Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Shiver Me Timbers!

The historic yeoman farmer's house Townend, in the village of Troutbeck, was recently extensively restored after wet rot was discovered in the structural timbers.
Under instruction from Stephen Haigh, Buildings Archaeologist, we cut out sections from the old timber so that a dendrochronologist could analyse them at a later date.
Simply put, Dendrochronology is the scientific method of dating wood through the analysis of the patterns of tree rings aka growth rings.

Hopefully it can be determined in which year the timber was felled... thus giving a valuable insight into the history of this wonderful house.

In the images above Stephen Haigh has chalked the sections of wood to be cut out for the dendrochronologist to examine.
The timbers removed from Townend have been labelled  to indicate in which part of the house they were used for during its construction.
A cut through a comparatively sound section of wood...
...in contrast this one is rotten for much of its length!
'Chain Saw Carnage'!
Stephen Haigh's liaison with the dendrochronologist has resulted in these samples being cut from the timber. Meticulously labelled, they are to be sent away for analysis.

This was one of the more unusual jobs we have been involved with!

Any updates will appear here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

New Bench for Holme Crag, Jenkyn's Field.

 National Trust Jenkyn's Field provides a rare public access point to Windermere's North Eastern shore. It's entire Western flank is bounded by the lake.
 In stark contrast the busy A591 runs alongside the full length of its Eastern side.
An image of Jenkyn's Field shore as seen from the lake in Winter.
Above can be seen the record breaking conifers of Skelghyll Woods.
Many years ago there used to be a bench on Holme Crag, a rocky outcrop  of Jenkyn's Field,  jutting into the north east side of  Windermere near to Waterhead.

Holme Crag as seen from the lake.

Thanks to a National Trust supporter, who chose to celebrate the birth of his grandson with a generous donation to our work in this area, we were able to commission a local blacksmith to fabricate a new bench.
To give the new bench a firm foundation an oak sleeper was cut in half. Two parallel trenches were dug, at a set distance, within which the sleepers were placed...see below.
A certain amount of landscaping was needed to get the bench as level as possible on its newly positioned supports. 
The base of the bench was drilled back at St. Catherine's to allow it to be firmly attached to the two sections of sleepers... using coach screws.
Approaching the bench (after a brief steep walk) you'll be rewarded with...
...a splendid view of the North West shore of Windermere... somewhere to sit and enjoy it... and forget about the busy A591 so close and yet, seemingly, so far away.
Subsequently the area around the bench has had lake-shore gravel spread around its base.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Summer Branch Drop.

Last week a loud cracking noise disturbed the peace and quiet of a hot, still afternoon at St. Catherine's. Within seconds a large oak branch crashed to the ground, narrowly missing the Spirit of Place sculpture that stands at the entrance.
This occurrence had all the hallmarks of Summer Branch Drop (SBD). Once considered a rare event, anecdotal evidence now suggests, this may be more common than was at first thought... Mature or veteran oak trees, along with beech and horse chestnut, are particularly prone to shedding branches during prolonged heat waves or in calm weather, after heavy Summer rainfall.

Why, on windless hot Summer days, do branches showing no apparent defects suddenly and mysteriously crash to the ground?  One theory is that when the demands for transpiration (water evaporation from leaves) overwhelms the tree's vascular system... the tree responds by shedding branches. Other theories include tissue shrinkage, internal cracks, difficult to detect rot, and/or ethylene gas being released inside the branch....but there are no definite answers. Consistent warning signs have not yet been established or confirmed.
Above is an image of where the branch split. The wood looks perfectly sound, and even with the most rigorous  inspection, it would be nigh on impossible to predict, prior to the branch being aborted, that it would fail.
 Liam, Woodland Ranger, is seen here cutting up the branch.

Waste not. Want not. More firewood for the Footprint log burner!
The brash will provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Hopefully it will provide cover for hedgehogs... numbers of which are, sadly, in steep decline
This veteran oak at National Trust owned Jenkins Field is adjacent to the A591 near Ambleside. A very busy road and the pavement is used by many walkers.
In successive years this tree has shed branches in late Summer. The evidence of one branch failure can be seen in the image above. The road was blocked on this occasion until the branch was cut up and removed; the police directed traffic while this was going on! Mercifully no one was underneath the tree when the apparently healthy branches were discarded.
The concern that the tree might abort yet more branches in the future prompted the National Trust, at considerable expense, to reduce the crown of the tree to ensure the safety of walkers and motorists in its vicinity. Close examination showed potential weaknesses in some branches so more pruning was done than was at first envisaged. In the image above a split branch and a cut branch next to it can be seen. 

Overall the risks associated with SBD are small and even in hindsight the cause is usually a matter of speculation or an educated guess!

The National Trust carry out regular and thorough tree inspections. Identifiable problems, or quantifiable risks are dealt with as soon as possible.

Since the summer branch drop at St Catherine's we have had a similar problem here at Aira Force. during the heavy rain and wind on Wednesday night, a huge limb was spotted (on an early morning litter pick) to have fallen off an Oak tree.
Luckily there was no damage to the path, it was however extremely dangerous for members of the public.
Similar to the limb at St Catherine's there were no obvious signs that this would happen
Our forestry team were quickly on the scene to clear the tree and prevent any further damage.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Partnership working at Millerground.

Millerground, owned in part by the National Trust and South Lakeland District Council,  is one of the few remaining public access points to the lake on the east shore of Windermere.

Above is the large drumlin, known as Queen Adelaide's Hill, which commands spectacular views over the lake with good access down to Millerground. Owned by the National Trust, it is free and accessible for everyone to enjoy. 

Earlier this month the Millerground Enhancement Group met up for a day for a general tidy up and to repair some of the damage caused by Storm Desmond on the Council owned area of Millerground. 
The group comprising N.T rangers, South Lakeland District Council staff, members of Windermere and Bowness Civic Society and Continental landscape staff set to with a will. 

Lumps of old concrete, and driftwood were taken away in the power barrows that over the years have proved indispensable for this kind of work.

An old fire-site was dismantled and removed.

  The solid wood benches, that had been displaced by flood water, were eased back into position.

Back where it should be.

 An old, unsightly, redundant concrete slab was broken up with a lump hammer and taken away to a skip previously placed in the nearby car-park

Note the two solid wood benches in the background ready to be re-positioned.

Part of the lake-side path leading from National Trust land onto Council owned land had been washed away and this was repaired using large boulders and infilling behind with gravel.

The path to the lake shore in the process of being repaired.

Finishing touches.

The repaired path.

A big improvement was made in a relatively short time to the site and is a testament to what can be achieved through community and partnership working.   

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Accessible Langdale - A day with the Disabled Ramblers

Most of you may think of Stickle barn as a great location to start a days walk whether this is Stickle Tarn,  the Langdale Pikes, Pavey Ark or even Scafell (we suggest the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park for this one). For others it may be rock climbing, ghyll scrambling or mountain biking.

For some limited mobility restricts these activities but it is still fair to say the Disabled Ramblers proved Langdale is a valley accessible to all. This is something that the National Trust as an organisation are keen to continue to improve.
While this date had been in the diary well in advance we couldn’t have wished for better weather. Tuesday was possibly the hottest day of summer. It registered 33 degree’s when we got back, and felt even hotter on the Walk!

The improved cycle route through the Langdale valley lends itself very well to something a little more robust than your average wheelchair and while we decided to only go as far as Elterwater Quarry it would have been possible to continue on all the way to Skelwith.

The majority of the group were on Trampers, an off road mobility scooter designed specifically for this purpose , powered with an electric battery with a speed of up to eight miles an hour. these are already available to loan to the general public at Tarn Hows and many of the stately homes.

Once chips were mentioned it became a race all the way back to Stickle barn, where the food comes highly recommended either at the beginning or end of your day.

The day was a success the disabled ramblers want to make it an annual fixture on their calendar and we hope to work on adding facilities for the disabled.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Fell Care Day

Wednesday the 6th of July 2016 saw the 13th annual Fell Care Day take place in Glenridding. These events have been taking place throughout the Lake District since 20011

They are run and organised by Friends of the Lake District (https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/fell-care-days). They are ‘Mass volunteering practical conservation and learning events which bring together local communities, school and volunteers from many different walks of life.’

On the day there was numerous different activities run throughout the valley, from repairing the Gough monument on Helvellyn to dry stone walling at Hartsop.

Our task was to resurface and maintain the stretch of path from Glencoyne Bay to Glenridding.

Over time the path has started to grow in and the surface has become less attractive to walk on, which has led to people walking around the worst sections.

Earlier in the week we had organised our forestry team to drop off a couple of trailer loads of gravel along the path.

A daunting site for our 8 volunteers.

The plan was to dig a small trench along the current path to widen it to an appropriate width and then fill with gravel.

The volunteers soon settled into their roles and the gravel mountain started to disappear.

I’m always amazed at how much work can get done when there are lots of people helping, and this job was no exception.

The new path beginning to take shape.

By the end of the day the volunteers had managed to re-lay almost 150m of path

A huge thank you has to go to our hard working group, for a fantastic days work.

As well as our group of volunteers there were a further 15 groups in and around Glenridding completing various tasks.

Below is a list of work completed on the day.

             123 volunteers, 15 volunteer leaders and 10 FLD staff.

             2000 non-native invasive balsam plants pulled at Patterdale.

             75m of drainage work completed on Tailings Dam, Greenside.

             25m of drain clearance at Tailings Dam, Greenside.

             200sqm of grass seeding completed at Greenside.

             150 tree guards cleared of bracken to support native tree growth.

             Gough Monument on Helvellyn fully renovated and restored.

             150 m of the Ullswater Way path at Glencoyne upgraded with 15 tonnes of aggregate.

             2,500 sqm of invasive Rhododendron cleared at Aira Force.

             25km of upland paths cleared and maintained at Howtown, Place Fell and Mires Beck.

             7.5 tonnes of rock cleared from the beck at Horseman’s Bridge, Hartsop.

             25m of dry stone wall rebuilt at Cow Bridge, Hartsop

             821 hours of work completed = 117 days

             More than 300 pieces of cake eaten!

If you require further information, or just want to take part on a future Fell Care Day take a look at their website (link above).