Latest team news
The Curious Quoin End of Wansfell Holme(s)
13:04 14 June 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeAlthough you may be distracted by the view of the lake just south of Ambleside, look the other way and you'll see Wansfell Holme on the hill above you. An early Victorian Summer mansion, it sits at the heart of the designed landscape that spreads upwards into National Trust woodlands at Skelghyll. Stand on Jenkyn's Field and look upwards back inland - you'll see the Tall Trees of Skelghyll framing the skyline behind the house itself.A gap in the Wansfell Holme boundary wall into Skelghyll Woods presented us with an unusual problem.Apart from its daunting height of 8 feet in places, the wall had been mortared in the original construction at the wall ends or quoins, whereas the rest of the wall had been built as a traditional dry-stone wall.This had the effect of much of the mortared wall near the gateway staying up while the non-mortared wall adjacent to it had collapsed mainly through shifting foundation stones over many years.In this image the stone has been cleared back and rebuilding the wall is well on its way.This image shows the finished result with the rebuilt dry-stone section of wall blending in with the mortared wall.The mansion framed by the gateway is Wansfell Holme; the owners back in the early 1800's would have had the wall built as a boundary between the woodlands and the fields that formed part of their estate.The wall is situated along the route of The National Trust Tall Tree Trail.The owners of Wansfell Holme in the 19th century were avid tree collectors. They planted many conifers in what was once their woodland. The Grand Fir in this image was one such tree and is the tallest tree in the North West, as well as being the tallest Grand Fir in England.
Working on the footpath up to Boredale Hause
06:34 03 June 2019
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleySince our last blog post we've been busily working alongside the South Lakes team at Boredale Hause.
Last year we completed work on the bridleway that leads up to Boredale and now in the second year of the project we're working on the footpath that runs parallel to, and just below, the bridleway.Starting work midway up the footpathCompleted section of path
We started midway up the footpath with the South Lakes team working on a section of path further down the hill.Stone on site and ready to begin workCompleted footpath after landscapingAs usual each team member worked on approximately a ten metre stretch and when completed leapfrogged over the person above them to advance further up the path.Starting work on another sectionCompleted path
The lower sections of the footpath were surprisingly easy digging for a change so we advanced fairly quickly.Work begins on a new sectionGetting further up the pathNewly landscaped path
As we got higher up the path we started to hit more bedrock, rubble and solid ground which has hindered progress a little but we're still making good headway. We're hoping that in two or three weeks we'll have the rest of the footpath completed and landscaped.Pile of rock ready to be dug inAdvancing up the pathAnother completed section of footpathWe've had a fair amount of dry weather since starting work in early April so a lot of the turfs are a little parched and the grass seed is taking it's time to grow but the recent rain we've had should hopefully help remedy things.
Bridge repairs at St. Catherine's, Windermere.
06:40 08 April 2019
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleyAs part of our low-level winter work we've spent some time over in Windermere repairing a couple of wooden bridges at St. Catherine's.Bridge before repairs
As you can see in the photograph above the bridges were in quite a poor state and had already undergone several temporary repairs but it was now time to give them a new lease of life.Removing any old nailsThe first job was to remove the old treads, while taking off the treads many of the nails were left in the beams so we removed the tops with an angle grinder.Replacing the treadsSince the beams were in a decent condition they were left in place and the new Larch treads were nailed onto the old beams.Making sure the bridge is always passable
The new bridges are not on a public right of way and will mostly be used for forestry and farming operations. But since they are also used by people walking around the estate at St. Catherine's we made sure that the bridges were always passable removing only a few treads at a time and replacing them as we went along.Treads replaced and walled upOnce the treads were in position we trimmed them all off using a circular saw and tidied up the dry stone revetments either side of the bridge. This would allow us to gravel up to the bridge and remove the lip between path and bridge.Fixing the uprights in place
Once the path had been gravelled up to the bridge a non-slip surface was attached to the bridge.Attaching the railsA section of tread was removed to allow each of the uprights to sit flush against the outer beam so they could be bolted into place. The final job was to attach the handrails to the uprights.You can see a couple of before and after photos of the second bridge below.Second bridge just after starting repair workCompleted second bridge with new section of wallThe repaired bridges, with new thicker treads, should now safely support any heavy vehicles passing over them as well as provide better access to anyone wandering around the estate.
16:26 28 March 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeCentral & East Lakes countryside team are rightly proud of their collection of interesting specimen conifers at Aira Force (Ullswater), Skelghyll (Ambleside) and High Close (Great Langdale). Whilst our ancient and veteran trees in the wider countryside are normally native species, such as oak, ash and alder, we also have a number of notable and rather impressive non-native conifers. You might have seen the magnificent Sitka spruce at Aira, picked up cones from the Monterey Pine at High Close, or got vertigo looking up at the tallest tree in the north-west - a Grand Fir at Skelghyll woods. These 'designed landscapes' are a significant contributor to the cultural landscape that is celebrated in the Lake District World Heritage Status.
The Tall Trees at Skelghyll Woods, Ambleside
A few years ago a kind donation allowed us to plant some further specimen conifers at Skelghyll - you can read about it here. We got the chance to plant further trees thanks to the National Trust's Plant Conservation Centre, who regularly have surplus plants left over from their propagation of unusual or interesting plants from NT properties across the country. And so, one autumnal day, Central & East Lakes took delivery of a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), an ornamental Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) and an Asian fir species (Abies delavayi), all destined for Skelghyll woods.
In a change from the windswept mountains, the C&E Lakes Footpath team spend most of the winter helping on lower-level countryside management work, and recently spent a day planting these trees in Skelghyll to complement our other young trees that will, between them, be another generation of specimen conifers.
Upland Ranger Jonny firms the soil around the Coast Redwood Jonny and Leo plant the Lawson Cypress
The trees were planted in chestnut paling cages to protect them from roe deer that would otherwise have a nibble.
Ade and Leo building chestnut paling tree guards
The Cedar of Lebanon, needing a bit more light, will be planted in the adjacent field behind Wansfell Holme to become a more open-grown specimen tree, joining Douglas firs and black pines already in this field below the woodland.
Even the oldest of these kind of conifers in the UK are barely teenagers when it comes to those in their natural environments. Our impressive spruces, firs and redwoods will be, at most, 200 years old, dating back to the exploits of plant hunters like David Douglas in the early 1800s. Compare this to redwoods of 1,000 or more years old, reaching over 100m tall, and it puts our 'babies' into perspective!
Townend bench repairs.
09:30 20 March 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeYew wood is strong, dense, and resistant to decay; this has made it ideal for delicate carving work, turnery, and furniture. it was famously used for making English longbows given the wood is strong yet flexible.Most parts of yew are poisonous, but the chemical toxin is now being used as a treatment for cancer.Two of the rustic benches, made from yew, at Townend were in need of repair. After many years some rot had appeared.A lower limb of the right shape and size for these bench repairs was removed from a yew in the woodlands at St. Catherine's. Pruning a small branch will be of limited concern to the tree as its strong and decay resistant wood will limit the amount of decay entering the cut. Yews are famously strong at regeneration and unusually for conifers will re-sprout from many points...like deciduous pollards.Given the historic use of yew wood for furniture, it seems appropriate to use the branch from a Windermere yew to repair benches made of Troutbeck yew! Long term volunteer, Stuart kindly undertook to do the work.A close up view.One of the benches repaired by Stuart with two new spindles and arms, ready to be returned to Townend House.
Fencing at High Lickbarrow Farm, Windermere.
09:01 15 March 2019
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleyOver the last few weeks we've been working over at High Lickbarrow Farm in Windermere putting in around 400 metres of stock proof fencing.
High Lickbarrow farm was bequeathed to the National Trust in 2015 and is home to the rare Albion cattle, formerly known as "Blue" Albions. The Albion has recently been recognised as a UK native rare breed and added to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's watchlist because of its rarity. High Lickbarrow Farm supports the largest herd in the country.Blue Albion cattle at High Lickbarrow
The farm covers fifty hectares of land which has traditionally been grazed by only a small number of cattle and supports some fantastic wildflower rich pastures, much of which has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).Knocking in the straining posts
Our first job was to get the straining posts into position. Usually this is done by hand and one person can generally dig in and tighten into position, two posts each day. As the fence line was so long and undulating, it meant there were a lot of straining posts to put in. Luckily, as the farm provided good access, we were able to speed the job along by getting a local contractor to come in with a tractor mounted post knocker and the whole lot were in place in less than a day.Adding the struts
With the strainers in place, a single length of plain wire is attached between each post. This gives a straight line to help align the struts and fence posts. Struts are added to prevent the straining posts from moving while the wire is being tensioned. With these in place we then knocked in fence posts every two metres between the straining posts.Adding the stock fencing
Once all the struts and posts were in position it was time to attach the stock fencing. This is connected between straining posts and tightened to the required tension using two pairs of "monkey strainers".Attaching the barbed wire
With all the stock fencing completed the next job was to add a single strand of barbed wire.Section of post and rail fence
To make sure the fence was completely stock proof we added sections of post and rail fencing between straining posts and other boundaries such as dry stone walls or hedges (as shown in the photograph above).Starting work on the gate
To finish off we incorporated a gate into the fence line to further improve access.Finished gate, just needs another small section of post and railYou can learn more about Albion cattle by clicking on the link here... Albion Cattle Society
Hedge Laying in The Langdale Valley.
12:00 01 March 2019
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeHedge Laying originated from the need to keep livestock in fields after the acts of Enclosure in the 16th century. Nowadays more emphasis is placed on the value of the habitat that a well laid hedge can provide for small mammals and birds; hedge laying also promotes traditional skills and they look good in the landscape.
Our main project for February was to lay 135 metres of a hawthorn hedge that was planted 10 years ago at Harry Place Farm in the beautiful Langdale Valley. This also involved taking down the fence on the top side and replacing it with a new fence.A close up of the hedge and the old fence; as can be seen the posts have become very rotten and unstable!With the fence removed the hedge laying begins. An axe or a bill hook is used to partially cut...a technique known as pleaching... into the back of the stem at an angle to just above ground level. The trick is to leave enough sapwood and bark for the stem to flourish and yet make the stem pliable enough to be be be laid down.On thicker stems a chain saw is used to speed up this process.A pruning saw is used to cut back to the remaining section of the stem, know locally as a ligger, once it is laid.A view of the ligger and the partially coppiced stump from which new growth will usually occur to be laid in years to come.The hedge is taking shape .Weaving in the branches and twiggy bits .Starting on the new fence by digging a hole for one of the strainer posts.The newly laid hedge complete with hedging stakes hammered in alternately on either side; they are used to "train" the hedge, give it strength, and to keep it to a required width.A Herdwick sheep enjoys munching on a discarded branch from the hedge laying.Incidentally, Herdwick is derived from the old Norse Herdvyck meaning sheep pasture!The completed hedge with one of the larger hawthorn trees left upright as a "standard" with a view of the Langdale Pikes and Blea Rigg.
Wall repairs and deer exclosure at High Close estate
08:35 04 February 2019
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleySince the new year, we've come down from the upper fells and have started doing some estate work around the valley.
Our first job was to repair a couple of sections of dry stone wall at Low Wood, on the High Close estate just outside Grasmere.Section 1 before starting work
With the wall keeping livestock out of Low Wood, it was important that the gaps were repaired quickly to prevent sheep from entering the woodland. This helps both keep the tenant farmer happy and also stops sheep entering the woodland and nibbling away at early woodland flowers such as Snowdrops and Lesser Celandine.Section 1 after repairs
As a small Ash tree was growing close to the wall, and was likely the cause of it falling down, we decided that the tree should be removed to prevent any further damage.Rear of Section 1 during work
Trees growing close to a dry stone wall can often destabilise it, especially during strong winds, either by brushing against the wall and loosening stones or by the root plate moving and damaging the wall from below.Rear of Section 1 after, with tree stump in foreground
Removing trees like this can also be beneficial by allowing more light into the woodland, which helps woodland flowers to flourish and also gives other trees more space to grow.Section 2 before starting work
The second section that we worked on was more pre-emptive as it had started to lose stones from half way down the wall and would likely collapse in the short term. The wall was stripped back beyond the area of collapse to where the wall was more stable and repaired in the usual manner. Both wall gaps took roughly a day to repair.Section 2 after repairs
Our next job was to build a deer exclosure in a small woodland on the edge of Loughrigg Common. The area, known as Billy Plantation, had recently been thinned and as a bit of a trial we've put up a couple of deer exclosures to see how the woodland develops without any grazing pressure. If the trials go well we may look into stock proofing the whole plantation at a later date.Erecting the deer fence on Loughrigg
Finishing the footpath at Stone Arthur
13:54 08 December 2018
By Ade Mills, Pete Entwistle, Leo WalmsleySince our last post, we've finished our upland path repair work for the season; culminating in the completion of the footpath up Stone Arthur. You can see how the path looked prior to us commencing work in a previous blog post here... linkLower Section (completed and landscaped)
There's still a lot of bare soil visible, as many of the photos were taken just before, or just after, putting the grass seed down. Although it was late in the year, hopefully the grass will start to germinate next spring. We'll have a look at it next year and put extra seed down if required.
The following two photographs show work on the tricky bedrock section. The surrounding area has since been landscaped by moving large quantities of soil on to the lower side of the path below the drain and then edging with turf (you can just see a pile of turf that was kept to one side on the left hand side of the second photo).Building the drain on the bedrock sectionBedrock section after joining up to the middle section
The next series of photographs show the completion of the middle and top sections. The middle section turned out to be particularly wet due to water flowing just under the surface, out the bank and on to the path. To remedy this we dug out a long side trench (not pictured) on the bank above the path that fed into a stone drain.Working on the middle sectionMiddle section joined to top sectionCompleted top section
Further up the path we worked on another section that had started to deteriorate due to people taking different lines while descending a section of bedrock. The damage was exacerbated by the volume of water that flowed down the path during wet weather.Before starting work on the bottom sectionBottom section (completed and landscaped)
You can see how we've removed three separate paths and created one sustainable line. We've also incorporated three stone drains into the section of path to remove as much rainwater as possible.Bedrock part of top section
This section of bedrock at the top was the root cause of much of the damage so the path was continued around it up to a point where the path started to flatten off.Finished section before landscapingLandscaped top section
With our Fix the Fells work completed for the year we'll now be working lower down in the valleys, on National Trust land, until next spring.
From Mighty Acorns....or Shed Some Light.
11:22 22 October 2018
By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben KnipeAs part of a woodland management scheme, a group of oaks were due to be felled in High Hag Wood above the Footprint.James Archer, (Area Ranger CEL), decided the wood could be put to good use for constructing a green oak fire-wood store/tool shed to replace the old delapidated one.Group-felling breaks up woodland structures, where trees are of a similar age and size...creating new gaps with more light encourages oak, rowan, birch, and hazel, to regenerate.
By developing patches of trees of differing ages and sizes, woodlands will become more varied and diverse.Liam Plummer,Central and East Lakes, Woodland Ranger.
Richard Tanner, the Woodland Ranger for South lakes, had already agreed to lead a Working Holiday Group to construct the framework for the shed out of the felled oak. Richard has successfully led groups at Wray Castle and Base Camp on similar 'green oak' building projects.Contractors with a chain saw mill processed the oak logs into timber to the required specifications.The timber was brought down to the Footprint by power barrow.Joinery work (NO NAILS!) was carried out inside the Footprint as well as outside on the decking. The frame work was assembled inside the Footprint and then taken down to be reassembled on its chosen permanent site.
Richard casting a critical eye!Assembling the frame-work on the newly prepared pad.Below...A job well done and right on schedule! With Richard's skillful guidance, The Group can be justifiably proud of what they have achieved in just a week.
*****************************************************************************Larch cladding was provided by NT Boon Crag sawmill. The next stage was to to fit this around the oak framework, to show it off to its best advantage.Putting on the roof was the next stage.Roofing complete and under the eaves a newly installed nesting box.The smaller of the two doorways under construction.Finally the build is complete with doors and beautiful rustic handles.Thanks to Richard and Hugo from South Lakes, the Working holiday Group, Boon Crag saw mill, Ian Taylor and Stuart Morley.