere on September 2nd. and then covered the other East Windermere sites.A caterpillar about to be photographed on touch-me-not at St. Catherine's by Academy Ranger, Pete.The cool summer has delayed the caterpillars growth and development; many were exceptionally small and incredibly hard to spot. The larvae go through four stages of growth known as instars before they pupate. Usually by September the larvae are on their third or fourth instar. The one in the image is only on its first!A rare find was this caterpillar on its third or fourth instar!No Caterpillars were found at the Hodge Howe Wood site in spite of an intensive search!Sadly, none were found at this large stand of touch-me-not, a previously unrecorded site.Success! A caterpillar on the underside of a balsam leaf at the Birthwaite Road site.A rare and unusual image of my clean fingernails!Seriously, it is showing a small larvae lunching on a small touch-me-not seed pod or capsule.YIKES! This large caterpillar is the larvae of the elephant hawk moth and they are occasionally seen on touch-me-not. More often they are to be seen on willow herb.Once the rest of the known sites have been surveyed an estimate of the current UK populations can be arrived at; this will give an indication of how well the netted carpet moth is doing.Related posts to this one are on this blog and tell the story of National Trust's rangers' conservation work involving the moth and the plant.