Latest team news

  • Same nest, different tenants - squatter's rights for birds!

    07:30 24 April 2015
    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

    Everyone know it’s good to recycle or if possible re-use, but it’s not just us that does this.Two summers ago we noticed Swallows taking a great deal of interest in the toilet block at the volunteer centre here at High Wray. We always keep the door shut, to stop them flying in and getting stuck, but in this instance they were interested in the alcove above the door – an ideal nesting spot it would appear. Over the course of a couple of weeks we watched the nests build up, with both adults bringing in mud and plant material to make a lovely firm construction.

    Soon after completion we were delighted to spot the female sat on the nest. We were worried at first that she’d be put off by people heading in and out of the loo, but she’d briefly exit the nest whenever anyone passed before quickly returning. A couple of weeks later we noticed she was exiting the nest a little more often and spotted tiny fluffly feathers poking out over the rim of the nest – they’d hatched!

    Young and virtually featherless, the young not long hatched
    It took about another 3 weeks for them to steadily grow to the point where they were hanging out over the sides and it seemed a wonder they didn’t force each other out of the nest! Shortly after that, we checked one morning to find they’d all gone (without so much as a thank you).

    Shove over! The considerably bigger young almost ready to go

    The next year we hoped they would return as Swallows will often repair and re-use old nests, but were disappointed to see no sign of action. By the end of the summer the nest above the gents loo door was starting to look very run down, with the ladies one holding together much better.

    New tenants move in!

    So we had our fingers crossed for this year but it looks like someone beat the swallows to it. It appears that a Wren has decided the ‘ladies  nest’ would make a perfect base for its own construction and has built an exquisite (and very snug looking) extra layer on top of the original base. It looks like it had a go at the ‘gents nest’ as well, judging by the tatters of moss poked into some of the holes, but obviously agreed with us on the state of it and must have given it up as too much hard work.

    The 'gents nest' - not sure about that .....

    Much better! The 'Ladies nest' with cosy adaptation

    We’re not sure if this adapted nest has ended up being chosen by the female Wren (males normally build several nests, from which the females chose their favourite), but we’ll keep an eye on it over the coming weeks. One things for sure, with the swallows having just reappeared on the scene here (see last week’s entry on migration) they’re likely to get a big surprise if they decide to return to this particular site!

    By Rob Clarke, High Wray Basecamp community ranger
  • Repairing the path at Aira Force

    07:30 22 April 2015
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Since finishing the tree cages we've mostly been working over at Aira Force, carrying out some urgent path repairs. One section we've been working on can be seen in the photo below. It shows the original path to the right, which people had started to avoid due to the bedrock that is protruding. A new, lower path had started to form, which is potentially dangerously close to a steep drop down to the river.

     Before starting work

    Firstly, we moved some large rocks from the original path to form an edge to the lower path. Any bedrock sticking up into the new path was broken with crowbars and sledgehammers until it was low enough to cover with gravel.

     Starting to build up the edge

    As well as using the stone from the old path, we gathered some large boulders from higher up the bank to continue the edging. This would help keep people away from the edge of the river bank and give us a suitable edge to gravel against.

     Edging almost completed

    The next job was to dig a trench to divert any water off the new path; this fed into a pipe underneath the path and out into the river. Ideally we'd have built a stone drain but there was not enough suitable material nearby so we had to make do with plastic pipe, though we made sure it was well concealed.

     Digging in the drain pipe

    With the new edging and drainage in place all that was left to do was the graveling. We put some turf over some of the path edges and we 'll put grass seed down to help the soil revegetate more quickly and soon you'd never know the other path existed. The new path is now much safer, easier to use and a much better line. It'll allow people to enjoy there surroundings and not have to think as much about where they're walking.

    Turfing the freshly graveled path
  • Access Improvements to Moor How.

    06:55 19 April 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Moor How (height: 229m/751 ft.) overlooking Park Cliffe on the South East side of Windermere.

    James Archer,  N.T Area ranger for Windermere and Troutbeck, was keen to improve access to Moor How.

    The footpath goes through Parkcliffe Camping and Caravan Estate land with access on to National Trust land  leading up to Moor How.

    Access to Moor How (meaning moorland hill) is over the boundary wall via a stone step stile...quite difficult to negotiate and deters some people, especially for those with dogs. 

    James proposed taking a section of wall down to allow a self closing "wicket gate" to be installed.

    When consulted, The Lake District National Park Authority were in favour as were the proprietors of Park Cliffe, Mr. and Mrs. Dickson.

    Thanks are owed to Mr. and Mrs. Dickson for their generous donation towards the cost of the work involved. Topsoil and gravel was also made available from Park Cliffe.

    As well as improving access for walkers, removing the step stile will potentially make the boundary wall more stock proof. Sheep in some areas have learnt how to negotiate stone step stiles as shown in this recent image!

    The wall in the process of being taken down.
    Monday, April 13th.

    Because the boundary wall was built over bedrock, the gate pins were concreted directly into the wall...digging a hole for a conventional gate post was not feasible.  The closing or clacking post was anchored on the opposite side using threaded bars encased in concrete.

    The wall is nearly rebuilt with the top  gate pin clearly visible. The top and bottom gate pins are offset. This will make the gate swing shut when released from the opened position.

    Landscaping work below the relocated path.

    Our first customers! (After completion of work.)

    From the Moor How summit, a view over Park Cliffe to the west....

    .....and a hazy view of the Howgill Fells to the east.

    Stands of gorse are a feature of Moor How. In flower, mid April.

    A geological fold in the rock formation, near the summit.

  • The Great British Migration

    07:39 17 April 2015
    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

    Spring is finally here. As most of us contemplate what and where we are going on our summer holidays this year, the mass summer migration has begun for Britain’s wildlife.

    Could you imagine having to travel half way around the world to get to your destination, only to then repeat the same journey four months later? No nor can I but that’s exactly what hundreds of millions of our summer migrants do every year.



    Bird species such as Wood Warbler, Redstart, Cuckoo (arrive early April and leave by end of June) Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, and Swift (last to arrive and first to go) arrive in the spring and have traveled for thousands of miles from either North-West or Sub-Saharan Africa. These species come to Britain to breed because the further North they go, the greater the abundance of food and more light in which to search for it.

    Wood Warbler
    Sand Martin
    House Martin

    Butterflies & Moths


    Would you believe that some of our butterflies and day flying moths migrate to the UK too?

    Take the Painted Lady for instance; this migrates from North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, which is somewhere in the region of 9000 miles and at altitudes of over 1,000m.

    For a tiny creature weighing less than a gram, with a brain the size of a pin head, and no opportunity to learn from older, experienced individuals, undertake an epic journey. It’s estimated that 11 million arrive in Britain each year, with around 25 million migrating back by the end of the summer.

    The Red Admiral like the Painted Lady is another migrant to Britain, flying from North Africa and Continental Europe in there millions and covering similar distances as their counterparts.

    The Humming-Bird Hawkmoth is a day flying moth that also migrants to Britain. These arrive in there thousands every year. Historically these were usually frequenting the South and East of the Country, However due to changes in our climate and hence warmer summers; they are being seen in Cumbria in larger numbers.

    The Silver Y moth is our most common immigrant moth from Southern Europe, North Africa and parts of South East Asia, which can arrive in numbers up to 250 million in a good year (yes that’s correct you read it right!), with a staggering four times as many leaving as arrived.

  • Dora's field and the Wordsworth Daffodils

    07:23 13 April 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    If there is one story that shows the character of William Wordsworth then it is surely the story of Dora's Field. This small patch of land in Rydal, cared for by the National Trust since 1935, hosts one of the least well-known stories of the great poet.

    Wordsworth and his family rented Rydal mount, the large country house that can be seen from Dora's field, from Lady Anne le Flemming  from May 1813. In 1825 Lady Anne announced her intention of giving the tenancy of Rydal Mount to a relative. Under threat of eviction, and desperate not to be forced away from the idyllic Rydal, William purchased the field (then known as 'The Rashfield' - the damp land was full of rushes) and made it clear to Lady le Fleming his intention of building on the field in what ever way he wished (this would have been right in the view from Rydal Mount). George Webster, a famous Kendal architect, was even paid to draw up a design.

    The threat was enough and Lady Anne backed down, and Wordsworth gifted the field to his daughter Dorothy, hence the new name 'Dora's Field'. When Dorothy was diagnosed with leukemia Wordsworth cancelled his travels and they spent her final few years together. When she died Wordsworth and his gardener planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs in her memory - the same flowers that can still be seen today (quite literally on this occasion - see picture below).

    In preparation for this years daffodil display our staff and volunteers worked hard to clear the pathways from the winter build-up of leaf litter, clear back some scrub from the daffodil areas and remove some of the invasive Cherry Laurel trees from the garden borders to prevent further spread. Once established Cherry Laurel puts down a poisonous ground layer of chemicals that stop any ground flora from growing, decreasing the value of the area to wildlife.

     Five large laurel trees - a monoculture and blocking our neighbours light

    And after - since this image natural regeneration of native species has already begun occuring

    Volunteers tending the fire site - as cherry laurel can grow new roots from cut branches we had to burn the brash on site

    The smoke from the fire creating a lovely photo opportunity

    Reinstating a historic dry-stone wall

    Dora's field is open all year round and is located in Rydal next to the Badger Bar on the A591 between Ambleside and Grasmere. The daffodils are still in full bloom and will be followed by an excellent display of bluebells and wild garlic.

  • Hanging a new gate and building tree cages

    11:57 08 April 2015
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Over the past few weeks we've continued our lower-level work around Grasmere, Great Langdale, Troutbeck and Windermere. One of our jobs was to replace a gate at the top of Deerbolts Wood near Loughrigg Common. As you can see in the photograph below, the old gate had certainly seen better days. The long-term plan is to have an oak gate at this site to match those at High Close Gardens and help to identify the site as part of the High Close Estate. But with it being such a well used path it needed a temporary fix, so we decided to replace it with a softwood gate.

     Old gate ready to be replaced

    The new gate is a massive improvement, even if its only temporary. When the time comes to hang the permanent oak gate, this gate will be re-used elsewhere. As part of our continuing improvements around High Close, we've already started installing new 'High Close Estate' signs in strategic locations. There's been lots of work done over the past couple of years around High Close and if you've never been, it really is worth a visit. You can see a photo gallery of some of the work here... High Close Gardens Restoration

     Newly hung gate

    We've also spent a fair amount of time tree-planting and constructing tree cages in conjunction with our farm tenants. The tree cages below were built on one of our tenanted farms near Orrest Head, Windermere. A single native tree is planted in each cage, which is designed mainly to keep cattle from grazing or pushing against the trees, giving them time to properly develop into large standard trees.

     Constructing one of the tree cages

    It's nice to think that in a hundred years time the saplings that have been planted in these cages will be a feature of the landscape overlooking Lake Windermere.

    Finished tree cage
  • Sky watching.

    13:01 03 April 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    There are days in Borrowdale when if I took photographs of the same view at hourly intervals it would almost be possible to believe they were taken over the four seasons. The following pictures were not taken like that but they do show the constantly changing skies and light which can be overlooked if we focus all our attention on lakes and mountains. All it takes is for one cloud to shift and the light changes to create a completely different experience of the landscape.

  • Happy Chinese New Year

    09:00 03 April 2015
    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

    Happy Chinese new year.

    I know it’s a bit late but happy Chinese NewYear , it’s the year of the sheep lucky numbers 2 and 7 lucky colours brown , red and purple.

    Of course every year is the year of the sheep in the Lake District , sheep have been an important part of the culture, economy and landscape here  for over a thousand years.


    Herdwick ewe and 'black' lambs

     One breed of sheep has a particularly strong connection to the area,  reportedly brought over here by the Norse Vikings , Herdwick sheep have been grazing on the Lake District Fells  ever since . They are a hardy breed , stocky, short legged and with thick wiry wool , at home in the mountains they live up there almost  year round at altitudes of up to 3000ft, without needing any supplementary feeding , their ‘ low maintenance’ has made them popular with generations of Cumbrian farmers.

    Kendal Green

     The significance of sheep farming and Herdwicks in particular to this area  is hard to overstate not only have sheep been the backbone of almost every Lake District farm since the time of the Vikings,  providing a livelihood for generations of farmers and their families,  but  the trade in sheep , lamb, mutton and wool has helped to establish important market towns like Kendal, Hawkshead and Ulverston. The wool trade supported the wealth of the Abbeys at Furness and Fountains Abbey that owned land in the Lake District in the 15th and 16th centuries, and traded as far afield as Italy !  ‘Kendal Green’ was a hardwearing woollen cloth popular in medieval England and even mentioned by Shakespeare  in Henry iv ( part 1 )

    Sheep farming and the wool trade has quite literally changed the face of the Lake District , old pack horse routes are now our main roads, we still  have narrow pack horse bridges over the becks and  the flagstone and drystone wall boundaries that we see today,  were built to keep sheep in the fields .

    Herdwick sheep sale

    The Herdwick sheep are unique in many ways ,  the ewes , because they are a mountain breed usually lamb later in the year when the weather is kinder and the grass has started growing . The higher fell farms will  start lambing in April when other lowland farms lamb in February . The purebred ewes usually have only one lamb , the  lambs are born black and  their fleece gets lighter and greyer as they get older. As I get older I find my fleece is  getting greyer as well !

    Sheep or Goat ?

    Herdwicks are definitely part sheep part goat, they are agile climbers , helpful when you have to graze on rocky crags. I have seen herdwicks climb high walls with ease and on one occasion saw a herdwick jump straight over a stock fence with barb wire on the top , just because there was the prospect of a better meal on the other side !
    Much of our South Lakes property came from Beatrix Potter, the famous  writer and illustrator of childrens books what is less well known is that she was an active farmer,  Champion Herdwick sheep breeder and later in life the President of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association. Everything she turned her hand to,  she did to the very best of her ability and sheep breeding was no different . Why she had such a passion for sheep breeding and Herdwcks in particular we don’t really know , I personally think that part of the reason was the uncanny  resemblance of the Herdwick to her father Rupert , who was always the favourite of her two parents .

    Beatrix's father Rupert is the one on the right !

    Good n ..ewes  Bad n…ewes

    So sheep have,  and will continue  to play an important role in the story of the Lake District , the National Trust even has a ‘ landlords flock ‘ of herdwicks to ensure that this happens,  but like  all things it is a question of balance .

     In recent decades the number of sheep on the fells, encouraged by  subsidieshas increased to a level that has had a negative impact . Sheep are not very selective in their grazing habits and will eat anything that is in front of them . Sweet fresh grass is preferred , but if that is not available they will eat other shrubs, flowers and young trees. Sheep in woodlands and gardens can wreak havoc in a short period of time , making it important that we maintain our woodland boundaries to a high standard and at some cost .

    Heavily grazed grassland  on the fells and the valley sides  means that there can be a very short grass sward a lack of diversity in terms of wild flowers and insects and a tendency for soil erosion  to occur with tonnes of soil washed into our becks during heavy rain . Over a long period of time this means a massive loss of habitat and a loss of carbon stored in peat .

    Sheep numbers in recent years  are starting to fall again but there is still much to do to minimise further damage and ensure more sustainable land management in the future , this will be  a real focus of our work in the Trust in the Lake District in the coming years.

  • Tree Guards and Tree Planting: The Howe Farm.

    07:00 02 April 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Rangers have recently been involved with a lot of tree planting and the construction of wooden tree guards on various Trust farms in the Windermere and Troutbeck area.

    The Howe, on the A592 Kirkstone Road, is one such farm where this work is taking place.

    This guard, under construction, is one of five in a field in which horses are kept...wider and stronger than most guards.

    Two of the guards protecting recently planted oak trees.

    A different style of guard by the stream...Troutbeck.
    Narrow and much taller.

    Another guard under construction overlooking The Howe Farm.

    Complete with elm tree.

    The last job was to replace the broken protective fence around possibly the oldest ash pollard in the area.

    Much better!

    The view from the ash pollard.
    Troutbeck Park Farm below the Troutbeck Tongue, with Yoke to the right. This farm has been the subject of several posts relating to tree planting and wood pasture.

     A close up view of this veteran tree. It has, over the years, become a precious wildlife habitat. Note the new growth from the base of the tree.
  • High Living Touch Me Not Balsam.

    16:31 28 March 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    St. Catherine's is a stronghold of the nationally scarce touch me not balsam plants which are the only food source for the rare netted carpet moth caterpillars.

    As they are annuals and sensitive ones at that, the numbers of touch me not plants can vary greatly from year to year; this correspondingly affects the annual moth populations.

    Netted Carpet Moth on Balsam leaf.
    At St. Catherine's a great deal of work has been done over the years in an attempt to maintain or increase the number of plants each year; the aim is to ensure there are plenty of plants, on which the moths lay their eggs, and plenty of plants for the caterpillars to feed on.

    An image of a Touch Me Not seedling (March 20th) about the size of a little finger nail...

    ..but what is unusual is that this seedling was spotted growing at a height of six feet on the west side of the wall at St. Catherine's.

     Altogether 30 seedlings have been seen on the wall ...

    ... amongst the moss and the ferns. 

    An image of the fully grown plant in late July showing caterpillar, flower and seed pod; when it is ready, the plant material inside the pod suddenly forms into a twisted coil and this propels the seeds far and wide.

    However it was still a surprise to find seedlings on the wall...especially so high up; to my knowledge they have not grown on this wall before.

    More posts on The Netted Carpet Moth, and the Touch Me Not Balsam plant may be found on this Blog.