Latest news from James Archer
Conservation Work at Millerground and Moor How.
13:17 31 January 2020
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeIn late January, Windermere rangers cleared a bramble-choked bank at Millerground above the public footpath leading to the lakeshore.Bramble growth was choking out native bluebells that the Millerground Enhancement Group, in conjunction with the National Trust, had planted in previous years.In addition, this area is home to native touch-me-not-balsam, which is the only food plant for the rare netted carpet moth. Pulling out the brambles not only gives more light for the plants it also has the affect of disturbing the ground. Empirical evidence has shown that touch-me-not requires some ground disturbance to thrive, and in the absence of wild boar, us Rangers will have to do!Waste not, want not! The pulled out brambles were then transported to Moor How and put to good use as a barrier......to protect any potential tree or flower regeneration.While at Moor How a small-leaved lime was planted in one of the twelve tree cages that have recently been constructed here. This is a native tree often found in ancient woodlands in the south of the country, and Cumbria and the northeast are its northern-most strongholds. It has distinctive heart-shaped leaves, flowers that provide nourishment to many bees in the height of summer, and can be extremely long-lived.The tree had a tree guard placed around it to protect it from being ring barked by rabbits or small gnawing rodents.Finally, Natural England and Butterfly Conservation advised that if small, designated areas of Moor How were "scarified", it would assist marsh violets and primroses to colonise said areas.Time for the Rangers to be wild boars again... with some help. The power-barrow was brought in to "scarify" the ground. Skilful skid turns and drifts were performed......and a border collie, well trained in the art of conservation, soon had the ground well and truly "scarified"!Another chosen area...Before......and after. Well done Blue (and power barrow).Breaking up the rank and thick grasses (dominant through previous over-grazing) has exposed mineral soil. Native wildflowers and tree seedlings will now get their chance to shine.
New Oak Gate for Low Wood.
10:26 25 November 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeThe old oak gate to the entrance of Low Wood...forming part of the National Trust High Close estate...was replaced recently by a new oak gate constructed in the same style by accomplished N.T joiner, Ricky.The top bar of the old gate, weakened after many years.The gate stoop.The original gate hangings were removed with some difficulty from the old gate, wire brushed and painted, ready to be used on the new gate.The newly painted top hanger is put in place on the new gate complete with new coach bolts.The excellent new oak gate, ready to provide years of service.
An Ash Pollard and a Wall Gap..
17:10 15 November 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeA wall gap by an ash pollard in a National Trust field adjacent to the A591 near Troutbeck Village.Ash pollards are difficult to age accurately as they usually hollow out, but it is likely this one is around 200 years old.Once the stone from the fallen wall had been cleared back, it was clear to see the problem was at least in part due to a large root from the pollard tracking above the ground and spanning the width of the wall towards the road.Here is a close up image of the rootA large flat stone was located nearby to bridge over the root allowing some movement from it without it disturbing the wall too much.The completed wall from the roadside.Hopefully the pollard and the wall can now co-exist a little while longer in harmony!
Count The Duke In.......Primrose planting for the Duke of Burgundy.
07:34 21 October 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeA rare British butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, has been in sharp decline over the years through loss of habitat, climate change, and intensified agricultural practices.Conservationists, including the National Trust in partnership with Butterfly Conservation have been hard at work in trying to protect this species from the danger of extinction.
The butterfly is mainly to be found in Central and Southern England with isolated colonies in Southern Lake district and The North York Moors.
Unlike warmth loving butterflies, the Duke is intolerant of open downs and will not prosper in dark, dense woodlands. It is extremely picky about its habitat!
However, it does thrive, albeit in low numbers, on extensive or lightly grazed grassland and scrub (see above image), or open or coppiced woodlands...
...just as long as there are sufficient numbers of primroses, (see image) or cowslips. These plant species are the only food-plants for the Duke of Burgundy's caterpillars.Under a Natural England HLS ( Higher Level Stewardship) scheme, National Trust land at Moor How is grant funded with the Duke of Burgundy very much in mind.
Taking a break from the National Trust's farm at High Lickbarrow, a small herd of the rare Albion cattle, up to the age of eighteen months, have Moor How as their grazing allotment from May to October each year.
They have been called conservation grazers as they help to establish the right conditions for the Duke of Burgundy. Cattle do not graze as close down to the ground as sheep. Unlike sheep, cattle use their tongues to pull tufts of vegetation into their mouths. As they graze, tussocks of grass are formed in which the caterpillars can pupate successfully.
As cattle have such wide mouths they do not overgraze or target certain species of plants...this results in a highly diverse habitat benefiting both insects and small mammals.
A "first heifer" at Moor How.The Duke of Burgundy has not been seen at Moor How as yet but with a colony close by it is hoped that they will spread to Moor How given time. This has been proven to work in areas where clusters of suitable sites have been maintained. For instance, last Summer, numbers of these butterflies have increased significantly in Kent, Sussex, and North Yorkshire.Primroses have been brought in to supplement the primroses already growing at Moor How.They have been planted throughout the year, with the last batch planted in October 2019.
The light grazing regime, coupled with the increasing numbers of primroses planted, should ultimately make Moor How a highly suitable site for the Duke of Burgundy.
Hopefully there will soon be news that the first Duke of Burgundy butterfly has be seen at Moor How!
Home Sweet Home.
18:02 03 October 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeLong term volunteer ,Stuart, has constructed several barn owl boxes. Three of the barn owl boxes, now occupied, have been positioned inside suitable National Trust barns.In the image ,above, is a dilapidated old barn owl box on an oak tree near Galava Roman Fort......and here is its replacement, courtesy of Stuart...a highly des. res. for any barn owl that may wish to settle in the area.With the resurgence of red squirrels in the Ambleside and Windermere areas, Stuart has also constructed some magnificent red squirrel boxes. The entrance hole is large enough for reds but too small for greys. The entrance hole is protected by a metal surround to stop greys from making the hole bigger.One of the red squirrel boxes has been positioned on an oak tree near Stagshaw Gardens where reds have been seen recently. Hopefully, it will provide a good nesting habitat for reds and be a safe haven from predators.
Partnership Working on September Surveys.
02:00 28 September 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeNETTED CARPET MOTH SURVEY... EAST WINDERMERE.In early September the annual survey for the rare netted carpet moth took place in the Lake District. In the larval stage (caterpillar) the moth depends entirely on nationally scarce annual touch-me-not balsam plants... their only food source.The survey was led by Dr. Paul Hatcher of Reading University and John Hooson, Wildlife Adviser for The National Trust. The fact that they have led these annual surveys since 1990 is a testament to their dedication.One day was spent at the East Windermere sites including National Trust St. Catherine's.A splendid view of a touch-me-not stand at St. Catherine's through the open door of the staff toilet...mid August. Over 100 caterpillars were recorded on these plants which is a great result as this is not one of the larger sites.Volunteers and colleagues from South Lakes National Trust were of great assistance in the survey work.Volunteers can be seen here at another site...not National Trust owned... about half a mile from St. Catherine's. This site, once in decline, has improved through the removal of invasive species. 26 caterpillars were found here.9 caterpillars were recorded at the Windermere School site; kind permission was granted by the school to survey the area.Regrettably no caterpillars were found at the Millerground site.However the numbers recorded elsewhere at East Windermere makes for encouraging news for future populations in this area..A not fully grown caterpillar found under a touch-me-not leaf at Hodge Howe. By October the caterpillars will have pupated in the ground ready to emerge as adults in mid July.******************************************************
In late September two rangers from St. Catherine's met up with Jayne Wilkinson of South Cumbria Rivers Trust. An Electrofishing survey at Troutbeck...where it runs through National Trust farm land at Stonethwaite... had been scheduled.
Surveys take place between July and September throughout the catchment area.
To quote SCRT...
"A 50 metre stretch of river is chosen at each site and the following is recorded:.AVERAGE WIDTH..DEPTH..RIPARIAN VEGETATION..PH.TEMPERATURE..CONDUCTIVITY.The voltage and pulse width of the electrofishing equipment is then adjusted according to the recommended settings for the respective water conductivity and fish species. This ensures the safety of the fish and the operators of the equipment.The electrofishing operator is aided by two assistants who are then responsible for netting the fish and transferring them to holding tanks. After the 50 metre stretch has been completed the fish are then surveyed, recording fish species and length. In order to minimise stress, surveys are completed as quickly as possible and the fish are then returned along the length of the survey site.Electofishing and its results give us a clearer picture of what species are in the river, numbers and fish health. It points us to issues and improvements that can be made to help fish migration, including: changes to barriers affecting migration, highlighting any pollution points and potential habitat improvement work. It's a great monitoring technique to ensure fish, river, and catchment health."Jayne is working her way upstream in a "zig zag" pattern using the electrofishing back pack equipment. Pete is about to net a fish. Trout and salmon were the fish to be surveyed.After 6 metres a number of trout and salmon have been caught.They are swiftly transferred to a large trug with an aeration system to keep them well oxygenated.A juvenile salmon about to be measured. They have a more concave tail than trout and their upper jaw does not extend beyond the rear of the eye as it does with trout. They are also more streamlined in shape.This is a trout. A positive id can be made here. The adipose fin is red. On the salmon it is not!Jayne was happy with the results of the survey. 111 trout and 36 salmon in a 50 metre stretch is good. As a rough guide only 60% of the fish in a 50 metre stretch of river will be caught for recording purposes.
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 KnipeAlthough 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.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.
16:26 28 March 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeCentral & 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 KnipeYew 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.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 KnipeHedge 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.