Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Rebuilding roadside walls...good teamwork required!

The 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.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Juniper bracken bash.

Juniper 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 overlooked by the Langdale Pikes.

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.
Rangers based at St. Catherine's, Windermere and Cumbria NT Volunteers joined the Langdale rangers to take on the bracken armed with hazel sticks.
The sticks are used to bash the bracken back from around the young trees. The bracken is severely weakened by the bruising and by the bending of its stems. It uses up nutrients in attempting to repair itself and its future growth is much reduced.
The Bracken Bash looking towards The Band with Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags in the background.

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.
Rare sight of ground hugging juniper on Middle Fell with another native conifer in the background...Yew.

Juniper,an important habitat, supports over forty insect types 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.
Juniper often grows on rocky outcrops where there is sufficient soil in the crevices and grazing animals find access difficult.
Juniper can become twisted and gnarled over the course of many years...
the stems contorting into fantastic shapes.
Phytophthora austrocedri, a fungus like pathogen first recorded in Britain in 2011, is of major concern. It affects juniper and often causes the death of the host tree. The most obvious symptom is brown foilage on infected juniper. The pathogen attacks the roots, kills the phloem (inner bark) and lesions form extending up the lower stem. Ultimately the tree will probably die once the main stem is girdled.
The two images above show juniper with suspected P. austrocedri.

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 2016

Fence repairs - High Hartsop Dodd


Although 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 barrow





We 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.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

High Lickbarrow Farm. Walling with a tree in mind.

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 its 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.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Martin Wood...A Tale Of Two Walls.

This is Martin Wood 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.
Interestingly, the wall end stones were specifically shaped to give the imposing main entrance 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 conventional 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 impressive west facing wall, where it is intact,  is over fifteen feet tall. 
The buttresses were probably added later to give the wall some much needed support as it was built on a steep slope.
This is the old holly hedge that links the east facing wall to the west facing wall.
One of the two quarries within the wood supplied 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. 
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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.