Latest news from Jo Day

  • Goodbye potholes!

    16:52 24 February 2015
    By Jo Day

    Car park at the start of the day

    As most of you will probably know (and you can see by the above picture) our car park at the end of Hawthwaite Lane has been in dire need of some TLC for a few months now, with it being more pothole than car park and some of the potholes being big enough to lose a small dog in! You’ll probably all be glad to know then, that we have just had a contractor come in (Neil Martin) on Tuesday to level it all out and get rid of all those troublesome potholes! He had some great pieces of kit and the car park looks excellent now that it’s all been leveled off. 

    Doing a grand job!

    It’s all still a bit wet at the moment due to the rain we’ve recently had so we’ll have to see how well it beds down but fingers crossed it’ll stay level and pothole free for the next few months.

    This is however only a temporary fix at the moment as we currently have some plans in the works to redesign and improve the car park area. We’re hoping to have these completed soon and have a brand spanking new car park by the end of this year.

    We now have a pothole free car park!

  • Balancing water levels for wetland habitat management

    13:02 30 September 2014
    By Jo Day

    Even during our dry summer the site, before work started, was still very marshy
    The area to the south of our reserve is predominately wetland with the lower section regularly being inundated by high tides. Over time the ditches that take water off these marshes have silted up and the old tile drains have collapsed.  This has prevented cattle getting into these areas to graze and therefore has changed the floral diversity of this area.
    Getting in the diggers to re-profile the old ditches
     As part of the higher level stewardship scheme for farm payments we embarked on a project to reinstate these ditches and install a sluice gate.
    The sluice was specially made for the job
    Sandscale has seasonally fluctuating water levels and the amount of standing water present can vary dramatically across the seasons and from year on year.  The sluice gate will allow us to control water levels to ensure sufficient water for breeding natterjack toads and a balance of wetland plants and grassland species.
    It took no time to put in place
    The new walk way was installed for ease of access
    The walk way over the ditch next to the sluice will allow access for the cows to cross the ditching system, so both sides can be grazed
    The sluice gate in action
    Before work began

    After digging the ditch
    In 2012 the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology initiated a new dip-well monitoring regime on the reserve and also analysed data from previous studies.  Over time this should provide key information to help inform water level management.
    After work, with the sluice gate in place

  • Stinky our Minke

    13:07 20 August 2014
    By Jo Day

    The initial sighting of our whale
     On the 17thJuly  2014 a dog walker reported a dead whale that had washed up on the beach.  Having experienced reports of a killer whale the year before, which actually turned out to be a habour porpoise, we weren’t really expecting to find what we did.

    In fact an 8.3m whale, which at this point believe to be a minke whale, had kicked the bucket and landed on our beach.
  • What are you up to this summer?

    14:29 16 July 2014
    By Jo Day

     Thursday 24th July 2-4pm Creatures of the Estuary
    Use pond nets to fish for a variety of weird and wonderful sea creatures in the Duddon Estuary at Low tide. Nets and trays are provided.

    Monday 28th July 1-4pm Family Beach Events Day
    A variety of fun family events run by the National Trust, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Love my Beach. Activities include beach-combing, pond dipping and a sand sculptures competition. Come along at any time between 1pm and 4pm
    Thursday 31st July Stream Dipping
    Explore the fascinating under water world of a stream using pond nets to catch all kinds of weird and wonderful mini beasts.  

    Thursday 7th Aug 2-4pm Mini-Beast Safari
    Take a journey in to sand dunes to explore the hidden world of mini-beasts.
    Thursday 14th Aug 2-4pm Sand sculptures
    Show off your artistic talents by creating natural sculptures from sand and shells on our lovely beach

    Thursday 21st Aug 2-4pm Wildlife Explorer Trail
    Bring your detective skills with you as you investigate what lives amongst the dunes

  • Half Term Happenings

    09:02 24 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    Mini-beast safari 

    Thursday 29th May 2pm-4pm

    Take a journey in to the sand dunes to explore the hidden world of minibeasts.
    • Free activity, all equipment provided. 
    • All children to be supervised by an adult. 
    • Booking not required

    More Information: Jo Day - Sandscale Ranger, 01229 462855,
  • Coralroot Orchids are Back!

    15:50 13 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    • Coralroot Orchid grows in the dune slacks amongst Creeping Willow. It is
    generally found in the younger dune slacks within relatively open areas.
    Associated species include Variegated Horsetail, Glaucous Sedge, Early Marshorchid,
    Marsh Helleborine and Round-leaved Wintergreen.

    • Plants are typically less than 10cm tall and do not tend to stand out amongst
    the other vegetation.

    • The orchid derives much of its nutrients from a fungus that grows in
    association with Creeping Willow.

    • Over 1,700 plants were found in intensive surveys carried out here in 1989.
    Recent counts are much lower with the highest being 332 in 2009.

    • Coralroot Orchid appears to be declining at Sandscale Haws and on other
    sites in the UK. Reasons may include succession in dune slacks with few
    new areas being created as well as changes in both climate and hydrology.

    Please note: Coralroot Orchid is extremely difficult to find at Sandscale
    Haws. To avoid any accidental damage to populations we encourage you to
    contact the Rangers for advice before visiting. At times it may be possible to
    arrange a site visit with a Ranger to view the plants

    Call 01229 462855 for details or email
  • Toad Story

    12:02 03 May 2014
    By Jo Day

    Guests on our natterjack toad guided walk
    We are lucky to be part of the Duddon Estuary which is home to approximately 25% of the entire population of natterjack toads in the UK.  Here at Sandscale Haws we have about 1000 breeding adults and are one of the best places to see them up close.  As they are such a vulnerable species, it is illegal to not only handle them, but to also disturb them in any part of their life cycle.  For this reason Neil and myself hold a license, this allows us to monitor their population and give educational demonstrations out on site.
    By monitoring the size of the toad population over many years, we can ensure that we have the balance of our reserve management just right.  Our tall, rank vegetation is grazed by our livestock, this keeps the grasses and rushes low in order for other flora to thrive.  Trampling of the ground by cattle also exposes bare sandy patches which allow pioneer plant species to establish, as well as providing areas for the natterjacks to burrow into for shelter.  This rich floral community provides habitat for thousands of insects of which our toads will amble after for it's dinner.  Natterjacks being short-limbed need this flora to be kept short to journey over, this is done by  the grazing.  In summary, by keeping the numbers of grazing animals at the right levels, in the right place, we can ensure a happy, healthy population of natterjack toads.
    Fresh spawn. Photograph by Rod Mills
     Monitoring is done by walking around the margins of all our pools at least once a week during breeding season (mid-April and mid-June) and recording the number of spawn strings seen.  Fresh-laid spawn can be easily recognised as a double row of spawn, after a few days it becomes transformed in to a single row (see previous blog for photos).

    Natterjack toad on left, Common Toad on right
    The skin of toads appears warty with large glands behind their eyes.  The largest distinguishing feature to separate the natterjack from the common toad is the yellow line down the middle of it's back.  Every line is different and can be used to identify an individual, very occasionally, though, you will come across a natterjack with no line.  In this instance the colour of the iris gives the game away, with the common toad having a copper or amber colour and the natterjack having golden irises.
    Natterjacks are generally smaller reaching a length up to 7cm, with the common toad getting up to 8cm.  Between the sexes, the female is usually the largest, requiring more body weight for egg production.  The male can also be recognised by two darker inner edges of the first two toes on it's front legs.  These are called nuptial pads and help him provide a firm grip on his female whilst in amplexus (mating).  Along with darker toes, the males "wear the trousers" in the toad world and when on his back can be seen to have a line of darker pigment on his back legs that the female toad doesn't have.

    2014 monitoring so far...

    So this is what our more mature spawn looks like at the wait they are tadpoles!  It is not possible to distinguish between the species of tadpoles at this stage, however the common toad tadpoles are marginally bigger as they were laid earlier in the season.  Also side by side the natterjack tadpoles have a slightly more pointed nose and appear less active than the common toad tadpoles.  The common toad tadpoles like to move about as a shoal in the deeper areas of a pool, whereas the natterjacks are loners and prefer the warmer more shallow areas.  As they grow, natterjack tadpoles will develop a white chin, and as they grow legs they get their yellow stripe, starting in the centre of their backs.  Hopefully in the weeks to come I can show you more of their development...

    Summary of spawning history

    Number of pools used
    Spawn count total
    385 so far
  • Natterjack Toad Guided Walks 18th and 25th April 2014

    15:54 17 April 2014
    By Jo Day

    It is illegal to disturb natterjack toads in any stage of their life-cycle without a license, a guided walk by our licensed rangers ensures the best experience of these amazing creatures.

    18th and 25th April 2014 7.30pm from our car park (Hawthwaite Lane, Roanhead, LA14 4QJ)
    The walk is about 1.5miles over uneven terrain and beach, passing water courses.  Please bring a torch and warm clothing.
    2014 The story so far...
    The evening of the 30th March was kick off for the new natterjack toad breeding season, as the males started calling beside the pools.
    It wasn't until the 7th April that we had actually recorded any spawn strings.  This is a freshly laid spawn string still formed as a double helix.  Looking into the water from above they look like black bootlaces.
    After a few warm days the spawn have separated in their jelly strands.
    A week on, since conditions have been suitable, they have ingested their jelly and have started to look like little black commas.

    Stay tuned to see our little babies grow up...
  • Love My Beach!

    16:40 20 March 2014
    By Jo Day

    Thousands of people come each year to visit our stunning beach but we need to make sure we keep it this way.  Threats from pollution in the sea, litter and dog poo can all hinder your enjoyment and damage habitats and kill wildlife.
    A European Directive coming into effect from 2015 will mean that higher standards of water quality will need to be met in order for our water to be safe for swimming and paddling.
    By working together with businesses, farmers, visitors, Town and Parish Councils and volunteers we want to exceed these required standards by 2015.

    We kicked off our membership of LoveMyBeach with a good old beach clean, which attracted 12 people who collected 320kg of litter.

    If you would like to get involved our next Beach Clean is 12thApril 10.30a.m from our car park, Roanhead, Hawthwaite Lane, Near Barrow in Furness LA14 4QJ

    For more information call 01229 462855 or visit the LoveMyBeach website at
  • By request...

    16:56 18 March 2014
    By Jo Day

    So February started out with yet another high tide taking out our salt marsh fence

    We also had further erosion to our rock armour protecting the fishing huts at the southern area of the reserve

    I was allowed out on day release to visit Nether Wasdale in the Western Valleys.  Here I was planting native trees for a more natural transition from wooden valley floor to open hillside

    I had another excuse to go walkabout when I took some of our volunteers up to Wathenlath Tarn in Borrowdale to learn how to hedgelay.  This is brilliant experience, sharing skills and knowledge from other Rangers in the Lakes.

    Back on site and we have a few slacks like this that have become overgrown with wood small-reed which the cattle don't like to eat.  This lessens plant diversity in this area.
    Therefore we invited the boys in from the Western Valleys and the other Rangers from our patch with their brushcutters and got them to work, acting like mechanical cows.

    Volunteers from Sizergh, including Tom Price the Gardner came and raked the reed off, as well as chopping down some tough hawthorn, and removed it from site.

    Lets hope after all that hard work the cows will now get in there and stay on top of their munching.  With Spring just around the corner, it will be great to see what pops up in its place.

    Talking of popping up, we had yet more Snow bunting.  The first flock we recorded got up to 21 in number, but since then only 9 have stayed on.

    So the news you've all been dying to hear is...we've finished the first stage of our boardwalk project.  To open it (using loppers and hazard tape) we invited Ann Thurlow, Mayor of Dalton-in-Furness, who we're also honoured to have as one of our volunteers!

    Whilst I skip off onto the sun, Ranger Dog Bob looks on in sheer embarrassment that I'm his!

  • News from Jo Day

    Photo of Jo Day

    Having looked across the Duddon Estuary to the lakeland fells for 3 years it was time to jump across and start working for the West Lakes team. It has been a big leap from a sand dune system but I'm getting stuck into the more practical side of "Rangering" and sharing my love of the ecological side of things with my new team. Hopefully I'll see you at our 50 things events here in Wasdale!?