Latest team news

  • Wakey Wakey, Rise and Shine

    11:06 26 August 2014
    By Ivan Corlett

    Those of you who have stood on the jetty at Coniston Pier awaiting the first Gondola sailing of the day at 11am may think that the crew have only just turned up, flicked a switch and sailed Gondola serenely round the bay from her berthing point at Pier Cottage.

    Oh no, no, no. If only it was that simple. Like a prima donna actress, it takes quite a lot of organisation and effort to get Gondola looking her best and ready for action in a morning.

    The crew turn up at 8am to start the day’s work. Admittedly, the first task of the day involves switching the kettle on, but whilst we drink our tea we sort out the allocation of duties, discuss any items for special attention that day and review the latest communications from National Trust HQ.

    No sooner have we done that than it’s time to open up Gondola.

    Opening up

    We have to get the fire going early for the steam engine so the first job is to remove the chimney cap which keeps out any overnight rain.

    Removing the chimney cap

    And then build the fire with screwed up paper and small pieces of the environmentally friendly blazer logs (it’s not rocket science!).

    Preparing the fire

    Whilst Dave, our new volunteer engineer, takes on the job of firestarter, our other new recruit Jack makes the place look spick and span, firstly with the hoover

    Hoovering up

    And then he begins cleaning the brasses.

    Cleaning the brasses

    Meanwhile Greg and Paul load two barrow loads of blazer logs.

    Loading blazer logs

    And Jack cleans more brasses

    Polishing more brasses

    Peter fixes the steam whistle to the chimney, attaches Gondola’s bell and puts out the red ensign.

    Attaching the steam whistle

    Attaching the bell

    Putting out the flag

    As Helmsman for the day, Peter has overall responsibility for the boat. He runs through a series of safety checks, tests the PA system and does a VHF radio check with our local coastguard at Liverpool.

    Finally, it’s time to pop back to the Gondola office for another cup of tea whilst the crew change out of their civvies and into their Gondola-branded outfits, and (you guessed it) Jack polishes the last of the brasses.

    Polishing more brass

    And then we’re ready for the off, as another day finally ‘begins’.

    Ready for departure

  • A Day on Derwent Island.

    21:28 22 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson



    Reliable as ever, the Yorkshire volunteers have just been for one of their two annual visits.  It’s always good to see familiar faces and also to meet a few new ones.


    This time we went across to do some work on Derwent Island.  The plan was to cut back some rhododendrons to bring them under control.  The unplanned work was to try to get into the secret room that our buildings manager and I had found when we were surveying the cellars of the house to make sure that they would be adequately ventilated when a new gas heating system is installed.  It had been walled off so long ago that I knew nothing about it and I think I know the island and house pretty well.




    The wall is quite substantial in construction but has not been keyed into the side walls of the passage.  It isn’t load-bearing in any way so its only use seems to be to block off the room behind it.  Whilst the Yorkshire group worked clearing the rhododendrons, I took some time to remove some cobbles from the wall so that I could pop my camera in for some pictures.




    As you can see, there’s nothing obvious in the photos to suggest why it was blocked off with such a wall so we are still speculating about it.  I’ll let you know if there are further developments.



    As usual, the Yorkshire volunteers group did a terrific job so many thanks to them.  These are people who are very experienced and highly motivated.  They can see what needs doing and just get on with it.  It’s also good fun to work with them.

    Daisy here,



    I’ve been on my first full weekend training.  It was great but very tiring and I came back with Labrador tail again.  It was really sore but the vet made it better.
  • Stinky our Minke

    13:07 20 August 2014
    By Jo Day


    The initial sighting of our whale
     On the 17thJuly  2014 a dog walker reported a dead whale that had washed up on the beach.  Having experienced reports of a killer whale the year before, which actually turned out to be a habour porpoise, we weren’t really expecting to find what we did.

    In fact an 8.3m whale, which at this point believe to be a minke whale, had kicked the bucket and landed on our beach.
  • A house with secrets.

    09:39 20 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson


    Having had a good holiday, I was ready to go when I returned to work.  The big event of the last week was the annual Derwentwater Regatta weekend so there was plenty to do helping to set that up.  This year we had a busy Saturday with lots of people joining in what was on offer.  Unfortunately the weather forecast for the Sunday was not good and that probably deterred some people.  Nevertheless, those who decided to brave the weather found that it wasn’t as bad as predicted and they had a good time.


    This year I just couldn’t find the time to take photographs during the regatta but I’ll post some from the Friday when we were setting up.  There’s also one of the sunset reflected on the lake as I walked home at about 9 pm.  Could there be a better way to end a working day?


    As it was a regatta, a lot of things on offer were water activities as you would expect but there were others for landlubbers.  For the first time, we offered Frisbee golf and this proved to be very popular with small children right through to some rather competitive adults!


    Earlier in the week I made a trip over to the house on Derwent Island with one of our buildings managers.  The house will soon have a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) system installed.  LPG is heavier than air so we need to be sure that, should there be any leakage, there is good ventilation and it cannot accumulate under the house. I knew of the existence of a passage under the cellar floor that had been blocked off sometime in the past.  So we lifted some of the floor slabs and dropped down to explore the passage.  What I didn’t know is that we would find a room that has been blocked off.




















    So, I will soon be going back with my team of volunteers who come annually from Yorkshire and we will set about clearing debris and hopefully will be able to enter this room we didn’t know existed.  It’s all rather intriguing because we have no idea what, if anything, we will find inside it.  I’ll let you know on the blog as soon as there is anything to report so keep following.

    Daisy here,












    I’ve been to Derwent Island. It’s always great going to Derwent Island.  I’ve got two friends there.  They’re Labradors as well.  They’re younger than me but I can outrun them easily.


  • Holiday time.

    15:27 14 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson



    I’m not long back from my summer holiday.  Jan and I went to Brittany to cycle and camp. It was my first visit to the area and I am now a big fan.  The roads were quiet but the few wagon and car drivers we encountered drove courteously and safely around cyclists.  There is a superb network of cycle tracks along canal tow-paths and disused railway lines and they are all in good condition.  We found some great camp sites that were well maintained and cheap. The landscape was stunning and there was lots of interest to see.  The people were friendly and welcoming and the weather was kind to us.

                        





    The area is dotted with historic villages and towns and mediaeval architecture.  The high spot was a visit to Mont Saint-Michel, a small island just off the coast of Normandy.  This is a World Heritage site with about 3 million visitors each year so we made sure that we arrived early to see some of it before it became very crowded. There is so much to see here from its impressive appearance as you approach across the causeway to the smallest details to be found on many of the buildings.  We took an English language tour of the Abbey but otherwise just spent hours exploring and discovering for ourselves.  It really is worth a visit.























             


    We also thoroughly enjoyed the culture of a good lunch with a glass of wine followed by some relaxation in the afternoon.  Jan even took the opportunity to enjoy a second breakfast – not a mid-morning snack or elevenses but a second breakfast!  What more could you want? It was a really good, relaxing holiday.

    Second breakfast!

    As a closing note, I’ll mention that one of our young foresters has moved to pastures new. He has been signed up by Carlisle United so will now be working at ground level rather than swinging in trees!  We hear he is enjoying his new job and wish him well.



    Daisy here.  Jan’s Mum and Dad came to look after me.  They’re nice people.  They took me walking in the mornings and in the evenings. It was great. And I went to Catbells with them.
  • New look signs for bygone times. Fresh interpretation and a reminder of the work done at Ambleside Roman Fort.

    15:30 13 August 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Ambleside Roman Fort, (aka... Galava), is situated at the northern end of Windermere. It is understood to have been built in the second century during Hadrian's reign. 500 infantry men (a cohort) were stationed there to guard the road between Brocavum (Brougham) and Glannaventa (Ravenglass). 
    With its large granaries, the fort was likely to have been used as a supply base.

    Over the course of two weeks in the summers of 2011 and 2012,  teams of volunteers, NT conservation builders, NT rangers and archaeologists worked together to consolidate the remains of the fort.  

    Windermere Reflections provided funding for the entire project so thanks to them the work was able to go ahead.

    Consolidation Work.

    The indistinct  foundations prior to consolidation work.

    Consolidation work consists of initially removing the 
    turf covering the low walls that remain of the fort.

    The next stage is to scoop out the earth between the
    stones as seen in the left hand side of the image.
    Surplus soil and turf was used to repair erosion
    scars on the lake shore.

    The final stage was to put a stone capping in place, bonded
    with a lime rich mortar or cement. The word cement is
    derived from "opus caementicium" a term that the Romans
    used to describe masonry that resembles concrete; it was
    made from crushed rock with burnt lime used as a binder.

    Celebrating after completing the work.
    Consolidation not only strengthens the remains, it also
    gives a clearer indication of how the fort was laid out. 

    Improving Access.


    A new gateway was installed linking Borrans Park and
    the Roman Fort.

    A rock breaker was needed to tackle a large boulder that
    was in the way.

    The gate is designed for large mobility scooters,
    improving access for all. 

    Geophysical Survey.

    Geophysical survey of the surrounding area took place
    in the summer 2013.

    New Interpretation.

    The final stage of the project was to remove the old signs and
    put in place splendid new interpretation signs. 

    The signs newly arrived at Borrans Barn.

    The oak signs were treated with several coats 
    of protective teak oil before installation. 

    Jamie Lund, National Trust archaeologist and project
    leader, breaking up one of the old concrete plinths on
    which the old signs were mounted.

    Cumbria National Trust Volunteers digging out more
    of the concrete plinths.

    The large heavy plinth is out of the ground
    and awaiting removal.


    Six of these concrete plinths were dug out by Trust
    rangers and volunteers. A big job in itself!  To avoid 
    overloading the trailer only two were taken away at a time.

    The old...

    and the new!

    Digging holes for one of the larger signs.

    The new sign is in position and Cumbria NT volunteers
    are about to replace the turf around its base.

    The first visitors arrive to have a look.


    The new signs have made a huge impact....

    with many more people visiting the Roman Fort.

    Altogether 6 signs were put in position on National Trust
    land and 2 signs on SLDC land at Borrans Park. 
  • Peppa Pig and 'Dig the City'!

    08:04 08 August 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

    This week the South Lakes Rangers were sent to Dig the City......sounds dramatic doesn't it?  Almost sounds a little dangerous too.  I mean, lets  be honest it's not very often we're let loose beyond Wray Castle.  So to let 6 Rangers loose in the City Centre of Manchester, armed with nothing more than some enthusiasm, kite kits, a bit of moss and armfuls of '50 things to do' booklets....Could be either a stroke of genius or a potential front page of The Westmorland Gazette!

    Rangers love to dig.......
    The good news is we've done it all before, the Lead Ranger offered ice cream to keep us going throughout the day and Peppa Pig was once more going to be around.  What more could we need?!

    Sarah gave Peppa Pig a kite last year


    But what actually is Dig the City?  Their website tells us it's 'nine days of gardens galore, pop up picnics, and masses to do and dig for kids', in short Manchester's urban gardening festival!  For us at the National Trust it's a great opportunity to get out of where we know, to share what we know.   For us Lake District Rangers it's certainly a little bit different to what we're used to!

    National Trust stand, busy busy!
    Focusing mainly on our '50 Things To Do Before You're 11 3/4' we gave kids the opportunity to make mud pies, make and fly a kite, walk barefoot, play a grass trumpet and create a home for some bugs.  With Peppa Pig being around there were plenty of eager little people and we were all kept busy throughout the day.  So much so we ran out of kite kits, the material for bug houses was running low and ice cream wasn't purchased (plenty of coffee however!).  Luke didn't seem to mind as he was having lots of fun making mud pies!

    Mud pie fun!
    Never fear however there was one thing that was not forgotten, with a wee nod from security, Sarah once more headed off to meet Peppa Pig, hurrah!  Last year was kites, this year Peppa got a bug house, seems she slowly but surely ticking off the 50 things herself!

    PEPPA
    Now although the South Lakes staff have done there turn, never fear there is still time left to Dig the City, and there is definitely plenty to see.  If you've got kids there will still be 50 things activities on the Trust stand over the weekend and is a great place to start your day.  Meanwhile we're safe back in the Lakes, the Westmorland Gazette weren't called and we're well and truly back to digging what we know and where we know it!

    South Lakes staff digging it! 

    Back to what we're used to...!
    By Sarah
    Follow us on twitter @ntlakesfells and @ntsouthlakes

    Ps Thanks to the Wooly Rug Company for donating some materials!


    Nine days of gardens galore, pop-up picnics and masses to do and dig for kids – join us for Manchester’s urban gardening festival. - See more at: http://www.digthecity.co.uk/about/#sthash.tSwGccLg.dpuf
     
  • Plantations on Ancient Wood Pasture

    10:38 07 August 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Following on from my Cows + Trees = Wood Pasture blog last year, this update describes how the work is progressing in Ullswater to restore an area of ancient wood pasture; the monster machinery being used and the discovery of a Champion amongst the forest. 

    High up above Gowbarrow, looking down Ullswater.


    In case you missed the previous related blog I'll just quickly recap:


    Wood pasture is, on a European scale, a very important habitat for biodiversity due to the ancient open grown trees that are found within it. These trees can only grow to this size if given the space, and without competition (which woodland trees suffer from) should live to a very old age giving incredible continuity of habitat.
    Wood pasture is grazed land, generally upland and rougher, but definitely unimproved (ie not been fertilised). This gives a very diverse range of sun-loving plants growing between the trees. Grazing is best done with traditional breeds of hardy cows as their eating habits give a variety of heights and plant species and the bovine numbers are kept low to allow tree regeneration to happen, but not so much that a closed canopy woodland will develop.
    This habitat, which Franz Vera (2000) describes as savannah is what Britain looked like before Neolithic man had his influence. Wall-to-wall tree cover over the UK was not the case.

    In a Nutshell...
    Open grown trees = very, very good
    Cows used for grazing (low numbers, traditional breeds) = very good
    Wood pasture habitat where above is found = very important, in Europe.

    A view of Gowbarrow Park SSSI taken from Gowbarrow fell. In the foreground is Collier Hag, behind it Stalking House and to the right - towards the lake - is alder dominated wood pasture.

    What's Going, in Ullswater

    Work in progress at New Planting


    Contractors have started to fell the conifer plantations which were planted in the 60's at New Planting, Collier Hag, Stalking House and Yew Crag plantations. This is around 12ha of mixed conifers such as Japanese larch, hybrid larch, Norway spruce, western hemlock and douglas fir along with some broadleaf 'non-natives' such as sycamore, beech and nothofagus (southern beech). The conifer element adds up to at least 3,500m3 of saleable timber to be removed, and to give a comparison, an Olympic sized swimming pool holds about 2,500m3 of water.

    Clearing an access route through Collier Hag to get to Stalking House which was felled off first.

    What Will be Left...


    We shall be retaining a few so called non-natives to become open grown and provide further habitat niches. With the possibly of climate change having a big impact on some native tree species, it might be wise to keep some more exotic species, just in case. Some conifers will however remain; Scots pine -a native - will be left in places and some lovely open grown larch trees with their twisted, lichen covered branches will also be kept.

    New Planting after conifer removal, showing plenty of native trees which can now grow to maturity.


    Completing the Jigsaw


    The plantations are islands, or PAWP (Plantations on Ancient Wood Pasture, as I call them) within a site designated as SSSI by Natural England for its wet woodland and ancient wood pasture habitat. Our hope is that over time the areas where conifers once stood will, by natural regeneration (nat regen), not become woodland but a savannah - a mix of widely spaced trees and sun loving plants, open areas and shaded areas, veteran trees and young saplings. Once this has happened the former PAWP areas can be coloured in to complete the SSSI site as a whole 50ha chunk, 12ha of it (24%!) having been restored.

    A benefit of access to the plantations was the 'bashing' of bracken by the harvester. We expect alder to colonise this strip quite rapidly.


    The PAWP areas won't look like big brown scars on the landscape, because the NT has over the years been thinning parts of the plantations and slowly opening up native and veteran trees which were surrounded by  conifers or non-natives and getting shaded out. The ground has some floristic diversity (herbs, mosses, ferns) already and the historic thinning work has created some nice sunny glades.

    
    Oak trees retained in the foreground and larch being taken out behind - their stumps already hidden by bracken, bramble and brash.


    Many excellent ancient (over 400 years old) and veteran (full of wildlife features such as holes, cracks etc) trees are on the PAWP sites and a surprising amount of natural tree regen already exists, with oak, rowan, birch and hawthorn just waiting for the day when the conifer barrier is removed from their view. Luckily the ancient trees have had the conifers thinned around them over the years - called halo thinning - so they won't be suddenly shocked by intense heat and light of the sun, or blow over in the next gale.

    A veteran ash tree within Collier Hag. Halo thinning has kept this tree open and healthy.




    Big Boys Toys

    Big trees and lots of them meant big machines to enable the timber to be removed off site quickly and easily. The plantations are non-designated islands within the designated SSSI so working with big machines in the conifers was perfectly acceptable. In some cases a big machine can cause less damage as it has the power to get around and not get stuck. An under-powered machine can cause a lot of damage as it churns up the ground trying to drive around and shift heavy loads of timber. Despite the size and capability of these monsters the weather was still a big factor, and to avoid ground damage in wet weather the machines would not be used until conditions were dry enough again.

    See a video of the harvester in action at http://youtu.be/ktyBk4ceFas


    Looking at the business end of a harvester.

    Specialist equipment fit for the job.

    A Valtra tractor with a roof-mounted grab and forwarder trailer.

    A skidder, for winching and dragging long lengths of (unconverted) timber down to a level site.

    Once at the roadside, the converted lengths of timber are loaded up and taken away to sawmills.


    Removing the conifers is only part of the story - to complete this restoration a great amount of work needs to be done on removing old boundaries.

    Brand New Woodland Archaeology


    A person who worked with trees in a woodland was called a Collier. The name Collier Hag plantation at Gowbarrow Park suggests a woodland (before the conifers were planted) which was worked for a living by people who might have made charcoal from the coppiced alder trees. The wood was burned without air to make charcoal on flat excavations now called charcoal hearths. These hearths are important archaeological sites and are protected from damage.

    We fenced off three known charcoal hearths at the New Planting site so that forestry operations did not damage this historic woodland archaeology.

    The site of a historic charcoal hearth, marked out prior to work starting.


    The wet ground at Gowbarrow Park is perfect for alder trees which like to have their roots wet all year round. Alder wood is particularly good for the production of charcoal, which was transported around the Lakes to lime kilns for the production of quick-lime. Alder is a great coppice tree which means it can be repeatedly cut down and regrown - and at Gowbarow Park there are large remnants of these coppiced areas called coupes.

    But what about excavations carried out today for woodland management? At New Planting a large flat area was created to convert (cut into short lengths) timber ready to be taken to a stacking area by the road. Does this new converting area count as woodland archaeology? If left would experts in 150 years time be protecting this from damage?!

    A 10x25m flat area was excavated in a bracken bed at New Planting. Is this creation of woodland archaeology?

    And Finally.....A New Champion?

    Whilst out marking trees I came across this magnificent sweet chestnut tree high up in a far corner of the SSSI site. Measuring possibly 30m high and 122cm wide this might in fact be a new county champion in terms of its height. To be sure I will be looking on the Champion Tree Database on the Tree Register web site and hopefully someone will be able to verify the measurements. I'm confident we have another champion tree to add to our already big list of 46 Champion Trees for the Windermere, Troutbeck, Ullswater, Grasmere & Langdale area....but watch this space to find out if it really is!

    Volunteer surveyor - David - stood next to the huge sweet chestnut tree found above Stalking House plantation.

    A view of the sweet chestnut which could be up to 30m high - a county champion.


    Look out for Part 3 of this series which will be focussing on the wildlife at Gowbarrow Park SSSI.

    Ben Knipe
    Woodland Ranger







  • Thursday 07 August

    07:44 07 August 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    If you go down to the woods today…. You’re sure to come across a giant Red Squirrel. Maybe not quite as big as this one, but if you’re lucky you might just catch sight of one of these small endangered species.





    But if you don’t manage to get a glimpse of one, why not take part in our red squirrel trail and help Cyril find the clues to his quiz.

    The trail is available throughout the summer holidays. Just call into the National Trust shop in the main Aira Force car park for further details.



    Our sales assistants will be happy to help.

    The walk will take approximately 40m-1hr, depending on how good you are at spotting the clues.

    The walk also takes in the magnificent Aira Force waterfall which stands at a resplendent 65ft.



    Not only will you win a prize if you manage to help Cyril solve all his clues, but you will have also helped towards the conservation of the red squirrels in the Ullswater area (all proceeds from the trail go towards food for the squirrels).

    Fun for all ages. So if you find yourself at a loose end these summer holidays, why not come down to Aira Force and see if you can spot Cyril.
  • Enjoying the weather.

    17:27 05 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson



    Just before the end of school term I paid another visit to High Snab Farm with a combined group of children from Braithwaite and Borrowdale schools.  We split them into two groups with Tom (farmer) introducing one group to his hay meadows while I took the other to look for wild-life in the walls, hedges and down by the river.  We then swapped them of course.  Hay meadows are not nearly as widespread as they once were and High Snab provides a great opportunity to see and begin to understand the importance of these habitats. The Trust is committed to showing that it is possible to both enjoy and respect the outdoors so school visits like these are invaluable.  We had a great morning at High Snab and a lot of learning took place.


    I’ve mentioned before that the creation of a Wild Play Trail is underway in Cockshot Wood.  It will take some time to complete it but already we have some things in place.  I have also involved local children by asking them to design a Wild Play Trail.  I have now received their plans and have been cherry-picking the best ideas to make a collage of things we hope to include in the Cockshot Wood trail.  The trail is meant to be mainly for the use of children so it makes sense to ask them what they would like to have. I took an opportunity recently to look in at Sizergh Castle where they have already made a woodland trail.  The pictures show you some of their ideas although Cockshot Wood has its own character so we can’t just copy the Sizergh model.  It was a really useful visit though as there is always something to be learned from others’ experience.



     



    And finally for now, I’ll mention an unusual activity for me.  I had email from a Rescue Team guy who was looking for people to help out with a blind cycling event.  So, willing to help, I turned up to find that they were short of people to ride on the front of a tandem.  So I rode upfront with a young man who was blind.  We rode along a disused railway line leading out of Keswick.  Those who have cycled it will know that it is a fantastic ride out.  We had a great ride with lots of chit chat along the way.  Describing the route opened my eyes to our surroundings.  It was a really enjoyable experience.

    Daisy here:



    Roy’s Mum and Dad have a new cocker spaniel puppy. They are pleased with me because I am so gentle with it.  It’s going to be called Poppet but I think it should be Smudge.  It is a new friend but is still very small.

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