News from John Moffat for January 2013

  • A Spectacular Start to the Year

    12:23 25 January 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

    Since the Christmas break I have been out and about doing various things and along the way I've seen some sights that I think are worth sharing.

    I have been looking a footpath and peat bog restoration project up at Blea Moss in Little Langdale, this is a collaboration between the National Trust, Lake District National Park, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and of course our tenant farmer John Birkett. The aim of the project is to reduce the erosion that is occurring on the footpath in that area and to help to stabilise the peat areas on Blea Moss. Blea Moss is a nationally important site for a number of  plant species, including March Club Moss, Oblong leaved Sundew and Bog Orchid. Whilst I was there I saw this amazing atmospheric view through the mist.

    Juniper in the mist
    We have taken delivery of a second Tramper Mobility scooter which will be available to use free of charge up at Tarn Hows, just call to book a slot 015394 41172. The Tramper was bought second hand at a very reasonable price from a user who could no longer make use of it, this was made possible with a £2,500 donation from the Daneway Trust.

    The silver dream machine out in all weathers
     Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.... Well it looks rather lovely, but we've had a few cases of "Rangers to the Rescue" as a few people have tried to venture up the icy road to Tarn Hows in their cars and then we've had to go and grit the road to get them out. A Rangers' day is never dull and almost always different. Here's some lovely snowy views from our base, not bad eh!

    From the brew room window
    Boon Crag Yard

  • Winter Wall Gaps

    10:00 18 January 2013
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    The Upland Footpath Team are mostly working in the lower parts of the countryside of the South Lakes at this time of year. The weather and the shorter daylight hours mean that it is not possible (or safe) to spend all of our time working on upland footpaths in the fells.

    Repairing gaps in dry stone walls usually forms a large part of our winter work. We have lots of woodlands with dry stone walls as boundaries and gaps appear for various reasons, such as trees or branches falling on them. It is important to maintain these walls to keep the sheep and cattle in adjacent fields out as they can be damaging to the woodland.
    One of the wall gaps, re-building has commenced....

    Nearly finished... Sarah & Luke finishing off the wall

    It is not all wall gaps and there is plenty of variety to our winter work, the team go wherever their help is requested.  Examples include hedgelaying with a volunteer group, installing field gates, emptying cattle grids and drainage work on lower level paths.
    Hedgelaying with volunteers near Coniston this week
    The upland paths still get attention in the winter and we try to do some maintenance at least once a week.  This usually means walking a path route and emptying the drains, clearing the 'pitched' stone path surfaces and generally checking the condition of the path. This is known as a "drain run".
    We timed a drain run up Dollywaggon Pike perfectly last week as we escaped misty weather in the lower valleys and enjoyed some of the nicest weather so far in 2013.

    "Views" at Tarn Hows, near Coniston

    Slightly better views near the summit of Dollywaggon Pike

    The weather recently has been quite variable and at the start of this week it snowed.
    The surrounding countryside was very picturesque but it does make our work more difficult.

    Tarn Hows in the snow this week

    Post by Nick, Upland Footpath Ranger

  • A Year at High Wray Basecamp

    10:56 11 January 2013
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    At Basecamp we are full to bursting with enthusiastic groups keen to get their hands dirty for our beautiful Lake District countryside. This was my first year in the Lake District meeting and working with so many people on some fantastic conservation projects. Here are some of my highlights of the year…

    Volunteers from West Runton Scripture Union: Hard work but a beautiful view!

    1) The Wray Bay path – Partly funded through Windermere Reflections, we have been out in force building a solid footpath along the shores of Windermere in the Wray Castle grounds. We’ve had lots of volunteer help with this project with some days being wetter than others! We exceeded our target length for the year, creating a footpath that’s suitable for electric wheelchairs, bikes and pushchairs, increasing access to the wilder Western shore.

     Fix the Fells Camping Working Holiday: What a place to set up home for 3 days…

    2) Fix the Fells Camping Working Holidays – I really enjoyed the Fix the Fells camping working holidays up on Martcrag Moor in the Langdale Valley in June and August. This involved a long walk in with everyone carrying their own kit to spend 3 nights up on the fell. The group worked hard in all weathers to improve the route through eroded peat bog. I don’t know how we would have managed without all the cake…

     Working Holiday volunteers: The end of the holiday saw a nearly finished frame!

    3) Green woodworking working holiday - Perhaps my favourite highlight was our first green woodworking holiday to build a new woodshed for Basecamp. Our old one was very old and rickety so what better idea than to spend a week constructing a new one in traditional methods!? The oak for the main frame came from the National Trust woodlands felled by our very own foresters. The good news is the shed now has a roof, cladding and some wood drying inside.

     Littledale Hall Therapeutic Community: The reward for a hard days rhododendron bashing

    4) Rhododendron Bashing - Everyone loves a bit of destruction and a roaring fire. We’ve been attacking the rhodi problem on the property as part of a large grant scheme. We couldn’t do this without the help of all our volunteers! We aim to make 2013 an even more destructive year for those rhodis!

    So what for 2013?

    My highlights of the year wouldn’t be so memorable without the good humour and hard work of our amazing volunteers and other rangers. We look forward to working with all the great characters that come with our groups (as well as meeting new ones!) to help conserve and protect the Lake District.

    Let’s hope the weather is kinder to us in 2013…

    Clair Payne
    Ranger (Volunteers)

  • Magic wands , veteran trees and nasal hair trimmers

    11:27 04 January 2013
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Glenn Bailey, Sarah Anderson, Sam Stalker, Ian Griffiths, Matthew Allmark, Stuart Graham, John Moffat, Craig Hutchinson, Clair Payne, Luke Sherwen

    Here we all are at the start of another new year, January  can be a time for quiet reflection with the passing of the old year and start of the new.  I’ve noticed recently that the  Christmas presents I receive seem to have changed  , gone are the ice axes and electric guitars to be replaced by scarves and this year my first pair of slippers.  I never thought I would see the day when a Remington nasal hair trimmer would be quite a useful present , hours of endless fun ( they do ears as well you know !)

     At the age of 49 though I am a  youngster , a mere babe,  compared to the venerable elders that are to be found in the British countryside , I ‘m talking about  the characterful old veteran trees that are scattered through our woodlands and fields many of them 300 – 400 years old,  some ,  much older.  We are fortunate in the South lakes area to have a good number of these  trees  on National Trust land.   To previous generations these trees were an important part of their economy or were objects of special spiritual or social interest.

    champion alder at Boon Crag Coniston

    Just like people, the older trees  get  the more interesting they become…. and just like people as they get older , things start growing in un-usual places ,  bits stop working and start dropping off !  This can result in  veteran trees being  host to a wide range of birds, insects , fungi and other plant life, and makes them worthy of extra attention and protection. In the last couple of years we have surveyed all our veteran trees around Coniston and Hawkshead , noted their condition and made recommendations for future management.

    pollarded ash at High Arnside Yewdale

    Some of the oldest and most interesting are ash pollards . A pollarded tree is a tree that has had the top cut off  8’ -10’ above ground level ( so that the sheep and cattle can’t  eat  the new growth ) new branches grow  and then they will be removed every 20 years or so. A tree managed in this way can live for hundreds of years , and  develops an unusual  distinctive shape different to a tree that has been allowed to grow naturally .

    These old pollards are often covered in mosses , ferns and lichens,  their hollow trunks provide habitat for insects, and also provide nesting and roosting sites for many bats and birds. Sometimes other species of tree start growing in the bowls between the branches that fill with soil and water, so it is not un-usual  to find a rowan or a birch tree growing out of an ash pollard. The wood from these ' trees on trees ', grown in the ‘ middle earth ‘ were supposed to have magical qualities and made particularly fine wands for witches and wizards apparently. For centuries the wood of ash trees was also used on a more practical level for tool handles, fences and for fuel and the foliage was fed to the sheep in winter.

    The Trust is working not only to re-pollard many of these trees before their trunks split and rot , but is also creating new pollards, by cutting the tops off young ash trees. The recent spread of the ash dieback disease ( Chalara fraxinea ) to Britain and its’ affect on veteran ash pollards is of particular concern and we will be monitoring this closely in the coming years.