News from John Moffat for July 2012

  • Rain doesn't stop play!

    13:34 31 July 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    We're both late and early with this post!  With Fun Fridays at Wray Castle, holiday time and peak visitor season the Ranger's team didn't manage to post last Friday but Rob at Basecamp is so well organised his post is ready a few days early ....

    We’re in the busiest time of year for us at the volunteer centre at the moment. I think it’s all the good weather that makes everyone want to stay here around now …..

    We’ve been back on our main project of the year, working on the lakeshore path at Wray Bay. Community Drugs Outreach Trust, fresh from their first day with us pulling Himalayan Balsam (mentioned last month), helped us for a typically wet and muddy day. It might have been less than perfect weather but such was their enthusiasm that the hardest part of the day was getting the group to stop at packing up time!
    CDOT members relieved to have got that boulder out!

    After this we had the second visit from the Rochdale Dukes, a self named group of young people from Rochdale doing their gold Duke of Edinburgh award. Brought by volunteer leader Fida Hussain, they were the first of this year’s groups who worked on the path last year so were thrilled to see how well their previous work had settled in. Luckily, we’ve taken delivery of a consignement of brand new waterproofs so when the rain arrived on their first day of removing spruce regeneration on an SSSI they were kept dry. Mostly. 

    Rochdale Dukes give the new waterproofs a postive review!
    On the theme of keeping dry, we had a particularly busy week with a National Trust working holiday and our woodland ranger building a new woodshed. Using green woodworking techniques they’ve built us a fantastic frame. The rain forcing most of the work to be done inside didn’t do much for our floor and there’s plenty more work to be done but this is a great start to ensuring our future volunteer groups have a nice dry supply of wood. You can visit the Basecamp Facebook page for more on this woodshed project.
    The Basecamp in full workshop mode - we did manage to clean the carpets!
    At the moment Basecamp is stuffed to the gunnels (in a true sense, not an Olympic stadium sense) with one of our biggest groups: West Runton Scripture Union. They’ve been coming to Basecamp since 1969 so are a great link to the past for us and always stay for two weeks with a gang of up to 30 volunteers. With more rain forecast tomorrow our drying room is going to be working hard!
    Posted by Rob, Basecamp Community Ranger
  • Shed Life

    09:00 20 July 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    The Upland Ranger team has spent the majority of the summer curing man made erosion on the high fells and one of the first tasks on the large scale projects is to erect the teams shed. We have the shed flown up to worksites to give the team some vital protection from the elements.When you’re working in horizontal rain and being buffeted by the wind then it’s a real morale boost to have a break from it at lunchtime. It’s your normal garden shed that you can get from any garden centre but with one or two adjustments so that it can withstand the notorious Lakeland weather.

    A room with a view

    We often get asked by walkers what the shed is for.We have a sign on the door explaining why it’s there but sometimes people have a guess anyway.We’ve overheard people suggesting that it might be overnight accommodation, a hide to spot wildlife and on one occasion someone even thought it was a drinks kiosk.

    Brews up
    The shed has often been mistaken for a toilet and when people arrive to use the facilities and find that it’s just a shed then they take advantage of the high sides and cover it provides anyway.Embarrassingly for all involved, it’s sometimes whilst we’ve been in there.With one particular shed, we seemed to attract a number of low flying military aircraft day after day and we wondered if the shed played a part in target practice.

    Most of the time we don’t have the luxury of having sheds because much of what we do is smaller, maintenance type work and so sometimes you have to improvise when a break from the weather is needed.

    Spot the Ranger
    I should say that the photo is from winter time on top of Crinkle Crags and although we’ve had some rough summer days so far, it’s not been that bad. Where possible, we try and keep the sheds tucked away and discrete but if you do happen to see one on some remote fell side then you now know why it could be there.

    By Ian Griffiths (Upland Ranger)
  • Where are the dragons?

    09:00 13 July 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    The weather over the last few weeks has been more like October but warmer, it hasn't stopped us working but it has made the ground conditions more challenging!  Last week I was out with a hardy group of volunteers in the rain (again) protecting  naturally regenerating trees in Guards Wood.

    Volunteers using tubes to protect young trees
    If you imagine what summer should be like then that's the perfect time to go on a dragonfly hunt, a nice warm sunny afternoon with not too much wind. With names like Hawkers, Darters and Chasers dragonflies are amazing insects, fossils show they have been on the wing since the dinosaurs - they were much bigger then some had a wingspan of 30cm! 

    The adults we see flying around can be up to five years old, golden ringed dragonfly larvae spend most of their lives living in mountain streams before emerging into the insects we see.

    Golden Ringed dragonfly.
    All dragonflies lay their eggs in water so the South Lakes has plenty of great habitat with the number of lakes, tarns, streams and mires.  Once the larvae emerge from the water they fly to other nearby habitat to feed, after a couple of weeks they return to the water to find a mate and lay eggs.   
    Southern Hawker.
    Adult insects can often be seen hunting away from water, Southern Hawkers are often found in woodland glades and will quite often fly up to have a look at you if you get in their way, don't worry contrary to old wives tales they won't bite! Dragonflies eat other insects which they catch in flight, they eat smaller prey on the wing but often hang up to eat larger things like butterflies.  I have seen a Golden Ringed dragonfly eating a bumble bee!

    For such brightly coloured insects they disappear very easily when they land which makes finding them quite a challenge, a pair of binoculars really helps.  Darters often land on rocks or fence posts which makes them easy to find and photograph.

    Common Darter 'posing' on a fence post
    So if the sun ever does come out  ... do look out for these amazing insects.

    post by Richard, Woodland Ranger

  • The aliens have landed - you don't want to know where ....

    09:00 06 July 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    A lot of the jobs we tackle can only be done at certain times of the year and it’s about this time of year that Himalayan Balsam starts to rear it’s deceptively pretty head. You’ll probably have seen it, growing alongside a road or river. Maybe you’ve even thought how attractive its large pink flowers look. But it’s one the most aggressive invaders of our countryside, becoming an increasingly familiar sight alongside our roads and streams as it spreads by seeds being carried along watercourses.
    A fine example of a balsam plant, but too early for pink flowers
    Luckily, it can be pulled out of the ground quite easily and unlike some other invasive species (Japanese knotweed for example) it won’t regenerate from a tiny sliver of plant left behind. Although this type of work can be dispiriting for a couple of members of staff to tackle on their own, a big gang of volunteers can make an enormous difference in one day. And big gangs of volunteers is what we do well here at Basecamp!
    CDOT at the farm with some of the removed piles of plants
    There’s a relatively short window of time to get it: it needs to be big enough to identify but not so big that the seed heads have matured. When they have, they pop with impressively explosive force when touched, spreading more seeds. We also need to make sure we tackle it in the right places - if there’s more left upstream those exploding seed heads will quickly send reinforcements down to repopulate a cleared area. 

    So, along with the Cumbria Freshwater Invasive Non-Native Species (CFINNS) Initiative – a county wide scheme helping to coordinate many organisations and put together the bigger picture of where the balsam is growing on different landowners land – we’ve been out with our volunteer groups clearing a couple of ‘motherlodes’ of balsam at the tops of watercourses.
    The South Lakes group in the sewage works
    Unfortunately this has lead us to some decidedly unglamorous places. A first trip out with the South Lakes Conservation Group to an old united utilities sewage works was smelly enough. However, we’ve continued that theme this week with a visit to a farm with CDOT (Community Drugs Outreach Trust) where the balsam was growing in a massive heap of manure!

    Behind you!
    At the end of these days though we’d done some great work to really knock the plant back. And if that means we see a few less of those pink flowers it makes it all worthwhile!

    By Rob Clarke, Community Ranger at High Wray Basecamp