Latest team news

  • Urgent action required!

    11:32 19 April 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    This last week turned out to be a perfect illustration of how unpredictable events can turn up without warning and need urgent attention.  There were in fact two in quick succession.

    One was when a member of the public reported to me a fallen tree across the path in Taylor Gill Force. Taylor Gill Force is situated on the path between Seathwaite and Sty Head, at the head of Borrowdale. When my volunteers and I arrived it was to find that the tree had fallen completely across the narrow path which is a bit of a scramble on the steepest side of the Gill.  As it had fallen, the tree had dislodged some large rocks that were hanging dangerously above the path.  The only way past would have been to scramble over or go under the tree, neither of which would have been safe.

    So I set to work with a chainsaw and we cleared the path of the tree and also moved all the loose rocks.  My volunteers did their usual hard work and we completed a really good job.  I was pleased that we had acted so quickly because, barely half an hour after we had finished, a group of young walkers came down the hill and they would have had to negotiate a difficult and dangerous obstacle.  (This is the time of year when we have lots of Duke of Edinburgh Award groups on the fells.)

    Obviously we respond as soon as we can to reports of problems that come in but sometimes we need to prioritise.  Is it a faulty gate catch that is inconvenient or is it a damaged gate catch that could cause injury?  It’s great if someone reporting a problem can show us a photograph.  This is a very large area and we do regular checks of paths, fences, stiles etc. but the unexpected can happen so information from the public makes a huge contribution to our ability to prioritise what needs to be done.

    My second ‘emergency’ of the week involved Daisy.  Jan had taken her for a training session one evening but arrived back home early with an injured Daisy.  She had returned to Jan after one of her explorations and had a sizeable wound on her leg.  It clearly needed attention so we had to take her straight to a vet where the wound was closed with 5 staples and was bandaged.  

    Quite remarkably, it has not slowed her down one little bit and she even came with us up Taylor Force Gill where she bounded up and down the rocks as she always does.

    In fact, except for enduring the minor irritation of a plastic bag to protect her dressing, she is carrying on as usual!  Hopefully that means that there will be no long-term effects.

    Daisy here.  I cut my leg.  Ah well.  I went to the vet.  Vets are lovely people.

  • Easter Fun

    09:00 18 April 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

    Easter is upon us, so soon! The mild winter has passed quickly bringing with it fair weather, some lovely sunny days and a few well earned days off for many. National Trust rangers have been busy over the winter months working on an extension to the play trail to entertain the young and old at Wray Castle. See the previous blog entry when construction first started on the trail [A new play trail for Wray Castle].

    New features added include a monstrous scramble board. Be sure to visit in a few months time when those timbers aren’t so new and grippy! 

    There are two ropes to help you up the scramble board... race  you! 
    Follow the trail through the living birch arches, balance on the fallen cherry tree, navigate your way over the stepping stones, hide away in the big den, or better still build your own even better den in the freshly woodchipped ‘den building’ area. 

    Lots of space for new dens in here!

    Here, rangers are constructing a slackline with platforms at either end.

    Have you mastered the slackline yet?
    It just goes to show though that play items need not be fixed down. Timber set aside for the slackline platforms had been used for play by some creative play trail users! 

    Fun can be had in many different ways...
    There are lots of other Easter themed activities going on at the castle too this weekend. Check out the Cadburys Easter Egg trail where proceeds to go to charitable causes and you get a yummy chocolate egg as a prize.

    The forecast is looking great. So why not give the castle a visit this weekend? It will be perfect weather to get out cycling. Did you know you can get there completely off-road from Ambleside and from the Windermere car ferry. Why not leave the car at Bowness and get the ferry over to the west shore of Windermere. Bring your bike (or hire one) and cycle away from the traffic along the lake shore. If you have a mountain bike, you could take an OS map and head up onto Claife Heights as well to make a day of it. You can get fantastic views up and down the length of Windermere. Look out for Claife Station opening up in the next few months to recreate those Victorian views.

    Don’t have a bike? Take a leisurely stroll. It only takes about an hour to walk to the castle from the car ferry or get a boat directly to the castle from Ambleside. Or why not cycle from Ambleside, it is off-road most of the way and takes you through some delightful countryside with views over to the Langdale Pikes and the Coniston fells on a clear day. There is also a very good bus service running from Hawkshead and Ambleside. Check out the Go Lakes website for more information on all the different sustainable transport options. Please avoid bringing your car; the castle car park gets very full quickly.

    Enjoy eating those chocolate eggs and spend some time burning off those calories by making your way to Wray Castle under your own steam (and have fun on the new play trail when you get there!). Have a Happy Easter and make the most of the beautiful Spring weather!

  • Natterjack Toad Guided Walks 18th and 25th April 2014

    15:54 17 April 2014
    By Jo Day

    It is illegal to disturb natterjack toads in any stage of their life-cycle without a license, a guided walk by our licensed rangers ensures the best experience of these amazing creatures.

    18th and 25th April 2014 7.30pm from our car park (Hawthwaite Lane, Roanhead, LA14 4QJ)
    The walk is about 1.5miles over uneven terrain and beach, passing water courses.  Please bring a torch and warm clothing.
    2014 The story so far...
    The evening of the 30th March was kick off for the new natterjack toad breeding season, as the males started calling beside the pools.
    It wasn't until the 7th April that we had actually recorded any spawn strings.  This is a freshly laid spawn string still formed as a double helix.  Looking into the water from above they look like black bootlaces.
    After a few warm days the spawn have separated in their jelly strands.
    A week on, since conditions have been suitable, they have ingested their jelly and have started to look like little black commas.

    Stay tuned to see our little babies grow up...
  • 'Millerground Enhancement Group'......(Community working together.)

    11:25 15 April 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Simone Backhouse, a local police officer, was keen for local schools to assist the National Trust, on a regular basis, in caring for Millerground. The following post is just one example of this.

    On Thursday afternoon, the 3rd of  April, students from Windermere School, together with members of the Windermere and Bowness Civic Society, and members of the South Lakeland District Council met up with National Trust Rangers at Millerground.

    The Two hours of work involved pulling out, and cutting back brambles on the slope above the footpath in preparation for the planting of 2200 bluebells, donated by the Windermere and Bowness Civic Society.

    This image shows a small area of the bramble choked slope to be tackled.
    Making a great start.
    Looking so much better.
    Putting the brambles into bulk bags......
    .....ready for collection.
    Two trips were needed for the National Trust Land-rover and trailer to remove all the bags. 

    An excellent afternoon's work by everyone involved.

    The following weekend the bluebells were planted by the Windermere and Bowness Civic Society.

  • Cleaner water.

    11:30 12 April 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Force Crag mine has been the focus of attention this last week.  This was the last working mine of its type when it finally closed in 1991.  In its early days it was mined for lead but latterly zinc and barites were extracted.  After closure it was taken over by the National Trust and it is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and geological SSSI (site of special scientific interest).

    The buildings and their machinery remain intact and this makes Force Crag mine a unique site.  The Trust now holds a number of open days each year and we have trained and enthusiastic volunteers to guide visitors around the site and behind some locked doors. The next three open days are:  April 17th, May 31stand June 31st.  You can find contact details here if you want to know more about these visits.

    One of the legacies of its history is that the water flowing from the mine into local water courses is contaminated with heavy metals (zinc, cadmium, lead and copper). The Trust’s Water Advisor, John Malley has been working on a nationally funded DEFRA mine-water remediation project with the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency and Newcastle University to develop a passive mine-water treatment plant to deal with the contamination.

    The build phase has now been completed and the plant is currently being commissioned.  This is a pioneering project that uses a passive-mine-water remediation scheme on a scale that has not been tried in the UK previously.  The core idea of the process is to carry out the clean-up without using chemicals or energy. You can read more about it here. For even more detail, look here.  I’ll tell you for starters that it uses old mine lagoons, limestone and processed, dried human ‘poo’!

    As all this has been underway, the Trust has continued to develop opportunities for visitors to learn more of the old mining way of life.  So I recently talked to a group of Guides about the mine.  They seemed to be particularly interested in the ‘poo’ part of the story!  A dried form of the ‘poo’ covers limestone chippings in the lagoons.  The water will percolate through that and the bacteria will help to bind the contaminating metals.  The Guides were curious about what if any smell there will be.  At this stage, we honestly don’t know how much smell these ponds will produce.  I suspect you would not want to picnic beside them but they have in fact been fenced so that passers-by cannot approach too closely.  We hope there will be no more than a little whiff of it on rare occasions.

    Many thanks due to John Malley for the photographs.

    Daisy here.  I’ve been to the pub.  It’s great but ever so tiring.  I didn’t want to get up for work the next morning!

  • Moving on from winter .....

    09:00 11 April 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

    With winter now in full retreat (we hope), we’re coming back to full volunteering life at High Wray volunteer centre. The back end of winter was spent hedgelaying on a big hedge near Coniston, helped by all manner of groups including the Fix the Fells lengthsmen and a National Trust working holiday. It’s a classic countryside task and typical of the sort of work we do here, but not by any means the only sort of thing we do.

    Hedge with a view - National Trust hedgelaying working holiday

    We recently spent a very different day with TTP (Trust the Process), one of the large drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres we work with, at the National Trust’s campsite at Low Wray. Using large logs, loads of gravel and the enthusiasm and hard work of this group we were building platforms outside four of the camping pods there. It’s quite muddy in places near the pods, so these ‘patios’ will not only give campers extra room to sit out but will also reduce the amount of mud being trod into the pods on shoes.

    TTP with one of the completed 'patios'
    The combination of being out in the fresh air, working together as a team and doing some constructive work that’ll increase people’s enjoyment of this beautiful place was a big hit with the group even if most of the mud did end up all over them!
    More mud than volunteer - the results of a hard day's work ...!
    It’s this variety of task and volunteer group that is one of the best things about our job. The contrast between different volunteers’ knowledge and experience was highlighted when a member of TTP who’d never left the city before asked what the white stuff was on the mountains. We’d had a fresh snowfall (since the path team’s last entry) – he’d been told it was snow by the other group members, but thought they were winding him up. When we confirmed it was he was amazed – even when winter has gone everywhere else it can still hang on up on the hills ….
  • Path and stream crossing at Aira Force

    12:04 07 April 2014
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    We've recently been working again at Aira Force, where amongst a lot of exciting new developments a new bridge has been put in near High Force to create a circular route and easier access onto Gowbarrow Fell.

    The new bridge

    With the new bridge in place we needed to build a section of path that would link the bridge to the original path network.

    Before starting work

    The section immediately after the bridge was just a muddy track so we moved some boulders into position to narrow the path, and create an edge, then dug out a tray for some gravel. The gravel all had to be shovelled by hand and transported to site using power barrows.

    First section of path almost completed

    As part of the path repairs we also had a stream crossing to deal with. Originally the path went over a rocky section where the river was spanned by a narrow slate (just higher up the stream in the photo below). We wanted our crossing to be large enough to get power barrows or quads across so we can more easily gain access to other sections of the path.

    Area for new stream crossing 

    The first job was to repair the stone edging next to the river, we then put in place a large plastic pipe for the river to flow through, this was a tight fit so also helped improve the structure to the crossing.

    Starting work on the stream crossing

    With the pipe now in place we covered over the gap with some large slates to create a slate bridge.

    Stream with slates in position

    The next job was to level the ground around the slate bridge. We used stone from an old, redundant, drystone wall to fill in sections of the path around the bridge to give us a good surface to gravel on.

    Ground levelled at stream crossing

    We then built up the edges with some large boulders so we could gravel over the bridge. These were cemented in place so that there would be be no chance of them moving.

    Side stones in position

    To finish off the bridge we covered it in gravel. By using gravel the slates underneath have a bit more protection from the machinery that we'll take over.

    Gravelling the stream crossing

    Finally we set to work on improving a short section of path that led from our new crossing.

    Rough section of path

    We pulled out the largest of the stones from the path and again built an edge that would help retain the gravel.

    Putting in the side stones

    With the new section gravelled we used a wacker plate to compress the gravel and form a solid surface.

    Looking down the new path

    As a finishing touch we used some topsoil and turfs left over from a previous job to help landscape around the new path and crossing point.

    The finished path
  • Small leaved lime trees - a taste of true wilderness in Coniston

    08:41 07 April 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

    Two hundred years ago, the now-peaceful woods of Coniston and Langdale would have been alive with the noise and chatter of men at work and their families, coppicing trees to produce fuel for iron smelting, raw material for charcoal burning, bark for tanning leather, and a myriad of other products for which we now rely on plastic and metal, from buttons to barrels.  Woodland management was a precise science to those woodsmen; the ‘semi-naturalancient woodland’ we enjoy today is the direct result of their work, as they encouraged the species with the most value – like oak and alder – and ‘grubbed out’ the trees that didn’t have a use.  Truly natural woodland would have a different mix of species, and by looking for some of these species that would have occurred naturally but have been almost wiped out, we can experience some fragments of real wilderness in the midst of Britain’s man-made landscape.

    Fall in love with lime

    For me, the most remarkable of these ‘lost’ species is small leaved lime.  Lime is an easy tree to love.  Folklore considers it a feminine tree, and with its graceful, slender shape and down-curved branches creating a leafy cascade in summer, that’s hard to argue with.  Woodpeckers adorn the smooth bark with orderly rows of diamond scars as they search for moisture or insects (no-one really knows).  The leaves are exquisite, irregular heart shapes the size of your palm at their very biggest, and create a mottled shade that lets the sun glitter-ball through the canopy.   

    Lime leaves, flowers, and 'bracts'
    At the height of summer, trees in full sun are covered with pale lemon flowers that exude the most intoxicating smell of the woodland year, beautiful but incredibly subtle so that it leaves you chasing after each gentle hit.  You can hear a good, sunny tree from quarter of a mile off thanks to all the bees swarming the flowers.  Coniston’s relic limes are particularly characterful as they ‘walk’ down the becks, drooping over water falls and casting their gentle shade over tranquil pools.

    A living link to the Vikings…and beyond

    We know from pollen records that before humans started to influence the British landscape, lime would have been one of the most widespread tree species, and was dominant over much of the country.  Since then, it’s been progressively grubbed out of most woods as it just didn’t have many uses for our ancestors on an industrial scale.  Anglo-Saxons did use lime for their shields, as it’s light and absorbs impacts well, and parts of its bark are fibrous and were used to make twine and rope, including on Viking longboats.  The clean, pale wood could be used for kitchen utensils and for carving – renowned wood sculptor Grinling Gibbons worked in lime, which allowed him to produce his breathtakingly intricate 3D reliefs.  You can see one at Dunham Massey in Cheshire, where I also worked as a ranger.  (I once had to hold it during a fire drill and casually asked how much it was worth – ‘priceless’, came the terse reply.)

    A bee forages on lime flowers
    Beehives placed in limewoods were reputed to produce the tastiest honey as well as the cleanest-burning beeswax for candles – elsewhere in the country, lots of limewoods that have survived are right next to abbeys, for these reasons.   But if you’ve ever tried to use lime in the wood burner to heat your house (I have), you’ll know it makes appalling firewood, and it’s not strong enough to use as structural timber or for tools.  The discovery of other sources of rope as Europeans explored the globe, like jute and hemp, was the death knell for lime in British woods, and it was grubbed out all over the place.

    Coniston’s walking trees

    A huge, 'lapsed' lime coppice stool
    There are some hidden spots around Coniston, however, where you can still find remnant lime trees amongst the managed ancient woodlands.  They’re usually tucked away up inaccessible ghylls (steep valleys with becks in the bottom), where their survival is due to the fact that it was too much work to make it worthwhile to grow and harvest other species of tree there.  Sometimes, these trees still display the classic coppice form, with a number of stems sprouting from the same ‘stool ‘ showing that they have been managed as a crop at some point. 

    Others are ‘walking trees’, demonstrating one of lime’s most fascinating ecological characteristics; where low branches bow down and touch the ground, they’ll often set roots and create a whole new tree or even an entire thicket.  As the original tree grows old and dies, the younger, genetically identical parts take over next to it, meaning that in genetic terms, ‘walking’ lime trees are probably some of the oldest living things on earth. 

    A walking lime tree - the failed branch on the left is still attached to the parent tree, but the branches have also rooted in the field creating a whole new thicket.  The rangers have fenced it off to protect the new low growth from stock.

    What’s even more remarkable here in the Lakes is that lime doesn’t readily reproduce by seed this far north; at the limit of its range, it’s just too cold to meet the exacting conditions of warmth that it needs.  So most of the remnant trees we see have probably regenerated vegetatively  - by ‘walking’ – in the same spot, time and time again since the last Ice Age.  To stand under one is to experience the pre-human ‘wildwood’, as a truly wild organism quietly forges its own path despite the long history of human intervention in woodlands.

    The tree of peace

    With such powerful ecological history, it’s no wonder that many cultures venerate lime.  To Anglo-Saxon cultures, it symbolised peace and conflict resolution, and lime trees were often used as places to meet and parley, or on boundaries.  This cultural connection continues in Northern Europe today, and it seems likely that even our recent ancestors understood something about the importance of lime on boundaries that’s since been lost to us; as well as the specimens in ghylls, there are other lime trees out in the Coniston landscape, whether in woods or fields, that have been left for reasons other than utility, but that we don’t understand. 

    A classic Coniston relic lime, wandering slowly down the ghyll.
    But I’m not telling you where they are – finding them is half the fun.  Spring is the perfect time to get out and explore ancient woodlands, when the bracken and bramble is low but the ground is full of wildflowers.  Grab a tree ID book and a map and head up some wooded becks on the east shore of Coniston.  Find a lime tree and you’ll find a living remnant of the real wilderness before humans started messing about with the landscape, and a connection to the lives and lore of our ancestors – not to mention a simply beautiful, atmospheric tree.  What more do you want from a day out?
  • Through the hedge to Bridge House.

    06:56 06 April 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Fiona Green, House Steward at Townend, has taken on the running of 17th century  Bridge House; it was reopened to the public on Thursday the third of April.

    One of Fiona's ideas was to cut a way through the beech hedge that borders the area behind Bridge House and make a new entrance; this would be a good alternative to the narrow  roadside pavement access.

    With everyone happy with the proposal, the work went ahead, and was completed before Bridge House reopened.

    Work underway.
    The way through.
    A tree stump needed to be dug out.
    Nearly there.
    Taking away the cut back beech.
    The ground has been levelled, and is being surfaced
    with crushed stone from Elterwater Quarry.
    Over two tons of stone used to resurface the walkway
    and the areas in front of the memorial benches.
     Inviting new entrance to the area behind  Bridge House...
    particularly for those going to and from Ambleside's main
    car park, or to the shops and restaurant located nearby.

  • Whatever the weather ...!

    15:34 04 April 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    A view from my roaming office (a Trust jeep!).
    Last week we had incredibly varied weather.  Warm and sunny where it was stunningly beautiful and also weather which was wild.  I love being out in wild weather. It makes you feel alive.

    Whatever the weather, the work goes on so I was out and about with Liz Guest one of our fundraisers to look at some of our next projects.  As ever, these decisions are heavily influenced by funding considerations and the search for sponsors or partners. We are constantly looking for ways to make our limited budget stretch to cover expensive work.  

    What we are hoping to do next is replace a stretch of boardwalk near Keswick and to repair and maintain more footpaths.  When it is possible to do so, we now improve accessibility so that wheelchair users, pram pushers and others with limited mobility can enjoy as much as possible of this fantastic area.  The Trust was founded to protect places of historical interest and natural beauty for ever for everybody. That’s a lot of people and a long time.

    One job that we hope to complete before Easter is some refurbishing and tidying of Bark House. This is a small, stone cottage near Ashness Bridge which has been used by the Scouts until recently when they decided to hand it back to the Trust.  So I’ll be going in with my volunteers to transform it for use by our recruiters.  If you are up there over Easter and we have managed to get it into use, just pop in for a chat.  You might even find a nice fire burning!

    Daisy here,

    Roy thinks I’m crazy just because I run everywhere.  Why walk when you can run?