Latest news from Pete Entwistle

  • 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)
  • Repairing the footpath up Stone Arthur

    06:40 17 September 2018
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    About a month ago we started work on our second upland project of the year over in Grasmere, on the footpath up Stone Arthur.

     Rolling the rock into position

    When we had the rock moved to site by helicopter last year it was impossible for the stone to be dropped exactly where we needed it. Because of the steepness of the slope and the presence of a large Sycamore tree many of the bags had to be dropped away from the area where we need to work.

     The rock on site and ready to use

    Our first job was to roll several tonnes of rock down, and across, the hill to where we needed it for the path repairs.

     Lower section (before)

    The main part of the job is to divert the footpath around an area that was badly damaged by a landslip during the Storm Desmond flooding. The original path-line skirts around the fellside a few metres below where we're working.

    Lower section (after)

    During the landslip that washed away the path, a large area of bedrock was exposed that proved difficult for many people to navigate. Because of this, numerous new paths were created and vegetation was being lost rapidly as water flowed through these newly trodden routes.

     Bedrock section (before)

    You can see the new line of the path going up and around the area of exposed bedrock in the photographs above and below.

    Bedrock section (after)

    Much of the area is quite boggy, due to the hard ground and bedrock just below the surface (which caused the landslip as the overlying saturated ground washed away), so we've incorporated plenty of drainage to help keep water off the new path.

     Working on the middle section

    We're also making use of a large gully that has been created by both water and walking boots, by diverting the path around on to an alternative route and turning the gully into a large drainage channel to help remove water from the area.

     Top section (before)

    Due to the hardness of the ground and having to spend several days moving rock around the site, the job is progressing slightly more slowly than we'd have hoped. But once completed, the new path will make a real difference. We'll be able to remove several old paths, improve the drainage of the area, re-vegetate areas that have been worn down to the soil and make it much easier and safer for people out enjoying the fells.

    Top section (after)
  • Continuing our work at Boredale Hause

    06:41 06 August 2018
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    We've been working on the path leading up to Boredale Hause for around three months now and although there's still a fair amount to do, it's really starting to take shape now.

    When working on a long length of path like this, we each work on a stretch of about ten metres at a time. When that section is completed and joined up with the team member working above, we leapfrog higher up the path and continue like this until the whole length of path is finished.

    Starting higher up the path

    You can see in the photo below how the full width of the erosion is used to help meander the path, making it easier to walk on and reducing the visual impact.

     Completed section of path

    Due to all the dry weather we've had this year, we've struggled getting grass seed to germinate on sections of path that we've landscaped and many of the turfs that were carefully removed while building the path have dried out and died.

    Starting another new section

     Section almost completed

    We've reseeded a couple of times and hopefully now that we're getting a few more showers, the grass will start to grow and cover the bare areas.

     Starting a new section while working around some buried bedrock

    As we've moved higher up the path, we've started to encounter more areas of bedrock. Most of this is just below the ground surface and can be removed with a crowbar or sledgehammer if it's in the way of the path. Dealing with bedrock adds an extra layer of complexity to the process of building a path, as well as substantially increasing the level of exertion required.

     Approaching the bedrock outcrop

    One notable section was a large outcrop higher up the path. Generally, exposed bedrock like this is much harder and more difficult to break. Since bedrock becomes slippery when wet, many people try to avoid walking on it, which causes more erosion in the area... exposing more bedrock, etc, etc. So rather than stopping the path at the foot of the outcrop, we continued around it until a weaker section was found that could be chipped out to form the new path line.

    Continuing around the bedrock outcrop

    The new path line works really well and we're also leaving access to the exposed bedrock section alongside the path for the more adventurous mountain bikers to descend.
  • Starting repairs at Boredale Hause

    19:41 03 June 2018
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    It's that time of year again and work has now officially started on this years upland path repairs. Our biggest project this year is repairing both the footpath and the bridleway that lead up to Boredale Hause which is a joint project with the South Lakes upland ranger team.

    Work started towards the end of March by filling heli-bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass.

     Filling bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass

    Due to the amount of rock required for the repairs (over 380 bags), we gathered rock from a second site at the end of Grisedale valley. Both rock collection sites are a good distance from Boredale so moving the rock was a long drawn out affair. The helicopter took roughly six minutes between each drop, which is two or three times longer than the average lift.

     Moving the stone to site

    Once all the rock was in position, it was time to start on the repair work. The South Lakes team started on a lower section of the bridleway and we positioned ourselves higher up the path. All the photos are of this higher section.

     Lower Section (before)

     Lower Section (after)

    As some of the repairs are on the bridleway, the Lake District Mountain Bike association was consulted for suggestions to make the path more easily passable on bike. It was decided that any undamaged stone culverts (underground drains) would be left in place and additional stone drains would be designed so that they could be circumnavigated.

      Lower-Middle Section (before)

     Lower-Middle Section (after)

    We've only been working on the path for about two weeks at present so there's still a fair way to go, but you can see we're starting to make progress.

    Upper-Middle Section (before)

     Upper-Middle Section (after)

    To make the path easier to walk and ride on we're, as usual, trying to meander the path through the eroded area, this helps reduce the gradient and makes the step height a little lower.

    Upper Section (before)

     Upper Section (after)
  • Footpath repairs at Aira Force

    07:11 08 May 2018
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    Since our last post we've spent a fair amount of our time working at Aira Force, on a section of footpath above High Cascades.

    Old path

    The section of path that we've been working on had previously been repaired many years ago, but as the path was a bit "rough and ready" visitors were avoiding it which had caused the area next to the path to become eroded. This can be seen in the photograph above.

    Path before commencing the rebuild

    As the area is not very accessible, it was decided that some of the stone would be flown to site by helicopter. This was supplemented with useable stone from the original footpath and additional stone that we were able to gather from the surrounding area using our mechanical power barrow.

     Completed lower section of path

    To make the path blend in a little better, we adjusted the line to make it snake through the site rather than cut through in a straight line. The line was partially dictated by bedrock, which came to the surface at a couple of locations. To avoid having to chip away too much, we gave it a wide berth where possible.

    Working in the snow 

    Our work was hampered on a couple of occasions by heavy snow which prevented us getting over to Ullswater or making it impossible to safely move large stones around. But on days with just a light scattering of snow we continued regardless.

     Middle section after moving rock to site

    After a few weeks of work we had pretty much completed the stone path. The new path is much more user-friendly and incorporates a couple of large stone drains to shed water away and prevent damage.

     Middle section after completing the stone work

    Unfortunately, due to the pressing job of gathering stone for our upland repairs, we weren't able to complete all the landscaping work in time. So we're hoping to get a bit of time later on in the year to tidy away some of the leftover rock and reseed the area and then the new path will be looking better than ever.

    Completed top section of path
  • Tree planting in Grasmere and peat bog restoration work in Ullswater

    08:09 05 March 2018
    By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo Walmsley

    It's been a busy few weeks since our last post so here's a taster of what we've been up to.
            
    Earlier on, in mid-February, we spent a week tree planting on the slopes of Helm Crag. The work was funded by Natural England. We planted 1800 scrub woodland species over an area of 6 hectares, working alongside other National Trust staff and assisted by some of the Fix the Fells volunteers.

    As the trees develop, they will help stabilise the soil and reduce rainwater runoff. They will also provide a valuable habitat for birds, such as Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer, mammals and insects.

    You can read in more detail about the work on the Central and East Lakes Rangers blog... here, so here are just a selection photos of the work over a very wintery week.

    Having a quick debrief on the first day

    Planting out the trees

    Looking towards Dunnmail Raise on the last day

    Later on in the month we spent a day carrying out some peat bog restoration work up on Matterdale Common with the Ullswater team and staff from Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

    Over 70 per cent of peatlands in England are in a damaged state, often due to drainage, overgrazing, forestry or regular burning. This damage prevents the peat remaining waterlogged, causing plants to die off. Without vegetation cover, bare areas of peat are formed which rapidly erode. This damage can be repaired by revegetating and blocking drains to help raise the water table. 
    The project has been overseen by Cumbria Wildlife Trust who've used digger contractors to do the main bulk of the work, but as a member of the Cumbria Peat Partnership we were eager to lend a hand with areas that couldn't be done with machinery.

    Our main job was to plant heather on the bare areas of peat to help speed up the regeneration process.

     Heather plants ready to be planted out

    So we took the trays of heather out into one of the two stock excluded areas on Matterdale Common and planted up in the barest patches.

    Planting out the heather 

    Areas of peat that have eroded (often as a result of grazing, historical peat cutting and water damage) may form steep banks, known as hags. These hags continue to erode, due to water flow and wind damage, forming large areas of bare peat that plants struggle to survive on.

    By reprofiling the banks to an angle of around thirty degrees it gives the heather seedlings a much better chance to flourish. Many of the hags have been removed using the diggers but we were able to get to a few areas that the diggers couldn't reach and to also work on some of the smaller hags.

     Grading one of the peat hags

    You can see the area where we were working in the photograph below and also the difference between the grazed and ungrazed areas. The area in the distance was fenced off about 10 years ago allowing heather and other peatland plants to return, this should further improve following the recent work.

    Bundles of heather used for blocking drainage


    You can learn more about peatland restoration on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website... here.

News from Pete Entwistle

Photo of Pete Entwistle

Ranger Supervisor - responsible for supervising upland path repairs and maintenance for the National Trust in the Central and Eastern Fells.

My interest in the outdoors and walking in the Lakes goes back to spending every weekend as a child walking with my parents up one mountain or another, by the time I was 10 I'd probably been up every mountain in the Lakes.

I've also have a keen interest in the environment and spend many hours photographing wildlife.

Blog:
http://fellrangers.blogspot.co.uk