News from Craig Hutchinson for March 2016

  • Long Term Volunteer - Hello from Dominic

    08:00 25 March 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

    Hello bloggers. I guess that’s the term or would it be hello blog readers? As you might of guess this is my first ever blog and I should probably introduce myself to begin with.

    My name is Dominic, the particularly handsome fellow with the ginger beard wondering round, and I’m one of the Long Term Volunteers with the National Trust. I’m volunteering while taking a break from my studies at the University of Cumbria, where I’m studying forestry. And I feel particularly lucky to have been given the opportunity to be part of a great team, in such a beautiful area and have enjoyed many new experiences whilst here. So I will tell you a bit about what’s been going on with me. 

    Daily Commute-No Traffic Jams Here!

    As I said, I’m part of a great team all of whom have their own projects but are always willing to lend a hand or give a nugget of advise when needed. I have been enjoying my time with the rangers doing a variety of tasks such as dry stone walling, fencing and coppicing to name a few. There have also been some larger projects going on which, I have also been able to help out with. These include the improving of habitat for fresh water pearl muscle and the building of a new tree house at Wray Castle, which is almost as large as the castle itself. 

    Tree Castle-coming to tree near you soon!
    Chess Night at the Sun (Dale looks stressed!)

    Volunteer Digs, not too shabby. 
    Cosy Cat

    Living in the volunteer cottage has been interesting and very enjoyable, except for the more than occasional unwelcome head bangs on the many low door frames, I now walk round with a constant hunch. Maybe when the tree house is done I can be the creepy ogre-ish butler with a hunch. The cottage has been mostly dry, with the occasional breakfast in your wellies, and many dark winter evenings spent in front of the fire. With my time there, I have been trying to improve my bird identification skills, starting with those around the garden and feeder. 

    Feeder Scramble: Nuthatch and Great & Blue Tits
    So with the use of my bird book and the resident expert, Dale ‘The Tit Whisperer’ Martin, I have been checking out the local birds! Dale has been the perfect person to sponge tips from, but his knowledge can sometimes stir up feelings of jealousy. Especially when he seems to be so at one with the birds. Something you just can’t teach.  
    Dale 'The Tit Whisperer' Martin, Sadly Departed (he's left - not dead!)

    On Friday every week I get to see the other side of the Boon Crag team, the Dark Side of the Boon, you might say. This day is my time with the Wood lads and for obvious reasons is called Forestry Friday. It gives me time gaining practical experience with chainsaws which are relevant to my studies. And one process I have grown fond of, is the extraction of timber using the tractor winch. This doesn’t sound very exciting and in reality its just pulling the limbless trees out the wood. It is the sound the trees make when being pulled is interesting. As the de-limbed tree is slowly dragged through the standing, by the winch, it creaks and cracks along the floor, with parts snapping and sending echoing knocks through the whole tree. And it is really quite amazing how much a winch can pull.   

    All in a Days Work, Forestry Friday 

    More recently the children book festival at Wray Castle has taking place, of which I helped with. It was very enjoyable and not at all stressful, said with a smile. I was “given” the task of guiding the children round the tree trail. Which turned out rather well really, especially when I got some feedback. While taking a group around I asked one of the children if they had enjoyed it. He turned to me and with no thought of embarrassment said “hey, but usually my pants fall down”, and with that said, we carried on with the rest of trail. Told you, not stressful!

    So what is for me next since I only have a limited time with the Trust. Well, this next year will be a busy and life changing one. I will be returning to university for my final year, of which, involves writing my undergraduate dissertation. Then finally graduating in 2017 and coming to terms with fact I need to get a job. But, before this I will be finally walking down the aisle to marry my partner, Charlotte, who will be graduating from a Midwifery degree the same time as myself. We have been dating for 7 years, I know what’s taken so long? I have heard it all before from the parents and grand parents. Their not getting any younger you know and they want little ones. Gulp! So, exciting/scary things will be happening very soon.

    That seems like a good time to finish, wouldn’t want to ramble.

    Until next time, take care.
    Charlotte and myself enjoying a winter walk


  • Wild Lettuce.

    08:30 22 March 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

    Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) is known for having mild sedative and pain relieving properties, due to a milky substance called lactucarium which is found in the leaves and stem of the plant.  All species of wild lettuce contain some lactucarium with various degrees of potency, and have been used by civilisations through the ages.

    Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa).

    Min the Egyptian god of the desert and of lightening and sandstorms was always pictured with stalks of wild lettuce behind him. He was also known as a god of procreation and fertility. The ancient Egyptians alleged to possess a book of love agents that contained recipes for aphrodisiacs, many of which were said to be made with the lactucarium of wild lettuce.

    Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa).
    The Romans used wild lettuce as a medicinal herb often as an analgesic. The Emperor Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, attributed his recovery from a dangerous illness to wild lettuce.
    Since its modern discovery by Kore in 1792, wild lettuce has also been used as an analgesic. In 1911 the British Pharmaceutical Codex used the active ingredients in lozenges, tinctures, and syrups as a sedative for irritable cough or as a mild hypnotic (sleeping aid) for insomnia. It was even prescribed to calm “irritable” children. It is available today and appears in most herbal sleeping tablets.


     In Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909) the rabbits feast on lettuce that proves so soporific they fall asleep and only narrowly escape ending up in Mrs McGregor's rabbit pie. When Beatrix Potter wrote these words in 1909, she would probably have been well aware of the properties of wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa).

News from Craig Hutchinson

Photo of Craig Hutchinson

Having lived in the area all my life and trained as a chef, I soon found I much preferred working outdoors. I've now worked for the National Trust for over 20 years as a Ranger Supervisor for the South Lakes. My role involves activities from dry stone walling and hedge laying, to improving access and building a natural play area. The varied aspect of the role and the people I work with and meet make every day different and enjoyable. It's great to look back at the affluent number of interesting projects I have been involved with that have made a significant improvement to the local area.