News from Leo Walmsley for April 2012

  • Drain Run on The Band

    09:32 24 April 2012
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    After a hectic few months of working to get things ready in time for the opening of Allan Bank it's now time for us to focus a bit more on our upland footpath repair work.

    Over the last few weeks we have resumed our path maintenance schedule which involves us going out and clearing the footpaths and drains of rubble and checking for any future repair work. It's what we refer to as a "Drain Run" and it's basically a walk out on the high fells armed with shovels and brushes, clearing any rubble from the path.

     Drain Run on The Band

    It's an essential part of our job, as all our hard work of building the paths would soon be undone if they weren't properly maintained.

    By clearing the drains it means that they continue to flow smoothly, without any regular maintenance they are likely to overflow during heavy rain and cause damage further down the path.

    Loose stone, which has been knocked onto the pitching is also removed as it can act almost like marbles and can make walking on the path tricky. If it builds up too much people tend to walk off the path causing more damage to the vegetation next to the footpath, this can also exacerbate the problem.

    Clearing out a drain 

    So recently we've been out clearing the paths all over the Central and East fells at Red Screes, Yoke, Threshthwaite Cove, Gowbarrow, Megs Gill and The Band.

    Clearing the top section of The Band

    We've got a huge patch to cover but fortunately the Fix the Fells voluntary lengthsmen are also out on a regular basis helping us keep on top of things.

    As well as their other duties they also arrange regular drain runs where groups of volunteers go out and clear the paths. They then feed the information back to us, so we get a really good idea of the state of the paths in the area.

    View down The Band with Pike of Stickle in the distance
  • 50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4

    09:17 16 April 2012
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    The National Trust has just launched a campaign to try and encourage children to get outside and really enjoy the great outdoors. The new campaign is called "50 things to do before you're 11 3/4" and is a list of 50 fantastic ways to have fun outside.

     Getting close to nature

    Us Fell Rangers have done our fair share of balancing on fallen trees, damming streams, climbing huge hills and building dens. In fact all these things are often part of our job, and many of the rest of the things on the list we do in our spare time!

    So if you're after some great ideas of things to do with your kids whether it's in your own back garden or while you're away on holiday click on the link here to find out

  • Bridge at Easedale and the Fulling Mill

    13:52 10 April 2012
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Over the last week our job has been to build a bridge over Sourmilk Gill in Easedale to provide access for a team of archaeologists and volunteers to survey a Medieval Fulling Mill.

    The mill dates from at least the 13th Century and is the remains of the first Fulling Mill in the Parish of Grasmere. The ruins of the wheel pit and other structures are still visible when the bracken is down.

    Remains of the Fulling Mill

    Fulling was a process used to clean and felt wool which involved it being beaten by wooden hammers usually driven by a water wheel or walked on by people wearing heavy wooden clogs, hence the alternative name “Walk Mill” is sometimes used.

    This mill is first mentioned in 1283 when it was producing enough cloth to supply Grasmere, Langdale, Loughrigg, Rydal and half of Ambleside. By 1324 it was providing the Lord of the Manor Ingelram de Gynes with a substantial income. The tenant of the mill at the time was Rad de Grenerige (another fantastic Norse name!). At this time a sheep’s fleece was worth the equivalent of a working mans wages for a year and stealing a fleece was punishable by death. Wool was brought to the site from all over the Parish.

    In 1453 another mill was built in Langdale. This was either due to increased demand or because of the toll charged by the Township of Grasmere to the people of Langdale. You walk through this mill's remains as you exit the National Trust car park at Stickle Ghyll. The Wool trade flourished and at its peak in 1575 there were eighteen mills in the Parish.

    It is hoped that after the surveying eventually the mill will be excavated as finds from a Medieval structure such as this are few and far between.

    Rather than produce a temporary bridge, it was decided to build something more substantial that the tenant farmer could also use for access. In return he helped us out greatly by moving the beams down next to the beck. So next we had the job of moving the beams (each weighing roughly half a tonne) into position.

    The beams next to the beck

    We strapped both beams together and used our trusty winch, along with quite a lot of levering with crowbars, to move them into position to span the beck.

    Moving the beams into position

    Next it was time to get both beams level. On the lower side of the bridge we raised the beams onto a wooden frame to gain enough height above the water that the bridge would be clear when the beck is in full spate.

    Levelling the beams

    With the beams now level and joined together by threaded bars and wooden spacers, we built a stone revetment on the lower side of the bridge (next to the wooden frame). This revetment will act as a retaining wall for the river bank and also to support the bridge.

    Building the revetment

    After a couple of days we began attaching the treads and the uprights for the hand rails.

    Attaching the treads and uprights

    By the end of the fourth day we finished nailing on the final treads so that the bridge would be usable for the visiting archaeologists.

    Attaching the last few treads

    The next job was to connect the rails. We're still waiting on some more materials to finish it off properly, as we're one tread short and the hand rails for the top of the uprights have not been cut yet. But the bridge is now pretty much completed.

    The bridge after adding the rails

    Update: And here's a link to some videos about the Fulling Mill on ITV's Border here
  • Completion of the Woodland Walk at Allan Bank

    14:27 01 April 2012
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since our last update we've been continuing the path repair work at Allan Bank. With the house opening to the public for the first time on the 31st March, we've had a job to get everything finished in time!

    A lot of drainage work had been carried out over the years, but due to lack of continual maintenance it has fallen into disrepair. Much of the water entering Allan Bank comes through a gap in the wall at the top of the wood and is sent through a stone culvert underneath part of the path, and from there down to the walled garden. The culvert had collapsed and become blocked by stones and tree roots.

    Blocked culvert

    This meant that during heavy rain the culvert overflows and water is forced off-course so that it runs down the path, which has started to cause damage. It was therefore essential that we should make some improvements, so it was decided that the culvert should be taken apart and rebuilt.

    Repairing the culvert

    The first job was to remove the top stones to gain access to the drain. Next, the sides of the drain (which are like small sections of dry stone wall) were taken apart and replaced with more substantial stone. The culvert was also widened so that it would be able to cope with heavier downpours. Once any interfering roots had been removed, the top stones were placed back in position and wedged tight.

    The finished culvert
    Since the last blog post we have completed the restoration of a further four sections of stone steps. The steps in the photo below had become unstable and the ground had eroded beneath them, meaning they were on the verge of falling out
    Old steps in need of repair

    The original steps were completely stripped down and then cemented together to add extra strength. An additional step was also added.
    The restored steps

    To help gain height up to the steps, five wooden risers were constructed just below the new bottom step. It's hoped that eventually the risers will be removed and replaced with more stone steps which would be more in keeping. But due to our tight time scale and lack of materials, wooden risers were the only option.
    Steps with the added risers

    We have also continued to improve the quality of the path surface. The path below was a particularly steep section with bedrock and large boulders just below the surface. If this had been left unattended it's likely that the path would have eroded away to the rock below making it extremely difficult to walk on.

    Steep section of path before commencing work

    A series of wooden risers were built to make it easier walking down this steep slope and also to prevent the soil from eroding.
    Section of path with new risers in place

    The Fix the Fells volunteers once again helped us move the wooden edging into position next to the risers.

    Moving the edging into position

    With the edging now securely staked into position it was time to gravel the path.

    Gravelling and edging the risers

    With only hours left before opening time, we finished off the final bits of gravelling and edging. Our last job was to walk the path and put in marker posts to direct people around the new trail.

    So if you get the chance to visit Allan Bank, we'd love to know what you think. Either post a comment below, or if you're on Twitter, tweet us a message @NTCentralFells.