Latest news from Dave Almond

  • The Curious Quoin End of Wansfell Holme(s)

    13:04 14 June 2019
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Although you may be distracted by the view of the lake just south of Ambleside, look the other way and you'll see Wansfell Holme on the hill above you. An early Victorian Summer mansion, it sits at the heart of the designed landscape that spreads upwards into National Trust woodlands at Skelghyll. Stand on Jenkyn's Field and look upwards back inland - you'll see the Tall Trees of Skelghyll framing the skyline behind the house itself.

    A gap in the Wansfell Holme boundary wall into Skelghyll Woods presented us with an unusual problem. 

    Apart from its daunting height of 8 feet in places, the  wall had been mortared in the original construction at the wall ends or quoins, whereas the rest of the wall had been built as a traditional dry-stone wall.

    This had the effect of  much of the mortared wall near the gateway staying up while the non-mortared wall adjacent to it had collapsed mainly through shifting foundation stones over many years.

    After stabilising the mortared section of wall with some additional mortar, the foundations were reset and the rest of the wall was built "dry" as in the original construction. 
    In this image the stone has been cleared back and rebuilding the wall is well on its way.

    This image shows the finished result with the rebuilt dry-stone section of wall blending in with the  mortared wall.

    The mansion framed by the gateway is Wansfell Holme; the owners back in the early 1800's would have had the wall built as a boundary between the woodlands and the fields that formed part of their estate. 

    The wall is situated along the route of  The National Trust Tall Tree Trail.
    The owners of Wansfell Holme in the 19th century were avid tree collectors. They planted many conifers in what was once their woodland. The Grand Fir in this image was one such tree and is the tallest tree in the North West, as well as being the tallest Grand Fir in England.


  • Baby giants

    16:26 28 March 2019
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Central & East Lakes countryside team are rightly proud of their collection of interesting specimen conifers at Aira Force (Ullswater), Skelghyll (Ambleside) and High Close (Great Langdale). Whilst our ancient and veteran trees in the wider countryside are normally native species, such as oak, ash and alder, we also have a number of notable and rather impressive non-native conifers. You might have seen the magnificent Sitka spruce at Aira, picked up cones from the Monterey Pine at High Close, or got vertigo looking up at the tallest tree in the north-west - a Grand Fir at Skelghyll woods. These 'designed landscapes' are a significant contributor to the cultural landscape that is celebrated in the Lake District World Heritage Status.


    
    The Tall Trees at Skelghyll Woods, Ambleside



    A few years ago a kind donation allowed us to plant some further specimen conifers at Skelghyll - you can read about it here. We got the chance to plant further trees thanks to the National Trust's Plant Conservation Centre, who regularly have surplus plants left over from their propagation of unusual or interesting plants from NT properties across the country. And so, one autumnal day, Central & East Lakes took delivery of a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), an ornamental Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) and an Asian fir species (Abies delavayi), all destined for Skelghyll woods.


    In a change from the windswept mountains, the C&E Lakes Footpath team spend most of the winter helping on lower-level countryside management work, and recently spent a day planting these trees in Skelghyll to complement our other young trees that will, between them, be another generation of specimen conifers.


    Upland Ranger Jonny firms the soil around the Coast Redwood

    Jonny and Leo plant the Lawson Cypress


    The trees were planted in chestnut paling cages to protect them from roe deer that would otherwise have a nibble.


    Ade and Leo building chestnut paling tree guards


    The Cedar of Lebanon, needing a bit more light, will be planted in the adjacent field behind Wansfell Holme to become a more open-grown specimen tree, joining Douglas firs and black pines already in this field below the woodland.


    Even the oldest of these kind of conifers in the UK are barely teenagers when it comes to those in their natural environments. Our impressive spruces, firs and redwoods will be, at most, 200 years old, dating back to the exploits of plant hunters like David Douglas in the early 1800s. Compare this to redwoods of 1,000 or more years old, reaching over 100m tall, and it puts our 'babies' into perspective!
  • Townend bench repairs.

    09:30 20 March 2019
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Yew wood is strong, dense, and resistant to decay; this has made it ideal for delicate carving work, turnery, and furniture. it was famously used for making English longbows given the wood is strong yet flexible.
    Most parts of yew are poisonous, but the chemical toxin is now being used as a treatment for cancer.
    Two of the rustic benches, made from yew, at Townend were in need of repair. After many years some rot had appeared.
    A lower limb of the right shape and size for these bench repairs was removed from a yew in the woodlands at St. Catherine's. Pruning a small branch will be of limited concern to the tree as its strong and decay resistant wood will limit the amount of decay entering the cut. Yews are famously strong at regeneration and unusually for conifers will re-sprout from many points...like deciduous pollards. 
    Given the historic use of yew wood for furniture, it seems appropriate to use the branch from a Windermere yew to repair benches made of Troutbeck yew! Long term volunteer, Stuart kindly undertook to do the work.
     Stuart is using a shave horse, used for green wood-working, at St. Catherine's to clamp the wood in order to remove the bark.
    A close up view.
    One of the benches repaired by Stuart with two new spindles and arms, ready to be returned to Townend House. 
  • Hedge Laying in The Langdale Valley.

    12:00 01 March 2019
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Hedge Laying originated from the need to keep livestock in fields after the acts of Enclosure in the 16th century. Nowadays more emphasis is placed on the value of the habitat that a well laid hedge can provide for small mammals and birds; hedge laying also promotes traditional skills and they look good in the landscape.

    Our main project for February was to lay 135 metres of a hawthorn hedge that was planted 10 years ago at Harry Place Farm in the beautiful Langdale Valley. This also involved taking down the fence on the top side and replacing it with a new fence. 
    A close up of the hedge and the old fence; as can be seen the posts have become very rotten and unstable!
    With the fence removed the hedge laying begins. An axe or a bill hook is used to partially cut...a technique known as pleaching... into the back of the stem at an angle to just above ground level. The trick is to leave enough sapwood and bark for the stem to flourish and yet make the stem pliable enough to be be be laid down. 
    On thicker stems a chain saw is used to speed up this process.
    A pruning saw is used to cut back to the remaining section of the stem, know locally as a ligger, once it is laid.
    A view of the ligger and the partially coppiced stump from which new growth will usually occur to be laid in years to come.
    The hedge is taking shape .
    Weaving in the branches and twiggy bits .
    Starting on the new fence by digging a hole for one of the strainer posts.
    The newly laid hedge complete with hedging stakes hammered in alternately on either side; they are used to "train" the hedge, give it strength, and to keep it to a required width.
    A Herdwick sheep enjoys munching on a discarded branch from the hedge laying.
    Incidentally, Herdwick is derived from the old Norse Herdvyck meaning sheep pasture!
    The completed hedge with one of the larger hawthorn trees left upright as a "standard" with a view of the Langdale Pikes and Blea Rigg. 

  • From Mighty Acorns....or Shed Some Light.

    11:22 22 October 2018
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    As part of a woodland management scheme, a group of oaks were due to be felled in High Hag Wood above the Footprint.

    James Archer, (Area Ranger CEL), decided the wood could be put to good use for constructing a green oak  fire-wood store/tool shed to replace the old delapidated one.
    Group-felling breaks up woodland structures, where trees are of a similar age and size...creating new gaps with more light encourages oak, rowan, birch, and hazel, to regenerate.

    By developing patches of trees of differing ages and sizes, woodlands will become more varied and diverse.
    Liam Plummer,Central and East Lakes, Woodland Ranger.

      Richard Tanner, the Woodland Ranger for South lakes, had already agreed to lead a Working Holiday Group to construct the framework for the shed out of the felled oak. Richard has successfully led groups at Wray Castle and Base Camp on similar 'green oak' building projects. 
    Contractors with a chain saw mill processed the oak logs into timber to the required specifications.

    The timber was brought down to the Footprint by power barrow.
    Joinery work (NO NAILS!) was carried out inside the Footprint as well as outside on the decking. The frame work was assembled inside the Footprint and then taken down to be reassembled on its chosen permanent site.


    Richard casting a critical eye!
    Assembling the frame-work on the newly prepared pad.
    Below...
    A job well done and right on schedule! With Richard's skillful guidance, The Group can be justifiably proud of what they have achieved in just a week.
    *****************************************************************************


    Larch cladding was provided by NT Boon Crag sawmill. The next stage was to to fit this around the oak framework, to show it off to its best advantage.

    Putting on the roof was the next stage.
    Roofing complete and under the eaves a newly installed nesting box.
    The smaller of the two doorways under construction.
    Finally the build is complete with doors and beautiful rustic handles.

     Thanks to Richard and Hugo from South Lakes, the Working holiday Group, Boon Crag saw mill, Ian Taylor and Stuart Morley.
  • A Monster Wall Gap...rebuilt through effective team effort!

    07:00 11 October 2018
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Having been weakened by Storm Desmond back in December 2015 a large section of wall finally collapsed, in several stages, above 'Seldom Seen' overlooking Ullswater.

    NT Rangers and volunteers from Ullswater and Windermere had the daunting task of rebuilding it!

    The wall is adjacent to the footpath to Sheffield Pike; the gap was over 30 feet in length.
    The wall was severely undermined by torrents of water. This section had to be taken down  to allow replacement foundation stones to be reset.
    One of the truly massive foundation stones being levered back into place; this was not a task for the faint of heart!
    Another, even bigger stone...
    ...was finally re-positioned with a few choice words of encouragement!
    A view of the foundations gradually being put in place. It can be seen how steep the slope is;  many of the stones had tumbled down the bank and they had to laboriously be brought back up again.
    Again, it is clear to see in this image just how steep the slope is.
    Walling up on the low side of the wall.
    The old concrete pipe was damaged in the wall's collapse so a new wider diameter pipe was brought in as a suitable replacement.
    Walling over the pipe.
    The wall is over 10 feet high on the down slope and at this stage the walling will have to be completed from the high side by walling 'over-hand'.
    The pipe is in position ready to take the flow of the beck the next time it is in spate.
    Some of the biggest stones we have seen in a dry-stone wall.
    The wall is well on its way to completion
    Another view with stone still to be dragged up the bank to be used in the wall.
    Putting on the top stones or cams
    Nearly up to height...
    ...and a view of the completed wall. The pipe will be trimmed but some overhang is desirable to allow the flow of water to clear the wall and hopefully reduce the chance of damage to the foundations in the future.

    It took a team of between three and four, (depending on the days worked), to complete the work in just under five days.

  • 'Rare Albion cattle recognised on the RBST Watchlist'.

    06:56 05 October 2018
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Extracts from Media Release Issued: 03/10/2018.

    'Surviving against the odds, an historic cattle breed has been formally recognised for the first time since the 1960's. Rare breeds Survival Trust has just welcomed the very rare Albion cattle onto the Watchlist as a recognised UK native rare breed.'

    'Gail Sprake, Chairman of RBST said, "Here at RBST we proudly boast that no breed has become extinct since we formed in 1973, but we so easily could have been proven wrong by failing to recognise these cattle. The Albions have had a dramatic reversal of fortune since their heyday in the 1920's, but we hope that this recognition will herald the start of a new chapter for the breed"

    'The National Trust look after an historic herd at High Lickbarrow near Windermere which means the public can admire and support this incredibly endangered breed'.

    In the light of such encouraging news for the future of the Albion breed, here are some images that I have taken over the last three years of the wonderful Scoutbeck Herd of Albions at High Lickbarrow.


















  • A Stitch In Time

    07:50 21 August 2018
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

     The country-side rangers duties include regular patrols, usually on a weekly basis, of the lake-shore properties to check on any problems and deal with them.
     Litter picking and  pulling out invasive himalayan balsam takes up a fair amount of this time.
    Whilst checking Galava, located  at the head of Windermere, we discovered that there had been a collapse over the covered culvert through which Fisherbeck runs; sometimes the culvert is unable to contain the volume of water, after heavy rainfall, and it will find a weak spot and punch a way through.

    As this culvert is close to a very popular footpath to the Roman Fort, and the fact cattle graze this area we needed to repair it as quickly as possible!
    We put in place a large traffic cone to warn of and at the same time cover the hole.
    Luckily we were able to locate a large slate to cover the hole.

    With the recent heay rain it wasn't possible to effect a full rebuild of the collapsed culvert but this will be done when the water levels have dropped.

    This sort of problem does highlight the importance of regular patrols, particularly of the most popular sites!
  • Natterjack Toad Night Walk at Sandscale Haws.

    07:19 30 April 2018
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Sandscale Haws, near Barrow in Furness is an important site for the nationally scarce Natterjack Toad. At 8 pm I went on an organised Natterjack Toad walk, here, led by two National Trust rangers, Neil and Andy, on 7th April 2018.
    One of the board walks at Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve.
    A sand dune breached by a storm. The landscape is very dynamic. The dunes are often shifting and changing shape.
    Natterjack toads are nocturnal and have evolved to breed in transitory water bodies. The name 'natterjack' is derived from the loud mating calls made by the males. The jack (or toad) that chatters!
    Sandscale Haws.
    One of the pools at Sandscale Haws where the toads were in fine voice. The males' mating calls can be heard up to a mile away on a still night!
    Searching the area by torchlight for toads...
    Success! A young male is seen. Note the distinctive yellow band running along its back. 

    I enjoyed my experience at Sandscale Haws and this was in no small part due to the knowledge and enthusiasm of the two N.T rangers Neil and Andy who led the walk.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK BELOW.

    Sandscale Haws website

    Below is an impressive video of a Natterjack in full cry!

    Natterjack Calling
  • Let Battle Commence....(the ongoing work to eradicate Himalayan Balsam.)

    13:40 04 April 2018
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    At Millerground , nationally scarce native Touch-Me-Not Balsam seedlings are starting to appear. 


    Unfortunately seeds washed down-steam last Autumn have allowed invasive Himalayan Balsam seedlings to be  present as well... encroaching on Touch-Me-Not. (see image below taken April 4th.)
    The cotyledon, the embryonic leaves in seed bearing plants (see above image) are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed..

    Even at this very early stage it is possible to spot which are native plants and which ones are invasive!
    To give the Touch-Me-Not seedlings their best chance the Himalayan balsam seedlings have been pulled up..Hard to believe that in a few short months these seedlings would have had the ability to grow upwards of 10 feet tall!

     Himalayan Balsam is by far the tallest annual plant in the UK and will easily out-compete Touch-Me-Not, and indeed, other annual plants...
    Above is an image of Himalayan Balsam taken in late June; this large woodland stand has become a mono-culture in that no other plants can grow such is its dominance.
    Early to mid Summer is the usual time to start control work before the plants have a chance to set seed.
    Strimming can be highly effective.
    In this image the Himalayan Balsam has been pulled up by hand and then snapped below the bottom node. 

    If  left on on the ground intact Himalayan Balsam can sprout new roots and survive very easily.
    The image above is of Touch-Me-Not balsam also taken in late June. Under the right circumstances it too can form a mono-culture but in much smaller stands than its invasive cousin.
    As mentioned in previous posts Touch-Me-Not Balsam is the food plant for the rare 
    Netted Carpet moths' caterpillars.
    Finally here is an image of a Netted Carpet Moth on Touch-Me-Not Balsam.