News from Mark Astley for October 2013

  • Mini Mountains Should Have Mini Mountaineers

    10:38 25 October 2013
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    Normally our blogs concern our day to day practical conservation work and of course our engagement with the public, on some days however this engagement become much more closely focused, and in this case definitely a lot of fun
    We have always had connections with local schools and are keen to help get the children outdoors and closer to nature, well this week the children from Ennerdale & Kinnisde School got a wee bit closer to nature than they might have intended

    Class teacher Mrs Watson leads the juniors up a very wet Rannerdale Knotts

    On a very wet and wild Wednesday, Ranger Dan and myself, along with our guest blogger, intern Becky Ingham took 29 children aged 7-11 up Rannerdale Knotts to look at a range of subjects from glaciated valleys, NT footpath management, the water cycle and farming.

    Becky explaining the Water Cycle while Ranger Dan shows us an ancient Potash Kiln

    I’ll hand over to our guest blogger Becky to give you her impression of the day

    “As an outdoor events intern I have been able to do so much with the National Trust in the last six months and I’ve found how much I enjoy being outside whatever the weather. That definitely came in handy on Wednesday when I went out with Rangers Paul and Dan and Ennerdale School up Rannerdale Knotts

    Heading for the summit

    The weather was magnificent, in the almost blown off your feet and wet enough to make a duck think twice about going out kind of way. It definitely proved the saying that ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothes’ as we were mostly kept dry and warm by our waterproofs. We had truly fantastic views as the clouds moved, showing us the fells and then hiding them again. At one point we could see the rain shadow hurtling towards us over Crummock Water and making the fells behind almost disappear.
    The Ennerdale kids were fantastic, as Paul said; ‘mini mountains should have mini mountaineers’ and that’s definitely what we had. I don’t think I heard a single moan about the weather, even from the littlest.

    Are we there yet?

     I hope they enjoyed learning about the footpaths that wind their way all over the fells, the Rangers who look after them and the history of that beauty spot as much as I did”

    We'd like to thank the children, teachers and parents, and of course Becky for giving Ranger Dan and I, a cracking if wet day out, looking forward to next time.

  • Home and abroad; a tale of two lakes

    14:15 17 October 2013
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    During the first couple of weeks in
    September, my wife and I were out visiting family in Canada. They are based in Toronto, and so we were able to explore some of the countryside in the region of the Great Lakes. Driving north on Highway 11, you "soon" (in Canadian terms - it is a very, very big country!) enter the fabled land of Muskoka. This is located on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield country. The terrain is very contorted , undulating rather than hilly, glacially scoured outcrops of granite and gneiss largely covered by mixed woodland, harsh, demanding, but softened by a myriad of sparkling lakes. It was the inspiration for the famed "Group of Seven" artists, and many Canadians regard it as the start of the "true" Canada, the edge of the wilderness that stretches up to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Circle. We stayed in a lovely B&B right on the shore of Fairy Lake. Here's a picture of their "dock".

    It was a truly beautiful location, made even more special by the first hints of the onset of the fall; a chilly nip in the morning air, and the subtlest change in the tint of the woodland foliage. One morning, the cold night air had fallen on the warm water of the lake, producing a shimmer of mist, a picture of transcendental loveliness. I felt very privileged as I stood on the dock trying to capture the image, but when I looked at the photo I was dismayed to see the number of other docks, each with their accompanying boathouse. And when I looked at the wider scene, I realised that almost all of the shore of that beautiful lake was in private ownership, and accessible to none but a privileged few. This much loved area has little protection beyond local authority restrictions, and it struck me as being an area that was ripe for some sort of safeguarding, maybe not National Park status, but perhaps a Provincial Park, and yet it has none.

    Then when I got home I started to wonder about our own Lake District. It has only been in the last sixty years that this other ultra special landscape has come under legislative protection. Before that our own Lakeland was in a very similar position to Muskoka. In 1902, Brandelhow Park on the western shore of Derwentwater could easily have followed down the Fairy Lake route. Instead, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley rallied the troops in the fledgling National Trust, started the first ever National Trust appeal and managed to buy the land on behalf of the nation. Nowadays we all enjoy unfettered access to Brandelhow, one of the quietest, and most beautiful shorelines in the Lake District. Picnicking, walking, boating, a chilly dip, simple pleasures available to all, forever. How much more beautiful would Fairy Lake be if a substantial part of its' shoreline enjoyed that very same principled freedom

  • Beavering Away

    16:52 08 October 2013
    By Maurice Pankhurst, Mark Astley, Jack Deane, Paul Delaney, Andy Warner , Daniel Simpson, Jessie Binns, Geoff Medd, Joe Cornforth

    From time to time what seems to be a simple task, becomes a bit of a challenge for Ranger Dan and myself, not such a bad thing though as it allows us to be slightly  imaginative  and change how we do things, also makes life more interesting I reckon!

    A piece of footpath maintenance at Dunthwaite was a case in point, easy enough job but access to the site is a major problem, so what do we do? well we just use what's already there!
    A steep section required some steps to make the ascent easier on the knees, these were constructed by using hazel cut from nearby coppices, easier to get at than carrying in treated timber and to my mind looks much nicer, we'd no sooner finished than we were thanked by a couple on behalf of their aged collie who apparently found it much easier, and we were amazed to then see the dog climb a custom made ramp into the back of a waiting Mercedes!!! ( Ranger Dan is now trying to source similar in order to get me in and out of the landrover more easily)

    A little bit further on, a section of post and rail fencing which prevents our visitors plummeting down a slope to the river Derwent had over the years slowly started to lean over towards the river, on inspection the timber seemed sound so  rather than rip it out and replace it we ripped it out and re sited it, standing upright and braced against the slope it should last a good while longer, and to be honest looks much better than a shiny new bit of fence in amongst the old, cheaper too which should please our accountants!

    before and after picture, not a lot different but that's the beauty of the repair

    Another opportunity to carry out a repair using only what was on site presented itself at Holme Wood in Loweswater where following a very localised storm a stream had burst it's bank deposited a huge amount of debris in the wood and washed out a considerable section of all access path.
    On another day we'd simply have got a digger in and rebuilt the bank but not this time, co-incidentally as we were in a wood there were a few trees around, and some of them right where we needed them, Ranger Dan and myself set about felling the trees so they lay across the breached banks forming a structure that we hope will catch silt and debris from future flood events and become a natural dam, and if it doesn't? well we're no worse off, the trees will coppice back up we haven't spent a fortune, happy accountants again!!
    Filling the gaps in stream banks, beaver style!

    Ranger Dan beavering away

    and there we arrive at the title of the blog, North Lakes Rangers beavering away, simples !!

News from Mark Astley

Photo of Mark Astley

Ranger for the Buttermere and Ennerdale valleys, I live in Loweswater with my family; three boys aged 15, 11 and 9. I'm a very keen fisherman, an amateur archaeologist and work very closely with farmers within the valleys. In my spare time I'm a rugby coach for Cockermouth Rugby Union club. I have been working for the National Trust for over 25 years. For me, it is a way life not a job.

07786 856 443