News from Ian Griffiths for July 2015

  • Rogues, Raiders and Romans

    08:29 31 July 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



    The Lake District attracts some 15 million visitors each year and is one of the most visited areas in the UK.  Step back in time a little and and it might not have been the great place it is today to have a holiday.


    When the Romans came here some 2000ish years ago, they soon discovered that the Lakes could be a harsh place to travel in.  Soldiers and workers that serviced Hadrians Wall often had to travel from Galava Fort, near Ambleside, to Fort Brougham at Penrith. They were so worried about ambushes and attacks from roaming raiders that they went to great lengths to build a road on top of the ridge of High Street. With the route being above the treeline, it was safer for the traveling Legions to spot trouble.
    High Street (The cloud ridden,long ridge in the background)

    Centuries after the Roman Empire crumbled, various settlers arrived in the area, such as the Celts and then the Vikings, but it's not known for sure whether they came in peacefully or took the land forcefully. The Lakes and Cumbria then saw a power struggle between the English and the Scots, with both parties regularly sending raiders over the border.  There were the Border Reivers, that would take cattle and livestock from across both sides of the border and sometimes they would even kidnap members from wealthy families and hold them to ransom.  With the Lakes being hard to police and the law almost impossible to enforce, locals had to protect their livelihoods by any means possible.


    Here in the South Lakes in the early 1800's, one man who took full advantage of the remoteness and isolation of the rural communities was a fellow called Lanty (Lancelot) Slee.  A local farmer and quarryman by day, an illegal whisky distiller and smuggler by night.  He spent most of his time in Little Langdale and reportedly had Stills at Low Arnside, Hallgarth, Greenbank Farm, Moss Rigg Quarries and also one up at the Three Shires Stone, at the top of Wrynose Pass.  Apparently, if you know where to look, there's metal work from the Stills to be found at some of these places.
    Hallgarth, Little Langdale

    Most of the moonshine was sold to the locals but large amounts were bottled up and taken to the port of Ravenglass.  With the whisky sold, Slee would buy tobacco and illegally poached Salmon to take back to Little Langdale.  The goods were carried on ponies and whilst ascending along Wrynose and Hardknott Passes, he had to be very careful to avoid the traveling excisemen, with Slee often having to hide in the boulders up there until they passed.
     Boulder Fields on top of Wrynose

    Again, staying here in the South Lakes, over at Claife Heights there was a house of ill-repute.  Market traders came from all round to sell their goods at Hawkshead and on the return journey, visit the house with their newly gained money.  If you walk through the woods and look carefully, you can still see the foundations of the house in the ground.
    Interpretation of one of the workers (they weren't good looking but they were cheap)

    With the onset of Industry in the Lakes, better travel links arrived and this in turn led to the first tourists coming to the area.  Since then, tourism is now the biggest source of income in the Lakes and it's not hard to see why people want to visit the area (now that it's a bit safer than it used to be).







  • Hot Bedroom Action !

    14:32 24 July 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



    I’d like to share with you a video I took recently in my bedroom of some frenzied activity.
    I live in a National Trust house ; like many Trust houses it is quite old and being in a rural area we inevitably share the house with ‘uninvited guests ‘  some welcome some less welcome . Slugs, spiders , ants,  wasps and  toads are all regular visitors.  During the night there are strange noises coming from inside the walls scratching, scuffling noises with the occasional loud  ‘boing’ . I re-assure myself that these are probably just mice in cavities in the wall , not sure about the ‘boing’ I imagine that they have a trampoline in there too !  

    Probably the most welcome visitors arrive in late April / early May . It was 26 April this year when the House Martins arrived  on warm winds driven North from  Africa.
    The nesting begins immediately both adults build cup shaped mud nests on the underside of the eaves where the roof overhangs the wall. Some re-use and rebuild old nests, others ( presumably the young from last year ! )  build new ones using the mud gathered from the edge of field ditches and pools. Most of the nests are on East and South  facing walls but not in direct sunlight as this dries the nest out and can lead to nest collapse and overheating of young  chicks in the nest.
    There are generally 4 or 5 eggs in a nest and can be 2 sometimes 3 broods in a year. Both adults incubate the eggs and  feed the young on flying insects , flies , aphids and beetles . They are fast and agile flyers.

    The attached video shows two of the young House Martins from  the second brood leaving the nest. It’s fascinating watching the adults luring their young out of the nest for the first time , some take flight straight away others hang for ages to the side of the nest before letting go.



    The unusual nest in the video is one that I did a makeshift repair on last year. The nest collapsed and the young birds fell out , so I had to put a bit of rubber matting under the nest  to support it and then replace the two chicks. It seemed to work .

    These birds will be around until late Sept , early Oct if it warms up,  then they will head South to Africa . Strangely no one seems to know where they spend the Winter .

    Enjoy the sights and sounds of the young birds on their early flight . If you want to see more you can take a walk on the west shore of Windermere near the Car ferry, where you’ll see swallows and House Martins feeding  . Spend some time at Hill Top the home of Beatrix Potter in Near Sawrey and you are likely to see Swallows , House Martins and Swifts around the village at this time of year.
  • Tree TV - for tree geeks everywhere

    10:10 17 July 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

    It's no secret to anyone here at South Lakes that I really, really love the rare small leaved lime trees hidden away in Coniston's gills. These beautiful trees are a direct link to the pre-human 'wildwood' - read more in my old blog post here.

    Recently I had the chance to share my love for lime in a different format when Rob, our community ranger, made this atmospheric film one sunny summer's day. Naturally it's mortifying to watch myself on screen but it's great to get the message out about these time-travelling trees. Thanks Rob!




  • Bat Man visits Basecamp!

    09:00 10 July 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

    Up here at the volunteer centre we’re proud of the work we do to help look after our special places. But for many groups a stay here involves a lot more than just working with us as there’s plenty to discover in and around our grounds.

    So it was that during a recent visit by Glenburn Sports College the word was out amongst the students that Tuesday evening we were due a visit from ‘the Bat Man.’ Not the punchy kicky superhero (no need for that kind of behaviour at Basecamp), but our regional Wildlife and Countryside Advisor, John Hooson, who had kindly given up his evening to come here and talk about our resident bats.


    Bat box on the Longland toilet block roof - you'd never guess there's been 190 bats counted coming out of here!

    We have, we think, two colonies of Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) at High Wray. We normally let groups know about them and have a couple of bat detectors that we lend out, but having John up here to talk to them added an extra level of interest, especially when he brought out his collection of desiccated bats picked up from various sites over the years! He even had a bat skeleton, where you could clearly see the very similar bone structure in their arms to us – they have an elbow and a forearm with four very long fingers on it which the wing is stretched between and even a little thumb.
     
    They're tiny! Getting hands on
    The bat skeleton with long finger bones clearly (but slightly blurrily) visible
    Blowing raspberries

    After a ‘bat chat’ full of interesting facts (Did you know bats aren’t blind, they actually have quite good eyesight?) it was getting gloomy enough to turn the detectors on. These clever little devices ‘listen’ for the bats’ high frequency hunting calls and convert the sound to a lower frequency audible to our ears. It wasn’t too long before we started hearing the bats fluttering past us, catching midges on the wing. On occasion we even picked up the ‘raspberry’ sound they make when they are closing in on an insect and intensify their calls.


    After a fascinating couple of hours John departed in the Bat Mobile (might have been a Nissan), but the group were enthused enough that they asked to hold on to the detectors for the next night. No trace remained of the Bat Man, except for one thing – we now have our own example of Pipistrelle, which we plan to show to other groups in the future and hopefully spark off an interest in these amazing creatures.
    The 'Basecamp Bat' 

    By Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger
  • Bits 'n' bobs

    09:00 03 July 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

    Although I've been busy (I always am) I'm not sure with what.  I had a look in my calendar to find what I've been doing but it was no clearer.
    With nothing in particular to write about I thought I'd go through the most recent pictures from my camera and find some inspiration.........

    Boundary works - it's important to keep stock out of woods as they damage the ground flora and prevent tree regeneration by grazing.  Repairing our boundaries keeps sheep in the fields where they belong!
    Local contractor repairing a woodland boundary wall.


    Volunteer Ian repairing a fence after a tree fell and damaged it.


     Another gap repaired by contractor near Coniston.



    Dad dens - you may have read in an earlier blog about an event at Wray Castle on fathers day, guess who helped collect the den building material?


    Truck loaded with brash for the Dad dens event at the Castle.


    Claife Station - with the help of a sure footed group of volunteers we have finished removing the laurel from round Claife station to open up the historic views.

    The view south restored.


    Charcoal - again helped by more volunteers I have made some charcoal form wood cut to restore the designed landscape around Boon Crag farm near Coniston.


    A kiln full of charcoal.


    I love how you can still see the growth rings in the charcoal.


    Tree planting - although our tree planting is done in the winter its always good to see them start to emerge from the protection of their tree tubes.

    Cherry  tree planted in 2012 growing out of its tree tube.


    An oak with a little way to go!