Latest news from Leo Walmsley

  • Returning back to work

    07:00 20 July 2020
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, and the team being furloughed from March through to mid-June, it's been a long time since our last post.

    Prior to our furlough we'd been involved in a wide range of lowland work such as drystone wall repairs, stock fencing, deer fencing, and improving the drainage at Stickle Ghyll car park.

    Our drystone wall work was mostly around the High Close estate and included repairing field boundaries and a large stone revetment that had been damaged by a fallen tree on the trackway that runs adjacent to the Red Bank road.

    Damaged revetment

    Newly repaired revetment

    Stock fencing work was also carried out around High Close. An old fence that had been put in around 30 years ago to keep sheep out of a small area of woodland was definitely showing it's age. The fence was removed, any re-usable posts were kept, and it was replaced with new posts and wire. This will keep both the tenant farmer happy and also improve diversity in the woodland... a win-win.

    We also erected a deer fence in a woodland above Troutbeck Park. A small enclosure was made which, being deer-free, will allow the ground flora to flourish and the trees to naturally regenerate thereby improving the age structure of the woodland.

    Old fence on High Close estate

    Replacement fence

    Deer fence in Troutbeck

    Our work at Stickle Ghyll allowed us to turn our hands to a bit of brick-laying as we added additional drains to the car park and replaced many of the original drains with a new "chambered" design while also replacing the drain covers. The car park regularly struggles to cope with winter flooding so fingers crossed the improvements will help rectify things.

    Excavating in the car park before rebuilding the drains

    Completed drain

    But just as we were just about to complete our estate work for the year and resume our upland footpath work, the announcement came that the team would be furloughed.

    On our return, after a day of catching up and reading all the new guidelines on how we can now safely operate, it was straight back into bag filling on Loughrigg ready for the upcoming helicopter lifts.

    First bag filled on Loughrigg
  • Finishing off the footpath at Hole in the Wall

    08:28 06 January 2020
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Our last upland work of the year, indeed the decade, was completing the section of footpath just below Hole in the Wall, on the way up to Striding Edge.


    Joining up the path

    We still had a sizeable section of path to complete and it was a race against the clock to get all the work finished before the onset of winter.
    Newly landscaped section of path

    Although there was a lot of rubble to dig through, most of the path was 'relatively' easy digging although we hit one section of solid bedrock towards the top of the path that slowed things down a bit. This all had to broken and prised out of the ground before the footpath could be built.

     Bedrock

    You can see some of the bedrock that was taken out of the ground to the side of the path in both the previous and following photographs. When large quantities of rock are produced it often makes the landscaping difficult, especially in areas such as Hole in the Wall where there isn't a lot of surface rock visible.

    Path before landscaping

    To blend the area in with its surroundings, much of the rock had to be moved away from the path and buried. Then soil that had been excavated further up the path was carried downhill and used to cover over the rubble. Once this was done, as usual, the area was turfed and seeded.

    Path after landscaping

    You can see in the following photograph how the original path was widening as people wandered away from the original line (here covered by stone).
     Starting a new section

    With the new path in place and the surrounding area landscaped with soil and turf, the footpath has been narrowed. Given time and plenty of grass seed, the areas around the path will become nicely vegetated. Any water running down the path will be shed away by the stone drain you can see in the photo below. All this combined will vastly reduce the amount of soil erosion.
    Finished section of path

    With the new path completed, the final job was to pitch up to an older section of path above where we were working. The path had originally been put in at ground level but over the years the soil has eroded away and had left a high step up on to the path. Eventually the path would have started to fall out, and people were already starting to avoid the step up (as seen to the left of the photo below). By adding this extra metre of path the original work will last much longer and the damage caused by people avoiding it will be prevented.

    Pitching up to the old section

    With the job completed and first few snowflakes of the year proving that winter was fast approaching it was time to head down off the fell and commence our winter work lower down in the valleys.
  • Gowbarrow helicopter lift and a return to Hole in the Wall

    10:15 22 August 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    After all our work bagging the rock and aggregate for the footpath repairs on Gowbarrow, it was time to get everything flown over to site.

     Looking down on Ullswater from the helicopter

    A quick flight over gave us the opportunity to look down on some of the previous repair work. The path line is through some really boggy areas and was getting rapidly wider as people tried to avoid the worst areas. After the addition of aggregate and some stone drains, the path has narrowed considerably and the erosion has been completely stopped. The vegetation is now slowly returning to areas that had once just been bare peat.

     Gowbarrow summit from the air

    The lower sections on the Dockray side of the path are being repaired using the aggregate and we're using the rock on the steeper section of the path, which had previously been pitched. This section of the path is also going to be re-aligned to avoid a section of bedrock that's proving awkward for some people to walk on.

    Flying in aggregate to Gowbarrow

    Either side of the helicopter lifts, we've been working on the footpath near Hole in the Wall. We're continuing the upper section of footpath that we originally started in 2017.

     Start of this years work before landscaping

    Although considerably wider than the usual footpaths that we build, due to the number of walkers using it, the new path is still much narrower than the eroded path was and is more contained.

     Start of this years work after landscaping

    As usual, we're removing any turf before it's covered with spoil and then using it to line the stone path. Re-turfing like this tends to work really well. Where we've worked on the path lower down, areas of Heather have already began growing in the turf as well as other species of flower such as Bedstraws, Eyebrights and Tormentil.

     Middle section completed

    We still liberally apply grass seed, but it tends to struggle to germinate at these higher elevations. However, the low levels of grazing up here means that grass is more likely to grow longer, flower and set-seed. So hopefully over time the area will self-seed itself, although we'll still give it a helping hand with the addition of extra grass seed if needed.

    Upper section completed
  • Finishing at Boredale and preparing for helicopter lifts

    06:38 08 July 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since our last post much of our time has been spent repairing the footpath up to Boredale Hause.

    Towards the top end of the footpath the path-line follows a natural gully, but this has been much worsened by water and footfall.

     Starting work in the gully

    The gully was steep through the lower section but levelled off as height is gained. There was also a fair amount of buried rock and areas of bedrock that made constructing the path more difficult.

     Path progressing through the gully

    Nearby large boulders were moved and incorporated into the landscaping to help protect the edge of the path and give the work a more natural feel.

     Completed section of path

    Due to the steepness of the bank in the gully a vertical edge was formed next to the path as we built the footpath.

     Top of gully before landscaping

    This edge was graded back into the slope and turf edged before seeding. All the spoil that was generated while creating the footpath was moved and used for landscaping work and also seeded and spot-turfed.

     Top of gully after landscaping

    The last section that we worked on was a short section of path incorporating a stone drain that led up to a section of bedrock.

     Working on the top section

    Once again the spoil generated was used to landscape the path before turfing and seeding.

     Completed top section

    The path gains height and joins seamlessly into a section of bedrock that is incorporated into the footpath.

    Tied into the bedrock

    With the footpath up to Boredale Hause completed we began preparing for the upcoming helicopter lifts.

     Loading the power barrow with pitching stone

    Back in December 2015, during Storm Desmond, a large quantity of stone was washed down Glenridding Beck and had to be removed to prevent more flooding. So early in 2016 we took the opportunity to pick through the rock and store it for future path repairs.

     Bags full of rock ready to be flown

    As suitable stone around Gowbarrow Fell is hard to find we're using some of the rock retrieved after the floods to repair a steep section of path on the Dockray side of Gowbarrow.

     Loading a power barrow with aggregate 

    Through flatter, peaty, sections of the footpath we're using stone aggregate to build a more solid and sustainable path.

    Filling a heli-bag with aggregate

    The areas of path that we had previously worked on have been really successful. Further erosion to the path has been stopped and areas surrounding the footpath have now nicely revegetated. You can see how we previously worked with the aggregate on Gowbarrow by clicking on the link to this previous blog post... link.
  • Working on the footpath up to Boredale Hause

    06:34 03 June 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since our last blog post we've been busily working alongside the South Lakes team at Boredale Hause.

    Last year we completed work on the bridleway that leads up to Boredale and now in the second year of the project we're working on the footpath that runs parallel to, and just below, the bridleway.

     Starting work midway up the footpath

     Completed section of path

    We started midway up the footpath with the South Lakes team working on a section of path further down the hill.

     Stone on site and ready to begin work

    Completed footpath after landscaping

    As usual each team member worked on approximately a ten metre stretch and when completed leapfrogged over the person above them to advance further up the path.

     Starting work on another section

    Completed path

    The lower sections of the footpath were surprisingly easy digging for a change so we advanced fairly quickly.

     Work begins on a new section

     Getting further up the path

     Newly landscaped path

    As we got higher up the path we started to hit more bedrock, rubble and solid ground which has hindered progress a little but we're still making good headway. We're hoping that in two or three weeks we'll have the rest of the footpath completed and landscaped.

     Pile of rock ready to be dug in

     Advancing up the path

    Another completed section of footpath

    We've had a fair amount of dry weather since starting work in early April so a lot of the turfs are a little parched and the grass seed is taking it's time to grow but the recent rain we've had should hopefully help remedy things.
  • Bridge repairs at St. Catherine's, Windermere.

    06:40 08 April 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    As part of our low-level winter work we've spent some time over in Windermere repairing a couple of wooden bridges at St. Catherine's.

    Bridge before repairs

    As you can see in the photograph above the bridges were in quite a poor state and had already undergone several temporary repairs but it was now time to give them a new lease of life.

    Removing any old nails

    The first job was to remove the old treads, while taking off the treads many of the nails were left in the beams so we removed the tops with an angle grinder.

    Replacing the treads

    Since the beams were in a decent condition they were left in place and the new Larch treads were nailed onto the old beams.

    Making sure the bridge is always passable

    The new bridges are not on a public right of way and will mostly be used for forestry and farming operations. But since they are also used by people walking around the estate at St. Catherine's we made sure that the bridges were always passable removing only a few treads at a time and replacing them as we went along.

    Treads replaced and walled up

    Once the treads were in position we trimmed them all off using a circular saw and tidied up the dry stone revetments either side of the bridge. This would allow us to gravel up to the bridge and remove the lip between path and bridge.

     Fixing the uprights in place

    Once the path had been gravelled up to the bridge a non-slip surface was attached to the bridge.

    Attaching the rails

    A section of tread was removed to allow each of the uprights to sit flush against the outer beam so they could be bolted into place. The final job was to attach the handrails to the uprights. 

    You can see a couple of before and after photos of the second bridge below.

    Second bridge just after starting repair work

    Completed second bridge with new section of wall

    The repaired bridges, with new thicker treads, should now safely support any heavy vehicles passing over them as well as provide better access to anyone wandering around the estate. 
  • Fencing at High Lickbarrow Farm, Windermere.

    09:01 15 March 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Over the last few weeks we've been working over at High Lickbarrow Farm in Windermere putting in around 400 metres of stock proof fencing.

    High Lickbarrow farm was bequeathed to the National Trust in 2015 and is home to the rare Albion cattle, formerly known as "Blue" Albions.  The Albion has recently been recognised as a UK native rare breed and added to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's watchlist because of its rarity. High Lickbarrow Farm supports the largest herd in the country.

    Blue Albion cattle at High Lickbarrow

    The farm covers fifty hectares of land which has traditionally been grazed by only a small number of cattle and supports some fantastic wildflower rich pastures, much of which has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

     Knocking in the straining posts

    Our first job was to get the straining posts into position. Usually this is done by hand and one person can generally dig in and tighten into position, two posts each day. As the fence line was so long and undulating, it meant there were a lot of straining posts to put in. Luckily, as the farm provided good access, we were able to speed the job along by getting a local contractor to come in with a tractor mounted post knocker and the whole lot were in place in less than a day.

     Adding the struts

    With the strainers in place, a single length of plain wire is attached between each post. This gives a straight line to help align the struts and fence posts. Struts are added to prevent the straining posts from moving while the wire is being tensioned. With these in place we then knocked in fence posts every two metres between the straining posts.

     Adding the stock fencing

    Once all the struts and posts were in position it was time to attach the stock fencing. This is connected between straining posts and tightened to the required tension using two pairs of "monkey strainers".

     Attaching the barbed wire

    With all the stock fencing completed the next job was to add a single strand of barbed wire.

     Section of post and rail fence

    To make sure the fence was completely stock proof we added sections of post and rail fencing between straining posts and other boundaries such as dry stone walls or hedges (as shown in the photograph above).

     Starting work on the gate

    To finish off we incorporated a gate into the fence line to further improve access.

    Finished gate, just needs another small section of post and rail

    You can learn more about Albion cattle by clicking on the link here... Albion Cattle Society 
  • Wall repairs and deer exclosure at High Close estate

    08:35 04 February 2019
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since the new year, we've come down from the upper fells and have started doing some estate work around the valley.

    Our first job was to repair a couple of sections of dry stone wall at Low Wood, on the High Close estate just outside Grasmere.

     Section 1 before starting work

    With the wall keeping livestock out of Low Wood, it was important that the gaps were repaired quickly to prevent sheep from entering the woodland. This helps both keep the tenant farmer happy and also stops sheep entering the woodland and nibbling away at early woodland flowers such as Snowdrops and Lesser Celandine.

     Section 1 after repairs

    As a small Ash tree was growing close to the wall, and was likely the cause of it falling down, we decided that the tree should be removed to prevent any further damage.

     Rear of Section 1 during work

    Trees growing close to a dry stone wall can often destabilise it, especially during strong winds, either by brushing against the wall and loosening stones or by the root plate moving and damaging the wall from below.

     Rear of Section 1 after, with tree stump in foreground

    Removing trees like this can also be beneficial by allowing more light into the woodland, which helps woodland flowers to flourish and also gives other trees more space to grow.

     Section 2 before starting work

    The second section that we worked on was more pre-emptive as it had started to lose stones from half way down the wall and would likely collapse in the short term. The wall was stripped back beyond the area of collapse to where the wall was more stable and  repaired in the usual manner. Both wall gaps took roughly a day to repair.

     Section 2 after repairs

    Our next job was to build a deer exclosure in a small woodland on the edge of Loughrigg Common. The area, known as Billy Plantation, had recently been thinned and as a bit of a trial we've put up a couple of deer exclosures to see how the woodland develops without any grazing pressure. If the trials go well we may look into stock proofing the whole plantation at a later date.

    Erecting the deer fence on Loughrigg
  • Finishing the footpath at Stone Arthur

    13:54 08 December 2018
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since our last post, we've finished our upland path repair work for the season; culminating in the completion of the footpath up Stone Arthur. You can see how the path looked prior to us commencing work in a previous blog post here... link

    Lower Section (completed and landscaped)

    There's still a lot of bare soil visible, as many of the photos were taken just before, or just after, putting the grass seed down. Although it was late in the year, hopefully the grass will start to germinate next spring. We'll have a look at it next year and put extra seed down if required.

    The following two photographs show work on the tricky bedrock section. The surrounding area has since been landscaped by moving large quantities of soil on to the lower side of the path below the drain and then edging with turf (you can just see a pile of turf that was kept to one side on the left hand side of the second photo).

    Building the drain on the bedrock section

    Bedrock section after joining up to the middle section

    The next series of photographs show the completion of the middle and top sections. The middle section turned out to be particularly wet due to water flowing just under the surface, out the bank and on to the path. To remedy this we dug out a long side trench (not pictured) on the bank above the path that fed into a stone drain.

    Working on the middle section

    Middle section joined to top section

    Completed top section

    Further up the path we worked on another section that had started to deteriorate due to people taking different lines while descending a section of bedrock. The damage was exacerbated by the volume of water that flowed down the path during wet weather.

    Before starting work on the bottom section

    Bottom section (completed and landscaped)

    You can see how we've removed three separate paths and created one sustainable line. We've also incorporated three stone drains into the section of path to remove as much rainwater as possible.

    Bedrock part of top section

    This section of bedrock at the top was the root cause of much of the damage so the path was continued around it up to a point where the path started to flatten off.

    Finished section before landscaping

    Landscaped top section

    With our Fix the Fells work completed for the year we'll now be working lower down in the valleys, on National Trust land, until next spring.
  • Revisiting Boredale Hause

    07:15 08 October 2018
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    We recently had a site visit over to the bridleway coming down from Boredale Hause to check how things were looking and catch up with the South Lakes team, who are still working up there.

    Bottom section before starting work

     Bottom section (after)

    This series of photographs shows how the path looked either prior to commencing work, or just after landscaping, and one month after the landscaping once the grass seed has started to grow.

     Lower section (before)

     Lower section (after)

    You can immediately see the difference now the grass has started to grow, as the eroded area has been considerably narrowed. The erosion is wider in many places than can be seen in the photographs, as much of it is hidden by the piles of rock.

     Lower Section 2 (before)

      Lower Section 2 (after)

    It's still early days for the grass growth, as the banks are still very mobile and it can easily be set-back by sheep, dogs, or people walking over it. If the grass can be left undisturbed for a year, it is much more likely to withstand walking on.

    Sheep also have a tendency to be attracted to this fresh growth, but as it is just developing the sheep tend to pull the seedlings out by the roots as they are unable to cut through the grass with their teeth. This uprooted grass, of course, perishes.

     Middle section (immediately after landscaping)

      Middle section (one month later)

    Most of the turf that was placed alongside the path, which had originally struggled due to the very dry summer, has now started to grow. This will help keep much of the soil off the path if disturbed by sheep wandering over the banks.

     Upper middle section (immediately after landscaping)

     Upper middle section (one month later)

    It can take time for everything to properly settle down and it's also likely that some of the grass will die off during the winter, so we'll keep a close eye on things and carry some more bags of grass seed up when required.

    Bedrock section (immediately after landscaping)

    Bedrock section (one month later)