Latest team news

  • Wetheral Woods Balsam Bash.

    15:30 13 July 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Owned by the National Trust since the late 40's, Wetheral Woods, the most northerly of the Central and East Lakes properties, cover an area of around 9 hectares.

    The woods are about three and a half miles east of Carlisle, on the west side of the River Eden. They form part of the ancient woodlands surrounding the river in this area.


    A footpath runs through the woods along the banks of the River Eden known to be one of the cleanest rivers in England. 
    This river is one of the few large rivers in England that flows northwards.


    The woodlands have become increasingly inundated with invasive Himalayan balsam, the seeds of which are brought in by the River Eden from infested areas upstream.

    Days have been set aside for rangers and volunteers to deal with this invasive plant. 


    On the way to the worst of the infested sites, time was taken to have a quick look at the mysterious St.Constantine Cells, also known as Safe Guards.


    These cave dwellings are early Medieval in origin and probably used by the nearby Priory of Wetheral as a refuge during border raids...hence the name Safe Guards.
    However, legend would have it that St.Constantine stayed here when he was a hermit.

    Three large square chambers were cut into the sandstone cliff face about forty
     feet above the River Eden with a protective masonry front wall into which
    three windows and a fireplace were incorporated. 


    ...The fireplace...


    ...A spectacular view of the River Eden from one of the windows...


    Originally access would have been by ladder from below.
     It would then have been drawn up.
    Now access is from above down a flight of stone cut steps.


    Back to business...slashing back the balsam before it has a chance to set seed.
    It is a race against time!


    A native fern, all but smothered by balsam.


    Balsam in this instance is pulled up by hand to prevent harming the fern.


    The fern now free of its "shroud" of balsam.


    The balsam is snapped below the bottom node to prevent it from re-rooting itself.


    A large area of balsam cleared but much more work is needed elsewhere.
    Very little can grow under such dense stands of Himalayan balsam.


    Roger, foreground, and Martin. Two willing and able volunteers!


    This stone on the riverbank is believed to have been used by prehistoric people
    to sharpen their spears or axes.

    A lot of balsam has been cleared, but it is an ongoing battle; more work on balsam bashing at Wetheral Woods will be written into the work programme for next season!

  • Starting the path at Hole in the Wall and the Fix the Fells 10th anniversary work party

    09:33 26 June 2017
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Since our last blog post we've spent much of our time working in Ullswater on the path just below Hole in the Wall. Building a stone path is never fast work and we reckon to build around 1 metre of path per person, per day. This generally depends on what the digging is like, the weather conditions and the amount of people using the path.

     Bottom section before starting work on the path

    The digging has, so far, been pretty good, we're not pulling too many large stones out of the ground and there's been no sign of any bedrock (which often has to be chipped out before we can lay the path). We've had both really hot and really wet weather over the last few weeks but only for a few days here and there, so nothing really out of the norm. We've also had one or two really busy days, but the worksite is easy to keep safe and there is plenty of room for people to get past. So, apart from a little extra time spent explaining about our work, it hasn't really affected things too much either.

     After a few days work

    As this path does get really busy at times (we're expecting lots more walkers during the summer holidays if we get some good weather) we're building the path a little wider than normal. Because of the extra width, we're maybe averaging a little under a metre a day at present.

     The path starting to take shape

    After just over a month, we're now reaching the point where we're starting to join sections of the path together before we leap-frog each other and start work again further up the path.
    Almost ready to join two sections

    With the sections joined, it's time to start filling in all the gaps with some of the soil that's been dug out. There's still plenty of landscaping work to do on this section but it's really starting to look like a footpath now.

    After filling in the gaps

    Last weekend was the tenth anniversary of the Fix the Fells partnership. As part of the celebrations, there were work parties taking place throughout the weekend up on Tongue Gill, near Grasmere. The work was part of a project that the South Lakes upland rangers are working on, and we went to help out on the Friday. Around sixty volunteers and various people from the Fix the Fells partnership organisations turned out to repair the path that had been damaged during the Storm Desmond floods. Although the weather wasn't the best we still got plenty done and everyone appeared to enjoy the day.

    Volunteers at work in the rain
  • Bracken bashing at Hartsop

    14:14 08 June 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Back in 2014, a 'National Tree Planting Week' took place between November 29th to December 7th. See Link to post for more information... Ullswater tree Planting week: 


    To celebrate this event, the National Trust rangers and volunteers in Ullswater planted native trees and shrubs on a steep bracken covered slope overlooking the village of Hartsop and Brothers Water near the foot of  Kirkstone Pass.
    This image is of two volunteers placing a tree tube over a newly planted tree. Over thirteen hundred trees and shrubs were planted on this slope over the week back in 2014!
    Note the vast quantities of dead bracken; this indicates there is a massive rhizome/root system ready to send up many thousands of fresh bracken fronds in Spring. By Summer they can easily exceed five feet in height! 
    'BEFORE'
    Newly planted trees need lots of 'TLC'...for instance...

    Every year in late May or early June the fast growing bracken needs to be knocked back from around the young trees. Rangers with great support from volunteer groups undertake this task; if left to grow the bracken will stifle the trees, and rob them of light and valuable nutrients. See above Image.
    'DURING'
    The most effective method seems to be to bend bracken stems over by bashing them with wooden poles; this weakens the bracken's growth for the following year. 
    'AFTER'
    The bracken has been bashed back in a wide circle around the tree to give it the best chance of putting on a good growth spurt.
    One of the planted oaks in its protective tree tube.
    Another before...
    ...and after image.
    Some prefer the use of "bracken slashers" to wooden poles; an encouraging sign is that natural re-gen is taking place as shown by this oak sapling!
    Overlooking Hartsop before and...
    ...after a large area of bracken has been cleared. Bracken clearance around the trees should ideally take place twice a year between early and late Summer. Over the course of three to five years of control  work the bracken will become increasingly weak; the hope is that with the appropriate care and attention the trees will, in a relatively short time, have grown big enough to out compete the bracken.  
  • Walling on Kirkstone

    06:30 01 June 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed


    Kirkstone pass is the Lake Districts highest pass that is open to motor vehicles. It connects Ambleside in the Rothay Valley, to Patterdale in the Ullswater Valley. It stands at an altitude of 1,489ft (454m).

     



     

    The Pass can experience all sorts of weather. From blazing sunshine in the summer, to torrential rain in the autumn and heavy snow in the winter.

     



     

    Because of these extreme weather conditions the road can be very unpredictable. Throughout the year many accidents happen, some genuine mistakes, but sometimes it is because people don’t give the Pass the respect it deserves.

     



     

    The National Trust try to maintain roadside walls where possible, so every couple of years a team of Rangers from the Central and East Lakes ‘try’ and pick a sunny week to repair the numerous gaps that have appeared.

     



    This time we managed to pick the warmest week of the year. With the wall gaps identified and the ‘Stop’ ‘Go’ boards in place we could make a start.

     



     

    After a long, hot, sweaty week we managed to get a lot of the wall gaps repaired.

     




     

    So if you ever find yourself on Kirkstone Pass please take care and remember it’s not a race to get to the top, or bottom.
  • Helicopter lifts and starting work at Hole in the Wall

    12:27 15 May 2017
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    With just a few days left to spare before the helicopter lifts, we managed to fill the last of the 325 heli-bags with stone that we need for this years upland path repairs. This gave us enough time to put out the warning signs and make sure we were fully prepared.

    The first lift, over in Ullswater, was the larger of the two jobs. The bags were flown straight across Grisedale valley to the path leading up to Hole in the Wall. Although the weather conditions were tricky due to the constantly changing wind direction, we managed to get all 260 bags over to the work site in three days.

     Moving the stone to site

    The next week we started work on the path. The first job was to unload just over half of the bags and move the stones a few metres down the path to exactly where the path would start.

    Moving the rock into position

    After a couple of days we had the bags emptied and the stone where we wanted it.

    The emptied bags

    With the bags emptied it was time to start building the path. We've recently been joined by a new team member, Jonny, who previously worked for the National Trust in North Yorkshire. Since he's never done stone pitching before, Pete gave him some one on one tuition for a couple of days to help bring him up to speed. After being taught the basics of what to do, it'll be just a matter of lots (and lots...) of practice and the rest of the team being on hand for when any help or advice is needed.

    Jonny starting to get to grips with stone pitching

    After a few days of working up at Hole in the Wall, it was time to get the rock moved for the path repairs on Stone Arthur. With perfect weather conditions we managed to get all 65 bags moved to position in less than five hours. We'll be starting the repair work on Stone Arthur late summer/early autumn time.

    Moving the bags on Stone Arthur
  • New Arrivals at High Lickbarrow.

    15:30 10 May 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The late Michael Bottomly bequeathed High Lickbarrow Farm near Windermere to the National Trust in 2015. It has 50 h of 'unimproved' land grazed by cattle only. Much of the land is designated as a Site of  Special Scientific Interest, (SSSI) as wild flowers grow abundantly under this regime and the herb rich grass lands attract a plethora of insects, butterflies and birds.
    One of the steeper fields is red to purple hued in Summer owing to the sheer numbers of betony growing there. 
    (See above with bumblebee in attendance)
    The farm is home to a herd of rare cattle...The Scoutbeck Herd... known as Albion*.

      White Dairy Shorthorn, Welsh Black, and British Fresian cattle are thought to have been used in the original breeding of the Blue Albion in Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

    The breed became official in 1921 when The Blue Albion Cattle Society was formed.

    Tragically the foot and mouth epidemic of 1967 led to the extinction of the Blue Albion breed owing to a Nationwide culling programme to get the disease under control.

    Since then attempts have been made to reconstitute the breed, now known simply as Albion*. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) are being petitioned to classify Albion cattle as a rare breed. This will ensure their status as critically endangered and will lend support for their future as a bona fide breed.
    This Albion heifer was born at High Lickbarrow on the evening of the 9th of May so in this image she is barely a day old! She has the distinction of being  first in the line for the new herd mark that now exists for the National Trust making her number *****01!
    This heifer was born shortly after and  so was beaten by a short head by number*****01 making her the second in the line with the number *****02!
    Here she is being kept an eye on by her protective mum!

    Another  fifteen calves are expected to arrive within the next few days!
  • New gates for Cockshott.

    15:28 20 April 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Cockshott Point, at the southern end of Bowness-on-Windermere is an extremely popular lake-side walk along the east side of Windermere, overlooking Claife Heights and Belle Isle.
    The old gates, giving access to Cockshott...above and below, are inadequate for some modern mobility scooters
    To allow better access for mobility scooters the old gates have recently been removed and replaced by purpose built mobility access gates.....
    Getting started at the southern end of Cockshott after dismantling and removing the old gates and railings.
    Concreting the gate post in.
     To the left a trench has been dug to allow the mobility access gate to be installed next to the new vehicular access gate.
    A close up of the self closing mechanism for the mobility access gate.
    The new gates. The 10' gate is locked and is only to be used by vehicles requiring access for events on Cockshott or for maintenance purposes.
    Work starting at the northern entrance.
    Digging out for the framework of the mobility access gate.
    The new gates and the recently resurfaced path have contributed towards making a big improvement at Cockshott.

    Below are some views from Cockshott Point now more easily accessible for everyone.
    A view of the Belle Isle Round House from Cockshott Point.
    Belle Isle with Claife Heights in the background. This wooded              area is renowned  for its variety of native tree species.             
          Looking north towards the Troutbeck Fells.
    An elegant steam yacht from a bygone era.
  • Getting ready for for the helicopter lifts

    10:57 07 April 2017
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    It's that time of year again when we start getting ready for another season of repairing upland footpaths.

    This year we're working on two paths that were damaged during the Storm Desmond floods in 2015. The larger of the two projects is at Hole in the Wall overlooking Grisedale valley, for this job we've been filling 260 bags with rock that we'll use for stone pitching and drainage work. The rock has been gathered on the opposite side of the valley and will be flown by helicopter to site.

    Bagging rock in Grisedale

    Our second job is on the path leading up to Stone Arthur, just outside Grasmere. This will require an additional 65 bags of stone that will be gathered around Greenhead Gill.

    The helicopter lifts are due to take place at Hole in the Wall on 26th and 27th April and at Stone Arthur on 28th April, but there's a chance this will change particularly if the weather isn't suitable for flying. The paths will remain open during the heli-lifts but there is a possibility of delays, if you're in the area please take advice from the onsite marshals.
  • Rebuilding a collapsed retaining wall at Townend farm.

    13:29 23 March 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    This partially collapsed retaining wall forms part of the boundary for the farm yard at Townend Farm across the road from Townend in the village of Troutbeck. 
    A tanker backs in here periodically to empty the septic tank that serves the historic yeoman farmer's house Townend...see image above.
    The wall was built many years ago and was not constructed with the weight of a heavy lorry in mind so it finally gave way under the pressure.
    For the rebuild large stones were used for the foundation course and to cope with the weight of the tanker lorry concrete was used to give the wall extra strength.
    The partially rebuilt section of wall seen from above.
    The completed wall... (note very heavy cap stone left of image!)...
    ...and the reinstated post and rail fence. (just in time for lambing season!)
    An image of Townend from the path leading from the car park.
    Townend has recently undergone extensive restoration work owing to the discovery of excessive wet rot in the supporting timbers. Part of one of the beams is on display in the garden!
    Townend is open between 1 pm and 5 pm during the season with  house tours between 11 am and 12 noon.

    Please click on the link below for more information. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/townend





  • Even tall trees have small starts...

    13:12 09 March 2017
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    If you've ever driven up from Windermere to Ambleside, you'll have passed the tallest tree in the northwest. You may even have noticed this grand fir, and other magnificent conifers, standing proud against the skyline.


    
    The north-west's tallest tree
     
    These trees dwell in Skelghyll Woods, just south of Ambleside. It's an interesting example of Victorian-era conifer planting, at a time when new and exciting trees were coming back with plant hunters from north America and other places. Douglas fir, giant redwoods, grand and noble firs... to hear some of the tales of trees over 100m tall must have sounded fanciful, but even though they would never see their trees grow that tall, many landowners began planting these new seeds.

    Even now, when we look at Skelghyll, we might only be seeing tree-teenagers. It's easy to think of these as mature 'tall trees', but given some of these species last for a thousand years or more in their native ranges, it's possible that even now we're not seeing them at their best.

    The cathedral-like grove of Tall Trees

    Compare the ornamental planting of these new conifers, the excitement of interesting sounding trees, with later vast conifer planting for timber in what were previously natural oakwoods. If this was done now we could even consider it to be 'eco-crime', but at Skelghyll the trees reflect what was, back then, Victorian ideas of improvement. As much as we might resist such attempts now, it has undoubtably resulted in something rather special and unique at Skelghyll.

    Although these conifers might live on for centuries more, they are mostly of a certain age with very few new trees growing. Because of this, we've recently planted a handful of new, exotic conifers in the woods. Dealing with trees that live for 200 years or more, not many need to be planted at any one time, but if in twenty years another ten are planted, and the same twenty years after that... well, you get the drift. The idea is to have a varied age range of conifers, the next generations coming through to ensure continued presence of cracking trees.

    Last year we were very fortunate to get a kind donation that enabled us to buy four new trees and rolls of chestnut paling to guard them from hungry deer. The lovely couple that donated the trees joined Area Ranger, James Archer, and Woodland Ranger, Liam Plummer, to plant them.


    Mr & Mrs Vaughn plant a Japanese umbrella pine
    with Area Ranger James Archer
    
    Thanks to this couple, we planted two American species - a grand fir, just like the tallest of the tall trees, and a Colorado blue spruce - and two east Asian species, a Japanese red cedar and a Japanese umbrella pine.


    

    
    The couple plant a Grand fir with Woodland Ranger Liam Plummer
    

    We were also lucky to receive four other trees from the National Trust's Plant Conservation Centre - two Himalayan firs, a Himalayan yew and a Jurassic-looking Podocarpus. The Lake District's 'woody volunteers' were out in the sunshine to help plant these ones, again guarded by chestnut paling.



    'Woody Volunteers' Lynn and Alan plant the Podocarpus


    Add to this the three trees planted by the rangers last year, and you can begin to imagine the next generation of tall trees at this woodland. Whilst none of us will ever see them as impressive as their neighbours, it's a welcome thought to imagine just how they might look in a century or two. Even our current tall trees must have had equally small starts at one point!
    
    Little and large!