News from Joe Cornforth for July 2012

  • So there was this boat

    13:27 28 July 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    We have some boats moored on our lakes, primarily used by fishermen but also popular with people who just want a different experience of the lakes.

    © Delaney

    While on a normal path inspection of the Buttermere lakeshore we noticed that the boat usually kept at Hasness was nowhere to be seen, a quick check told us it had not been hired and given the stormy weather we’ve been having it seemed obvious it had just floated away, “not to worry" we thought, “it won’t have gone far”.

    How wrong were we, after circumnavigating the lake twice, searching under trees and overhanging lake edges we eventually discovered the boat firmly lodged in a willow tree at Buttermere Dubs, between Buttermere and Crummock water (pretty impressive navigation for an unmanned boat) it had travelled 1.2 miles turned itself backwards, reversed down the river and managed to climb a tree!

    Not to worry, we’ve got the regular volunteers coming in on Thursday they’ll help.Thursday morning arrived with the news that due to a ‘clerical error’ we had to remove all boats from all the lakes!!! I couldn’t help but wonder about previous days with volunteers and boats, something about the mixture seemed to always end up in a surreal experience somewhat akin to Fawlty Towers but directed by Quentin Tarantino, would today be any different?
    Off they go.. our brave boys
    © Delaney

    Anyhow we set off, Rangers Dan and Paul with volunteers Jim, David and Theo, minus Phil having a break in Cos. Once we arrived at Crummock Water a plan was hatched, David and Paul would, with the help of a quad bike (which refused to engage 4 wheel drive) drag, push and heave the boats out of the lake and onto the boat stands whilst Dan and Jim set off in another boat to row up stream and rescue the boat from the previous day.. With me so far?

    Paul and David had a few ‘technical’ difficulties not helped initially by discovering Dan had taken the Land Rover keys with him and so we were bereft of tea and pies, and so it had taken quite a bit of time to get the boats off the shore, only then did we wonder just why Dan and Jim had been gone so long, as we pondered their predicament we noticed two rather soggy looking shapes approach from the nearby woodlands both with life jackets on and oars over their shoulders, Theo beside them looking bedraggled and dragging his tail. What could have happened, had they sunk? Capsized? Was Jim’s tobacco still dry??
    Bedraggled,bemused and somewhat slightly dazed
    No it had simply proved too difficult to reach the stranded boat due to the current and over hanging trees and so they had pinpointed its position and walked back.Time for a quick brew and a new plan…

    All four of us and Theo set of on the most direct route to the boat, straight across the marshes; like a scene from a badly shot Vietnam movie we waded, jumped and fell from tussock to tussock but mostly into deep puddles until we reached a bridge near the boat, by virtue of having the longest legs Dan was selected to remain on that side of the river and go to the boat with a long rope whilst we headed across the bridge and up stream.

    Luckily Dan was in ranger red
    Theo wonders Just what David is doing? ©Delaney

    Once Dan was in position up a tree, all that was needed was for him to tie the rope to the boat, throw it to us and we’d pull it free of the tree and over to our side. On the third attempt Jim (showing an impressive agility for a man of his age!) grabbed the rope and we pulled the boat across, not easily as it was completely full of water.

    We now had a new problem - we had the boat but on the other side of the river was Dan, with the bucket! Not a problem, we’d throw the life buoy to Dan and he’d tie the bucket to it and we’d haul it across. We were confident this would work, after all Dan had grown up on a farm, he’d know how to tie knots wouldn’t he?

    The bucket came flying across and landed just beside the boat...just as Dan’s knot came undone and it floated at remarkable speed downstream...D'OH!!

    No worries, ever calm, David decided he’d go off in search of another bucket. It’s amazing how useful litter can be sometimes - no sooner had he disappeared Dan found another bucket close by - we tried our technique again and this time it worked and soon we were starting to bail out the boat while Dan returned to the bridge and came to join us. Now we had a boat, three men, and a rope. It seemed reasonable that we could now set off pulling the boat upstream against the current, through the trees and on to Buttermere. What on earth were we thinking?

    Like three wet and frail draft horses we set off and had made impressive progress when we realised the boat was getting heavier. Turns out there was a large hole in it and it was filling up as we dragged it through the current. Nevertheless by the time David re-joined with not one but two buckets, we were near the last obstacle; a weir formed by a fallen tree. Some gymnastics, acrobatics and general falling down saw us over come this and with a flourish we broke through and into the lake! Hurrah..

    Dan returns

    Hang on… we still have a boat moored downstream, we’d left jackets and worse than that Jim’s tobacco behind. Dan generously volunteered (was coerced) to go back and row the boat back to the Crummock water moorings whilst we walked back through the woods. It was a nice sunny day by now and we presented the tourists in the village with an odd sight, three very wet sweating old blokes with ropes and buckets all looking quite pleased with ourselves! Soon we were back at the shore sorting out the other boats when Dan hove into view, looking very much like a young Steve Redgrave he fought the waves and current and beached his boat…time for a late lunch… We’ll sort it all out tomorrow.

     * Apologies for length, and indeed girth! *


    Recently obtained CCTV images show that Dan and Jim had indeed made some serious navigational errors... 

  • From Scala to Cornhow

    07:33 17 July 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Volunteers Jim and David help Mark install the bench

    Another variety filled week for the Loweswater based ranger team, firstly with the help of Volunteers Jim David and of course Theo we helped valley ranger Mark install a memorial bench at Scala, you probably know it better as Lanthwaite!
    This bench was unique as it was made from locally grown oak from a National Trust woodland, and was built by Will, one of our in house joinery team; it contains a relief map of the area showing the surrounding landscape and is positioned to offer a stunning view of Crummock water
    Bench with relief map

    Once this was completed it was on to Cornhow near Loweswater for rangers Paul and Dan, our instruction was to rebuild a ‘small gap’ in one of our tenant’s garden wall, however  we quickly discovered all that remained was a smallish wall surrounded by some huge gaps ☺
    Safety was our prime concern at first as the over hanging wall sections were likely to collapse, so we didn’t have time to photograph this bit,

    Ground level at last!
    We decided to make the wall safe in manageable sections to give us a stable base to work on, the garden side of the wall was some three feet lower than the top side and took a while to stabilise.
    We soon made good progress although when walling with slate it can be difficult to gain height, however the slate also enabled us to include several through stones and a complete coverband to the wall top, a rare luxury when walling with our usual types of stone.
    Dan adjusts the coverband

    All that remained was to use the remaining stone to top of the wall and with the thanks of a happy tenant we were done!
    All cammed up
    From here we’re off to the fell wall above High Nook to repair some more gaps! Anyone would think we liked walling!!

  • In with the new, out with the old.

    07:57 03 July 2012
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    As the old metal railings at Hawse End were looking sorry for themselves we thought it was time to replace them. We could have built a normal stockproof fence with posts and netting - it would certainly have been a cheaper option - but this would not align with the nature of the property. Hawse End is a natural continuation of Brandlehow Park, the National Trusts’ first acquisition in the Lake District. As such it is a very special place, and needs that bit extra. Metal railings just feel right.  So we started off with a volunteer group helping us take the first section of old railings down, and put up a temporary fence. With the temporary fence up this allowed us to work on the first section of new railings.  

    When we came to take down the other section of the old railings we thought we would bring in reinforcements, because we didn’t want to go through another 100 hack saw blades. So we called upon the Forestry team, and with no problems they just pulled the fence out with their forwarder. At the same time they brought along some spare timber to use as a revetment, which was backfilled with stone and soil.  

    The most time consuming part of the job was getting the uprights of the fence into place. To get it correct we had to get the uprights level in all dimensions, and to make sure that we were following the correct line. As seen in the picture above. Once they were level and upright we then added cement to secure them. When the uprights were all in the job became a bit easier and less stress free. The poles were then threaded through the uprights to complete the fence.   

News from Joe Cornforth

Photo of Joe Cornforth

The Lake District is a truly inspirational place with breathtaking scenery wherever you turn… and it has been my playground all my life.
I am the upland ranger in North West lakes, covering Borrowdale, Buttermere, and Ennerdale. I am responsible for supervising volunteer groups, repairing and maintaining over thirty six paths and also helping in the valley (walling, hedging, fencing etc). “How lucky you are” is a very regular comment as walkers pass our work sites. It does not always feel that way though, when you are wet through and battered by the winds, it feels like hard work! Yet still, I am blessed to work in such a beautiful place helping to conserve the local heritage I love.