Team news for January 2016

  • Planning for increased resilience.

    05:43 31 January 2016
    By Roy Henderson

    We are now several weeks into our recovery work after the floods. We have completed the first high-pressure phase where we responded as quickly as possible to any dangerous situations and also restored access as far as possible. Now we are into the second phase where we will spend some time considering appropriate actions to increase resilience.

    After previous flooding events, we were under some pressure to put everything back exactly as it had been. Having in mind that these disruptive flooding events might recur more often than we once expected, this time we are going to consider what changes we might make to minimise future damage.

    We are starting this by looking at how we can manage the water-catchment area as a whole. As part of this I’ve been out with a Trust water advisor, John Malley, in the Force Crag Mine and Coledale area. There have been several landslips in the valley and there is a lot of material above the mine that will come down eventually. We have been discussing how we can ensure that it does as little damage as possible to the mine site when it finally does shift dramatically.

    We are also going to move some lake-shore fencing that was destroyed up to a higher level. This will give more space for fencing and footpaths that will be less vulnerable in future.

    Hopefully, part of the good that will come out of the floods will be that we go into the future with a more robust, more resilient landscape.

    Daisy here: It’s been snowing. Life’s great.

  • More nuisance trees!

    08:00 30 January 2016
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Fallen trees across a footpath, fence and a bridge were cleared back last week using a long reach pruning saw attachment in conjunction with a small conventional chain saw.

     The upper branches of this fallen tree were blocking one of the Troutbeck footpaths.

    The pruning saw at work removing a potentially dangerous split branch. 

    Much safer!

    The small chain saw was used for the lower branches.

    The brash was cleared away (to become a habitat for invertebrates) and the footpath is usable once again.
    The next job was to deal with this uprooted tree that had jammed itself, during recent floods, against the ancient clapper bridge that spans Troutbeck on the track to Threshthwaite Cove and Hartsop in the Patterdale Valley.

    The pruning saw came into its own, using it to gradually reduce the size of the tree until the main bulk could be dragged 'ashore'.....

    ..... enabling the chain saw to get within reach and reduce it still further into more manageable lumps to be cleared away.

    The clapper bridge minus tree!

    The bridge sustained some damage during the floods. Although it looks to have impressively maintained its structural integrity, one of the slate slabs was flipped over from the immense force of the flood waters.
    One more tree to deal with was in the Troutbeck Valley...much lower down from the clapper bridge....Here a tree had fallen across a recently fenced off section of Troutbeck. See post...Troutbeck Fencing Project.
    Here too the pruning saw was indispensable.

    The chain saw was used for the final lower cuts. The fence is now ready to be repaired....When this image was taken it had become very dark and the rain was, yet again, lashing down. The camera flash went off  illuminating one of the drops of rain giving it a bright orb effect.  (Centre right).

  • Winter Work

    10:00 29 January 2016
    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

    This week's countryside blog comes from the Upland Ranger team based in the South Lakes area. 

    When the team are working in the Fells a question we often get asked is:
    "Do you work up here all year round?"
    The answer to this is that we don't and this blog is about what we might be doing when we are not tackling erosion in the Fells of the Lake District.

    We do spend much of the year in the Mountains and during the months between the clocks going forward an hour and until they go back again we expect to spend nearly all of our working time up in the Fells. This period is sometimes referred to as our "Fell Season".
    Upland Rangers in their natural habitat during the "Fell Season"
    (Taking a break before starting working on Striding Edge)

    Outside of this "Fell Season", due to the shorter days and weather conditions, it isn't practical or safe for the team to stay in the Fells and we move onto work in the lower level Countryside. We call this our "Winter Work" programme (although it does include parts of Autumn and Spring too).

    In general the team will help with anything that our Ranger colleagues in the South Lakes ask. There is never a shortage of lower level countryside work and we can find ourselves in high demand (it is not unheard of for our Area Rangers to "fight" for our time).

    The examples below, from this years "Winter Work" programme, give an idea of some of the types of work.

    We often work with rock and some dry stone walling is a common activity. There are always plenty of wall gaps to repair and we sometimes do some slightly more formal work too.  

    Building a Dry Stone Retaining wall for a raised bed at Wray Castle
    Another recent task, also using stone, has been some Slate-edged pathway.
    A section of Slate-edged path at Wray Castle in progress

    A common task in recent years for our Woodland Ranger is building tree cages to protect young trees.  This year has been no exception. 
    Tree Cage under construction
    (A nice winter day & a Wetherlam backdrop)

    We might repair or construct countryside furniture such as gates, stiles and benches.  
    Installing a new Bench at Wray Castle
    (Donated by a family with connections to Wray Castle)

    The finished Bench
    We might also work in other areas of the National Trust where help is needed. For example the recent floods didn't affect our South Lakes area as much other parts of Cumbria and we have provided some support in other areas.
    Helping clear a flood damaged fence with volunteers near Ambleside
    Each year we usually help the Steam Yacht Gondola team winch Gondola out of Coniston Water and set up the frame to cover her for Winter repairs.    
    Steam Yacht Gondola winched out of the water
    The work we get involved in can be very varied and the examples above are a small selection based on recent months. Our team could be called on to help with any work needed in order to look after the countryside.

    At this time of year we don't completely neglect our upland work and weather permitting we try to fit in some maintenance days. We also have an upland work party with the Fix the Fells Volunteer "Lengthsmen" at least once a month.
    A Work Party on Browney Gill with the Fix the Fells Volunteer Lengthsmen
    (A fairly grim day, we've had a few of these recently)
    We also need to think about preparations for the forthcoming Fell Season and usually need to consider rock for our projects. There is seldom sufficient rock close enough to the paths we are going to work on and we may need to fill "heli-bags" so rock can be lifted to site by helicopter. This needs to be done in the early months of the year so it is ready for when we return to the fells. Carrying the heli-bags up to rock collection sites is often quite a good warm up for the main event of actually filling them.
    On route to fill "heli-bags" with Rocks
    (Image from 2013, we haven't started rock collection this year yet)
    A bonus at this time of year, due to the shorter days, is that the light can be quite striking especially early morning or late afternoon as the sun rises or sets. A couple of recent examples are:
    Sunrise along Windermere as the team started work at Wray Castle
    Late afteroon light looking along Coniston Water at the end of a working day
    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
  • Some winter weather to enjoy!

    14:46 22 January 2016
    By Roy Henderson

    Well, the weather has certainly taken a turn for the better now and the Lake District is looking absolutely fantastic at the moment. We’ve got snow as you would expect at this time of the year and often clear blue skies to go with it.

    We still have quite a bit of work to do following the flood damage but we are steadily getting through it. As ever, we’ve had a huge amount of help from volunteering individuals and from different volunteering groups that have come in to add their efforts. Whenever something like the flooding occurs, it always astounds and humbles me to see how people rally round to help wherever they can.  

    As you might have seen on TV reports, neighbours helped neighbours in any way they could. Those that haven’t been flooded helped those who have. Many who are not regular volunteers for the Trust turned out to help with anything from fixing damaged fencing to working on repairing damaged paths. It has been brilliant to see such a resilient community in action. It definitely shows the best side of human nature.

    Daisy here: It’s great. I go mad when it’s snowing. I love running in the snow.

  • Repair and clean-up time after the storms.

    17:47 18 January 2016
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Recently our prioriy work has been to  either rectify damage or clean-up the mess left by the spate of recent storms.

    Here are just two examples from last week!

    This post and rail fence and water heck, separating  woodland from pasture land, was demolished when the beck burst its banks during exceptionally heavy rainfall... courtesy of Storm Desmond!

    The beck flows through woodland adjacent to one of the routes to the Garburn Pass. (Near Troutbeck Church). It then flows through Howe Farm pasture land and under the A592 prior to joining Troutbeck.
    This is an image of the beck after the wreckage of the old fence and water heck had been dragged out and cut up. Boulders were also removed and gravel scooped out to allow the beck to flow more freely.
    With the preparation work completed, construction work can begin.
    The ground was very slippery and muddy so Sam is using the power barrow as a work bench to construct the new improved water heck!
    Ray is in the background using a 'driveall' to knock in a fence post.
    The completed work. It is much stronger than the original and the heck is also sturdier and much wider. This should hopefully cope with future flooding.
    The whole job took just over a day to complete, helped by the ease of access to the site and its close proximity to our base at St. Catherine's.
    Lakeshore clean-up.
    A lot of debris was left at Cockshott Point on the eastern shore of Windermere after the floods. Just how much soon became apparent once the flood water had receded; it also gives a stark reminder of the hight of the water level at its peak.
    There was so much debris that it wasn't practical to cart all of it away so the bulk of it was burnt. James, with help from Sam and Tom loading up the power Barrow.,
    Unloading the brash onto the fire. 
    Looking tidier but much work still to do!

  • If you go down to the woods today...

    09:54 16 January 2016
    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

    You'll be in for a 'tree-mendous' surprise. Well, you will be very soon (hopefully)...

    You may remember in a previous blog [dens and treehouses], we were asking visitors to Wray Castle for their dream treehouse ideas as part of the next phase of development of the play trail. Throughout the summer, there have been some fantastic designs submitted in the castle. Both the young and the old have been sharpening their colouring pencils, putting pen to paper and coming up with some weird and wonderful designs. Here is just a selection of the hundreds of designs we got:

    Slides were very popular!
    Building a treehouse inside the tree trunk!
    Some of the designs submitted were by 'big' kids!
    Perhaps this could be phase 2 of developments?

    So we got our thinking caps on to work out the best way to combine all these super ideas, but that suited the tree we were thinking of building the treehouse around. 

    The victim!

    The time has finally come, many of the materials have been gathered… and work has commenced!

    There was a lot of head scratching to get to this stage..!
    Intricate joinery!

    Can you guess what it is yet? We almost have a flat platform to work from! Ready for the addition of the treehouse on top...
    We hope to build more than just a treehouse…it is going to be castle themed, have two floors, arrow slits, a fireman’s pole and a slide.. giving a unique view of Wray Castle and in winter, down to the lake!

    Come on down and have a play for yourself when we finish… Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the weather here in Cumbria, so providing we don’t get blizzards and more flooding we hope to have the treehouse up and running in the February half term! This treehouse has been part funded by the proceeds from the Cadbury's Easter Egg trail, so thanks to everyone for taking part and enabling us to build this!

    An unusual view of the castle...

  • A tale of two bridges!

    11:47 14 January 2016
    By Roy Henderson

    As most of you will know from news bulletins, here in the Lake District we have been affected by exceptionally heavy rain which caused pockets of flood damage. Our first priority work-wise had to be making sure that anything dangerous is repaired or signed as quickly as possible. If we put a danger sign in place, it is because it IS dangerous to use. I’ve had my fencing barrier at Watendlath packhorse bridge taken down twice and have had to use valuable time to put it back when I could have been using that time to be building a new bridge. That’s not only frustrating but it actually delays my being able to complete a new bridge for walkers to safely use.

    My brother works for the National Park Authority and they’ve had fences and warning signs taken down in places where walkers think there is no danger. They are putting themselves at risk when they do this but, what is worse, is that people who follow later no longer have the warning signs and may be at risk because of the actions of others.

    There are not many stretches of damaged paths and we are making them accessible as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, please do not ignore or remove warning signs and barriers. They are not forgotten and are there for everybody's safety. Before Christmas we built a footbridge alongside the damaged Watendlath packhorse bridge. This is one of our oldest built structures within Borrowdale so we have scaffolding in place at present to brace it and support it. It will take some time but it will be repaired or rebuilt.

    Daisy here: I’m sick of the rain!

  • Retaining wall rebuild...Queen Adelaide's Hill.

    08:21 13 January 2016
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    During one of the recent storms a tree at the base of Queen Adelaide Hill fell across the A592 (Rayrigg Road). As it fell a section of retaining wall collapsed below it and when the root plate lifted it ripped out part of the stock fencing behind.

    With the tree removed and the fence repaired it was the turn of the wall to be rebuilt.

    Sam, from South east Cumbria and Morecambe Bay, is helping us out this week...seen here beneath the stump of the offending tree...He is cutting back brambles prior to starting work on the wall.

    With the stone cleared back, the foundation stones can be put in place.

    This is an image from above of the wall during the rebuild. On a dry-stone retaining wall the stones are best placed 'end in end out' to give it as much strength as possible.

    The wall close to being finished.

    The competed wall with Sam giving the pavement a final sweep.

  • Thursday 07 January

    16:24 07 January 2016
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    One of our last jobs in 2015 was to improve the flow of Wynlass Beck...

     Wynlass Beck flows through St. Catherine's Estate on its way to Windermere, England's largest lake. The beck is fast flowing and even after moderately heavy rainfall it is contained by its banks, as seen in the above image.

    Above St. Catherine's, Wynlass Beck flows through Low Hag Wood which is surrounded by a dry-stone boundary wall. Before it leaves the wood, the beck splits into two and flows under two bridges. Even after the usual heavy rainfall expected in the Lake District the culverts, set into the wall, are well able to cope with increasing water levels.....until recently!

    The extraordinarily heavy rainfall in December increased the volume of water in Wynlass Beck to such an extent that it overwhelmed the culverts and then 'backed up' spilling over onto the access track to St. Catherine's, The Footprint and Gatelands.

    This is an image of a small section of the track after the flood had subsided.

    To combat such high volumes of water in the future , sections of wall were taken down by the two bridges and then rebuilt incorporating water gates or hecks. These will allow the beck to flow freely over the bridges should the need arise. The surplus stone will be recycled for use elsewhere.

    One of the two hecks under construction.

    The water heck for the lower of the two bridges...

    ...and for the upper bridge. Since these hecks were built they were put to the test within a week when yet again torrential rain swept through the area but this time the swollen beck was able to flow through with ease!