News from Rob Clarke for February 2012

  • Our annual Mountain and Rivers day with Hawkshead primary school.

    10:00 24 February 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    This saw us guiding the children round our Coniston and Little Langdale patch with them undertaking practical survey tasks along the way.

    Firstly the children measured temperature, wind speed, elevation, and carried out flora and landscape surveys in their own school grounds. Leaving the school and visiting Tarn Hows, and Side Pike in Little Langdale the children were able to do the exercises again and compare and contrast what they had seen, and talk about the differences between the sites visited. It was also a good opportunity for the children to see and understand the impact humans have had on the landscape over the centuries.

    Next came rivers. We stopped at two locations, to measure width, depth and flow and compared the findings between the two sites. For staff and children this mini-beast survey is the best part, as using nets and trays the children have to identify what they find in their nets.

    Also on the agenda was archaeology. We visited Ting Mount in Little Langdale (this is a very important archaeological feature and was a meeting place or local parliament for Viking settlers); Side Pike (the site of an ancient axe factory); and Copt Howe in Langdale (it has rock carvings between 2000 and 4000 years old.)

    Although the Lakeland weather with wind and heavy rain was not kind to us these are Cumbrian children, and well used to it! - their spirits were high and a good day was had by all.

    post and photos by ranger Stuart
  • The best laid plans .....

    10:00 17 February 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    The working holiday - that's as far as they got on the first day!
    Up here at High Wray Basecamp volunteer centre we're pretty busy all year round with, as you'd expect, volunteers. The exception to this tends to be through the worst of the winter when the weather's too bad to get out and do much work. We use this period to do all our planning and maintenance work for the year ahead, cleverly holding off on booking too many volunteer groups in until the worst of the weather has passed. Or at least, that's the theory. You can never be too sure of anything with the British (and especially Cumbrian) weather and so the first day of our first working holiday of the year - hedgelaying - coincided with the heaviest snowfall of the winter.

    Normally, bad weather means we can't get a car up the Basecamp track. This time though, we couldn't even get to the track and had a 2 1/2 mile walk in.  Most of the working holiday participants had made it as they came the day before, but we didn't get any work done this day. You try laying a hedge when it's buried in snow .....
    The log pile under construction.

    So this first day set the scene for a varied week. We hire a minibus for our working holidays to use to get to the work site, but it didn't leave Basecamp grounds all week. We had to abandon the hedge we were planning to work on and change to one closer by as we were ferrying everyone back and forth to the work site in our own 4x4. This worked well until the Thursday when freezing rain meant even that couldn't get out and our amazingly game group spent the day scraping ice off of the track and building a log pile.
    The group with their completed stretch.
    But despite all this adversity, we got to site for four good days hedgelaying and the group did a splendid job with everyone declaring they'd had a great week. Just goes to show that with a bit of team spirit and good humour (and, admittedly, a lot of cakes) you don't need things to go exactly to plan to have a good time!

    post and photos by Rob
  • Snow and bird hotels

    10:00 10 February 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    Just outside the office door - Coniston Water
     Let it snow......

    First challenge of the week….try to get to work! Like a lot of the country, the South Lakes was blanketed with the first snow of winter. Absolutely stunning to look at but a bit restrictive to work in, so many of the Ranger team took the opportunity to catch up on the all important paper work. Photos of the Ranger team sat at a computer are not the most interesting, so here are some of the South Lakes property in the snow instead!



    View from Wray Castle


    With the snow comes an opportunity to see what’s been out and about on our doorstep as foot prints and tracks are everywhere. These are just a couple of our neighbours here:          

                                                Rabbit footprint
    Red deer footprint



    National Nest Box Week

    At this time of year some birds are starting to mate and nest. However, like now conditions can be harsh, so food and shelter can be in short supply. Next week sees the start of National Nest Box Week running from 14th to 21st February, encouraging people to put up nest boxes at this time of year. For more information check out the BTO website.

    It's great for birds and wildlife, and on the property we are hoping to put up a Barn Owl box as one has been seen in the area. Fingers crossed we get some new residents in situ soon.......

    post by Phil
    photos by Phil
  • Guards Wood needed guarding

    10:00 03 February 2012
    By John Atkinson, Nick Petrie, Paul Kear , Rob Clarke, Sarah Anderson

    the gateway before work
     Sheep and woodland don't mix
    If sheep get into woodland they graze on the flora and browse on the woodland which affects the woodland structure and the biodiversity. It can also create problems for the farmer as it is difficult to gather the sheep, and the sheep may get into difficulty or eat something that is bad for them. For example the needles and seeds of Yew trees are highly poisonous to sheep. Helping to secure gates against sheep is an ideal job for us in the winter. 

    A winter task for our footpath team at Guards Wood
    At this time of the year although we're the Upland Footpath team (one of four National Trust Footpath teams working in the Lake District) we spend most of the time doing lower level work in the countryside. The shorter days and poorer weather mean it is not possible for us to continue working on the fells throughout the winter.  There is plenty to keep us busy and no shortage of gaps in dry stone walls to repair. An interesting change from wall gaps has been to install new gates on two paths that lead into Guards Wood near Coniston. 

    the gateway work-in-progress
    Glen finishing off
    The existing paths went through field gates into the woods but there have been problems with these gates being left open and sheep from the adjacent farm fields getting into the woodland.
    Our task was to take down a section of dry stone wall next to the existing gate, installing an additional five foot gate, rebuilding the “quoin” end of the wall and re-profiling the land around each new gate. We had help from two volunteers, Glenn and Luke, which meant we finished the work in half the time anticipated.

    The new gates are sprung so that they shut themselves and the main field gates can now be padlocked shut. This will hopefully keep the sheep from “escaping” into the woodland.

    Elsewhere an unusual wildlife sighting
    interested spectators
    We do some upland footpath maintenance in the winter, to ensure the drainage is working and to carry out minor repairs. 

    A bonus whilst doing this recently was we saw a herd of Red Deer on Martcrag Moor (near Pike O’Stickle) in the Langdales, an unusual sight.

    post and photos by upland footpath team member Nick