Latest team news

  • Softly, Softly, Catchee Crayfish.

    15:29 22 September 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Scout Beck is a stream that flows past High Lickbarrow Farm near Windermere.

    Shortly after the National Trust acquired the farm, Storm Desmond hit Cumbria in December, 2015; the ensuing flood caused extensive damage to stone pitching that was built into this stream bed many years ago. 
    Damage to the pitching at Scout Beck and the eroded stream bank.

    This pitching work was sanctioned by the Environment Agency  to protect neighbouring property from erosion.
    The National Trust undertook to repair the damage. But the stream is home to endangered and protected white clawed crayfish so a plan of works was submitted to the Environment Agency; they approved  and granted a licence for the work to go ahead.
    Work began on Tuesday, September 20th.

    The first task was to use nets to catch the crayfish in the vicinity of the work site and then move them away to a safe distance. From left to right...Bekka, from South Cumbria Rivers Trust who is a licenced crayfish handler, supervised the handling of the crayfish. James, NT Area Ranger and Bruna, NT Academy Ranger. 
    While James carefully lifts a large pitching stone, dislodged in the flood, Bekka is using a bathascope to view any crayfish that may be taking refuge underneath.  
    A crayfish is gently deposited into a container ready to be moved away from the work-site to safety. Nearly seventy crayfish were caught in an area of approximately only six square metres!
    Little and Large.

     White clawed crayfish (Austropotomobius pallipes) are on the IUCN Red Data List of threatened species. (International Union for The Conservation of Nature). Classified as endangered, they are the UK's only native crayfish.
    The UK is the most north westerly limit of their range.

    Once widespread, Cumbria is now the last major stronghold for the native white clawed crayfish in England; they are not found north of the border.
    Native crayfish numbers have declined drastically since the introduction of the American signal crayfish in the seventies. This alien species carries a fugal plague that is fatal to the white clawed crayfish.
    This specimen is an adult male. Their claws are usually larger than the female's. 
    Crayfish are capable of a surprising turn of speed.
    Bruna,..her reflexes are amazing...scooping up another crayfish!
    Numbers, sex, size and condition of the crayfish are noted down for the records.
    With the area cleared of crayfish the pitching work can at last begin!
    The scattered pitching stones still had to be carefully lifted up in case any crayfish had escaped the initial search.
    Straw bales were used to filter out sediment arising from the repair work. Crayfish are intolerant of sediment as it clogs their gills.
    Work well underway with just the retaining wall to be completed.
    On the day the work was finished (21st September), a thunderstorm broke out during the night. The torrential rain considerably increased the flow of Scout Beck giving the repaired stone work a stern test; this image was taken on the morning of the 22nd September.

  • Working Holiday

    08:00 14 September 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    A variety of tasks were tackled by a Working Holiday Group who were with us for a week from Sunday 4th of September until Friday 9th.
    Part of the goup started on Sunday 4th of September by taking a hedge line  fence  down at Cockshott Point, on the East  shore of Windermere, and loading the posts and wire onto trailers (seen here listening to instructions from James, Area Ranger)
    A smaller group dug out a rectangular shape in front of a bench in order... place a wooden frame work within which to position...
    ...stone setts.
     This is an effective hard wearing surface. (The area in front of the bench was prone to get boggy in wet weather!)
    On Sunday work stopped briefly to watch a low flying Lancaster bomber over Windermere on its way to an air show.
    At Millerground, on Monday, a small group set to work on more stone pitching in order to safeguard the immensely popular lake shore footpath from being undermined by high water levels. (A walker can be seen using the path above). 
    A quantity of small stone was gathered in trugs to infill behind the stone work. 
    Impressive looking job.
    Another task was to rip out and replace the old worn out wooden steps leading down to Millerground.
    Taking shape.
    Great team work!
    On a very wet Monday time out was taken to watch the second stage of the Tour of Britain flash past Queen Adelaide's Hill.
    A well earned break on Wednesday...
    ...with the Windermere Outdoor Adventure Centre.
    Steady as she goes.
    The completed steps were filled with a mixture of crushed stone (aggregate) from the local quarry and lake shore gravel. A job to be justifiably proud of!
    Visitors to Millerground using the new steps.
    Yet another job was to totally upgrade a section of the lake shore footpath at the Southern end of Millerground. Large stones were 'barred' out of the path and used as edging can be seen bottom right of this image.
    The path was levelled and finally resurfaced with approximately seven tonnes of aggregate brought in by...the power barrows.
     From being by far the most difficult to negotiate section of path, it is now arguably the easiest...such is the transformation!

    In addition to the work described above the group also worked in the walled garden at St. Catherine's and also on scrub clearance at Millerground.

    This Working Holiday Group can be proud of what they have achieved in just six days; it was a pleasure to work with them on the five different tasks that they so willingly and ably accomplished through admirable teamwork.   

    With special thanks to Maureen, Group Leader, and Assistant Leader Andy who, incidentally, supplied many of the images for this post.
  • Continuing our work at Seldom Seen

    10:56 08 September 2016
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Since our last blog post much of our time has been spent continuing the repair work on the path above the former mine workers cottages at Seldom Seen.

    The photograph below shows a section of path that has started to erode quite badly. An old stone drain is at the bottom to allow a small beck to run across the path, but as the stone on the path above is very mobile this fills quickly with rubble. To stop further erosion and prevent the drain blocking up we decided that the best option was to pitch the whole section.

     Bags ready in place to start work

    The stone drain was replaced and a new path was built.

     Repaired section of path

    Directly above this section the path had really gullied out, you can see in the next picture just how high the bank has been cut away once the new path had been built.

     Path repaired before landscaping

    One of the most important aspects of our job is trying to blend a new path in with the surrounding landscape. The following photo shows the same section of path once the bank has been graded. A large quantity of soil had to be removed (which was used for landscaping elsewhere) to create a more natural bank this was then turfed and seeded to help stabilise the bank and also speed up the vegetating process.

    Newly landscaped path

    The next section that we worked on had suffered a serious landslide which can be seen in the following photographs.

    Starting work on another section

    The new path includes much better drainage to help reduce the volume of water flowing down the path which should help reduce the chance of another washout.

    Completed path

    To help prevent the soil in the bank falling back onto the path when it rains the side of the path has been edged with large boulders which will be continued along this full section. We'll also spot turf the area and put down plenty of grass seed to try and stabilise it all.
    Close-up of the landscaping on the bank
  • A busy summer at Tarn Hows

    08:24 07 September 2016
    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

    Tarn Hows has been a hive of activity this summer. The bank holiday weekend was bursting with visitors enjoying this classic Lakes spot and our rangers and volunteers have been busy all summer setting up free activities for all of our visitors to enjoy. From pond dipping to weekly guided walks, indoor art to mini-beast hunts, learning how to weave hazel to whizzing around the tarn on our balance bikes, lots of fun has been happening each week, come rain or shine.

    By far the most popular activity that has taken place this summer has been pond dipping. Families have been dipping into our tarn to see what they could find and learned how to identify the aquatic life here. Water beetles, water boatman, pond skaters and damselfly nymphs have been found in abundance but our most popular find (if slightly off-putting) has been that of many leeches found lurking at the bottom.

    Visitors enjoying pond dipping at Tarn Hows
    In addition, the use of our trampers has been ever more popular which allow people of all abilities to enjoy a trip around the tarn. The teddy-bear like Belted Galloways have of course proved popular with our visitors as well as the odd sightings of red squirrels and even an otter!
     Belted Galloways with a view over Wetherlam and Holme Fell 
    As for now, the flurry of visitors from the summer is slowing down and it is now a great time of year to come and enjoy the range of wildlife that can be seen around the tarn as the leaves turn into their autumn colours. Tramper hire continues for the next few months, just call the office to book your slot: 015394 41456.

  • Hedgehog Encounter

    08:09 03 September 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    With hedgehog numbers in steep decline, I considered myself lucky to see this one in the St. Catherine's carpark at dusk. The hedgehog was lucky I saw it, too, as I was driving and just spotted it in time!

     The hedgehog paused long enough, after unrolling itself, to have its image taken before scuttling for cover! 
    Hedgehog populations were estimated to be over thirty-six million in the Fifties; according to several recent surveys, numbers have now dropped to below one million and are continuing to fall at the rate of 5% per annum.

    Many websites go into some detail as to why hedgehog numbers are in such catastrophic decline. An increase in badger numbers is considered to be a factor in combination with many other issues.

    The time before I saw a hedgehog was on the A592 at night three years ago. Driving back to the Lakes, after a Carlisle home match, I had to brake hard to avoid an adult hedgehog. It had rolled itself into a ball in the middle of the road. I picked it up and took it some distance away to comparative safety. 

    Sadly, thousands of hedgehogs are killed on UK roads every year. 

    Hopefully St Catherine's has a thriving hedgehog population. We have tried to help hedgehogs by maintaining a suitable habitat for them.
    For instance, you may have seen a recent post on this site where brash from a fallen oak branch was piled up as potentially good cover for the increasingly rare hedgehog. It will also be a good habitat for important food source for hedgehogs. 

    The hedgehog is seen as an indicator species. A good population of hedgehogs in a given area shows that the landscape is in good shape with an abundance of insects and invertebrates.

  • Shiver Me Timbers!

    07:39 23 August 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The historic yeoman farmer's house, Townend, was recently extensively restored after wet rot was discovered in the structural timbers.
    Under instruction from Stephen Haigh, Buildings Archaeologist, we cut out sections from the old timber so that a dendrochronologist could analyse them at a later date.
    Simply put, Dendrochronology is the science of dating wood through the analysis of the patterns of tree rings aka growth rings.

    Hopefully it can be determined in which year the timber was felled thus giving a valuable insight into the history of this wonderful house.

    In the images above Stephen Haigh has chalked sections of wood to be cut out for the dendrochronologist to examine.
    The timbers removed from Townend have been labelled  to indicate which part of the house they were used for during its construction.
    A cut through a comparatively sound section of wood... contrast this one is rotten for much of its length!
    'Chain Saw Carnage'!
    Stephen Haigh's liaison with the dendrochronologist has resulted in these samples being cut from the timber. Meticulously labelled, they are to be sent away for analysis.

    This was one of the more unusual jobs we have been involved with!

    Any updates will appear here.

  • New Bench for Holme Crag, Jenkyn's Field.

    11:52 18 August 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Many years ago there used to be a bench on Holme Crag, a rocky outcrop  of Jenkyn's Field,  jutting into the north east side of  Windermere near to Waterhead.

    Holme Crag as seen from the lake.

    Thanks to a National Trust supporter, who chose to celebrate the birth of his grandson with a generous donation to our work in this area, we were able to commission a local blacksmith to fabricate a new bench.
    To give the new bench a firm foundation an oak sleeper was cut in half. Two parallel trenches were dug, at a set distance, within which the sleepers were placed...see below.
    A certain amount of landscaping was needed to get the bench as level as possible on its newly positioned supports. 
    The base of the bench was drilled back at St. Catherine's to allow it to be firmly attached to the two sections of sleepers... using coach screws.
    Approaching the bench (after a brief steep walk) you'll be rewarded with...
    ...a splendid view of the North West shore of Windermere and somewhere to sit and enjoy it!
    Subsequently the area around the bench has had lake gravel spread around its base.

  • Fenced out!

    09:00 12 August 2016
    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

    Hello, my name is Amy and I am the new Long Term Volunteer here with the South Lakes team. As part of my degree at Aberystwyth University I have to undertake a placement in a relevant industry to my chosen degree of Countryside Management and Conservation. Even though I have learned a lot in lectures the time I spend with the National Trust will be just as important if not more, putting what I have learned into practice as well as increasing my knowledge of key practical skills.

    Before shot
    Having worked in the Coniston area for the last month I have now moved over to the Hawkshead side where we are currently extending fences into Lake Windermere. These fences are not to exclude people from areas of land (step stiles have been added for access) but instead cattle. Cattle can prevent natural regeneration of woodlands from occurring by grazing off young shoots from the trees. Currently the under story of the trees is pretty bare, with the extension of the fences these shoots will be allowed to grow and an understory can develop.

    Adding the rails


    However extending fences into a lake is not as easy as it seems, firstly working in water is much harder than working in bare ground as very quickly the water loses its clear appearance and becomes slightly cloudy with the disturbance of the ground. Secondly there are many rocks in Lake Windermere, all of which affect how easily or straight it is to get a post into the ground. 

    Finally once the posts are in the ground and up to the wobble test it is time to attach the rails; for the majority this was the easy task but hammering in water is a new and weird experience. For this fencing task waders were a must as we all found out!

    The completed fence into the Lake.

  • Chopping down the trees

    14:58 05 August 2016
    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

    Why are you chopping down the trees? This is a common question we get asked whenever we're tree felling.

    In fact the landscape we see today may look natural, but it has been shaped over many centuries by the people that have lived and worked here. The woodlands were a vital resource for the local iron, leather and bobbin-making industries, as well as providing timber and firewood.

     Luke marking up the trees that were to be felled

    Woodlands in Britain were historically managed by Coppicing. The word coppice comes from the French word ‘Couper’, meaning to cut, a method which involves cutting down trees and allowing them to re–grow from the stumps, known as stools.

    One of our conservation projects this year has been at Hoathwaite, near Torver, which is a National Trust campsite and a tenanted farm managed by Sam Inman. This project has been to improve and protect biodiversity and water quality.

    The start of the project saw the team coppice the alder trees along the stream edge, not only to maintain local traditions but to allow the dormant ground flora a chance to thrive without the shade from the trees.

    The South Lakes volunteer group having a well-deserved lunch

     Ben one of our upland rangers busy burning the brash

    We then had a local contractor double fence the entire length of the field along with a nice new stock crossing. The tenant farmer Sam Inman allowed us to set back the fence from the beck to create a “buffer zone” protected from grazing stock. This provides places where plants can grow up, providing more cover for birds, insects and small mammals and helping to consolidate the banks with their root systems and prevent bank erosion alleviating siltation. 

    Some of the coppiced Alder stools with new growth

    The lovely new stock crossing 

     One section of the new double fence line with more coppiced stools

    Since the fence line has been erected the ground flora has started to thrive, with species such as Ragged Robin, Common Birds-Foot Trefoil, Meadowsweet, Sheep Sorrel, Marsh Willowherb, Red Campion, Meadow Buttercup, Common Marsh Bedstraw, Common Mouse-ear, Yellow Pimpernel, Red and White Clover to name a few.

    The other section of double fence line full of vegetation

    Without the generosity of our donors we would not be able to carry out important and beneficial projects such as this. Thank you for your support to enable us to continue our conservation work.

  • Summer Branch Drop.

    07:30 03 August 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Last week a loud cracking noise disturbed the peace and quiet of a hot, still afternoon at St. Catherine's. Within seconds a large oak branch crashed to the ground, narrowly missing the Spirit of Place sculpture that stands at the entrance.
    This occurrence had all the hallmarks of Summer Branch Drop (SBD). Once considered a rare event, anecdotal evidence now suggests, it may be more common than was first thought... Mature or veteran oak trees, along with beech and horse chestnut, are particularly prone to shedding branches during prolonged heat waves or in calm weather, after heavy Summer rainfall.

    Why, on windless hot Summer days, do branches showing no apparent defects suddenly and mysteriously crash to the ground?  One theory is that when the demands for transpiration (water evaporation from leaves) overwhelms the tree's vascular system... the tree responds by shedding branches. Other theories include tissue shrinkage, internal cracks, difficult to detect rot, and/or ethylene gas being released inside the branch....but there are no definite answers. Consistent warning signs have not yet been established or confirmed.
    Above is an image of where the branch split. The wood looks perfectly sound, and even with the most rigorous  inspection, it would be nigh on impossible to predict, prior to the branch being aborted, that it would fail.
     Liam, Woodland Ranger, is seen here cutting up the branch.
    Waste not. Want not. More firewood for the Footprint log burner!
    The brash will provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Hopefully it will provide cover for hedgehogs... numbers of which are, sadly, in steep decline
    This veteran oak at National Trust owned Jenkins Field is adjacent to the A591 near Ambleside. A very busy road and the pavement is used by many walkers.
    In successive years this tree has shed branches in late Summer. The evidence of one branch failure can be seen in the image above. The road was blocked on this occasion until the branch was cut up and removed; the police directed traffic while this was going on! Mercifully no one was underneath the tree when the apparently healthy branches were discarded.
    The concern that the tree might abort yet more branches in the future prompted the National Trust, at considerable expense, to reduce the crown of the tree to ensure the safety of walkers and motorists in its vicinity. Close examination showed potential weaknesses in some branches so more pruning was done than was at first envisaged. In the image above a split branch and a cut branch next to it can be seen. 

    Overall the risks associated with SBD are small and even in hindsight the cause is usually a matter of speculation or an educated guess!

    The National Trust carry out regular and thorough tree inspections. Identifiable problems, or quantifiable risks are dealt with as soon as possible.