News from John Atkinson for June 2013

  • Record breaking jumping and surprised squirrels!

    09:00 21 June 2013
    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

    With the good weather we've had recently we've been noticing 'cuckoo spit' starting to appear on many of the plants around the Basecamp grounds. I remember seeing this when growing up and always wondering what caused it, but never finding anyone who knew (although I probably didn't try that hard if I'm honest!).

    Today though, with the wonders of the internet and knowledgeable National Trust staff I know it to be produced by the intriguingly named 'Frog Hoppers', or rather their nymph stage. These young insects suck the sap of the plants they are on and exude the froth to both stop themselves from drying out and to protect them from predators, such as ants. Where do they exude it from? Let's just say it's not their mouths ....

    He's in there somewhere ....
    They don't really do much damage as they're so small and when adults they move freely from plant to plant, by jumping. It's this that makes them the record breakers - they are the animal kingdoms champion jumpers. They can jump up to 70cm, which when you're only around 6mm long is a fair distance. Even more impressive is that while a flea can do a similar jump the froghopper is around 60 times heavier, which gives a force per body weight comparison: A froghopper will manage around 400 times it's body weight, a flea about 135 times and a human being a measly 2 or 3.

    The g-force generated by this is around 400, compared to about 5 for a human astronaut going into space - that'd make your head spin ....

    Enough about tiny insects. They're interesting, but they're not cute. Our red squirrels, which we mentioned in a recent post, certainly are though. We recently managed to capture this short video of one making off with one of the monkey nuts from our feeder and being surprised by our camera. You can see it here:

    If you can't see the video here then click the link below to go see it onYou Tube.

    By Rob Clarke, Community Ranger
  • Interns out and about.

    09:00 14 June 2013
    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

    With the weather warming up nicely to coincide with the bank holiday and half term the whole area has been busy. A couple of MOT trips to Wray Castle were made to put down gravel in the car park and along the side of the entry road to help curb soil erosion. Us new interns have been getting stuck into strimming, fencing and walling at various locations and are really enjoying it, great to be out and about as paperwork and admin erode the brain after a while!

     One of the fencing projects recently has been at Low Peel Near, with there being lots of bedrock no more than a few inches from the surface life has been hard trying to dig in the straining posts. With the driller finally deciding to work for a while we made some headway, the section next to the road is now done and dusted (much to the relief of everybody). The area that was fenced off near the shoreline has allowed a carpet of Bluebells to come through and some oak saplings are progressing well.

    Low Peel Near

     Love going out and exploring over the weekend and woke up early to do Helvellyn on Saturday morning. Weather was clear so there were some amazing views at the top. The one here is looking back over Striding Edge, next time I will do a longer loop, but the stomach was rumbling and I had an insufficient lunch of a banana and a cereal bar. A café was calling my name at the bottom.  The path team have been working on Swirral Edge all week landscaping the footpath line to protect some rare alpine plants.

    Striding Edge

    Trying to use my camera to full potential

     Post by Stu

  • Itching to do some Pitching...

    09:00 07 June 2013
    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

    This week it is the turn of the South Lakes Upland Rangers to do the blog.

    It may be helpful to first explain the title. "Pitching" refers to the stone step-like paths that are sometimes built in the fells to tackle erosion problems. The "Itching" relates to the fact that in recent years the team have not done much path work using rock and we were keen to do some.

    In the last couple of years much of our work has used different techniques. These have included a subsoil technique, which uses compacted subsoil to create a hard wearing path surface, and landscaping techniques to define a sustainable path line and stabilise areas of erosion. These techniques predominately use materials near the path we are working on.
    Subsoil path under construction last year 

    There are various issues when considering rock for a path project, such as the proximity of suitable rock (we use rock local to an area wherever possible) and can we use it. There may be rare flora growing on a scree slope that is potential rock source that should not be disturbed. There may also be significant costs moving the rock if done using a helicopter (see blogs earlier this year) or it may simply be that rock is not the most suitable option.

    The team's main project this year is on a path from Grisedale Tarn up Fairfield. Survey work concluded that an erosion scar that is developing was best tackled by 100 metres of stone pitched path. This means that the team has lots of pitching to get their teeth into.

    Before work started: erosion scar developing
    (Ignore rock on right, an old dry stone wall) 
    In addition to getting rock flown by helicopter to the project site we were able to have a flat packed shed lifted there. This provides some storage but most importantly some shelter at lunch time when the weather is bad. The first job was to build & tether down the shed.

    Project Fairfield "office" (not a bad location)
    Once the shed was up we started on the stone pitching, taking a 10 metre section each. The first step was to dig in some of the biggest rocks at the bottom of each section to act as anchor for the rocks going in above.
    Pitching in progress: looking down path at Luke & Tom in action
    In addition to the stone work we also "landscape" out surrounding areas of erosion and finish off with turf and and grass seed to help the pathwork blend into the hillside.
    Finished pitching plus landscaping
    This project is progressing well and at the time of writing we are enjoying a very nice spell of weather.
    Project progress as at end of this week
    If you would like to know more about the daily work of the South Lakes Upland Ranger team they can be found on Twitter @NTLakesFells.

    Posted by: Nick, Upland Ranger

News from John Atkinson

Photo of John Atkinson

Lead Ranger.
I have lived and worked in the Lakes for most of my life both as a farmer and for the last 20+ years as a National Trust employee. Over the years I have worked right across the Lakes firstly as a practitioner repairing walls and footpaths and working on conservation projects. Then more recently managing upland access projects and advising on access and erosion issues, before gaining my current position managing the Ranger team in the South Lakes. I am also a very passionate supporter of rural skills and upland farming and sit on the national committee of the DSWA and also the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners. When not at work I run a 200ha upland farm with my family where we keep traditional breeds of cattle and sheep and assist in conservation grazing schemes.