Latest team news

  • In praise of bluebells

    13:18 27 May 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

    In praise of bluebells

    A fine and subtle spirit dwells
    In every little flower,
    Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
    With more or less of power.
    There is a silent eloquence
    In every wild bluebell
    That fills my softened heart with bliss
    That words could never tell.

    Anne Bronte, 1840.

     They’re on the wane now, those carpets of frosted blue, melting back into the woodland floor as the mercury rises and the canopy closes over. Yet for an all-too-brief window every spring, bluebells bring woods all over Britain bursting into life. To many these azure seas of flowers are as emblematic of the returning sun and lengthening days as the call of cuckoos or the sight of swallows. It’s little wonder that our native hyacinthoides non-scripta is amongst the favourite of the nation’s wildflowers. This charismatic, ‘eloquent’ little flower is rich in folklore and history too, and perhaps because they are found in ‘ancient’ woodland, or perhaps because they contain poisonous glycoside compounds, bluebells have long been associated with fairies. Legend has it that the ‘bells’ were rung to summon fairies to gatherings deep in the woods, but should the ringing fall upon a human ear, alas death would soon come upon that unfortunate soul. 
    A meeting place for fairies?

    To witness the spectacle of a bluebell wood in full bloom, whilst hopefully avoiding an untimely demise, there are few better places than here in the Lake District. Bluebells have a preference for oceanic climates, so the UK, and the west coast in particular, with our prevailing weather bringing mild and wet fronts off the Atlantic, creates the perfect growing conditions. In fact, so well suited are they to our climate that the UK is home to around half the world’s population of hyacinthoides non-scripta.

    Bluebells also grow best in undisturbed soil, in ground that has remained free from the plough or other intrusions for as long as possible. They tend to take a long time to become established in new habitat, yet this apparent torpidity also means that they can linger long after conditions have changed. Like organic archaeology, to come across an open field of bluebells is to bear witness to a changing landscape, a persisting footprint of a now-vanished habitat. They, along with a handful of other plants, are an indicator of ancient woodland. Ancient in this sense meaning pre- 1600 AD, before maps became widely available and woodland management became commonplace, though some may have lineage that traces all the way back to the most recent ice-age, 10,000 years ago. It’s a rare and shrinking habitat, covering just 2% of the UK’s land surface, though unfortunately it’s rarity often doesn’t equate to value, and many sites remain unprotected in law, at the mercy of human development and exploitation.
    Bluebells in open habitat are an indicator of ancient woodland.

    Bluebells themselves however, do enjoy a certain level of protection. Although not officially endangered, since 1998 it has been illegal to collect them for sale, and they are further safeguarded from intentional uprooting under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. The major threats to our native flowers however, come in rather more subtle guises than unscrupulous plant collectors. They first started to appear in the 1960’s, immigrants from Spain escaping from confinement in gardens and parks. Over the following decades increasing amounts of this modern-day Spanish armada has appeared in our woodlands. More robust, more adaptable, and more vigorous than UK bluebells, hyacinthoides hispanica will out-compete native flowers wherever they gain a foothold. To further cloud the picture the two species will readily interbreed, producing a hybridized variety with characteristics of both, and which could ultimately lead to the loss of the genetically distinct non-scripta species. Ominously, in a recent survey by the charity Plantlife, it was found that one in six bluebell woods contained either Spanish or hybrid bluebells alongside native UK plants.

    Recognising the three varieties of bluebell now encountered in the UK woodlands (image reproduced courtesy of Cumbria

    Yet it is it is a different threat which represents the most uncertain future for our beloved bluebells. Native seeds can and are being banked. Spanish invaders can to an extent be eradicated (though it is illegal to uproot any plant without landowner consent). A changing climate however, could see bluebell carpets disappear into memory as the ecological niche to which they are so superbly adapted is swallowed up by shifting patterns and seasons.  If the trend for earlier springs continues, the advancing overhead canopy and competition from other plants on the woodland floor could close the window on bluebells forever.
    Could sights like this become a thing of the past?

    I for one hope not. I hope that the spectacle of a bluebell wood in full bloom, surely one of the most delightful and uplifting treasures of the British countryside, is around for many years to come. I hope that future generations can experience and wonder at their subtle majesty, and fill their own softened hearts with bliss as they do so.
  • Postcard from Clair in the USA

    16:49 26 May 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


    I'm sending a blog 'postcard' from the USA, about my recent adventures to the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument and Lake Mead National Recreation Area (this is the first time they’ve offered shadow assignments at the World Ranger Congress). I’ve tried to pick out the highlights as there is so much I want to talk about!

    Andy Dutton (an Australian ranger from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service) and I spent a week with key staff and rangers at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument and Pipe Springs National Monument as well as the awe-inspiring Zion National Park. We shared stories about our respective areas and learnt about issues facing each of these areas. The American protected area system is so different to the UK, many of these areas are owned by the federal government. It was a fantastic experience to compare how the three different countries approach the ranger profession. And my, do the Americans know how to make people feel welcome.

    Lake Mead is a huge area outside Las Vegas (think a huge version of Windermere) popular with boaters, day trippers and those seeking a wilderness experience.

    The vastness of Lake Mead, where they're facing issues with historical lowering water levels.
    We also experienced the Colorado river in all it’s glory by taking a rafting trip below the Hoover Dam to see some of their visitor and resource management issues. Obviously enjoying the mid-30 degrees heat!
    Rafting down the Black Canyon, meeting local specialists including a meteorologist, the chief Law Enforcement ranger and a biologist.

    Ranger pilot Scott Taylor also took us between Boulder City (where we were based) to St George in a small plane. In between bouts of nausea (the updrafts were pretty intense) I took what seemed to be a million photos of the Grand Canyon en route. The scale of land they manage out here makes having a small plane an essential part of their role, particularly for law enforcement and fire management.
    What a view! 

    As a contrast,we also saw the Grand Canyon from the Parashant (the flatter lands to the North of the main Grand Canyon that the tourists go to).

    It was great to spend time with their ecologist, their physical scientist, archaeologist and other rangers and to learn more about what it takes to manage this huge piece of land.

    And finally, imagine being a backcountry ranger and being given a government issued mountain bike to patrol around on? Often the roads in this part of the country are so difficult to navigate (particularly when it rains!) that this is the best way to get around (being a long distance runner also helps too, naturally). I am sure job applications from any of you fit and hardy souls would be welcome!

    From one extreme to another. Zion National Park has 4 million visitors a year. Most going to the main canyon, with concrete pavements and double buses getting visitors up to the main walking routes up the valley. It seems in order for everyone to be able to enjoy these special places such apparent extreme measures are necessary.

    One of the key things I’ve got from this experience is that as rangers we all face similar issues regardless of our location. However rangers in America have comparable powers to the police, have responsibility for fighting wilderness fires and play a key role in search and rescue. But then America is much much larger than the UK.

    Many thanks to my hosts at both Lake Mead and the Parashant. I look forward to showing them the delights of our wonderful Lake District in the future!

    I’ll leave you with this little guy…

    Ground squirrel plotting something! 

    I’m now at Estes Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park for the World Ranger Congress and it is quite a contrast to the very dry desert. 


  • High Lickbarrow Farm. Walling with a tree in mind.

    09:33 25 May 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Recently we have been repairing roadside dry stone walls at High Lickbarrow Farm near Windermere.
    This particular gap proved to be the most challenging to rebuild. An oak tree, seen behind the mass of ivy, had grown up close to the wall subsequent to it being built. Over many years, as the tree grew, it gradually pushed the wall out of shape and it's root system caused further problems to the wall's foundations.
    With the wall stripped back it was now clear that a main root had grown through the full width of the wall. No doubt that  this was the main cause of the wall's collapse. 
    A technique we have used before is to bridge tree roots in walls; this allows roots room for further growth and helps to lessen their impact on the wall.
     The root has space around it after being bridged.  The rocking motion set up by the root from the swaying of the tree should be less damaging to the wall.
    On the roadside the wall was rebuilt following the contours of the tree trunk allowing space for the tree to sway in windy weather... hopefully without affecting the wall. The wall is narrower at this point than is ideal but it is a compromise that will, we think, give the rebuilt wall a chance of staying intact over the long term.
    This is the rebuilt wall as seen from the 'field' side...
    ...with a corresponding image of the wall from the roadside; this shows just how much the tree has encroached on the wall. It made the walling interesting to say the least.
    A bonus working at Lickbarrow was seeing the new arrivals to the Scoutbeck herd of Albion cattle. The calves are about two weeks old. Please check the blog for future posts on the Scoutbeck herd of Albion cattle at Lickbarrow.
    They are just naturals in front of a camera.

  • Martin Wood...A Tale Of Two Walls.

    15:30 20 May 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    This is Martin Wood situated just above Troutbeck Village, close to the start of the track that leads to Wansfell. 
    Within lurks some wonderful, largely intact stone work that presumably  formed part of the boundary of an old walled garden that sadly fell into disuse a long time ago.
    The stones, in this image, were painstakingly shaped to allow the grand entrance to have an oblique angle of  approximately twenty degrees...astonishing attention to detail. The walling as a whole is a credit to the stonemasons and dry stone wallers of yesteryear. 
    This wall end, (again beautifully constructed), had a holly hedge meeting it to form part of the boundary, the old trees of which are to be seen in this image.
    The west facing wall is over fifteen feet tall. The buttresses were probably added later to give it some much needed support!
    Part of the old holly hedge.
    One of the quarries within the wood which supplied the stone for the walls.
    This is presumably the ruins of the old quarry hut situated close to the main quarry.
    A walled Garden with..not too bad a view of Windermere... looking south towards Belle Isle. 

    Part of our work involves looking after and repairing woodland boundary walls. We had three wall gaps to do at Martin Wood, two of which were straightforward...The third one was a "Real Duesy"...
    ...Well I mean, just look at the state of it!
    After what seemed like an eternity of clearing the stone and filler back to where the wall was reasonably sound...
    ...we were able to dig out, reposition the foundation stones, and start rebuilding.
    Because the wall is well over six feet in height on the field side, most of the top stones were put in place on the wooded side where, as can be seen, there is a marked disparity between the two levels!
    The finished job.
  • Preparing for the path repairs above Seldom Seen.

    11:49 13 May 2016
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Since our last post we've been getting ready for another season of upland footpath repair. Our main project this year is on the path above Seldom Seen, in Ullswater.

    As a bit of a change from our usual blog post style, here we've documented our work using just a series photos from our Instagram account.

    We're still fairly new to Instagram, having only joined in August last year, but it's proving a really good way to share our photos and chat with people interested in our work. You don't have to be on Instagram to view our photos, you can just click on the link here to see them. If you are on Instagram though, feel free to give @NTCentralFells a follow and we love seeing your comments too.

     Carrying the heli-bags to site

     Filling the first bag

     Bag filling during one of many hail storms

     View down Glencoyne Beck, in better weather

     Filled bags ready to be flown

    View down to Ullswater while walking back from the worksite

     Lifting in the bags of rock

     Helicopter in action
  • Helicopter Lift at Troutbeck Park Farm.

    16:00 05 May 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    A large quantity of  fencing materials required  transporting onto difficult to access upland areas of  the National Trust farm, Troutbeck Park Farm, including The Tongue and Yoke. A helicopter lift was deemed to be the most cost effective and efficient means of achieving this. 

    British International Helicopters were contracted to do the work here, and elsewhere in The Lakes, by the National Trust in partnership with the Lake District National Park Authority.

    The fencing materials are needed to repair flood damaged boundaries and to stock proof certain areas from sheep; the aim here is to improve wood pasture land by a conservation grazing regime with limited numbers of cattle.

    Prior to the day of the lift, much preparation work was needed such as stacking the fence posts into bundles and roping them up. The stock netting and barb wire were put into one tonne bags.

    Leo, the Knot Maestro! 

    Quantities of fencing materials and even more 'bundles' higher up the slope.

    The British International Helicopters' BK 117 C1 G-RESC refuelling on the day of the 'lift'...May the fifth.

    The lift in progress...this helicopter has a lifting capacity of 1.2 tonnes.

    A close up....

    ...and an image at 25X zoom, approaching the drop zone.


    Another 100 posts on their way to The Tongue, the summit of which can be seen in the background.

    With special thanks to the pilot and ground crew of British International Helicopters.

    All the fencing materials were flown to their designated drop zones in less than half a day...Impressive!

  • Spring is here?

    16:00 28 April 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    After several days of glorious sunshine, the arrival of blizard like conditions came as quite a shock on this day, Thursday the 28th of the Troutbeck Valley.

    Our Ford Ranger...

    ...was instinctively sought out as the best shelter available by this lamb of just a few hours old born this day, Thursday 28th of the Troutbeck Valley...

    The anxious ewe keeps a weather eye on her off-spring!
  • The 8th World Ranger Congress

    08:26 22 April 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

    Every now and then we hear stories on the news of rangers from other countries dying in the course of their jobs - protecting wild animals, trying to prevent the complete destruction of rainforests and other sensitive habitats and I think how lucky we rangers are in the UK that we don’t need to take guns to work with us, or wear bullet proof vests. That our visitors on the whole understand what we are trying to do, what we are trying to conserve and protect. Rangering is a varied and exciting profession which we need to shout more about. This is where the great work of organizations like the International Ranger Federation(IRF) comes in.

    The IRF ‘ensure the world’s terrestrial and marine parks, and the flora and fauna that live in them, are protected from vandalism, poaching, theft, exploitation or destruction’ – The IRF is the voice for the world’s park rangers 

    Every 3 years, the IRF organises a gathering of rangers from all around the world to share stories, learn new skills, create lasting partnerships and experiences of what it is like to be at the front line, protecting the world’s most special places. This worldwide event has been hosted in places as far apart as Australia, Scotland, Tanzania and South Africa and will be attended by rangers from 40+ countries. This year, it is being held in Estes Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. Myself and Chris Wood (Ranger at the North York Moors and Yorkshire Coast Properties) have been chosen to represent the National Trust at the 8th congress in May. And to say I am excited is a huge understatement. 

    Reflection of Hallett Peak in Estes Park - Wow

    Obviously, Colorado is a loooong way away so I plan on making the most of it. I’ll also spend a week meeting some of the rangers in the Grand Canyon Parashant National Park. My kind and generous hosts have made exciting plans for me including an opportunity to join their ranger pilot for a flight over Lake Mead and Parashant. I’ll also get to experience an overnight trip into the Parashant International Night Sky Province to see the night sky in this truly wild place! 

    One of the amazing views of the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument

    This trip will be a very humbling and real celebration of what it means to be a ranger and be part of the worldwide ranger community. Chris and I will share this experience and raise awareness of the IRFs work with our fellow NT ranger colleagues as well as with you, our visitors and supporters. Watch this space.

    I wonder if I'll see any marmots?

    Clair Payne
    Hawkshead and Claife 

  • Moving on with the year

    09:00 15 April 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

    With the weather starting to improve now and more groups arriving the team here at the volunteer centre High Wray Basecamp is starting to spend more time outdoors now. We always look forward to this but with the miserable weather we had to put up with over winter we are sometimes quite pleased that we scale back on the amount of time we spend outdoors over the darker months. There are very good reasons for this as there is lots of wrapping up to do of the year just gone, planning to do for the year ahead and more importantly, maintenance of the site itself.
    Preparing the walls for repainting, goodbye to gloomy Terracotta
    Getting the new Pistachio colour scheme on - sophisticated!

    This maintenance occuppied us fully for a couple of weeks as we once more hosted the ‘Basecamp Blitz’, a week long barney of painting and DIY. Being a volunteer centre, we didn't do this on our own and had the help of some very hard working volunteers keen to get going with brush and roller.
    Do you like what we've done with the place? The Longland with the first coat on

    Now all we need is the roulette wheel - The 'Casino Brown' in full force
    Once the walls were complete, we moved on to the floors and laid new carpet tiles down in the Longland block. The old ones were starting to wear out and had so many corners peeling up it was becoming a full time job sticking them back down again. It’s great to have replaced them, even if the new ones have the perhaps inappropriate colour name of 'Casino Brown'!

    Now complete we have a lovely fresh feeling to welcome our many groups in for this year - it is a nice thought that improvements that will benefit many volunteers over the coming years have been wrought by volunteers themselves. 
    But it wasn't all indoor work over the winter and early spring. Part of the aforementioned planning  involved heading up to the hills to look at some of our upland footpath jobs for the year ahead. We got lucky with a rare sunny day for a site visit to Gummer’s How, above Windermere, but weren’t so lucky with a trip up Far Easedale a week later where it seemed winter had returned with a vengeance. Whatever the weather these trips are important as we need to have a very clear idea of the jobs we’ll be tackling with volunteer groups – it’s no good arriving on site and then trying to work out how to tackle a problem when you have 15 volunteers keen to get cracking!

    Lucky! The view from the top of Gummers How

    Not so lucky! Chilly and wet conditions for the trip up Far Easedale
    Since I wrote the most of this blog we've been out tackling the dreaded job of bag filling. Working with the South Lakes upland path team and the Fix the Fells lengthsmen we've been helping each other collecting enough stone for this year’s scheduled upland jobs. The stone is loaded into 1 ton bags ready to be lifted into place by helicopter, always a daunting proposition that we’re pleased to have completed. Finishing this normally coincides with the improvement of the weather and a full move from planning to action, a time of year that can’t come soon enough!

    See, it is fun! the lengthsmen mid stone collection


    07:00 15 April 2016
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

     Whilst working on a roadside footpath near The Howe Farm, Troutbeck, Bruna Remesso, Academy Ranger based at Saint Catherine's saw this impressive looking fungi. Using her mobile phone she took some images of it...

     ...growing on...

    ...a wrapped hay bale! 

    Just a tiny hole in the bale wrap has enabled the fungi within to fruit like this...anyone know what variety this one is!?