News from Daniel Simpson for November 2012

  • The Emergence of Ash Dieback at Watendlath

    13:36 27 November 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Having witnessed the demise of the English Elm through the 1970’s as tree after tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease I guess it was just a matter of time until we repeated the scenario with another invasive species, after all we spend millions of euros each year moving untold quantities of plant and animal species around Europe and Asia so it should not really come as a surprise. The Lake District with its network of small farms and field systems is more or less dominated by Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and nearly all of the mature trees in the farmed landscape are also ash! Furthermore many of the ashes are ancient pollards with a history of management going back hundreds of years and these very special trees support a wonderful array of wildlife including rare mosses and lichens and an unknown number of insect species. 

    Removing and burning ash at Watendlath
    Removing and burning ash at Watendlath 
    Volunteers kindly gave up their time to help us
    Volunteers kindly gave up their time to help us

    The ash pollards form part of ancient wood pastures and in February of 2012 we planted over 600 new ash trees at Watendlath, this small idyllic hamlet is home to several hundred ancient ash trees many over 400 years old. The news of this new disease, Ash Dieback (Chalara Fraxineacaused concern and having a contact at FERA (Food & Environment Research Agency) I was able to have these newly planted trees tested earlier this month and a few days later received the bad news that they were indeed infected. Following advice from FERA and The Forestry Commissionwe took steps to try to save the woodlandThe trees had been planted in tubes and fallen leaves were nicely contained within them, one week later and all had been removed and burnt on site to try to save the woodland.

    Ancient pollards in Watendlath
    Ancient pollards in Watendlath

    Was this successful? Only time will tell and next summer will reveal the true extent of the disease. The area will be closely monitored for any signs of infection by this nasty little Ascomycete and every effort made to reduce its impact on this incredibly ancient landscape that we put so much effort into conserving.
  • Wordsworth's Hens winter retreat

    14:08 22 November 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    The National Trust takes animal husbandry very seriously and when it comes to ensuring their visitor attractions are representing the correct era in history, even the poultry must be right.

    The Georgian property of Wordsworth house in Cockermouth, William Wordsworth childhood home, had a new addition to their garden last year. Three hens joined the team of dedicated garden staff and volunteers, doing their bit to help control garden pests by eating any that they were given. The fine looking ladies were an attraction in their own right and proved very popular with visitors as well as those who work in the gardens but late in the season all was not well.
    National Trust rare breed hen Poppy
    Poppy's surprise at Hetty's return
    Despite having the finest hen house, carefully made the Georgian way with hand made nails and native hardwood timber, one of the hens had 'flown the coup' seeking an adventure of her own, perhaps inspired by Wordsworth's famous poetic descriptions of the lake district on the doorstep.

    Fearing that she had been stolen, a safer place was sought for the remaining two birds to overwinter and they came to stay with my flock in the woods. Just days later the missing hen Hetty was found, she was in the building next door to Wordsworth house where she had been eating flys and spiders to her heart's content. Being a rare breed Scott's dumpy hen (one of only a few breeds of hen kept in the Northern England in Georgian times) and not having especially long legs seemed to have limited how far she was able to "wander lonely as a cloud"

    Reunited with her hen housemates Poppy and Maisey, all three have been happily scratching and pecking ever since and after a busy summer season in the Wordsworth House garden being admired by many and eating as much as a hen can, they are back in the tranquillity of the wood for another winter. 

    To find out how you can see these hens click here
    National Trust rare breed hens reunited
    Wordsworth hens reunited

    14:10 21 November 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Its that time again on the property to start the hedgelaying programme.


    Dan and Craig
    Dan our ranger and Craig start laying the first hedge of the year on the Dunthwaite

    Estate nr Cockermouth. Craig a local contractor is helping out in place of Paul who is away

    for two weeks on Prospect training.

    Thought it was going slowly !


  • One day you're up....the next you're down

    19:41 14 November 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    (re posted as original mysteriously went away last time)

    November has been a month of changing weather and work sites, firstly we carried out the finishing touches to our joint project with the Fish Hotel in Buttermere, there were a few unkind comments about the length of time the project took but overall we’re happy with the results.
    Next off, with Ranger Dan back in Borrowdale leading some farm walks at Seatoller farm (a place he knows only too well) I was joined by contractor Craig Shaw and his dog Jamie, our task? To repair- rebuild the boundary fence at the top of Kirkclose Wood by Buttermere, luckily as it was quite a steep walk up to site, the materials had been flown in previously, unluckily they had been dropped a considerable distance away!! So first we were forced to make far too many trips up and down the hill with posts and wire.
    We were blessed with magnificent autumn weather, crisp bright and cold with just the odd flurry of snow, and offering some stunning views.
    Could you wish for better views?
    A classic indication that we were well into autumn was the presence of several hundred fieldfares and redwings, a sure sign of cold weather approaching.
    Jamie says "You expect me to carry this?.........."
     Our peace and quiet on site was interrupted occasionally by the sound of chainsaws drifting across the lake, our forestry team were working in Burtness wood and on particularly calm days the sounds of falling trees could be heard, click here to see and hear how fast they work.

    Following on from this and after a well earned half term break we re grouped, our usual Thursday volunteer team joined us at Netherhow on the shores of Crummock Water to help us repair a gate and fence which had been repeatedly vandalised over the summer, you have to wonder why given the amount of fallen trees and branches lying around, someone would prefer to burn a gate?
    David had promised Christine a romantic picnic by the lake
     Now this was a fairly straightforward task but as we once again had combined work with water and our volunteers and some miserable weather, it was almost guaranteed to turn into yet another Whitehall farce. The end of the fence was deep in the lake, not a problem, we had some waders, Ranger Dan seemed quite pleased to tell me that they didn’t fit him so I did the decent thing and struggled out into the lake looking like a cross between MC Hammer and some demented water based superhero, can’t quite think which one.
    Captain Whatever about to enter the abyss
     All was going smoothly with me in the water and the volunteers and Ranger Dan on dry land when suddenly a large piece of wood fell as if from nowhere right into the water beside me causing a large splash and soaking me entirely! Volunteers David ,Christine and Jim told me an enormous bird had flown across and dropped it and of course I had no reason to doubt them.
    Just before the splash!!!
    Very soon it was lunchtime and the job was completed, a quick tidy up of the site and all the rubbish loaded onto the quad and trailer and we were away again, off to Fletcher Fields to finish  some walling which we’d begun the day before.
    Anyone know where this bit goes?

  • Whitehaven's winter wonderland

    07:30 14 November 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    As winter start to make its presence felt, here are a few of snaps taken by the National Trust's Whitehaven and Ennerdale Ranger, Chris Gomersall to show its not all rain, mist and wind at the same time.

    St Bees head and the Isle of Man (cgomersall)
    St Bees head and the Isle of Man

    Sometimes its clear and colder.

    Saltom in snow (cgomersall)
    Saltom pit and St Bees head shrouded in snow

    And when snow falls the lake district fells are not the only place worth a visit.
    Whitehaven addit south shore
    An old addit on south shore

    So if its perishing outside then the chances are that visibility is excellent and if you can keep yourself warm its well worth stepping out.
    Whitehaven harbour (cgomersall)
    Whitehaven's west pier and Criffel beyond dusted with snow

    Who knows what you'll find this winter. For more information about the Whitehaven coast visit the website

    Haig Pit (cgomersall)
    Haig colliery mining museum

    Have you seen Whitehaven in the snow?
  • Whitehaven coast bonfire, a roaring success

    15:04 13 November 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    On Saturday Nov 3rd 2012 the National Trust hosted an annual free public bonfire event at Whitehaven's iconic Candlestick chimney offering mulled wine, soft drinks and cake to warm spectators who watched as the fire caught hold at 6.30pm. The location over Whitehaven's historic harbour gives great views of everybody's fireworks around the georgian town.

    Next years bonfire will go on tour starting in Whitehaven on Friday the 1st of November and moving to Keswick the next day on Saturday the 2nd of November 2013.

    Visit our website or click here for our National Trust page

    National Trust Whitehaven Bonfire
    Flamin' fantastic

  • Emergancy Call the Fire Brigade

    15:03 06 November 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    If you need an emergency job doing just call our two Rangers Jack and Andy. Over the summer we have had jobs coming in left right and centre. Here's a wee taster! First job was to pull a dead sheep out of Derwent water that started to smell not at all like the new fragrance by Lacoste.  The second job was to unblock one of our donation cairn's. So we set off down to Friar's Crag with Anthony one of our foresters. Using the foresters tractor to lift the cairn on to the trailer we took it to the bank,also known as Bowe Barn! Once it was back at Bowe Barn, Andy and John started to dismantle the bottom part of the cairn. Once they had removed a few stones they were able to get access to the box, which then allowed them to prise the box open at which point they thought it was job done. How wrong were they, they then found out that it was blocked at the top. So we tried all sorts, threading wire down, rocking it side to side. Nothing worked, so I came up with the idea to get the pressure washer that we use to clean our vehicles to blast the money out. The picture above shows the process of using the pressure washer. After a couple of blasts we did manage to unblock it, with a few notes getting wet in the process, and the workshop slowly turning into a lake. We did find the reason why it was blocked up. Somebody thought it was too easy to put an old boat time table into a  bin so he thought he would put it in our cairn instead!

    The next job was to go and repair a gate and rails that had been partially demolished by some seriously poor driving on the Catbells road. Perhaps they had been distracted by the view! So we set off with some new rails, posts and straining post. The first job was to get the old straining post out for which we had help from Peter Edmundson, our local tenant whose gate we were repairing. Next we put  the straining post into the hole that the old post came out of, phew no digging. This was then followed by retensioning the wire to the new straining post. Lastly we nailed  new rails on, taking time to line them up properly to make the field stoke proof. The two pictures below show a before and after. 

News from Daniel Simpson

Photo of Daniel Simpson

I have been working as a Ranger for the North Lakes property in the Buttermere and Ennerdale valleys for 1 year. From always living on a hill farm in the Lake District, I have formed a strong connection with this beautiful scenery that we are surrounded by. So I take great pride in carrying out activities such as walling and hedgelaying that maintains this landscape. As well as giving guided farm walks and helping with events.