Latest team news

  • Trees, flowers, birds, benches ... all in a day's work!

    08:08 01 August 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    One of the great pleasures of my job is the unexpected. I was out and about recently with Leila (our academy ranger) working on Friars Crag and in the middle of the day we were treated to the sight of a young tawny owl. They are beautiful birds and it’s good to know that they are thriving in the area.

    Leila has also been working with the forestry team on tree safety tasks along the Borrowdale valley roadside. The Stagecoach bus company operates a popular open-topped double-decker bus service in Borrowdale and they were becoming concerned about overhanging tree branches. After discussions with Maurice, our woodlands ranger, Stagecoach offered the services of one of their drivers and an open-topped bus for the day. It made it so much easier for the Trust’s foresters to work at just the right height and the bus company was happy to have encroaching branches trimmed back. As they worked from the top deck, other rangers were on the ground clearing the debris quickly and controlling the traffic. The driver could just drive on when necessary. It was a very efficient alternative to hiring an expensive ‘cherry-picker’ (mobile elevating work platform). This was a win/win situation and a great example of effective collaboration.

    We have also been out and about replacing old seats.

    Working on one of them on the western shore of Derwentwater gave me the chance to see the improvement that followed on from some footpath work we did a while ago. Fifteen or so years ago there had been a widening track across some boggy ground. After installing a boardwalk, the vegetation alongside the path regenerated quickly and it was fantastic to see the number of plants re-colonising the area now.

    Another gratifying part of the job was to meet a couple who were packing up early one morning after a night ‘wild’ camping. They were a great example of how to do it and they left the site immaculate. As they walked away, they left no sign that they had ever been there and they had had a great night. That is how we want people to enjoy the landscape.

    Daisy here, 

    I’ve been playing in the wildflowers. I can run really fast.

  • Rogues, Raiders and Romans

    08:29 31 July 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

    The Lake District attracts some 15 million visitors each year and is one of the most visited areas in the UK.  Step back in time a little and and it might not have been the great place it is today to have a holiday.

    When the Romans came here some 2000ish years ago, they soon discovered that the Lakes could be a harsh place to travel in.  Soldiers and workers that serviced Hadrians Wall often had to travel from Galava Fort, near Ambleside, to Fort Brougham at Penrith. They were so worried about ambushes and attacks from roaming raiders that they went to great lengths to build a road on top of the ridge of High Street. With the route being above the treeline, it was safer for the traveling Legions to spot trouble.
    High Street (The cloud ridden,long ridge in the background)

    Centuries after the Roman Empire crumbled, various settlers arrived in the area, such as the Celts and then the Vikings, but it's not known for sure whether they came in peacefully or took the land forcefully. The Lakes and Cumbria then saw a power struggle between the English and the Scots, with both parties regularly sending raiders over the border.  There were the Border Reivers, that would take cattle and livestock from across both sides of the border and sometimes they would even kidnap members from wealthy families and hold them to ransom.  With the Lakes being hard to police and the law almost impossible to enforce, locals had to protect their livelihoods by any means possible.

    Here in the South Lakes in the early 1800's, one man who took full advantage of the remoteness and isolation of the rural communities was a fellow called Lanty (Lancelot) Slee.  A local farmer and quarryman by day, an illegal whisky distiller and smuggler by night.  He spent most of his time in Little Langdale and reportedly had Stills at Low Arnside, Hallgarth, Greenbank Farm, Moss Rigg Quarries and also one up at the Three Shires Stone, at the top of Wrynose Pass.  Apparently, if you know where to look, there's metal work from the Stills to be found at some of these places.
    Hallgarth, Little Langdale

    Most of the moonshine was sold to the locals but large amounts were bottled up and taken to the port of Ravenglass.  With the whisky sold, Slee would buy tobacco and illegally poached Salmon to take back to Little Langdale.  The goods were carried on ponies and whilst ascending along Wrynose and Hardknott Passes, he had to be very careful to avoid the traveling excisemen, with Slee often having to hide in the boulders up there until they passed.
     Boulder Fields on top of Wrynose

    Again, staying here in the South Lakes, over at Claife Heights there was a house of ill-repute.  Market traders came from all round to sell their goods at Hawkshead and on the return journey, visit the house with their newly gained money.  If you walk through the woods and look carefully, you can still see the foundations of the house in the ground.
    Interpretation of one of the workers (they weren't good looking but they were cheap)

    With the onset of Industry in the Lakes, better travel links arrived and this in turn led to the first tourists coming to the area.  Since then, tourism is now the biggest source of income in the Lakes and it's not hard to see why people want to visit the area (now that it's a bit safer than it used to be).

  • St. Catherine's Parkland...a diverse landscape mosaic.

    00:30 28 July 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

     Big Yellow Taxi, written and sung by Joni Mitchell, was released in 1970. It was a song expressing grave concerns for the environment. The chorus goes, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone….." 

    It is estimated that ninety seven percent of our wildflower meadows have been lost in just the last seventy years.

    With its wildflower rich grassland, open grown mature trees, and wetland, the parkland at St. Catherine's is a rare glimpse of what was once commonplace.

    Parkland at St. Catherine's as seen from the wetland area in the South West corner. The ground vegetation is very varied  and colourful at this time of year. (late July)
    A young oak planted up in-front of a mature
    oak. It will in time take its place.
    Parkland consists of open grown trees.
    (rich in lichens and beetles)
    A limited number of cattle grazing the parkland at St. Catherine's is key to maintaining such a diversity of species.

    Credit must be given to the National Trust tenant farmer for his conscientious management of this land which is under an HLS scheme. 

    Cattle do not graze vegetation as close down to the ground as sheep. Unlike sheep, cattle use their tongues to pull tufts of vegetation into their mouths. This often leaves tussocks which  benefit insects and small mammals. As they have such wide mouths, cattle do not overgraze or target certain species of plants. This results in a highly diverse habitat.

    Cattle are excellent at keeping back some of the rank vegetation. In areas where they have broken up the ground, seeds are more easily able to germinate. Here an oak tree seedling is a possible veteran of the future!

    Bumblebee on Betony, St. Catherine's. The wildflowers here offer a sustained source of pollen and nectar for the bees during the long Summer months.

    Many acres of perennial rye grass have taken the place of  the wildflower meadows. This has had a devastating impact on bumblebee numbers.  At least two bumblebee species are thought to have become extinct recently with others such as the Great yellow bumblebee and the Shrill carder bee on the brink. 

     David Attenborough once said,"Bumblebees are key factors in our wildlife. If they disappear many of our plants will not bear fruit." 

     A bumblebee is covered in pollen on a Cat's Ear flower at St. Catherine's in late July.

     Bees are needed to pollinate plants BUT plants are needed for bees to pollinate!

    The presence of Quaking Grass is an indicator that unimproved native grassland is being well managed; it is good to see it at St. Catherine's.

    A grass roots level view of Harebells, Betony, and Meadowsweet.

    Dead wood is left to rot within the parkland. it is a valuable habitat for many invertebrates, some very rare. Here a fallen tree is surrounded by Birdsfoot Trefoil, Black Knapweed and thistles.

    Foxgloves with mature parkland trees and younger trees in tree pens in the background.

    Purple loosestrife in the
    wetland area.


    Self heal.

    Just some of the many species of wildflowers to be seen in the parkland at St. Catherine's in July.

    Now...any idea what this one is!?

    In the wetland area is a stand of "nationally scarce" Touch-Me-Not Balsam which the rare netted Carpet Moth depends upon for its survival; the UK Biodiversity Action Plan classes the moth as a priority species. It is listed as vulnerable in the Red Data Book.

    The Touch-Me-Not is growing up against the dry stone wall in the south west corner of the parkland. Invasive non-native Himalayan Balsam is eradicated every year from this area to stop it encroaching, and ultimately displacing the Touch-Me-Not.

    Hopefully this post has given some indication of the rich biodiversity that is contained within this small area of parkland called St. Catherine's!

  • A 16th century dam.

    17:13 27 July 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    I’ve just had a really good day on one of my trips to monitor the dam up Newlands Valley. As it is a structure that is part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, I check its condition on a regular basis. At the moment there is some water flowing from the toe of the dam wall so it appears to have sprung a leak.

    It might just be water that is overflowing from either side of the top of the wall and then tracking across and down to the toe of the dam – that’s my best guess. Perhaps when the water level is lower during a long dry period, we will find that there is no apparent leakage. The trust archaeologist, Jamie and our water advisor John have both been informed and will also be monitoring the situation.

    We have consulted with the Environment Agency about the potential if ever the retaining wall should fail catastrophically. It is so far up the valley that the volume of water held in the dam would not be a danger downstream. Even so, we do want to protect it as part of the area’s heritage. The dam was originally constructed by the Elizabethan miners who worked the Goldscope mine in Newlands valley. Water from the dam was channelled along a leat to turn water wheels that powered the machinery they needed.

    Its main purpose now is to supply drinking water to the Trust’s High Snab Farmso Tom, the farmer, will also be monitoring it. The water is filtered as it leaves the dam so I cleaned out the filter while I was up there. It is piped down the valley and any remaining particulates are filtered out as it goes into a header tank at the farm. It then undergoes UV treatment and the result is the sweetest drinking water you could wish for.

    This is one of those tasks that is a great pleasure. High Snab is a great farm to visit. It is immaculate; Tom is always welcoming and the kettle is always ‘on’.

    Daisy here,

    We’ve been to High Snab dam. Jan came with us. It was great. I ran backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards across the top of the dam. It was great.
  • Hot Bedroom Action !

    14:32 24 July 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

    I’d like to share with you a video I took recently in my bedroom of some frenzied activity.
    I live in a National Trust house ; like many Trust houses it is quite old and being in a rural area we inevitably share the house with ‘uninvited guests ‘  some welcome some less welcome . Slugs, spiders , ants,  wasps and  toads are all regular visitors.  During the night there are strange noises coming from inside the walls scratching, scuffling noises with the occasional loud  ‘boing’ . I re-assure myself that these are probably just mice in cavities in the wall , not sure about the ‘boing’ I imagine that they have a trampoline in there too !  

    Probably the most welcome visitors arrive in late April / early May . It was 26 April this year when the House Martins arrived  on warm winds driven North from  Africa.
    The nesting begins immediately both adults build cup shaped mud nests on the underside of the eaves where the roof overhangs the wall. Some re-use and rebuild old nests, others ( presumably the young from last year ! )  build new ones using the mud gathered from the edge of field ditches and pools. Most of the nests are on East and South  facing walls but not in direct sunlight as this dries the nest out and can lead to nest collapse and overheating of young  chicks in the nest.
    There are generally 4 or 5 eggs in a nest and can be 2 sometimes 3 broods in a year. Both adults incubate the eggs and  feed the young on flying insects , flies , aphids and beetles . They are fast and agile flyers.

    The attached video shows two of the young House Martins from  the second brood leaving the nest. It’s fascinating watching the adults luring their young out of the nest for the first time , some take flight straight away others hang for ages to the side of the nest before letting go.

    The unusual nest in the video is one that I did a makeshift repair on last year. The nest collapsed and the young birds fell out , so I had to put a bit of rubber matting under the nest  to support it and then replace the two chicks. It seemed to work .

    These birds will be around until late Sept , early Oct if it warms up,  then they will head South to Africa . Strangely no one seems to know where they spend the Winter .

    Enjoy the sights and sounds of the young birds on their early flight . If you want to see more you can take a walk on the west shore of Windermere near the Car ferry, where you’ll see swallows and House Martins feeding  . Spend some time at Hill Top the home of Beatrix Potter in Near Sawrey and you are likely to see Swallows , House Martins and Swifts around the village at this time of year.
  • Pitching the path at Millbeck Farm

    14:28 24 July 2015
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    We've recently been working on a section of path next to Millbeck Farm in Great Langdale. The path had some old pitching around the gate but this was in need of replacing and much of the rest of the path had been disturbed during excavations for the new hydro project.

     Before starting work

    The repairs were relatively straightforward except for a small section underneath a veteran Yew tree. To cause as little disturbance as possible to the tree we moved some large boulders into position to form the edge of the path. This meant we could raise the path over the roots and not have to dig through them. Luckily there was still a digger on site after the hydro work so we had the rocks in place much more quickly than if we'd had to move them by hand.

     Section under the old Yew

    In time as the Yew grows it's likely that we may have to reset some of the stones, so we'll keep a close watch on things.

     Pitching under the Yew

    After a couple of weeks we'd replaced the path from beneath the Yew tree and up through the new gate.

     Repairing the path near the gate

    We brought in some extra topsoil that was being used for landscaping around the intake of the hydro-electric scheme and put some grass seed down, to give the path a good chance to recover.

     Most of the landscaping completed

    After just a few weeks time the new section of path was looking much improved.

    Finished path
  • Save our Sidney

    13:19 23 July 2015
    By Ivan Corlett

    To misquote one of the most memorable phrases of the Sixties, ‘Coniston, we have a problem’.

    Don’t worry, Gondola is not about to sink, but Sid the Sea Serpent is poorly - we’re sending out an SOS to help Save Our Sidney.

    To be more accurate, it’s an SOS to ‘Swap our Sidney’ because what we really need is a new Sid.

    Sid, in case you don’t know, is the golden sea serpent figure that sits on the prow of Gondola giving the boat an extra star quality.

    Gondola at Brantwood jetty

    We couldn’t ever envisage Gondola without Sid. It would be like a Rolls Royce without the Silver Lady. Like the Houses of Parliament without Big Ben. Like Marilyn Monroe without her beauty spot. Like the Venus De Milo without arms. Ok, we’d better scrub that last one, but you know what I mean, Gondola just wouldn’t be Gondola without Sid.

    Unfortunately Sid is no longer a young serpent. Time in the open air on Coniston Water has taken its toll. Despite the fact that he still looks ok on the surface, underneath there’s too much rot for us to be able to patch him up again.

    Sidney the Sea Serpent out on the water

    The only answer is to source a new Sidney, but the problem we have is a lack of funds. A new Sidney doesn’t come cheap and it’s not an amount that can be absorbed within the general running costs of Gondola.

    So we’ve set up a fundraising drive to raise £5000 for the new Sid and we’re looking for donations. We’ll have a collecting box on board Gondola and in other locations dotted around Coniston. We’ve also adopted 21st century technology to help generate funds – you can now donate by TEXT.

    Donate by text

    Text GOND15 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 towards the restoration of Gondola’s Sidney the Sea Serpent. If you would like to donate a different amount simply replace the ‘£5’ with the figure you wish to donate - £1, £2, £10, £20, etc.

    [National Trust Registered Charity Number 205846. 100% of your donation will go towards the replacement of Sidney the Sea Serpent. Please obtain the bill payer’s permission. NT Supporter Services Centre 0344 800 1895.]

    Front view of Sid

    Just look at that face – how could you resist!

  • Tree TV - for tree geeks everywhere

    10:10 17 July 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

    It's no secret to anyone here at South Lakes that I really, really love the rare small leaved lime trees hidden away in Coniston's gills. These beautiful trees are a direct link to the pre-human 'wildwood' - read more in my old blog post here.

    Recently I had the chance to share my love for lime in a different format when Rob, our community ranger, made this atmospheric film one sunny summer's day. Naturally it's mortifying to watch myself on screen but it's great to get the message out about these time-travelling trees. Thanks Rob!

  • Dora's Field. Invasive Control Work.

    07:40 17 July 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    A concerted effort has recently been made to rid Dora's Field of invasive plants, namely Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam. Countryside Rangers from St. Catherine's and High Close with help from volunteers and a work experience student combined forces to deal with this problem.  

    Japanese Knotweed has spread alarmingly quickly... indeed have stands of Himalayan Balsam in Dora's Field.

    Work experience student, Luke with arms full of Himalayan Balsam heading for the fire site.

    Academy Ranger, Pete with volunteer, Sue dragging down a bulk bag full of Himalayan Balsam. Laura is in the background dealing with the Knotweed.

    Volunteer Coordinator, Greg, who volunteers to do this role, is about to bag up some knotweed ready to be burnt on site.

    The cut stems of Knotweed are now ready for...

    ... an application of  Glyphosphate; it travels down the hollow stems to the rhizomes (sprouting root system) with devastating results. It is a time consuming process but highly effective in eradicating this pernicious weed.

    Cutting back the stems will also help to exhaust the rhizomes but it may take several seasons to accomplish!

    Burning up!

    There was time to strim the path...

    ...and 'tidy up' with the leaf blower.

    To sum up, a difficult task was made manageable through good team work.
  • King Pocky's Regatta

    09:31 16 July 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Early morning start.

    Well, we are all just about recovered from the long hours of setting up and dismantling King Pocky’s Derwentwater Regatta. (Look for the short video of the 2015 event.)

    King Pocky was Joseph Pocklington who, in the 18th century bought Derwent Island and had the large house built. He then designed his regatta for local people to either take part in water-based activities or enjoy a fair on Crow Park. We have tried to recreate the spirit of fun and mayhem of his vision. We didn’t sink pontoons in the lake so that horses could race between the island and shore. We didn’t go as far as a mock cannon attack from the island to repel local invaders but we did fire a small cannon from Crow Park at intervals! However, there were many other fun activities both on water and on shore.

    There were many ways to participate in the action including dragon boat racing and boarding. For landlubbers there were craft activities and traditional fairground rides. Spectators could just enjoy the festival atmosphere and sightings of the occasional pirate, Georgian or Viking.

    This is the third year since the revival of the regatta and it is rapidly growing in size and popularity. I spoke to many people over the weekend and all were agreed that it was hugely enjoyable.  Seeing so many people having a great time makes all the long days worthwhile.

    Daisy here,

    It’s been the regatta.  I don’t like the cannon. It’s too noisy.