Latest team news

  • Salmon songs

    12:06 29 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

    Inspired by gardener Pete’s themed musical offerings on the Hill Top blog, the South Lakes rangers have spent an unhealthy amount of time discussing ranger-themed music, and we’ve come up with some pretty good (and eclectic) Lake District playlists for our journeys in the truck – from Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Diana Ross to Into the Valley by The Skids, and from Travis’ Why Does It Always Rain On Me? to Bob Marley’s Hammer (the perfect accompaniment to a fencing job).  

    I've been on my usual hobby horse, scouring my music collection for songs that reflect ecology as well as landscape, and sadly, haven’t found much.  Strangely, the only two I came up with are about the same species: salmon.   

                                                                          Atlantic salmon - image wikipedia

    Neil Young’s Will to Love and The Chemical Brothers’ Salmon Dancecouldn’t be more different in terms of style; the former was recorded on acoustic guitar on a tape deck  in front of an open fire, while the latter is a techno/hip-hop mash up (and features the odd bit of typically hip-hop language, so please be aware that it may not be suitable for work, children or sensitive ears if you choose to search for it).  They’re similar, though, in that they’re both bizarre pieces of music in which the salmon has a voice – Neil Young sings verses from the salmon’s imagined perspective through an underwatery vocoder effect, and ‘Sammy the Salmon’ provides guest vocals for The Chemical Brothers. 

                                               Will to Love by Neil Young on Youtube - external link

    So, what is it about salmon that inspired these major musicians to write about them?  Well, as the songs show, they’re pretty incredible fish.  Sammy the Salmon tells his rapper friend that ‘all my peeps spend part of their life in fresh water, and part of their life in salt water;’ they have an intricate and awe-inspiring life-cycle, spending anything from one to eight years as juveniles (or ‘parr’ ) in the rivers where they're born – such as the Crake and Leven locally, and the becks above Coniston Water and Windermere.   (On a slight tangent, it's been suggested that symptoms of loneliness have been observed in salmon parr, giving a whole new dimension to Will to Love, which as well as featuring the thoughts of a salmon, develops into Young's meditations on love and relationships and finally seems to consolidate the two in a surreal last verse as the salmon looks for a companion with whom to 'sway together, our tails together, and our fins and minds.'  Maybe it's best to just listen to it.)

    When salmon mature they head out to sea, changing their physiology in the estuary to cope with seawater and to become better camouflaged for the ocean, and spend a few years in the seas around Greenland.  Finally, they head back to the river of their birth – their ‘natal river’ – using senses beyond our comprehension.  Sammy says: ‘Most of our friends find their home waters by sense of smell, which is even more keen than that of a dog or a bear.  My family also rely on ocean currents, tides, and the gravitational pull of the moon.’  

                                        Atlantic salmon heading back upriver. Image -                                         

    Neil Young takes over the story with his much more poetic imagining of the salmon’s thoughts:

    When the water grew less deep
    My fins were aching
    from the strain
    I'm swimming in my sleep
    I know I can't go back again.

    They re-adapt to freshwater and struggle upstream to lay their eggs before most die, although some will complete two of these huge cycles.  As Young observes ( And now my fins are in the air, and my belly's scraping on the rocks / And I'll keep swimming till I stop), the huge fish (up to 75cm long) swim literally as far as they can upstream in to tiny becks, before laying their eggs in gravel beds.  It’s during this epic journey that salmon perform their famous ‘leaps’ up waterfalls, powering out of the water over and over again in their attempts to get up to their spawning grounds.

                                  Atlantic salmon leaping a waterfall.  Image -

    The past few decades have seen huge declines in salmon and their fellow migrant, the sea-trout, due to overfishing at sea, and pollution and changes in river management inland.  In the south Lakes, the National Trust works in partnership with organisations that are doing great work to improve catchments for migrating fish and other wildlife.  The South Cumbria Rivers Trust and the Coniston and Crake Catchment Partnership promote land management practices that reduce pollution in our local becks, lakes and rivers, and carry out practical work to ‘de-canalise’ waterways that have been straightened and homogenised in the past, in order to allow the development of gravel beds and other natural niches for salmon and all sorts of aquatic life to use. 

    Weirs and dams have also blocked some migration routes so fish passes are now a common sight on the region’s rivers, allowing salmon and sea trout to bypass the man-made blockages and access their home waters.  Adult salmon undertake their epic migration back to their spawning grounds in the autumn, so if you head to the region’s low waterfalls on the right becks, you might be lucky enough to see salmon on the last leg of their huge journey – you’ll have to do a bit of research and get off the beaten track to pick the right spot!

    For a better chance of spotting them, fish passes on the River Kent in Staveley and near Sizergh are hot spots for salmon viewing.  Don’t forget to put some Neil Young or Chemical Brothers on the stereo to learn even more about these amazing fish – you might even find yourself doing the salmon dance…

    If you’d like to know more about Lake Windermere and especially the history and ecology of the Claife woodlands, why not join ranger Paul on one of his guided walks as part of the Great British Walk festival? Meet at Ferry House (where the ferry docks) at 2pm on Sunday 14 September, Friday 26 September, Sunday 12 October, or Friday 17 October.
  • Preparing for advanced training.

    06:13 29 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    By the time you read this post I will have left for a trip to the Dolomites for some mountain rescue training.  Cheap flights mean that we can now travel easily to more extreme environments to extend our skills and in previous years we have trained in Zermatt, Chamonix and Canada.  There’s no guarantee of good weather but we can guarantee big mountains.

    So it has been a busy time for me and a couple of other team members as we have organised a sizeable trip.  Spread over two weeks, twenty four rescue team members from five different teams will spend a week working on advanced skills so there has been a lot of organising to be done. 

    Before we left, I also ran some extra rope skills sessions to prepare for the advanced work we were expecting to do in the Dolomites.

    While we are there, our training will be overseen by Kirk Mauthner (a Canadian and one of the best mountain rescue trainers in the world) and an Italian guide he recommended.  The great advantage of training like this in terms of both altitude and intensity is that, when we return to the Lake District, our crags are small in comparison.  The primary aim of the training is that our teams can perform rescues more safely for themselves but of course that also means safer for those being rescued.

    So my next post should have lots of good photographs of big mountains and of rescuers practising their techniques.

    Hi, Daisy here.

    I’ve been helping Roy train all year.  I check at the top of the crag and then I go and check at the bottom of the crag.
  • Aria Force....winching, walling and revetment work.

    15:30 28 August 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed


    A fallen Wellingtonia tree at Aira Force needed to be winched upright in order tidy up the root plate.

    The upturned root plate is a bit of an eyesore especially as it is close to the popular path leading up to Aira Force.

    Although most of the tree had already been cut up, enough of the trunk was left intact to allow for leverage.

    Going up. Nic can be seen, centre left, manning the heavy duty winch.

    With the tree upright again it can now be felled leaving a tidy stump. 

    The  trunk can now be cut up and removed.
    Next job is the nearby wall.


    The image above is of the tumble down wall that overlooks Aira Beck. The main beam of the water heck is in the foreground.

    Not the easiest kind of wall to rebuild as it consists mainly of "beck stones" which are large irregular shaped cobbles. 

    Care was needed in building the coyne end; there  was a steep drop into Aira Beck to contend with!

    Breaking up stone to make filler or hearting for the inside of the wall. Without sufficient filler the wall will fall in on itself.

    Getting close to a finish.

    Job done.

    An attempt at a panoramic shot from the bridge.

    Revetment Work.

    Some erosion had occurred on the banks of a small beck that flows into Aira Beck. Revetement work was decided upon.

    Ray and Nic unloading a large boulder for the revetment.

    Top soil will be put in behind the stone at a later date.

    Nic bringing in more stone for the revetment wall on the other side of the beck. The power barrow proving invaluable for the work.

    All in all a productive 2 days with plenty of opportunities to chat about the work in progress to the many interested people on their way to and from the waterfall.

  • 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!

    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: