Latest team news

  • From Fountains Abbey to a Borrowdale cave.

    10:30 28 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week I had another away-day when I visited Fountains Abbey near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The Abbey was founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks. At the height of its power, it owned extensive lands including Borrowdale.  Four hundred years after its foundation, it was stripped of its land and powers by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Its subsequent decline left us with the stunning remains that are now a World Heritage site.

    The Abbey is a now a National Trust property that is very different from Borrowdale in many ways. What it does share with Borrowdale is the enormous number of people who visit and the on-going project of how to maintain accessibility whilst protecting the site. As usual, for me, there is always something to learn from visiting other places. I must be honest and admit that, although I’m really pleased that the Trust owns places like Fountains Abbey, my heart’s in the mountains. It was great to be back in Borrowdale.

    My return was to a very wet Borrowdale! The lakes and rivers here do have an enormous capacity but, at this time of year, we can have days of heavy rain falling on already water-logged ground. The lake level then rises too quickly for the rivers to accommodate the increased discharge and we have some flooding, especially of the paths around the lake shore. Where the flooding will occur depends to some extent on wind direction as it is the waves that do the most damage. So, we’ll be out soon looking for the repairs that need doing.

    Fortunately for my regular volunteers, we had a dry job to do. One of the legacies of slate mining in Borrowdale is a cave that was adopted as home in the early 1900s by a remarkable character named Millican Dalton. He had been living and working in London but he gave it all up to spend 50 years developing a sustainable way of living in this cave. The cave is now often used for overnight camping. Some years ago, the Trust had a geo-technical survey carried out in the cave. The recommendation was that we observe a clear-floor policy. If we keep the floor clear of loose stone, we will be able to see if there has been any fall from the roof of the cave. The survey found that the roof is sound but we should still check regularly for any falls. The Trust wants to keep the cave open but needs to know that it is safe to do so. Many campers like to gather stone and arrange it almost like a nest. So, at regular intervals, we need to clear the floor again. And that was a dry job that we could do during some pretty wet weather!

    Daisy here.

     I’m sick of it raining now but I’ve got a new jacket. I like it when I put that on.

  • Trees old and new

    10:00 27 November 2015
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    Autumn is a time when I am busy with tree inspections, its a chance to catch up with some of our trees have a look at them and see if they need any management work. 
    We do the inspections over autumn because fungal fruiting bodies are often visible and they can give us clues about what might be going on inside the tree.

    Sparassis crispa associated with a scots pine tree.

    The weather during September and October was great (its not so good now!) and I took several 'woody' pics

    Patterns in sycamore bark.

    Sunshine through beech leaves.

    Autumn colours in Tilberthwaite.

    I also went down to Hatfield forest on a course to learn more about decay in trees.  Hatfield is home to hundreds of veteran trees in various stages of decay with great examples of decay in trees, how to manage the trees so they continue to provide this rare and valuable habitat.  

    Open grown oak with decay caused by loss of large limb on the left.

    David Lonsdale explaining decay process in a mature beech.

    Pollard ash with large column of decay in the center.

    Dead wood with woodworm holes the large hole is the exit hole from a stag beetle.

    After spending time looking at old trees I spent yesterday putting this years christmas tree in Wray Castle.  It took a massive team effort to get the tree standing in the castle we even had to rope in a couple of the building team as last minute re-enforcements!

    Christmas tree elf wrestling the tree onto the trailer for delivery.

     The tree outside waiting to make its grand entrance!

    Check out the Wray Castle Facebook page to find out more about the tree and other stories from the Castle.

    Richard Tanner
    Woodland ranger
  • Fleeces and waterproofs needed.

    09:10 23 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Deer on the skyline.

    Last weekend I had a change of scenery when I took a trip with a couple of mates to Braemar. The main purpose of the trip was to buy some cross-country skis for a trip we plan to make this winter. But of course we took the opportunity to walk in the mountains while we were there. 

    What was remarkable was that we saw hundreds of hares, far more than we have ever noticed before. They were very easy to spot because they were already developing their white winter coats even though there had been no snowfall this year.

    Spot the hares!

    It turned out to have been the best place to be. When I returned, Jan told me it had rained heavily in the Lakes and the lake and river levels are indeed very high. Once back at work, I went with another ranger to check one of our paths and a section is already under a significant amount of water. As there is very heavy rain forecast and the ground is already saturated, we are likely to have much more flooding. Our hills play a big part in the process that sees high rainfall in this area. Westerly airflows bring across a lot of moisture much of which falls on us!

    In preparation for a big project we will be starting soon, I spent some time with other rangers up around Surprise View. We have had a very kind donation from a member of the public to spend in that area and we are going to use it to improve path and car-park surfaces. As far as possible we will improve accessibility with this work although one section will be done primarily to protect tree roots. This is one of our most visited places and sheer numbers create a lot of wear.

    After we had walked the area and I had talked them through how to estimate what is needed to do the job, we individually calculated the cost.  Each costing was within 5% of all the others. So now we need to schedule the work. Once it is complete, Surprise View will be wheel-chair accessible; all users will have a good path surface and this will protect the surrounding vegetation.

    Daisy here.

     I’ve been running around in the rain. It’s great. I love it when it’s really, really windy.
  • Winter - Arrivals and Departures Lounge

    11:04 19 November 2015
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    Winter – The Arrivals and Departures lounge

    I can’t believe that we are deep in the midst of Autumn already , this year has flown by . I’m sure they’re making these years smaller than they used to ; just like Wagon Wheels and Curly Whirlys, and Cadburys Crème Eggs for that matter  !

    Arrivals and Departures

    Each year  in the Lake District  , as well as bringing a stunning palette of colours , Autumn brings a range of  arrivals and departures in terms of wildlife. These migrations are brought on by changes in the daylight hours and climate, not just in this part of the country but across the whole of Northern Europe. These changes mean that  certain food sources become  more scarce , vegetation  and water bodies become inaccessible due to snow and ice and wilder weather makes it desirable to find a more benign environment  in which  to spend the Winter months.

    Bitter winds

    A previous Ranger blog mentions the house martins that nest under the eaves  of the National Trust houses at Harrowslack next to Lake Windermere. The real start of Autumn for me is when they flock together and decide to head South to Africa, usually connected to the first cold snap, the bitter winds from the Arctic North giving a taste of what’s to come . The signal for the house martins is the temperature drop but also the increasing scarcity of their food source , flying insects .

    Berries and seeds

    The departure of the house martins is followed in a few weeks by the arrival of Bramblings and Fieldfares , birds that migrate from Scandinavia  drawn to Britain by the relatively milder Winter climate ( compared to Norway and Sweden ! ) and the abundant seed and berry crop from the likes of  hawthorn bushes and  beech and rowan trees etc.  Look out for flocks of these Winter visitors  in the parkland around Wray Castle the bramblings look like chaffinches flying from beech tree to beech tree , the Fieldfares  similar to blackbirds can be seen in the fields and around the hedgerows feeding on berries , worms and insects.

    Fieldfare a bit thrushlike !

     Pink foot  V formation

    For me one of the most thrilling spectacles at this time of year is the sight and sound of flocks of geese flying in  V - formation overhead . Pink- footed geese  breed in Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard  in the summer , strangely,  I always seem to see them flying North in the winter and South in the spring . I am assured that this is just the flocks making small movements to different  winter feeding grounds , the estuaries,  marshes and coastal fields around Morecambe Bay and  the Solway .

    A noisy flock of pink footed geese heading north for the Winter !

    The V formation in flight  apparently  helps create an updraft which reduces the resistance and helps conserve energy ! 


    Oystercatchers are a familiar site on the shingle beaches around Windermere and Esthwaite Water , they have a less dramatic migration . Like Curlews in the Autumn/Winter they tend to head back to coastal areas ; tidal beaches and muddy estuaries provide a more reliable source of food than inland .

    So wildlife populations are always changing in the Lake District and there is always something new to see as the seasons change . Wray Castle is open at the weekends up until Christmas. Hill Top  Shop and Garden is open every day ( weather permitting ) The countryside in the South Lakes is open all year round  regardless of the weather.
  • Storm damaged barn at Troutbeck Park Farm.

    14:47 16 November 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Friday unlucky day for this National Trust barn which was extensively damaged by high wind speeds generated by 'Storm Abigail', the UK's first named storm.

    Because of its remote location and the rough track leading to it, the National Trust builders requested the help of the rangers, with land-rover and trailer, to transport acrow props and scaffolding tubes up to the barn. 

    The first acrow prop in place. (above and below). These props will give some much needed support to the roof.

    As the  building is in a dangerous state, temporary barricades have been put in place, but more substantial and secure barricades will be erected as soon as possible.
  • History and archaeology.

    11:45 12 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    At a cursory glance, it would be easy to think that the Lake District landscape is natural and has been little touched by human activity. In reality there is much evidence of such activity since Neolithic times. In the Trust, we like to take every opportunity we can to enhance visitor experiences by informing them about the history and archaeology that can be seen in the landscape. To that end, I spent a day last week with Jamie Lund (the Trust’s archaeologist) and a number of outdoor pursuits instructors up Stoneycroft Ghyll. The idea is that we show them the archaeology; we explain its significance and we discuss how to protect it. The instructors will then be able to cascade that knowledge to all the groups they lead into the Ghyll. Hopefully members of the groups will then go on to tell their friends and families.

    I’m hoping that Jamie’s enthusiasm will inspire the instructors to weave this aspect of landscape awareness into their daily practice. We have used this method of cascading before and it has worked well. It is very effective at transmitting information to a lot of people we might not otherwise meet. The benefits are twofold; people have an enriched understanding and enjoyment of their surrounding environment so they are then more likely to be protective of an important part of our heritage.

    An unexpected highlight of last week was taking a walk up Skiddaw on my day off. Much of the country was shrouded in fog for the day but I walked up into sunshine and looked back over the top of low-lying cloud. It really is a fantastic experience to see just the hill tops emerging through cloud.

    I had Daisy with me of course and also Gus and Bryn, her two doggy friends from Derwent Island. They had a great time running around and playing together.

    Daisy here.

    I’ve been up Skiddaw with my besties. They’re not very good at walking up mountains - not compared to me. It’s brilliant. I’m really fast. 
  • Troutbeck off-road Footpath.

    16:42 11 November 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    An off-road footpath, running between NT Howe Farm land and the busy A592,  overlooks the Troutbeck valley and was put in many years ago; so long ago, in fact, that the ownership and responsibility for the path has now become blurred over the years.

    After consultation with the Troutbeck Village Society the NT agreed to maintain and look after the path until ownership can be established. This will give the dual benefit of encouraging people to use the path instead of a potentially dangerous section of road and it also helps to link up with the network of pathways in and around Troutbeck.

    Up until recently the three hundred metre path had become very uninviting... as can be seen in the image above; it was even worse than this until Trust rangers strimmed, and cut back encroaching vegetation. 
    A large volunteer group from Shardale, led by NT Base camp rangers, Rob, Phillipa and Matt, came along to help us with a path improvement project on the third and fourth of November.
    The first task was to cut back the turf  in an eighty cm. strip along the length of the path... prior to resurfacing it.
    Measuring sticks were used to determine the width of the path back from the leading edge.
    Approximately twenty tons of aggregate, from Elterwater Quarry, was used to  resurface the path.
    Yet again the indispensable power barrows came into their own on a project like this.
    The land-rover and tipper trailer with another two ton load from Elterwater.
    A scene from the quarry. (Two very misty days)
    Smiles at the end of the second day and the first phase of the project completed.
    Above ....
    ....and below!
    The first walkers to use the upgraded footpath.
    Thanks to everyone involved with this project, especially the volunteers.
    It was a most enjoyable and productive two days!
    Job to be proud of.

  • A gift for photographers!

    13:44 07 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week was one of those weeks where I seemed to spend much of my time going from one meeting to another. We do need to have them of course to make sure that all our current projects are going to plan and to also plan what we will do next. It just happens that we have been having a spell of fantastic autumn weather and it’s a shame to have to spend any of it working indoors! Fortunately the meetings went well and there’s the satisfaction of knowing that we are being careful stewards of this special place as we try to improve accessibility.

    I’ve mentioned before that I would be having some consultation sessions about the possibility of creating a recycled plastic boardwalk through Ings Wood. Lots of people stopped off to talk to me about that and I also had emails about it. Everybody was in favour of the idea. It will improve accessibility and will also protect the wetland vegetation that might otherwise be trampled so it’s a win/win situation.  We always have in mind the Trust’s core aim to protect the environment for everyone for all time.

    Between meetings I managed to pop out one lunch-time to take photographs in Borrowdale. It also gave Daisy a breath of fresh air as well. The colours are spectacular at present and the weather has been perfect for some great photographs.

    Daisy here.

     I’ve had a boring week but I did get to run around for a bit. That’s great.
  • The hidden world within a dry stone wall

    08:53 06 November 2015
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham

    Assistant Ranger, Julie Bell delves into the hidden world within a dry stone wall.  Not just a functional stock-proof boundary; they hide an entire wild community who live alongside and within this man-made structure. 

    Walling within the South Lakes area

    Come to the South Lakes and you can’t help but notice the dry stone walls that form such strong patterns and field boundaries within the landscape, criss-crossing through the pastoral valleys, and up onto the high fells.  

    I love how they stand as testament to the skill and hard-work of our forebears, built from natural, locally sourced materials (slate, granite, sandstone or limestone), with no fuels or imports.  The ultimate sustainable build!  

    Fields beside Esthwaite Water (©National Trust Images/Joe Cornish)

    Living walls

    At first glance, it may appear that dry stone walls are a barren, hostile environment for wildlife.  Take a closer look - you will see these living walls are a haven for wildlife, providing important sanctuary to many plant communities, birds, mammals and insects.   Dry stone walls also provide important shelter for larger mammals too in severe weather conditions – hill sheep, and us humans!  

    The first residents move in

    Whilst the stone gives a wall its strength, age gives it character.  Over time, weathered stone becomes porous.  This allows the first residents to move in: an extraordinary plant, with the ability to grow where no other plants have gone before - the lichens.  Did you know: the age of a wall can be guessed from the spread of lichen.  Another pioneering plant, the mosses, are soon to follow behind the lichens. 

    Lichens on a wall weathered by wind and rain. 

    The flowers arrive

    Once these pioneering plants have gained a secure foothold, the flowers arrive.  Seeds of annuals such as dandelions and herb Robert - a familiar flower on banks and hedgerows - land on the wall, carried in by drifting in the wind, or by ants.

    Creepy crawleys

    There are many insects harboured within a wall’s cracks and crevices, including spiders, woodlice, springtails, millipedes, snails, bees, and wasps. 

    Did you know: snails are surprisingly long-lived and may roam the same patch on a wall for up to six years? 

    Common woodlouse on moss


    A variety of mammals make use of walls as a place of shelter, for feeding, nesting, and as a protected corridor to move between different areas of favourable habitat.   These include:

    • Slow worms
    • Common lizards
    • Adders
    • Toads
    • Frogs
    • Voles
    • Field mice
    • Shrews
    • Hedgehogs 
    • Red squirrels – known to store nuts under the stones.


    Birds are frequent visitors to a dry stone wall, using them as a place to search out possible meals, a place to nest, or as shelter or a roost. 

    The secretive Wren
    Wrens occupy holes in walls as nests and also for winter shelter.  They lose heat rapidly when not active in colder weather and Wrens will huddle together for warmth.

    Other birds that sometimes nest in walls are blue and great tits, pied and grey wagtails, house and tree sparrows, spotted flycatchers, nuthatches and wheatears.  One bird that favours walls for nesting is the Redstart. 

    Take a look for yourself

    So, next time you find yourself beside a dry stone wall, take a closer look around you.  You may just be surprised to discover the sheer variety of life you will find.

  • Stone setts for Galava fort signs.

    05:30 01 November 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Back in August 2014, on a very wet Sunday,  the Cumbria National Trust Volunteers helped us to install new interpretation signs for the Roman fort at Ambleside. 
    On an amazingly warm Sunday 1st of November '15, five members of the group helped us to put in hard standing areas in front of the signs, using Burlington stone setts. 

    The following images show just what a good job they did!
    The volunteers seen here digging out a base for the stone setts.
    The wooden frame being put in position.
    Levelling the setts using a straight edge and lump hammer shafts.
    The setts were laid on a bed of mortar.
    Almost finished.
    Brushing in the sharp or grit sand.
    More mortar on the way.
    Unloading stone setts from the trailer for the next stand.
    Cutting back the turf.
    The  turf will be used to help heal erosion scars by the lake shore.
    Two out of the five completed stands. 
    These hard-standing areas will stop the ground wearing away or becoming so muddy in-front of the interpretation signs... especially with the ever increasing numbers of visitors to the fort.

    Members of the  C.N.T.V group with their fine looking handiwork in the foreground.