Latest team news
Rebuilding roadside walls...good teamwork required!
03:30 22 June 2016
By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland WicksteedThe dry stone walls bordering narrow twisting Lake District roads are regularly hit by vehicles; this accident damaged wall, near Patterdale, is by the A592 just north of Kirkstone Pass.Repairing these walls safely usually involves traffic control; rangers and volunteers from different properties in the Central East Lakes region team up to rebuild walls; stop-go signs are used to keep the traffic to a single file past the work site.The safety barrier is in place on the roadside with the keep left arrow sign. The corresponding keep right arrow sign is at the other end of the safety barrier. (Other signs warning motorists of roadworks and traffic control have also been put in position along the road)The wall was on a difficult section of road to manage as there was a bend as well as a blind summit to contend with; rangers on the stop-go signs were issued with walkie-talkies as an extra safety precaution.Land-Rover and trailer being allowed through......and a car travelling in the other direction cresting the blind summit.The work is progressing well.A stream of traffic heading south towards the Kirkstone Pass.Nearly done.All done and dusted.Thanks to good teamwork the job went without a hitch and with minimal disruption to traffic.
A big HELLO from Eve
15:11 17 June 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 GrahamHello! My name is Eve and I am the new friendly face you will see here around Tarn Hows. I have recently finished university at Liverpool and have moved back up north to join the team, here at Boon Crag, as an Assistant Ranger at Tarn Hows for the next few months. Having been here for a grand total of 7 days now, I have already been involved in a range of work including assisting on guided walks, ending with free tea and cake, visiting our property’s sites in the sun and doing a variety of practical work around Tarn Hows- not too bad ey?!
A lovely view over Tarn hows early in the morning.
Born and bred in Cumbria, I love the outdoors and have a passion for nature. Therefore, I see myself very lucky to have landed a job in such a beautiful place and a great location as to Tarn Hows. I will be here to ensure a very warm welcome to many of the 300,000 visitors that come to Tarns Hows each year, and I will be helping to maintain and conserve this incredible site. I will be helping to manage our off-road mobility vehicles as well as keeping the area looking at its best.
Tarn Hows has bags of history and it is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The tarn is fed by a series of valley and basin mires, a nationally rare and protected habitat, which supports rare aquatic plant species and invites a diverse range of wildlife to the area. Future management work may involve removing some trees to encourage growth of aquatic plants. Ancient woodland, also a nationally protected habitat, can be found of the south-west side of the tarn, rich with bryophytes and lichens. The tarn is also surrounded by old larch plantations, acid grasslands and areas of heathland. It’s a very diverse place with lots to see! I will be leading enjoyable walks around the tarn and surrounding area, (hopefully) filling your heads with lots of knowledge about the management, history and wildlife that can be found here and I am very much looking forward to it.
Me at my new office! Yellow Flag Iris currently in bloom by the side of the tarn. Orchid found at the edge of the basin mere by the tarn. You may be lucky to see one!I hope to develop visitor experience by offering a range of new public activities for everyone to get involved in to learn about wildlife, biodiversity conservation and the specific work the National Trust does. This may include mini-beast hunts and bird watching. But it’s all early days yet!!Eve
Starting work at Seldom Seen
09:31 16 June 2016
By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete EntwistleAs usual, our upland footpath work season began with a few weeks of filling bags with material to be flown by helicopter to the work site. We filled around ninety bags with rock from scree opposite the path where we're working.Heli-Bags filled and ready to be flown
The bags were flown a few hundred metres across the valley and dropped around each of the areas that we'd identified to be repaired.Unloading the first bag
Many of the sections of path that we're repairing on Seldom Seen are only around a metre in length and will prevent the path from getting worse. The section below had started to wash out and then deteriorated further after the winter flooding.Short section of path to be repaired
To stop the path getting worse, we built a short section of pitching and a stone drain. This will allow the water to be shed away from the path rather than run down it. Soil excavated while building the path was put downhill to fill in some of the gully caused by the flow of water. You can see in the photo below that rock has been dug in further along the path on the right hand side, to direct walkers onto one line and prevent the path getting too wide.Finished section of path
Fixing the drainage on this path is one of the main aspects of the job, as water running down it is starting to cause problems, and the path has shown significant deterioration over the last few years.Building a new drain
Another section that has badly gullied out can be seen below. The original short section of pitching and drain isn't really up to the job.Gullied section of path before repair
For this section, we moved the drain about a metre downhill to the bottom of the pitched path. This drain is fed into by a small beck, which was realigned with the new drain. The path has also been extended through the gully and incorporates another drain at the top of the path to shed any water running down the path. There's still some landscaping work (grading banks, turfing and reseeding) to be done but it's a big improvement on what was there and will help prevent it getting any worse.Pitched path through the gully
Musings on the 8th World Ranger Congress
13:29 10 June 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 GrahamBack in April, in my previous blog I'd written about how I was heading to the World Ranger Congress in Estes Park, Colorado. What a fantastic experience. I couldn't possibly describe everything I did, all the inspirational people I met or all the things I learnt in one blog so I hope I've managed to capture the essence of the congress for you.
I was honoured and inspired to have been chosen to represent the National Trust and the UK while learning about the war on poaching in Africa, how to connect the disconnected in the US national parks, how much of our terrestrial and oceanic environments has some form of protected area status and how we should protect much more, fire management in Australia and the campaign for better funding and health and safety standards in Asia.
Estes Park YMCA was to be our home for the week. A beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
On day one, all the countries represented paraded their uniforms and flags (there were 65 countries in all!). This culminated in a reading of the names of the 60 rangers to have died in service since the last World Ranger Day. A moment to be proud of the ranger profession but also to reflect on the dangers that some rangers face in the course of their work.
Multi-nation flag parade including Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Norway and Kyrgyzstan.
The congress was a strong reminder of why the work we do is so important, not just for nature but also for the human race. It was also a reminder of how small the problems are we face here in the UK can seem in comparison to protecting endangered species from poaching or communities from crocodiles. Some of the rangers I met are working in far less fortunate situations than my own. Some don’t receive the regular pay we all receive or even have a basic uniform or safety gear (There was a ranger relief collection to donate old bullet proof vests, uniforms and outdoor gear to those in need). However different it all seems, we are all fighting the same fight – protecting special places.
Reading out the names of the 60 rangers who have died since the last World Ranger Day, July 31st 2015
Sean Wilmore, the (newly re-elected) president of the International Ranger Federation highlighted how the 320+ rangers at the congress each represented 1000 rangers across the world. I really felt part of a big ranger family, especially now I have so many contacts around the world. Can you spot the National Trust rangers in red in the group shot? Chris Wood (from the North York Moors) and myself represented the National Trust's North region.
All 320 delegates with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop The Countryside Management Association Delegates - including 5 National Trust representatives from around England and WalesThe congress contained a series of very interesting talks, thought-provoking presentations and plenty of time to get to know our fellow rangers. Many of these talks would take a blog each to describe. One particularly inspiring talk was by ranger Christian Mbina of Gabon: "It is not a fight to save Africa. It is a fight to save the world." National Park Service director, Jonathan Jarvis, also gave a frank and heartfelt talk about the American National Park System - 'How do we engage the disconnected in our National Parks?' They are the future. Conservationist Harvey Locke, gave a talk thanking rangers for their important work and described his nature needs half theory - how we should protect more of planet earth. Ranger Christian Mbina of Gabon. He said his name badge should not say he is from Gabon, but from the world.
Obviously a gathering of rangers would not be complete without plenty of fun too. Everyone brought parts of their cultures with them, the Brazilians brought their amazing dancing, the Russian's brought some interesting spirits, the British brought Yorkshire Tea....There was plenty of live music, a swap shop for patches and pins (I've now got quite a collection!) as well as daily raffles with prizes donated from ranger's protected areas (I wasn't lucky this time). I took part in a field trip to Gem Lake in the Rocky Mountains National Park with the local rangers. It was great to get out of a conference room for a day!
National Park Service director, Jonathan Jarvis Trees and mountains, rather like home!Clair PayneRangerHawkshead and Claife
Juniper bracken bash.
08:00 08 June 2016
By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland WicksteedJuniper is one of only three conifers native to the British Isles. The other two are Scots Pine and Yew. Juniper was one of the first trees to colonise Cumbria after the ice age glaciers receded. Juniper is well adapted to extreme weather conditions and thrives on the poor soil of the Lake District fells. Sadly only a few scattered stands remain of the dense forests that once covered the area.There are two sub species of Juniperis communis (L). One is prostrate and forms a ground hugging mat, whereas the more common variety is erect and may grow between one and ten metres tall.Charcoal from juniper wood was prized in the manufacturing of gun powder owing to its consistent burn characteristics.Juniper berries are used to flavour gin. The word gin is derived from the Dutch word genever which means juniper.Many juniper stands have trees that are over two hundred years old. The few seedlings they reproduce are heavily grazed by rabbits, sheep and deer.Juniper's poor reproduction is of such concern that the Biodiversity Action Plan includes it as a priority species for Cumbria.
Juniper is a dioecious (two houses) tree species. Male and female flowers grow on separate trees. A reasonable number of male and female trees are needed to ensure successful regeneration.
Funding has allowed for the planting of juniper seedlings in various locations in the Lake District including Middle Fell in the Langdale Valley. Bracken easily swamps the young trees so last week a Bracken Bash was organised by the Langdale rangers, based at High Close, before the bracken grew any taller.
Above the tree plantation on The Band is a juniper stand. The aim is to have juniper stands on Middle Fell once again in the years to come.
Juniper is an important habitat. It supports over forty types of insects and is host to many fungi and lichens. It's dense prickly foilage provides good cover for nesting birds.
The Ring Ouzel, an upland bird of the Thrush family, feeds up on ripe juniper berries prior to its autumn migration to Southern Spain or the Atlas Mountains in N.W Africa.
Sensible biosecurity measures include keeping to footpaths, keeping dogs on leads and cleaning footwear after leaving sites that may be affected.
The increase in global plant trade and changing environmental conditions has seen an ever increasing rise in new pests and diseases to the UK. For instance Chalera die back of ash is threatening millions of ash trees in this country.
I am old enough to remember the terrible consequences of Dutch Elm disease and the sadness of seeing the landscape changing almost overnight with the loss of so many magnificent Elm trees.
Liam Plummer, newly appointed woodland ranger, is planning to publish a post on this blog site with reference to tree pests and diseases, ways to prevent the spread and ideas on protecting the landscape....watch this space.
Monday 30 May
07:16 30 May 2016
By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland WicksteedAlthough it is now June we are still finding ourselves repairing boundary walls and fences caused by the devastating floods last December.Last week we finally got to one of the last remaining fences that had been destroyed by a landslide.About 80 metres of fence had been completely destroyed and needed replacing, before the farmer could let his sheep back onto the fell.This was probably one of the last fences to be repaired because of its difficult location. It is situated half way up High Hartsop Dodd above Brothers Water.To repair the fence we needed: 40 posts, 4 strainers, 8 12ft rails, 2x 50m roles of wire, a post knocker, a bar, bucket of staples not to mention numerous hand tools. This would have taken us the best part of a week to get to site.Enter the mechanical barrowWe managed to get the materials to site in half a day.A special thanks has to go to our compatriots from Windermere who also came to lend a much needed hand.Once all the material was on site we could get on with the job at hand.It wasn’t going to be easy. The terrain was still very loose and wet from the landslide.The plan was to try and follow the old fence line where possible. Once we had located that we could start putting in the new posts.
Some of the larger posts (the strainers) had to be strutted, to stop them moving when we put the tension onto the wire.
Chiseling out the wood for the strut. Not a bad view.Once all the posts were in place the wire could be attached and the fence once again could become stock proof.
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 GrahamIn praise of bluebellsA 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 Wildlife.org).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 GrahamHello!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.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.Clair
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 WicksteedRecently 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....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 WicksteedThis 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.