News from John Moffat for September 2013

  • Pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu and the Intern Wood Store

    09:00 27 September 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

    Summer has gradually been fading away over the last few weeks; and in the Intern house we’ve started to feel autumn creeping up on us. With a wood burner sat waiting to be used in the living room, we took a day off from working at Boon Crag to build ourselves a wood shed. With little to no experience in construction we set off on a wood building adventure…
    Firstly we needed a plan of where it would go, and what it should look like. This took a little while to sort out, but we got there in the end. We wanted it to be near the house so we wouldn’t have to venture too far out in winter, and be sheltered from the rain. We settled on a pallet base to raise the floor and keep the wood away from any ground water, with pallet sides reinforced by square posts.

    We attached cladding to the sides to protect the wood, and eventually had a frame that just needed a roof. Luckily we were able to lay our hands on some roof felt that was exactly the right size. We cut slopes onto the tops of the posts to create an angle for water to run off, and attached rails across the top for extra support.

    We laid out the felt onto the top and tacked on, before moving back against the wall.

    The next step is to fill with wood and settle on the sofa watching the fire!

  • Making a splash!

    17:06 21 September 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

    It's that time of year again when the Upland team host one of their working holidays, and as per last year the forecast for the first day was somewhat damp!  However as with most working holidays the group was keen, so armed with waterproofs, wellies and cake we set off undeterred up to Blea Tarn Moss (we weren't so cruel as to take them up Fairfield.....).

    It was a touch damp, I think they though we were slightly crazy to do this as a job!
    Arriving onto site the driving wind and rain still didn't put the group off (I however tried to hide in the back of a pick up), once a tool talk was given we set them loose, with a ranger offering supervision and advise each pair was given a section of path to call their own, and pretty soon some questions became clear...

    how are you meant to dig out the hole when you can't even see where you're meant to be digging....?

    digging, or at least using the 'spoon' to remove water!
    and well, if you can't even see where you're digging how are you meant to know when the hole is deep enough?!

    trying to work out if it deep enough yet
    These were very real problems, but looking at the positives, rolling stones into these mini swimming pools created some pretty satisfying splashes!

    Rocks + Water = SPLASH
    The group spent their first 3 days on the path down at Blea Tarn Moss and despite the challenging weather they did some really great work, completing the pitching on one section, made a really good start on the other, whilst also completing the particularly wet link between the two. 

    Looking down the finished top section, beautiful work!
    Following a (dry!) day off  the plan was to take the group up onto our main project on Fairfield, only just like Sunday morning the weather was somewhat to be desired.  But still the group just ploughed on, despite horizontal driving rain and occasional gusts of wind that did their best to knock us over!

    Miserable morning on Fairfield

    Slightly drier afternoon!
    Yet more great work was done and they really helped us to push the project towards an on time completion, the weather even gave them a break on their final day as the sun came out and gave them some great views, including out to the coast.  So thank you working holiday of September 2013, you have done a fabulous job and you would all be welcome back, hopefully with better weather! 

    By Upland Ranger Sarah

  • The Great Tree Take away (Tom aged 9)

    09:00 13 September 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

    The advantage (some would argue!) of living in the lakes is that we are never short of visitors.  Earlier this year while out walking with my nephew Tom we visited Skelwith Force only to find one of our oak trees had fallen into the river and got jammed in the waterfall.

    Oak tree in Skelwith Force

    Tom had been asking what a NT woodland ranger does and after a long and probably quite dull explanation I showed him the tree in the waterfal and said that part of my job was to fill in a job sheet for the forestry team telling the what needed doing and what equipment I thought they would need.

    Can I do one? he asked.
    Yes but you need lots of detail, saftey equipment, tools, hazards, environmental protection etc etc. 
    Can it have pictures?
    Will the forestry team do as I ask?
    Yes of course you'e the new woodland ranger.......


    Toms job sheet for the team

    I thought it was quite funny when I handed the sheets to the team untill they pointed out the drawing had me in the canoe!   There seems to be a helicopter involved somewhere too.
    I also like the way he told the team about the cake shop next door which didn't sell bacon cobs!

    Anyway it all worked out fine, the team managed to cut the tree up a bit and pull the bits out of the river (with the tractor winch not bits of rope like it says on the job sheet) and into our wodland where they will be left to rot down.

    Phil and Martin preparing the tree

     Martin cutting part of the tree

    Watching as the tree is wiched downstream

    Richard Tanner
    South Lakes Wodland Ranger

  • My shameful secret !

    09:58 06 September 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

    I’ve got an embarrassing and shameful secret, something I’ve been keeping from my friends and work colleagues. Something that a Countryside Ranger , of all people should be in control of. I think they suspect   ; there ‘s been strange looks in the corridor and conversations cut short as I walk into the room.
    It’s something I thought I could deal with myself in private without outside help . I thought that was the best way , I thought I was strong enough.... I was wrong.

    First it was just one then it was more than one and before I knew it , it was out of control. I don’t want you to think that I did nothing , I did try ... god knows I tried, I put hours in trying to stop it , last year I thought I’d got on top of it , I got cocky I suppose and that ‘s when it really took hold .

    Well it’s time I faced my demons and came clean , so that you don’t  have to go through what I’ve been through , the skeleton in my cupboard, the shameful secret I’ve been trying to hide is   ......Himalayan balsam   it’s all over the bottom of the garden thousands of massive  plants with pink blousy flowers and then tens of thousands of seeds. There I’ve said it , and I feel much better now  that I’ve got it off my chest.

    It’s a plant that is familiar in the British countryside introduced in 1839  by well meaning and curious Victorians they thought this exotic heavily perfumed pink flowering  plant  originally from the Himalayan mountains would look good in the garden . It did indeed look good in the garden but unfortunately it didn’t stay there ! This aggressively mobile plant has spring loaded seed cases that can fling the seed several metres and it thrives in almost any soil type . This means that it can ‘walk’ out of gardens  , along railway lines and down river banks where it grows in balsam stands,  tens of thousands strong out competing our native flora , by shading it out and taking its moisture.

    For the last few years the National Trust ,  with hundreds of volunteers has been trying to eradicate this invasive species from our land in the Windermere catchment . We have been quite successful, I myself have lead volunteer groups pulling  balsam plants up by the roots . This makes my garden , one of the few remaining Himalayan balsam refuges on Trust land around Lake Windermere, something as I mentioned that is a bit embarrassing and not something I’m proud of . I have spent hours in the garden ,last year and this , pulling the plant up , but once the bracken has fallen over it forms a protective layer under which the balsam grows eventually poking its head up into the light to flower and seed . I am now involved in guerrilla warfare with it,  waiting for it to show itself and then pouncing on it and pulling it out or cutting the heads off it. It’s a battle that I think I am slowly winning now, I’ll find out for sure next year. 

    Terminator vs. Mr Bean

    If Himalayan balsam is  ‘ The Terminator’ of the plant world , an aggressive survivor that simply can not be stopped , then the touch- me- not balsam , our only native balsam  , is a bit more  ‘Mr Bean’.  It’s a nationally scarce plant found in the Lake District and North Wales, with an attractive yellow flower. The plant generally grows in small numbers in damp glades in woodlands and appears to be demanding in terms of light and moisture, it requires ground disturbance to spread. Balsam stands will grow and spread and then for no obvious reason ; disappear . We are lucky to have a good number of these balsam stands on our property in the south lakes  and now is a good time to find them in our woods . 

    This unpredictable plant is also special because it plays host to a very scarce moth ,the caterpillars of the Netted Carpet moth, rely solely on this plant for their food . So the future of one is tied inextricably to the survival of the other. 

    This is why at this time of year we are to be found on our hands and knees inspecting the underside of  leaves , looking for the small green caterpillars that will eventually become netted carpet moths. A job not made easier by the fact that the caterpillar is camouflaged and looks exactly like the seed pod and stem of the plant ! 


     As a result of some careful management  , grazing with cattle in some of our woods and  the spreading of seed , the number of plants  and moths are increasing . A significant success story for our native flora and fauna.

    Paul Farrington
    National Trust Ranger ( South Lakes )