Latest team news

  • Wild Camping

    15:09 19 November 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    School half-term holidays are over and winter is fast approaching so a friend and colleague, John Malley, and I decided to take some leave and spend a long weekend camping in Cairngorm. We approached from the Braemar side, went up Ben Macdui and camped out for a few nights.

    The weather was fantastic but, not surprising of course at this time of year, the nights were cold with temperatures well below freezing.  As you can see in the photographs, there was already quite a bit of snow on the ground.  We did have one day when we were walking in low cloud so we needed our map and compass skills to make safe progress. 

    There really is no experience quite like wild camping in a remote place.  Just make sure that when you leave a site, the only evidence that you have been there is a temporary footprint of your tent and that will disappear very quickly.

    Leaving nothing behind.

    But, before you go, make sure you know how to use your equipment and skills.  Have a few outings to places you know and practise navigating with map and compass.  Then try it on a longer route and eventually include an overnight camp.  Once you are confident that you could rely entirely on your map and compass if you had to, then you can go to remote locations that are new to you.

    We had a fantastic few days.  One night was a clear, crisp night and the stars were brilliant.  On another night a dozen or so red deer passed almost silently within about 20 metres of my tent.  It’s amazing that such large animals can move so quietly.  They were a stunning silhouette against the skyline.

    On our way back out we called into Mar Lodge (National Trust for Scotland) to see the Head Ranger that John knows.  Had a welcome cup of coffee and shared thoughts about our work.  It’s a relief in some ways to realise that we are not the only ones with a large area to cover and never enough money to do all that needs to be done!

    Daisy here:

    The weekend was boring.  Roy went away.  Jan did some training with me but ... well, then I had to go to work with her and just be in the van.  But he’s back now.
  • New Visual Identity

    08:30 14 November 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    National Trust properties within the Lake District National Park have recently adopted a new "visual identity" aiming to give a fresh and striking interpretation of what the National Trust, "THE LAKES" represent.

    Below are several examples of the new "visual identity" on three of the Central and East Lakes vehicles with the following stories to relate.  

    The image on this Ford Ranger represents the National Trust as supporters of outdoor activities with access to lakes such as Windermere and Ullswater.

    A group of kayakers setting off from National Trust land...Jenkyns Field...Windermere.

    The image on the other side of the Ranger represents the many miles of footpaths, bridle ways, and cycle routes that are freely available to be enjoyed by all.

    The National Trust Fell Rangers Blog gives an indication as to the amount of hard work that is needed to construct and maintain the footpaths in this region.

    Guided walks leaflet.

    An illustration of the Footprint building. This is the first straw bale building in Cumbria; it is set in the grounds of St. Catherine's with spectacular views of Windermere. It is a unique and popular venue...from school groups to green wood working events, and from birthday parties to yoga sessions.

    The Footprint alongside Wynlass Beck.

     An atmospheric view from the Footprint during a temperature inversion over Windermere.

    This image of a Belted Galloway cow, "Beltie", represents the strides that the National Trust are making in promoting and conserving ancient wood pastures. (various posts on this subject are on this Blog).

    Wood pasture....Glenamara Park.

    This image is particularly appropriate as red squirrels have recently been seen at Hodgehowe Wood very near St. Catherine's, (where this vehicle is based). By keeping the numbers of grey squirrels in check, the reds are making a come back in this area.

    In partnership with the Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group,the National Trust have created a red squirrel trail at Aira Force. This image is of a red squirrel making full use of one of the feeders... (caught on one of the strategically placed cameras and relayed back to a monitor in the Visitors' Shelter). See post...Aira Force Red Squirrel Trail.

    Overall the new "visual identity" has been a success. Most people like the bold colours and the minimalist imaging on the vehicles.
  • Woodland trail.

    11:10 12 November 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    The main focus of my work last week was the play trail in Cockshot Wood. That is making really good progress.  I began working with a couple of young guys who are doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and were very helpful.  Then I finished off with the regional volunteer group who are always excellent.

    As it was school half-term break, we also did a 50 Things to do before you're 11 ¾ event down at the lake shore.  This was not as successful as we would have liked because the weather let us down unfortunately


    There are still things to be done with the Wild Play Trail but there probably always will be things to add or things to improve as new ideas pop up.  But so far I am really pleased with what has been achieved.  All the people who have worked so hard to make this happen can be really proud of their work.  It is already proving to be a big hit with children as you can see in the photographs.


    Daisy here,


    I got to play in the woods with lots of different people. It was great.

  • Stepping stones in the wood.

    17:28 05 November 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Myself, Leila (our Academy Ranger) and Sarah (one of my regular volunteers) tackled a heavy job last week. We shifted some huge logs onto a trailer to take them round to Cockshot Wood to use on the new play trail.  They were cut from a Scots Pine that had just reached the end of its life and had been brought down during a storm some years ago. 

    You might wonder how just three of us could move these but the photographs show how ropes, pulleys, ramps and some hard graft can do it.

    Now that we have it in the wood, I want to use it as stepping stones to lead people on from the fairy ring and thrones even further into the wood.  I’ll soon be meeting up with my regional volunteers so digging those in will be the project for their visit.  The play trail is really developing quickly now so we are looking forward to seeing many more children following it and playing in the woods.

    Elsewhere in the week, Leila and I went up Cat Gill to deal with a situation before it becomes a big problem.  Some time ago the Trust laid a pitched path up there for walkers and runners to follow but unfortunately some have started to take a short-cut down a steeper slope.  The problem with that is that eventually the short-cut will begin to cause serious damage to the slope with heavy rains and foot traffic combining to erode the area.

    One solution is to fell some small trees across the short-cut so that use of the pitched path is the easiest option.  I had taken a chainsaw to do this but it was too windy to do it safely and accurately so I’ll need to go back to this.

    Whilst we were up there, we took a look at a project that Leila will take on.  It will improve some fencing and access but I’ll let you know more about that in a future blog.

    Daisy here.
    I’ve been helping with some big bits of wood and I’ve been up Cat Gill.  Cat Gill’s great.  You can run and run and run and nobody cares.

  • Rebuilding accident-damaged roadside walls.

    08:30 03 November 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    The stone built roadside walls of the Lake District are regularly damaged by vehicles.

    Time is set aside for the Central and East Lakes Rangers to repair damaged National Trust roadside walls, usually in Autumn or Winter.

    A car recently hit the roadside wall at Millerground.
    (Driver failed to negotiate the bend on the A592 and this was the result)
    This masonry wall (stone cemented together with mortar) required a lot of preparation work before rebuilding work could begin. On impact the wall broke up into large irregular shaped blocks.
    Time consuming work was put into separating the stone from the mortar. In the image above a wrecking bar was used to prise the top or cam stones apart.

    Dry stone walls usually require a lot less preparation work because no mortar is used in their construction. In addition, no sand, cement or a mixer is needed!
    With the top stones removed, a sledge hammer was used to separate the walling stone from the tenacious grip of the mortar!
    Because of the height difference between the two sides of this retaining wall, scaffolding was needed. The stone and chunks of mortar were cleared back from the damaged wall to allow access for the scaffolders.
    The damaged section of the wall has been taken back to where the wall is sound and is now ready to be rebuilt.
    The scaffold is in place with the planks cleverly arranged around the big beech tree.
    The next stage is to load the scaffolding with stone.  (Note Wynlass Beck in the background)
    The wall is being rebuilt using mortar as it was originally.

    The last of the mortar is being removed from the stones using walling hammers and cold chisels.
    The lumps of old mortar did not go to waste. They came in useful as filler for the ongoing revetment work at Millerground!
    With the wall now up to height the top stones can be put into position.
    The completed work. Hopefully, for everyone's sake, it will not be hit least not for a long time!

  • Wednesday 29 October

    16:30 29 October 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed


    Pumpkins and Carvers.




    Decorating the house.

  • Ghostrider

    10:00 27 October 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

    Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome wrote stories and created characters that have become part of the culture of this part of the lakes. Tales of adventures on sunny days, of breezy picnics by the lake,  friendships and laughter. But some stories are much much older, these are stories of love and loss  of violent actions with fatal consequence of madness despair and death, these stories ,centuries old , have been passed from generation to generation and have been around so long they are now part of the soil, the water the rocks and the air.
    At this time of year these stories seem somehow closer to the surface. Maybe it’s the cold still autumn mornings when  the mist hangs low over the lake, deadening the background noise, allowing disembodied voices animal and human to reach out through the enveloping grey.  Maybe it was the earth tremor last night; that noise and the shaking woke me suddenly with a bright blinding light and a searing pain down my spine and I have had the mother of all headaches ever since.
    Windermere Ferry early morning
    And this is how I start my normal daily commute into work as a  countryside Ranger on my trusty iron horse, a journey I’ve made a thousand times before, but this morning it feels somehow different, otherworldly, I have a sick feeling in my stomach and feel so damn cold. A mile along the lakeshore cutting my way through the mist, the sound of the Windermere car ferry , creaking and groaning as it pulls itself along on metal chains. I am reminded of the ferry disaster of 1597. A wedding party  45 strong returning from Far Sawrey cram themselves onto the ferry which was in those days just a large rowing boat. The outward journey in calm waters, full of laughter and merriment turned to disaster on their return as the winds picked up the wedding party high on drink but low on balance capsized the boat and 38 people drowned. The biggest loss of life that this lake has seen.
    Since then people have reported seeing faces in these murky waters and swimmers have felt hands grabbing their ankles trying to drag them under to join the wedding party. These are  probably just reflections and submerged weeds, but his morning through the mist the bouys that surround the islands look eerily like floating lifeless bodies .
    Sawrey Church
    Onward and up ferry hill to the church at Far Sawrey the late flowering devils bit scabious scattered on the grassy road verges. Chattering crows gather on the wall watching me pass by like they’re waiting for  something to happen.
    Through the Sawreys and along the side of Esthwaite Water this is always the coldest part of the ride in, this morning it is icy cold I look out across the water towards the Devils Gallop. In medieval times when Hawkshead was the main market town in south Lakeland the packhorse men would spur the horses on double-quick along this lonely stretch of road trying to keep one step ahead of old nick. Through the mists I hear the sound of hooves and a sudden snort of some large hidden beast on the other side of the hedge gets the adrenaline racing and I put my foot down on the pedals just that bit faster.
    Approaching Priests Pot, a small circular tarn on the edge of Hawkshead village past the site of the gibbet. This was an upright wooden post with a projecting arm for hanging the bodies of executed criminals. A bit like a giant bird feeder it acted as a blunt warning to the packhorse men approaching the village, with its 14 public houses, to behave themselves when they got paid or as a reminder as they were leaving that they may have got away with it this time but next time they might not be as lucky.
    Riding through the village  the speed camera on the corner shouts 13 at me in bright red numbers ( why is it always 13 ) is it trying to tell me something ?
    Riding out of the village my nerves on edge not warming up at all I look to my right to Latterbarrow and Claife Heights  my thoughts inevitably stray to the Crier of Claife the ghost that has haunted the Heights since they were the property of Furness Abbey. There was  apparently a house of ill repute on Claife heights where women would provide ‘ refreshment ‘ to the weary packhorse men.  A young monk sent by the Abbey to save these women from a life of sin, fell in love with one of them, but his advances were spurned and the rejection eventually sent him mad, he died love lorn and lost on the heights.
    His restless spirit wandered the heights for years wailing into the night. One foggy winters evening the ferry men based at Ferry Nab, heard a desperate call from across the lake “ferryman, ferry man". The ferryman set off into the mist  a single lamp on the prow of the boat lighting the way. After some considerable time,  the boat eventually drifted back across the lake, with no passenger, no light and the ferryman wide eyed with terror, struck dumb by whatever unspeakable horror that he had witnessed .
    Well, that was enough for the locals and they quickly engaged two priests with ‘bell ,book and candle' to exorcise the ghost’s spirit to a remote quarry on the heights. If you listen carefully some nights you can still hear strange noises probably just the screech of an owl, the cry of a fox or the bark of young stag.
    Claife Under a blood red sky
    Climbing up Hawkshead Hill ,out of the mist now the ghost of the mad monk seems to be fading , but the late rising sun offers no heat and has cast a  deep bloody hue over everything , the silent ghostly figure of a barn owl sweeps low  across the field to my left.  It is folklore that these owls carry the souls of the  recently departed I look back to see Claife under a blood red sky, and it looks most peculiar.
    Up ahead I can see a black figure crouched over something in the middle of the road is that a shadow or .... As I get closer the figure stands up and breaks  apart, exploding in ten different directions at the same time, the sound of a cape?..... no it’s the sound of wings flapping as a murder of carrion crows  disperse into the trees above, not wanting to move too far from what was interesting them lying on the tarmac.
    What was interesting them is a mass of blood and bone and entrails , road kill of some description feeling bad enough I can’t bear to look too closely so I cycle on and the pain in my back and the cold are just getting worse.
    I finally reach the crossroads at High Cross and now have an easy descent, freewheeling down to our Ranger base in Coniston. The base is very quiet, unusually quiet for a workday, I walk into the kitchen area and on the table lying open on pages 7 and 8 is the most  recent edition of the Westmorland Gazette and my eye is drawn to a short article ‘National Trust Ranger killed in early morning traffic accident', gripped by a crushing fear and understanding, the cold and the pain intensify, the room starts shaking and then suddenly the pain and the cold disappear along with the colour, the light, the sound………
    When you are walking the paths and lanes of South Lakeland if you feel a sudden unexplained rush of wind passing by or the squealing of brakes when no bike is around to be seen, it might just be me on my way into work again ........ghostrider. 
    Paul Farrington (1963-2014)
    National Trust Ranger
    South Lakes
  • Mushrooms and thrones.

    17:57 26 October 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week was one of those weeks where I was juggling a few different jobs.  I spent some time with my volunteers adding some mushrooms and thrones to the ‘fairy ring’ on the play trail in Cockshot Wood next to the Trust shop.  As usual, my team of volunteers did some great work.  

    The son of one of the volunteers served as a very useful measure for how deep we needed to dig the holes for the thrones.  They need to be the right size. 

    It has been very satisfying to see people sitting on the mushrooms as soon as we have stopped work for the day.  I think this ‘fairy ring’ in the wood is going to be very popular.

    I spent some time with Leila, our new Academy Ranger surveying the area for an accessible path.  We do have to plan the route carefully.  Accessibility for all is always at the front of my mind and where ever possible I make things as accessible as possible.After all, our founders did say, “ For ever, for everybody.” That's a very long time and a lot of people.

    And lastly but not least, I’ve been drawing up plans to submit with a planning application for a new stretch of board-walk.

    On my day off, Daisy and me as usual walked along the lake shore.   I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it is worth repeating.  The colours are at their best at present and in sunshine or dappled shade the area is just stunning.  As ever, a few stormy days will begin to strip off many of the leaves from the trees and the first frosts will see the end of this year’s spectacular display.

    Daisy here, 

    Mucky face from digging.  Sad face because they have stopped me digging.

    I was helping Roy and his volunteers dig holes for the mushrooms and the thrones at the wild play trail.  Then they tied me up and I don’t know why because all I was doing was helping dig.  And guess what – I’m brilliant at digging.

  • Rangers ‘walking on the wild’ side…

    09:00 24 October 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

    As rangers, the variety of places we work and the type of work we carry out varies a lot. It almost sounds cliched we say it so often. Whether that is rebuilding a dry stone wall, fixing a gate, filling in potholes, leading a guided walk, doing some 50 things activities with groups of children or presenting our special places to the highest standard (that includes the toilets!). But the most important part of our role is sharing this love of special places with all our visitors.

    When I first started as a ranger, I was quite daunted by how much knowledge some of the other rangers had about their patch, ecology and the natural environment. From my volunteer days, I was under the impression that the role was very much about getting your hands dirty through the variety of conservation work such as rhododendron bashing and drainage clearance. But as it turned out it was about so much more than that! 
    South Lakes Rangers 'walking in the wild' side in Blelham Tarn
    Every ranger brings their own special skills and interests to the job and the South Lakes ranger team is no exception. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience but historically we have not been great at sharing this knowledge around the team (great at sharing with the public!). After lots of ranger chitter-chatter, we came up with a solution - ‘Walking in the wild side’.

    Rangers learning about the geology of the Coniston coppermines valley from a very knowledgeable, local historian, Mark Scott
    The idea is for a ranger to run an afternoon session of his or her choosing on the South Lakes patch, once a month by getting out and in true Lou Reed style ‘walking in the wild’ side! The topics so far have ranged from dragonflies and damselflies, the landscape history and ancient trees of Tarn Hows, the history of the Coniston Coppermines and a historical walk around Blelham Tarn. It seems hard to see how we can justify the ranger time initially when we look at the mounting work such as fixing wall gaps, repairing fences, filling in potholes, strimming grass. Justification is easy – how can we share our love of special places with our visitors if we don’t spend the time learning about them?

    Ranger Paul explaining how farmland can be managed to the benefit of the Windermere Catchment
    Many people tell me that you become knowledgable over time, by picking up tid-bits and simply asking lots of questions. I find the best way to learn is to get out and hear passionate people talking about the subjects that they care about! 

    The idea is not only to share this knowledge but also to allow individuals to pursue their own interests and learn about a topic to share with everyone else. We have plenty more planned in for the future including meadow wildflowers, Beatrix Potter and her farming legacy, traditional use of woodlands and woodland crafts. I am hoping to run a ‘walk in the wild side ‘ by sharing (and improving!) my knowledge of Lake District geomorphology… The knowledge of the South Lakes ranger team as a whole is improving rapidly!

    Rain doesn't stop play - learning about the industrial archaeology and history of the Coniston coppermines

    One of the National Trusts’ aims is to pass on a richer, healthier natural environment for future generations. This starts with sharing our knowledge and interests with everyone we meet... We want to help people to recognise the true value of our countryside and have a role in caring for it, for example to understand the impact that wild camping and off-road driving can have on our special places.

    So if you see a ranger in red out and about, ask them what they have been learning about recently!

  • Ranger Team Day at Millerground.

    16:00 22 October 2014
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    As mentioned in previous posts, sections of the Millerground footpath... on the extremely popular woodland walk along Windermere's eastern shore...are at risk of being seriously undermined when lake levels rise.

    To combat this...stone revetment work by rangers and volunteers has been taking place in vulnerable areas.

    It was felt that one bad area in particular needed many hands to help make a big task a lot less daunting; so Rangers, based at St. Catherine's Windermere, arranged a "Team Day" with the Fell Rangers, Rangers from Langdale and from Ullswater to assist with the work.

    It can be seen how the ground has sagged, the bank having been undercut and the soft sub soil washed away.
    A small sycamore, that had collapsed along with the undercut bank, needed to be felled and removed prior to continuing the stone revetment work.
    Revetment work proceeding with Fell Rangers, Leo and Ade and Langdale Ranger, Laura. Stone and rubble in the right of the image is being used to fill a void created by a fallen beech tree.
    The cavity that was created behind the uplifted rootplate after the tree fell is very close to the footpath, hence the guard fence. Once the hole was filled and levelled the fence could be removed.
    Stone being brought in by power barrow by Dave, Ullswater Ranger, and Ray, Windermere Ranger.
    Many tons of stone were needed. These power barrows have proven to be invaluable on difficult sites.
    Pitching up the slope where the sycamore once was.
    Looking good.
    Another section of path made safe. The angle of the revetment is designed to dissipate the strength of the waves when water levels are high.
    Putting in the new path edging stones. Where did you get that hat!?
    Newly landscaped area above the fallen beech tree. It is healthy enough inspite of its prone position as it still has a good root system. Interestingly reed beds are becoming established in the shelter of this fallen tree!
    What kind of a Team Day would it be without a barbeque? Steve from Ullswater keeping an expert eye on the sausages and burgers.