Latest team news

  • Time to reflect.

    13:26 19 December 2014
    By Roy Henderson


    Once again, as we approach the end of another year, I have been reflecting on what has been achieved and once again I realise just how much has depended on the fantastic volunteers who work with me.



    Some of the work has been creative in that we have started with an idea and have made it a reality. I think of the play trail in Cockshot Wood that has taken many hours of hard work. Our reward is to see so many children (and a good few grown-ups) enjoying themselves in the wood.







    Some of it has been stewardship in that we have worked to protect the best features of the area. I think of the work done to maintain good surfaces on the paths so that there is good access for as many people as possible.





    It just would not be possible for me to do all of it without my groups of volunteers. The National Trust is fortunate in having thousands of committed and gifted volunteers and I know I am lucky to have mine.

    So now is the time to say a HUGE THANK YOU.


    Daisy here:



    I’ve decided not to be a rescue dog. I am going to concentrate on being a ranger dog.
  • The unwelcome guests ....

    10:00 19 December 2014
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    The sheer diversity of people that stay here demonstrates what a welcoming and inclusive place High Wray is. But sometimes we get a guest that we just wish hadn’t come in the first place and that we can’t wait to get out of the door.

    Well, that doesn’t sound very ‘rangery’ does it? But when the guest in question is a bird that files in through our door and gets stuck in the kitchen we hope you’d agree with us. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does we’re normally alerted by the tapping and flapping sound of the panicking bird desperately trying to batter it’s way out of our windows. This is upsetting for both the bird and us so we try to get it out as quickly as possible.  

    Bird in hand

    Most of the time we can leave the door open and slowly ‘herd’ the bird towards it, but this doesn’t always work so sometimes we need to capture it. It’s tricky, but there’s certain ways to do this that minimize the chance of harming the bird and once you have them (carefully) in your hand it’s surprising how calm they appear. 

    A bird in the hand .... the Wren caught in the kitchen
    Sometimes though this may be because they’re a bit dazed as with this Wren that we recently caught, which is why it’s just sat on a hand without flying off. We put this one down outside the door and it had gone 10 minutes later so we think it just needed to get it’s breath back.

    The duck makes it's casual entry
    It’s not just small birds though. On occasion a local duck has turned up and wandered proprietarily in for a quick look around, before exiting in its own good time. More dramatically, this summer one of our volunteer groups came in to the Acland block kitchen to find a Bullfinch hiding under the kitchen shelves, with a Sparrowhawk perched inside on the windowsill looking mighty peeved! They caught this one by throwing a towel over it and released it outside, where it flew off unharmed – certainly not something you want eyeing up your sausages in the kitchen ….

    Volunteers flock in

    Most of the time though, our guest are invited. Recently we played host to the Fix the Fells lengthsmen for their annual Xmas bash, an event we’ve been proud to hold here for the last five years now. Around 35 of these fantastic regular volunteers spent a couple of days working with us and the South Lakes upland path team, culminating in a Saturday night feast of fun …. and food, of course. This year the lengthsmen have once again broken all their own records on the amount of volunteering days they’ve contributed to Fix the Fells, so there was plenty to celebrate.

    Very welcome guests! The lengthsmen's Xmas quiz in 'full flight'


    We’re looking forward to next year now and welcoming many more guests through our doors. And while you can never be sure, we’re hopeful there won’t be any need to throw a towel over any of them!

    By Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger
  • Ullswater Tree Planting Week

    23:11 15 December 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed


    To celebrate National Tree Week, the Ullswater Rangers with lots of help spent a week planting native trees near to the village of Hartsop.

    National Tree Week ran from November 29th to December 7th and had people up and down the UK getting involved with organised tree planting days. Here in Ullswater we saw the perfect opportunity to time a large tree planting scheme with this event as a way to attract help from the local community and from our own volunteers and staff.

    The village of Hartsop is situated south of Ullswater at the foot of the Kirkstone Pass and is a popular route for walkers to take when visiting Hayeswater. The village is nestled amongst steep sided fells and looks across to Brotherswater - a SSSI for its wetland edge habitat, and to Low Wood - a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its oak woodland.

    Taking a well earned break, gazing across at Brotherswater and Low Wood, at the foot of the Kirkstone Pass.


    On a bracken covered hill behind the village a Natural England HLS (Higher Level Stewardship) Grant had been agreed to help plant up the slopes to revert it back to scrub with occasional maiden trees. There is a remnant of this habitat in the form of isolated hawthorn trees, holly, sycamore and ash which had managed to get through the dense bracken and avoid the palate of deer and sheep.

    The hillside was south-facing which meant it was ideal for the pioneer tree and shrub species which are often light demanding. The warmth and light would also lengthen the growing season and make it a perfect habitat for invertebrates and even reptiles that rely on the sun's rays to become active.

    Facing the sun, the planting site became quite warm even in December!


    I set about ordering the trees, 1320 were needed and a mix of trees and shrubs were used. The mix was this:
    Trees: (ie single stemmed plants)
    Sessile Oak - 70
    Downey Birch - 140
    Rowan - 200
    Crab Apple - 70
    Bird Cherry - 70

    Shrubs: (ie multi-stemmed plants)
    Hawthorn - 280
    Blackthorn - 140
    Holly - 70
    Hazel - 280

    A holly planted and ready for its protective tube.


    All were in the 40-60cm height bracket. We have tried planting taller trees but these seem struggle to become established, perhaps there is a bigger amount of stress put on the root system of the bigger trees when dug up from the nursery.

    Then I needed to order the plastic tubes to put around the planted trees. The site is in the process of being fenced out from deer and sheep, however the bracken will nearly be 2 metres high in summer so the trees need to be found, be protected from the weight of leaning bracken, be safe from harm when the bracken is slashed down in summer, and be in their own micro-climate away from drying and chilling winds.

    The trees were going to be planted in 1.2m high Tubex tubes using 1.5m wooden stakes, and the shrubs would be planted in 0.6m high Tubex Shrub tubes (a wider diameter) with 0.9m stakes. Oak is quite light demanding and I would normally be unsure about planting them in tall, narrow tubes (sometimes I use two shrub tubes - one on top of the other) but because the site was south facing I felt they would receive enough sunlight through the plastic to get growing.

    Volunteer David is holding the wider diameter shrub tubes, while the trees behind are in the taller but narrower tubes.


    The Woodland Trust who have been very busy planting up other areas around Ullswater and the Lake District very kindly offered to contribute to the planting project. The tree tubes came curtousy of Pete Leeson of the WT, which made up for a shortfall in the grant.

    Once all the materials had been delivered we set about getting them as close as possible to the planting site, to reduce the amount of walking and carrying on the actual planting week. Luckily there is a footpath that runs along the top boundary of the site so the tenant farmer and his son kindly helped by using a John Deer RTV and a quadbike & trailer to ferry the materials up to the top of the site, and spread along the boundary ready to be used.

    Dropping off the materials needed a long drive with a loaded trailer, then a long ride on a RTV to the top of the site.


    In hindsight however, I should have dropped off more materials at the bottom, because even with gravity on our side the journey down-slope with heavy stakes was pretty tricky at times.


    With all the materials on-site and the word spread around, it was time for Ullswater Tree Planting Week 2014!


    Help arrived in the form of the Eden Rivers Trust Apprentices, led by Susie Grainger and is linked to Newton Rigg college in Penrith. Susie arrived with 4 of her apprentices - Toby, Anthony, Andy and Kirsty - who promptly set about knocking stakes in the ground and planting trees. This was easy work for them as they'd done upland tree planting with the Lake District National Park only a few weeks ago.

    The troops started to gather at the bottom of the site, ready to be fuelled up with mince pies and tea!


    More help came from local volunteers - Richard, Dave, Alan, David, Sally, Jan and Mike. Regulars at lending their spare time to the National Trust these folk made a real difference and they loved being in such a beautiful location.

    In fact, this is by far the most stunning location I have ever planted trees, and perhaps will never have such a great view when leaning on my tree planting spade ever again!

    We were very lucky with the weather, and the view was breathtaking.


    On the home team, Steve, Dave, Nic and John all helped out during the week and must have climbed the long steep journey from Landrover to material piles enough times to equal an Everest attempt!

    Finally the Aira Force team, led by Audrey were able to take a break from the busy visitor duties to come out and plant their '50'. I had worked out earlier in the week that if everybody planted 50 trees in a day then we might have the job finished in a week. As it turned out that was a little optimistic due to the very steep nature of the site, the dense bracken, the short days, and the need to carry the posts and tubes down to where we were planting.

    One more in the ground, only a few hundred to go...


    The week was a success. The weather couldn't have been better, especially since we're in Cumbria, in winter, and at altitude! Perhaps it was because we were closer to the sun but it was warm enough to be in t-shirts for a couple of the days. The ground also was lovely soft soil beneith the bracken litter with only a few stones found along the way. There were breakages - knots in the stakes meant about 20 broke whilst being knocked in.

    Efficient Tree Planting

    Did I mention the steepness of the site?! A lot of time and vital energy would be wasted by walking up and down the slopes and any unessessary moving around had to be avoided.
    Teams were essential. Individuals could not plant the trees and guard them up alone, there would be too much to carry, be lots of putting down and picking up different tools and importantly was not safe on a site that had steep drops and limited phone signal.

    After I had made pilot holes and Dave had knocked the stakes in, Mike then planted the trees and Katie put the tubes on.


    We got into a great rhythmn with 4 people. The first carried some stakes and a metal bar, made pilot holes and placed stakes in them. Next the 2nd person would knock the stakes in, and carry along more stakes. Behind them the 3rd person would make the slot for the tree with a spade and plant it, then the 4th person would carry bundles of tree tubes and put these on the tree. By working like this we all moved along in sequence and it became a smooth flowing process. Importantly no-one was speeding off ahead which usually results in stakes being missed, trees not planted or tubes forgotten to be added.

    The author, planting a rowan. The pass in the background leads to Troutbeck Park.




    In the end, about 1200 trees were planted in the week taking 170 person-hours. An avaerge of about 7 trees and hour, and the days had around 5.5 hours of actual planting time so that gives 38.5 trees per person, per day. A little short of my 50, but a superb effort considering the, erm, slight incline.

     

    Last Few

    One day in the week that followed was spent by Steve, Dave, Nic and I planting the last few trees and shrubs and collecting any leftover tools and materials from the site. The weather was a complete contrast to the following week and we all had to battle on through cold, wet and windy weather. But we did it, a massive thanks to them for that day and the week before.

    
    The following week was more typical Lake District - wet, cold and very windy.

    Steve counting the last few trees as Nic and Dave make yet another ascent to the top.
    The day after we finished, it snowed. Hartsop village can be seen at the foot of the hill, above it amongst the dead bracken is the planting site. All 1320 tubes became invisible in the light snow.

















     

     

    Lessons Learnt

    Time is always limited and I'm sure I could have organised some finer details better, such as the dropping off of materials, the exact locations of some of the trees, and the planting styles used. However all the trees were planted, the right way up, with tubes on, and in the right location, which makes me very happy.

    Thanks again to all those who came along. Please join me in 2015 for more!

    Ben Knipe
    Woodland Ranger
    Central & East Lakes















  • Many hands make light work

    10:00 12 December 2014
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    On Saturday the 15th November 60 volunteers gathered for what's becoming the annual Monk Coniston garden bash.
    Monk Coniston was the home of James Garth Marshall who created Tarn Hows, what's less well known is that he landscaped the grounds, created a network of footpaths and planted a collection of specimen trees.
    Over the years the views have been lost and the specimen trees buried under more and more rhody - you can't see the (specimen) trees for the woods!

    Before -rhody spilling down the bank

    After - rhody cleared and burnt

    Helen & John who manage the site for HF Holidays (NT tenants) gathered their volunteers and split them into 4 groups, each with a separate mission clearing paths, clearing the old Ha-ha, clearing views - each group did so much clearing that by dinner there were 4 large fires to burn the waste.



    Regenerating sycamore was also removed

    Another load for the Ha-ha bonfire

    Stoking the 'car park' bonfire

    Once the areas are cleared the rhody can be managed more easily and Helen's regular garden volunteers can keep on top of the bramble and other vegetation.

    Rhody hiding the trees behind

     Views of the trees opened up

     John and Helen said "The formula absolutely works - everyone involved brought tons of enthusiasm and worked tirelessly during the day...... the level of gardening input was only matched by the volume of conversation at dinner in the evening!  The weekend is a fantastic blend of hard work and sociability"

    The volunteers

    I suspect that after the day's work that all the volunteers put in that they all slept really well no doubt helped by the fact that Barngates brewery donated a barrel a 'cracker' for the evening!

    Richard Tanner
    Woodland Ranger



  • Getting ready for Christmas.

    20:03 11 December 2014
    By Roy Henderson



    Christmas is fast approaching and the time has come to make sure that a few jobs are done so that people can have a memorable experience here.  On Friars Crag we have one of the most popular Lake District walks and it is a special favourite of both visitors and local residents over the Christmas period.  For many people an outing in the fresh air along the lake shore seems to be as much a part of Christmas Day as the turkey dinner so we like to make sure that the path through the wood from the car park and along the lake is in good condition.



    So my volunteers joined me in a clearing accumulated leaf mould from the path surface.  If we don’t do this regularly the surface becomes slippery underfoot but, just as important is that, if we don’t clear it, the path will become overwhelmed by the debris and vegetation that quickly invades.  Clearing it extends the life of the dirt scree surface.  As they usually do, my volunteers did a superb job.



    One of the good things about working there is that we meet so many people.  We’ve had a few days of really good weather with a lot of people taking the opportunity for a short holiday and of course there are regular local walkers who have a sense of ownership and stewardship of the area.  Chatting with them is not only enjoyable but it is an important way of finding out if our work is achieving what we want it to.  The Trust’s work is all about preserving and protecting for ever, for everyone so it’s good to hear a wide range of views.



    Daisy here,



    I’ve been helping Roy clear footpaths on Friars Crag but the best bit was that I met Stanley who can run really fast.  When I was a puppy, he could run rings round me.  Now I just wear him down.  It’s great.


  • 'Tis the season to be repairing..............accident-damaged-roadside-walls.

    08:00 08 December 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Yet another roadside wall needing repair, this time on the A591 at Jenkyns Field. National Trust.

     This was a typical "hit and run" and incidents like this are all too commonplace. 
    Unless the vehicle is too badly damaged to drive away, the driver will rarely report the accident or admit to causing any damage.

    The wall as seen from the field side. The dislodged stones are scattered on the grass in the foreground.

    Straightening out the stones. Sorting out the mess prior to rebuilding.

    Cementing on the top/cam stones.

    Another repaired wall...still quite a few to do and doubtless there will be even more to add to this list before long!
  • In the frame!

    08:22 05 December 2014
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    National Trust, Mickleden and the Pike o Stickle
    The Langdale Valley looking over Mickleden.
    The Pike 'o' Stickle is on the right. See point 2,3 and
    4 below with regards to lighting, and composition
    I consider myself to be quite fortunate at times with the amount of travelling I do when patrolling the South lakes. I get to see some of the most iconic views of this beautiful landscape from the gentle rolling fells on the western shore of Windermere and Claife, to the carved out valley of the Langdales where the pike 'o' stickle’s dome like obilisque can be seen rising out of the ground.

    The other day I was stopped by a gentleman at Blea Tarn, after the initial startle of being approached from behind in one of the quietest spots in our portfolio he went on to ask me how to get to hard knot pass and Wasdale. I gave him his directions and inquired what his journey entailed? ‘photography’ he replied.

    As you can imagine, the Lake District is a photography location for professionals and amateurs alike. However this gentleman went on to tell me stories of his past, and how he was hired by popular magazines and newspapers to ‘camp out’ in the wild and get some iconic and moody photos for publication -- A dream job for many. In contrast however, his career went in a different way and now some 20 years or so later he is looking to reinvigorate his interest in landscape photography.

    National Trust Tarn Hows near Coniston
    The stunning Tarn Hows, #NTtarnhows I used this
    strip of bedrock to add foreground interest
    to my photo. See point 4 below.
    I too have a photography background, and like him I was studio trained using 35mm and medium format cameras. Back then, if you was planning a shoot of any kind your kitbag would have comprised of more than one camera, several lens’s and as much film you could carry (you only had 32 go’s at taking a picture back then kids).

    Times have moved on, and now good quality digital cameras are affordable and in many cases come complete with your mobile phone. So what I would like to do is give you some basic observations on taking a memorable picture. I’ve included some of my own photos I have taken whilst on my journey, I don't by any means claim that they are perfect, but they should highlight some of the points I've outlined here. I have also provided links which go into more detail of what I describe here …. And yes, I am very lucky to live and work here.

    Get off the track - Look at where you are, don’t take your photograph from the standard point of view on a footpath. If it’s safe, and OK to do so, move closer to your intended target, or maybe get higher, or lower to the ground for some depth.

    Lighting - You’ll always get a better lit photograph when the sun is behind you, for more dramatic photography head out early, for what is called the ‘golden hour’, this is the first hour after sunrise, or before sunset. Maybe stay at one of our campsites, to make sure you can get up and out for the sunrise.

    Composition - Remember the rule of thirds, in simple terms look at breaking your photograph into 3’s this gives you a much more balanced photo, and is more pleasing to the eye. Click here to learn more about this subject.

    Break the rules - Landscape photos don’t need to be taken in a landscape format. Try breaking the rules a little, taking a photo of the fells in portrait gives you a sense of drama and scale. In the square, it gives you a much tighter shot. Most importantly, think about having foreground interest, such as a rock formation, or a dry stone wall maybe?

    National Trust, View over Windermere from Claife
    And finally, don’t rush! - I see so many people taking photos out of car windows, (The origin of this blog) or running from their car to a fence and back again. To truly say you’ve been there you need to absorb what’s around you, and really feel the connection. Sometimes, I like to keep some moments to myself and not take a picture at all.

    I use an Iphone to take my photos, and I make use of the filters that are available. These vary from adding a vignette, increasing the saturation or the brightness and the contrast.
    1. Swift water, fixing paths, felling trees and hunting for drains!

      14:24 03 December 2014
      By Roy Henderson



      It’s hard to believe that it is now 3 years since I last renewed my Swift Water Rescue Technician ticket for the mountain rescue team but last weekend was time to do it again.  This is one of those occasions when it is essential to have a clear, concise briefing about what we will be doing.  Once the rescue begins the noise of the water makes communication difficult and we cannot use radio equipment where it is going to be drenched.  So it is vital that we have a Plan A, a Plan B and clear signals if and when we have to change from one to the other.  It sounds simple but of course needs to be very well planned to actually do it.  As ever, it was a really good weekend.

      Once back at work, I returned to a project in Braithwaite, one of our lovely Lake District villages.  As the village has developed over generations, layers of drainage systems have been installed and sometimes their exact position is long forgotten.  There have been some flooding problems and I have been working with the Parish Council and residents of the village to decide how to solve them.  During my round of knocking on doors to explain what we are going to do, I came across one resident who remembered the installation of a land drain and showed me its position.  This is going to be a very useful find because we can feed a new drain into it.



      Later in the week I returned to Cat Gill with Leila, our academy ranger, and some of the guys from the footpath team.  You might recall that I was up there recently to fell some trees across a short cut that people have started to use.  Unfortunately it is in a position where it could develop into serious erosion quite quickly so I want to discourage its use as soon as possible.  The last time I looked at this, it turned out to be too windy to fell the trees as accurately as I wanted them but this time was successful.



      As I did that, the footpath team improved the condition of part of the pitched path.  Most people do prefer to use a well-built and maintained path so we think that problem will be solved now.




















      Daisy here,




      I’ve been playing in the woods. It’s great.  I love running around and I went to play with the footpath team. They think I’m crazy.  


    2. To The Rescue of a Tree and a Footpath!

      13:50 03 December 2014
      By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

      This bank by the side of Windermere, on which a medium sized oak is growing, periodically becomes extensively undermined when water levels are high. The footpath at Millerground runs directly behind the oak, and it too is threatened by this rapid erosion. 

      If the tree fell, the substantial root plate would rip away the path it is growing under. For the sake of the tree and the path urgent work was needed to save them both.  

      Tons of stone were used to fill in the large cavity (it was possible to crawl right under the tree) in the hope it would give the tree and the path some stability. While the cavity was being filled large stones were used for pitching up the bank at an angle to take away some of the force of the wave action.

      The work is well under way here. Millerground (as mentioned in previous posts) is a difficult place to work as access is so restricted. Power barrows were used to fetch in the stone, a time consuming job but the best option!

      These power barrows really come into their own on jobs like this...of which there are many.. and it is difficult to imagine just how tough it would be without them.  

      Work almost complete. A lot more confidence now in the tree and the path staying put!

      A  female mallard took an interest in what was going on from an unusual vantage point.
      (showing off her purple wing feathers.)

      Seen enough. Really must fly.
    3. Footpath repairs at Dale Head

      11:37 03 December 2014
      By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

      After we finished our work up at Esk Hause, and inbetween working at Gowbarrow, we also had a few weeks working with the North Lakes Team over at Dale Head in Borrowdale. This work was partly funded by the British Mountaineering Council Access & Conservation Trust who kindly donated £7,000 and also by a £600 donation from Kendal Fell Walkers.

      Replacing a section of path at Dale Head

      The path at Dale Head had previously been worked on but, due to a lack of drains, water has run down the path which has in some areas caused the stone pitching to fall out. The steepest sections of the original path are also extremely difficult to walk down and now that techniques have changed we can also remedy this. You can see in the photograph above the section where we were working, with some old-style pitching just below the worksite.

      The work at Dale Head involved replacing the steepest sections of path and incorporating more stone drains to shed water away from the path.

      New stone pitching

      Although it's not immediately obvious from the photographs this section of path is a really steep section. The new path has been put in so that the stones aren't set at a steep angle, there's plenty of space to get a full boot on each step and the path also meanders to take out some of the gradient.

      Landscaping the new section of path

      As usual once the path was completed we set about landscaping the area around the path to help it blend in with it's surroundings. Any overhanging banks next to the path were graded to reduce any "hard edges" next to the path. Turfs that were removed while building the path were then used where the banks had been graded to make the path merge seamlessly with the fell side. Finally, grass seed was put down on areas of spoil and between the stones used to build the path. 

      Looking up the newly landscaped path