Latest team news

  • Help from Newton Rigg students

    11:45 24 May 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Over the past four Fridays the Ullswater Ranger team have been working with seven Newton Rigg Students at Wetheral Woods.

    Wetheral Woods is located in the Northern most reaches of the Central and East Lakes property portfolio. The Woods are located on the banks of the river Eden, on the outskirts of Wetheral Village.

    The woods are home to many interesting features, not least St Constantine cells, that have been dug into the red sand stone cliff face, right on the side of the river. It has been said that they were refuge for the monks from the nearby priory. The woods are also home to small leaved lime trees. This is the furthest north that they are found in the UK.

    Some area of the woodland have started to get a little tired over the years, not least a steep section of steps that link the top path to the lower one.



    This work would be an arduous task for the small Ranger team, with some 50 steps needing to be replaced. The team jumped at the chance to have Seven young fit students from Newton Rigg to help.

    Newton Rigg is and Agricultural College situated on the outskirts of Penrith. These seven students are studying a Countryside Management course and needed some work experience in countryside estate skills.

    The students broke up into two groups, one group concentrating on the steps, and another focusing on re surfacing some of the boggier sections of path.



    The groups swapped over each work so that they could all try their hand at each task. After a couple of weeks the students were progressing well up the steep slope.



    And by the final week the huge improvements in the path were clear for all to see with many local dog walkers thanking us for the improved access.



    A huge thank you has to go to the students and their tutor Pam, in helping to complete a task that would have taken the Ranger team considerably longer to complete.
  • A Reluctant Rock

    09:00 15 May 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


    The Upland Footpath team returned to the fells at the start of April to commence this year's projects. This coincided nicely with a stretch of good weather.

    Our first project of 2015 has been on the path up Tongue Gill to Grisedale Tarn, near to the village of Grasmere.
    View up Tongue Gill during our commute one sunny April day
    This path is on the Coast to Coast route devised by Alfred Wainright. This long distance route, of around 190 miles, goes between St Bees in Cumbria on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood's Bay on the Yorkshire Coast.  The Coast to Coast route is one of the most popular long distance routes in the UK. It is also well known worldwide and the number of international visitors we have met seems to reflect this.

    The team were able to start this project immediately as rock we were using had been flown into position during last year's helicopter lifts. This rock was donated to "Fix the Fells" by a private land owner who last year completed a hydro-electric scheme on Tongue Gill. This surplus rock was a by-product of the excavations during construction. We always try to use rock that is local to an area for our work so this donation was gratefully received.
    Rock donated from Tongue Gill Hydro bagged up & ready to be moved

    Rock being moved to site along Tongue Gill last May 
    As a popular route lots of work has been carried out on the Tongue Gill path over the years to tackle the problem of erosion.  Path work is then monitored as new erosion can develop and previous work sometimes needs "fettling". This year's project involves a typical range of remedial work including drainage, stone "pitching" (both repairs and new) and landscaping work to stabilise erosion and remove side routes.
    Recently completed stepping stones and a causeway through a wet section
    Drainage work in progress
    (University of Cumbria students, Jake & Theo, who volunteered for a couple of weeks)
    A memorable part of this project for the author of this blog led to the title "A Reluctant Rock".  Whilst working on a new section of stone pitching a suitable rock was identified. This rock was on the large side but was manageable and had several good faces making it an ideal step for walkers to plant their feet on as they follow the path.

    Towards the end of the first day, as time was running out, a slightly rushed decision to move the rock into position was made. Unfortunately the rock dropped into the hole at an awkward angle and refused to be manoeuvred into the desired position.
    The hole around the rock then had to be filled to leave it safe until the next time.
    The "reluctant rock" at the end of the first day
    On the return it proved very difficult to get the desired leverage on this rock with a metal bar and bedrock kept getting in the way. Lots of digging, levering and chipping away at the bedrock followed but still the rock remained largely uncooperative.
    
    Lunchtime on the second day fast approaching & rock is in a "new" position... 

    Determination and patience were needed plus a reluctance to be "beaten" by a rock and it was eventually coaxed into position by lunchtime (albeit a slightly later lunch than normal).

    The saga of this rock did provide a talking point and possibly some amusement to passing walkers. Comments to a colleague working further down the path mentioned the size of the rock and one couple commented on their return journey that "He's still working with the same rock....".
    
    After lengthy negotiations a compromise has been reached
    This reluctant rock was used for part of a longer section of work. Some side route erosion was developing next to some bedrock between two sections of stone pitching.  This is because some walkers have a tendency to avoid bedrock.

    To solve this we decided to add more stone pitching to join up the two current sections and to use landscaping techniques to stabilise and remove the side route. This can be seen from the before and after images below:
    BEFORE: Side route erosion developing to the right of a bedrock section 

    AFTER: New stone pitching section built & side route removed
    At the time of writing this blog our time on Tongue Gill is nearly finished.  This is ahead of schedule largely due to the volunteer help we have had. 
    We have several other projects this season including a return to Striding and Swirral Edges to continue work we have been doing there. We also have a project near the summit of Coniston Old Man where significant erosion problems have been developing. 

    Moving rock to the summit of Coniston Old Man in April
    (Project due to start in August)
    If you would like to know more about the daily work of the South Lakes Upland Ranger team they can be found on Twitter @NTLakesFells.

    Posted by: Nick, Upland Ranger
  • A Challenging Wall Repair.

    07:30 12 May 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    A section of the old dry stone wall, separating the lower slope of Queen Adelaide's Hill and Millerground, collapsed recently. 

    The base of the wall is a good eighteen feet above Millerground footpath and as can be seen in the image the slope is exceptionally steep.

    On the "downhill" side the wall is about eight feet high and it took a while to retrieve the stone that had tumbled down the bank.

    Once the foundation stones had been reset, the rebuild could begin. (See image below)

    Walling on the Queen Adelaide's Hill side.

    The finished repair...on the Queen Adelaide's Hill side....

    ....and from the Millerground side.

     A view of the waterfall below the wall.



  • Reedbed Restoration on the West Shore of Windermere

    08:27 11 May 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



    Last summer, I wrote a blog about the tender storage areas that we constructed along the West Shore of Windermere [Improving the lakeshore]. We built these areas to store all the tender boats in a few places along the lakeshore. Not only did this tidy up the lakeshore visually, but it also has the added benefit of reducing erosion to the lakeshore – including damage to tree roots and bark from having boats chained to them as well as the damage to the very fragile reedbeds from people launching their boats through them. 


    New Tender Storage Area being constructed down at Harrowslack

     But of course, tender boats are not the only cause of erosion to the lake shore/reedbeds on Windermere lake. These sensitive environments are also damaged by the waves created by swash from boats and strong winds. The reedbeds are also sensitive to shading from encroaching woodland and vegetation. Over-grazing and nutrient enrichment also plays a part in the decline of reedbeds (Canada Geese, ducks and farm animals).

    What are reedbeds I hear you ask? Reedbeds are a succession of young reeds (common reeds; phragmites australis) which colonise open water. As the reedbed ages, the successive layers of vegetation build up the water level gradually turning it into increasingly drier ground, allowing scrub and woodland to develop. In themselves, reedbeds are excellent habitats for coots, moorhens and other breeding birds. Research carried out by the South Cumbria Rivers Trust (SCRT) has shown that since the 1870s, Windermere has lost 90% of its reedbed habitat. Through a series of historical and more recent GPS mapping they have been able to map the loss across the whole of the lake [Reedbed loss since the 1870s]. 

    Reedbeds being restored down at Ferry House, West Shore of Windermere
    Well now we have some great news for the West Shore. Our role as National Trust Rangers is to look after our special places, and this is one of those very special projects where we see something change from start to finish. We are working with the South Cumbria Rivers Trust to restore the reedbeds on the west shore as part of a wider project across the whole of Windermere. SCRT have been very lucky to get funding from the Waste Recycling Environmental Network (WREN) to potentially transplant young reedbeds from an RSPB site at Leighton Moss to try to rehabilitate historical areas of reedbeds, removing encroaching vegetation and cutting back trees that are shading these sensitive habitats. Newly planted areas will require the installation of fences and wave barriers to protect them as they get established. Quite what this will involve is still to be decided but I can see waders, lots of water and some great fun to be had with other rangers and volunteers! Watch this space.

    If you want to go and look at some fantastic examples of reedbeds, head to Esthwaite North Fen National Nature Reserve. Just at the north of the Lake, this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is an excellent site to see successional reedbeds. It is so good that the Freshwater Biological Association (based down at Ferry House) have been studying the succession of the plant community from open water, fen and grassland for the last 45 years. Key species along the lake bed/shore include stonewort, Canadian pondweed, lobelia and shore weed, as well as yellow and white water-lilies along the lake edge. Common reeds (phragmites australis), common bulrush and reed canary grass are prolific in the reedbeds themselves. The reeds succeed to wonderful carr woodland with species such as birch, crack willow, and ash. The area supports breeding birds (including great crested grebe, teal, tufted duck, red breasted merganser, pochard and sedge warbler) as well as mammals, invertebrates and microscopic life. Go down on a sunny day and see what you can find!

    Excellent example of healthy reedbeds at the Esthwaite North Fen National Nature Reserve

    Look out for the work we’ll be doing over the summer on the west shore of Windermere!
  • Beyond the bluebells

    09:00 30 April 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



    Spring in the woods means only one thing to lots of people: bluebells! Vibrant carpets of the delicate cyan flowers are a quintessential British experience at this time of year.   

    And it’s not just a spectacle; Britain is home to fifty percent of the world population of this species of bluebell. As plants recolonized the northern latitudes after the last Ice Age, bluebells reached Britain just before the sea level rose and cut us off from the continent, so lots of other plant species never arrived here.  In the rest of Europe, bluebells are out-competed by some of these species, whereas in the UK they are free to thrive.




    But I’d like to take you beyond the bluebell. Although bluebells are spectacular, my favourite time of the woodland year is actually a couple of weeks earlier, when some of the other woodland wildflowers are the real first sign that spring’s on its way.  Like bluebells, these plants have adapted to life in the woods by flowering before the trees are in leaf, so they make the most of the sun.  They don’t always form such a dramatic carpet on the woodland floor as bluebells, but often the fact that a number of different species are clustered together - with their diversity of colour - makes for a sight to gladden the soul.

    Wood anenome


    Wood anenomes Anenome nemosa are one of the most important indicators of ancient woodland.  They reproduce through rhizomes (root-like structures) that only spread about six inches a year – this means they don’t colonise new sites easily, and the presence of a large population means that a wood has been undisturbed for a very long time.  They can also provide an interesting clue to previous land uses, as they're sometimes found on open ground – but this is a strong clue that the area has been wooded previously.

    Lesser celandine


    Like wood anenomes, lesser celandines Ranunculus ficaria can be found in a variety of habitats, but usually give us a clue that the area has been wooded at one point.  It is sometimes known as ‘the spring messenger’ as one of the earliest flowers, and William Wordsworth was inspired to write three poems about the plant – famously, however, the celandine carved on his gravestone is the wrong species, the greater celandine.  It is also sometimes known as pilewort because there is an old folk belief that the crushed roots could make a lotion for piles when mixed with wine or urine!

    Wood sorrel


    Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella is probably my favourite woodland wildflower despite its ubiquity.  It particularly thrives in cool, shady woods  - of which there's no shortage round here - and can tolerate shade much darker than other plants. In the Lakes, it often grows out of the mossy carpet on the woodland floor or even from moss growing on tree branches, creating lush hanging gardens in the canopy.  The leaves are delicious and taste of apple peel, but don’t eat too many as they also contain Oxalic acid.  Wood sorrel is one of the more widespread flowers globally and is native as far north as Iceland, south down to Greece, and east as far as Japan!

    Wild garlic 

    Wild garlic Allium ursinum is another very common flower of damp woodlands and lends the woods their distinctive garlicky aroma in early spring.  The latin name means ‘Bear’s garlic’ and is so-named because where they still exist in Europe, brown bears love to truffle up the roots! Both the leaves and flowers are edible and have a more gentle taste than culinary garlic – wild garlic risotto is a personal favourite.

    Primrose


    Primrose Primula vulgaris has been under threat in England over the last few decades because of people digging plants up to put them in their garden – fortunately attitudes have changed and this sort of thing is much less common now.  Primroses can be seen anywhere that’s undisturbed, cool and slightly shady, so our Lake District oakwoods are great places to find the lemon yellow rosettes. 

    Get out and see 'em!

    The South Lakes is home to lots of fantastic native woodland so it’s the perfect place to get out and see woodland wildflowers in the spring.  The woodlands on Windermere’s west shore, along the Yewdale bridleway, above Glen Mary car park, or along Coniston’s east shore are particularly special places with rich flora and incredible atmosphere – make sure you don’t miss the spectacle, it changes day by day at this time of year! 
  • Repairing the path on Helm Crag

    07:12 30 April 2015
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    As part of our continuing repair work on the Helm Crag path, we recently arranged a weekend work-party with the Fix the Fells volunteers. Our task was to continue a section of path using the subsoiling technique, which you can read all about in a previous blog post here...National Trust Working Holiday on Helm Crag. The photograph below shows a section of completed subsoiled path, just before the area to be worked on.

     Recently repaired section of path

    The work involved linking the path that we'd previously repaired to the original path-line. In the photograph below you can see the original, eroded path to the left of the photo and a bare area of grass to the right where our new path will go.

     Where the new path joins the old path

    In just a few hours, most of the path had been dug off and we managed to find plenty of the red sub-soil which makes an excellent topping for the path.

     Digging out the path

    We blocked off the old path (which you can see leading to the right in the following photograph) with some large boulders and used some excess soil to cover the eroded areas. At some point in the next week we'll put some grass seed down on this fresh soil to help green up the area.

     Looking down the new path

    By the end of the day we'd completed the path and a turf-lined side drain which will now provide a more sustainable surface on the route to the summit.

    Almost completed path
  • Same nest, different tenants - squatter's rights for birds!

    07:30 24 April 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



    Everyone know it’s good to recycle or if possible re-use, but it’s not just us that does this.Two summers ago we noticed Swallows taking a great deal of interest in the toilet block at the volunteer centre here at High Wray. We always keep the door shut, to stop them flying in and getting stuck, but in this instance they were interested in the alcove above the door – an ideal nesting spot it would appear. Over the course of a couple of weeks we watched the nests build up, with both adults bringing in mud and plant material to make a lovely firm construction.

    Soon after completion we were delighted to spot the female sat on the nest. We were worried at first that she’d be put off by people heading in and out of the loo, but she’d briefly exit the nest whenever anyone passed before quickly returning. A couple of weeks later we noticed she was exiting the nest a little more often and spotted tiny fluffly feathers poking out over the rim of the nest – they’d hatched!


    Young and virtually featherless, the young not long hatched
    It took about another 3 weeks for them to steadily grow to the point where they were hanging out over the sides and it seemed a wonder they didn’t force each other out of the nest! Shortly after that, we checked one morning to find they’d all gone (without so much as a thank you).

    Shove over! The considerably bigger young almost ready to go

    The next year we hoped they would return as Swallows will often repair and re-use old nests, but were disappointed to see no sign of action. By the end of the summer the nest above the gents loo door was starting to look very run down, with the ladies one holding together much better.

    New tenants move in!

    So we had our fingers crossed for this year but it looks like someone beat the swallows to it. It appears that a Wren has decided the ‘ladies  nest’ would make a perfect base for its own construction and has built an exquisite (and very snug looking) extra layer on top of the original base. It looks like it had a go at the ‘gents nest’ as well, judging by the tatters of moss poked into some of the holes, but obviously agreed with us on the state of it and must have given it up as too much hard work.

    The 'gents nest' - not sure about that .....

    Much better! The 'Ladies nest' with cosy adaptation

    We’re not sure if this adapted nest has ended up being chosen by the female Wren (males normally build several nests, from which the females chose their favourite), but we’ll keep an eye on it over the coming weeks. One things for sure, with the swallows having just reappeared on the scene here (see last week’s entry on migration) they’re likely to get a big surprise if they decide to return to this particular site!

    By Rob Clarke, High Wray Basecamp community ranger
  • Repairing the path at Aira Force

    07:30 22 April 2015
    By Ade Mills, Leo Walmsley , Pete Entwistle

    Since finishing the tree cages we've mostly been working over at Aira Force, carrying out some urgent path repairs. One section we've been working on can be seen in the photo below. It shows the original path to the right, which people had started to avoid due to the bedrock that is protruding. A new, lower path had started to form, which is potentially dangerously close to a steep drop down to the river.

     Before starting work

    Firstly, we moved some large rocks from the original path to form an edge to the lower path. Any bedrock sticking up into the new path was broken with crowbars and sledgehammers until it was low enough to cover with gravel.

     Starting to build up the edge

    As well as using the stone from the old path, we gathered some large boulders from higher up the bank to continue the edging. This would help keep people away from the edge of the river bank and give us a suitable edge to gravel against.

     Edging almost completed

    The next job was to dig a trench to divert any water off the new path; this fed into a pipe underneath the path and out into the river. Ideally we'd have built a stone drain but there was not enough suitable material nearby so we had to make do with plastic pipe, though we made sure it was well concealed.

     Digging in the drain pipe

    With the new edging and drainage in place all that was left to do was the graveling. We put some turf over some of the path edges and we 'll put grass seed down to help the soil revegetate more quickly and soon you'd never know the other path existed. The new path is now much safer, easier to use and a much better line. It'll allow people to enjoy there surroundings and not have to think as much about where they're walking.

    Turfing the freshly graveled path
  • Access Improvements to Moor How.

    06:55 19 April 2015
    By Ben Knipe, Dave Almond, Dave Jackson, James Archer, Neil Winder, Roland Wicksteed

    Moor How (height: 229m/751 ft.) overlooking Park Cliffe on the South East side of Windermere.


    James Archer,  N.T Area ranger for Windermere and Troutbeck, was keen to improve access to Moor How.

    The footpath goes through Parkcliffe Camping and Caravan Estate land with access on to National Trust land  leading up to Moor How.


    Access to Moor How (meaning moorland hill) is over the boundary wall via a stone step stile...quite difficult to negotiate and deters some people, especially for those with dogs. 

    James proposed taking a section of wall down to allow a self closing "wicket gate" to be installed.

    When consulted, The Lake District National Park Authority were in favour as were the proprietors of Park Cliffe, Mr. and Mrs. Dickson.

    Thanks are owed to Mr. and Mrs. Dickson for their generous donation towards the cost of the work involved. Topsoil and gravel was also made available from Park Cliffe.


    As well as improving access for walkers, removing the step stile will potentially make the boundary wall more stock proof. Sheep in some areas have learnt how to negotiate stone step stiles as shown in this recent image!


    The wall in the process of being taken down.
    Monday, April 13th.


    Because the boundary wall was built over bedrock, the gate pins were concreted directly into the wall...digging a hole for a conventional gate post was not feasible.  The closing or clacking post was anchored on the opposite side using threaded bars encased in concrete.


    The wall is nearly rebuilt with the top  gate pin clearly visible. The top and bottom gate pins are offset. This will make the gate swing shut when released from the opened position.


    Landscaping work below the relocated path.


    Our first customers! (After completion of work.)


    From the Moor How summit, a view over Park Cliffe to the west....


    .....and a hazy view of the Howgill Fells to the east.


    Stands of gorse are a feature of Moor How. In flower, mid April.


    A geological fold in the rock formation, near the summit.


  • The Great British Migration

    07:39 17 April 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

    Spring is finally here. As most of us contemplate what and where we are going on our summer holidays this year, the mass summer migration has begun for Britain’s wildlife.

    Could you imagine having to travel half way around the world to get to your destination, only to then repeat the same journey four months later? No nor can I but that’s exactly what hundreds of millions of our summer migrants do every year.

    Birds

     

    Bird species such as Wood Warbler, Redstart, Cuckoo (arrive early April and leave by end of June) Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, and Swift (last to arrive and first to go) arrive in the spring and have traveled for thousands of miles from either North-West or Sub-Saharan Africa. These species come to Britain to breed because the further North they go, the greater the abundance of food and more light in which to search for it.

    Wood Warbler
    Redstart
    Cuckoo
    Swallow
    Sand Martin
    House Martin

    Butterflies & Moths

     

    Would you believe that some of our butterflies and day flying moths migrate to the UK too?

    Take the Painted Lady for instance; this migrates from North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, which is somewhere in the region of 9000 miles and at altitudes of over 1,000m.

    For a tiny creature weighing less than a gram, with a brain the size of a pin head, and no opportunity to learn from older, experienced individuals, undertake an epic journey. It’s estimated that 11 million arrive in Britain each year, with around 25 million migrating back by the end of the summer.





    The Red Admiral like the Painted Lady is another migrant to Britain, flying from North Africa and Continental Europe in there millions and covering similar distances as their counterparts.



    The Humming-Bird Hawkmoth is a day flying moth that also migrants to Britain. These arrive in there thousands every year. Historically these were usually frequenting the South and East of the Country, However due to changes in our climate and hence warmer summers; they are being seen in Cumbria in larger numbers.



    The Silver Y moth is our most common immigrant moth from Southern Europe, North Africa and parts of South East Asia, which can arrive in numbers up to 250 million in a good year (yes that’s correct you read it right!), with a staggering four times as many leaving as arrived.