News from John Moffat for March 2015

  • Views, Brews & Loo's

    16:06 27 March 2015
    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

    If you are a regular visitor to our blog you will have noticed that being a National Trust Ranger has many varying different tasks and responsibilities, for instance.

    The Upland Ranger, fix miles upon miles of the Lake Districts Fell top paths, their skin hardened by the elements and suntans any antique dealing TV presenter would be proud of.
    The Estate Team, endlessly & tirelessly mending broken fences and wall gaps, ensuring lost or misguided wanderlusters continue safely on their quest for the ultimate 'WOW' by simply pointing them in the right direction!
    The Woodland Ranger, rarely seen without his trusty tail wagging companion, will have a dangerous path side tree felled and tidied away in the time it takes you to consider if anyone was around to hear it fall?

    All of them take great pride in what they do! I am no different, I am ....

    Claife viewing station
    The Car Park Ranger! ... Before you swiftly scroll away to a story of epic endeavour I want you to know that I am going somewhere with this story. My main role is managing the presentation of the car parks (5 in total for the South Lakes), filling in potholes, fixing drains etc etc. I also assist the team with the maintenance and upkeep of certain areas the car parks are attached to such as Tarn Hows, Blea Tarn and so on. This means I have the pleasure of traveling around our property the most. This encompasses the sleepy village of Little Langdale, the rugged landscape of Coniston, the beautifully picturesque market village of Hawksead and the wild wild western shore of Windermere, in particularly what is known as Claife Heights, and what is a personal favourite of mine.

    welcome to Claife viewing station
    Claife is steeped in folklore, legend and history, most noticeably at Claife viewing station. Originally built in the 1790's by Rev William Braithwaite, to entertain wealthy visitors to the area. Legend has it that the windows were varied in colours to create a 'WOW' effect to the views over Windermere deemed so amazing that female visitors were given mirrors to witness the views in reverse for fear of swooning. The Viewing Station (not the Cottage & Courtyard) passed to the National Trust in 1962 as part of a 1000 acre estate. Sadly the building which once stood as a grandiose beacon for the picturesque movement had become quite derelict, and beyond repair.

    With the help from donations, legacies and various project funding (such as Windermere reflections) the station once again stands proud as a beacon of artistic movement. You can now discover this amazing structures colourful past and enjoy the Panoramic views of Windermere as they were enjoyed over 200 years ago (N.B. mirrors are not supplied just yet). The station challenges all your senses, from textures of the building, the views over lake Windermere and the slightly chilling sound of the Aolean wind harp.

    Preparing for the big day
    No National Trust property worth its salt should come without it's very own Cafe and, Claife is no exception. So after you've absorbed the views of the Lake you should wander down and grab yourself some freshly made cake, a coffee or a pot of freshly made tea from local, family-owned tea specialists 'the New Leaf Tea tasters' (located just 5 minutes away).

    The Cottages are a very recent addition to the National Trust family. They came into our possession in 2010 and were built c1800. From the early 20th century to the 1960's these cottages served as a tea garden. South Cumbria Construction, along with the National Trust labour teams have done a fantastic job of bringing these cottages to their former glory, and are in effect an attraction in their own right. Sit in, or sit outside in the young gardens underneath the wooden gazebo.

    It may only be a toilet, but we're proud of it!Now, before you set off! I have something very important to tell you! there aren't any public toilets on site. Before you reel away in outrage there was very little we could do about this, mainly due to lack of facilities. HOWEVER! this does not mean we have left you lumbered in the middle of no where with your legs crossed. Saved from closure in 2011 the National Trust took on the mantel of managing the toilets at Ferry Nab from the National Park. We've given them a fresh lick of paint and a full makeover in line with the rest of the development ...

    We hope you will come and visit us at Claife, it's testament to the hard work everyone has put in over the last year or so, and it's particularly warming to see this almost unrecoverable building standing proud once more.

    cup of tea anyone?
    standing proud
    aolean harp
    Viewing station interior
    we look forward to seeing you soon
    Craig in his natural habitat
  • Nothing lasts forever.....

    10:00 20 March 2015
    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

    In the South Lakes property we look after millions of trees, most are in our woodland but many are large individual trees scattered across the countryside which make a huge impact on the landscape.

    Sadly nothing lasts forever this is especially true of trees, old age and the weather take their toll.  The weather this winter has seen a double whammy the combination of waterlogged ground and high winds often means we loose a few of our larger trees.

      Large ash tree fallen into the road following a night of high winds.

    Its sad when an especially large tree falls, this was the case at Monk Coniston when one of the largest beech trees fell after a particularly stormy night.

    Beech fallen at Monk Coniston.

    Phil the forester cutting the root plate.

    Gary removing damaged branches from neighbouring trees.

    The tree was 195years old so it would have been familiar to Marshall who created Tarn How while he lived at Monk Coniston.  When trees this size fall they create an enormous amount of mess to tidy up and it's a team effort to get roads and paths cleared quickly and safely.

    One of the challenges we face is how to retain these trees which are often part of famous views or paintings and ensure that there are young trees being planted to grow for the next generations to enjoy.

    Tree planting opposite Hill Top.

    Trees are planted in cages to protect them from browsing animals.  I reckon the cages should last for about 20 years, by then the tree should be established and big enough to look after itself!

    Part of the planting this winter has been to restore the designed landscape around Wray Castle in all 94 trees were planted.  We used a map from 1888 to locate where the trees were missing, sometimes there was an old tree stumps in the field so we planted replacement tree next door.  
    We planted a mixture of oak, beech, sweet chestnut, small leaved lime and sycamore much the same as the Dawson's in the 1840s when they created the Wray Castle estate.

    The footpath team down from the fells tree planting at Wray.

    Cages well on the way to completion.

    For the planting closer to the castle we re-cycled metal tree cages from Knightshayes.  The ground in the lakes must be stonier than the parkland in Devon as we couldn't hammer the metal fixings all the way home which meant some in the field adjustments had to be made!

    Me tightening the last bolt on a metal tree cage. 

    Old and new trees on Epley Head near Wray Castle.

    Richard Tanner
    Woodland Ranger

  • New Rangers on the Block

    17:39 13 March 2015
    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

    Hello! We are Ted and Abi, new volunteer rangers with the team at Boon Crag. 

    So far we’ve had a variety of work and weather testing our waterproofs to the max, wellies full of water, but soaking up beautiful views too!

    Work goes on, whether fencing or replacing a gate in a deluge – as Ruskin said: “there is no such thing as bad weather, only different types of good weather” (We may have to remind ourselves of that one!!)

    No two days are the same. Abi has been ‘chopping and shifting stuff’ at Claife viewing station. She has yet to get a well-earned brew from the new cafe opening on 28th March!!

    Ted has learnt how to use an angle grinder, the power barrow, and was asked the question ‘how do you shift a tonne and a half boulder?’ Easy: 3 rangers and a lot of grunting.

    And after.
    Before . . .

    We are looking forward to getting stuck in to the full scope of being a Ranger within such a diverse and interesting property.

    …And the most important thing we have learnt is to never be further than 10 meters from your lunch!
  • 100 working holidays and counting .....

    10:00 06 March 2015
    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

    Working holidays are a great way to get involved with the National Trust’s work and some people return many times to take part in them. Some go that extra mile though and Di Lang is a great example of this. A long standing working holiday leader (the leader is not staff but takes charge or housekeeping, shopping, menus etc), Di led her first holiday here at High Wray back in 2004 and recently returned here to lead her 100th!

    Di (left) on the 100th holiday

    Di has led holidays as diverse as Drystone walling and hedgelaying, woodland management and running events. We’re particularly thankful for her formidable organisational skills and boundless enthusiasm in leading our upland adventure holidays, where participants camp out on the high fells for three nights and work to reduce path erosion in the day.

    ‘I’m from a farming background’ Di says ‘I always used to be out with my Father when I was growing up. My career took me on a different path, running my own flooring business, but one day I noticed a hedge by the side of the road. ‘That’s a well laid hedge’ I thought, then thought ‘that’s my father talking’. So I went to agricultural college and did a few short courses, then looked into conservation holidays and found the National Trust’s Working Holidays and I’ve stuck with them ever since.’

    So what is it about Working Holidays that keeps Di coming back for more? ‘The variety, the places you go to and the people you meet. I love the extra knowledge you learn as I think your brain is still a muscle that needs working. It keeps your body moving as well! I enjoy the social elements too, meeting new people and some of their experiences and backgrounds are amazing. No working holiday is exactly the same either, you may come back to the same Basecamp but the dynamics of the group are completely different.’

    ‘The High camp ones are really special to me and I love footpath laying too. I’m off to do scything this year, because we’ve got a grassland area close to where we live and we want to turn it into a wildflower meadow. It’s new skills again. I’ve discovered I’m not really a gardener though – it’s too tidy!’

    On the fells on a camping holiday
    To cap it all, to mark the 100th holiday Di stayed on a week at the end of it and with the help of ever supportive husband Max brought her flooring skills to bear by replacing our tatty old vinyl floors with a new hard wearing surface. This looks great and should last for years to come

    ‘I sort of think of High Wray as a second home now and when I was here another time I was looking at the floors and thinking I could put a new floor down to make it more attractive for people to come here. You get a pride in your work when you’re doing something like this and it’s nice to think that other working holidays and volunteer groups will get the benefit of this in the future.’

    Di reclines on the newly fitted and very smart floor in the 'Acland' block, with 100th working Holiday presentation picture
    We’re looking forward to many more years of working alongside Di, with another camping holiday scheduled for this May. It’s thanks to the dedication and hard work of leaders like Di (and there are plenty of others too) that the National Trust is able to offer such a varied and interesting working holiday programme, enabling many people to get involved with our work and help us look after our special places for everyone.

    We’ll leave the last word to Di:

    ‘I’ll be carrying on with working holidays as long as I can, I’ve no intention of giving up. I still get excited every year when the new brochure comes out and I’m straight in there looking at where working holidays can take me this year.’

    Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger

    Find out more about National Trust working holidays here: