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 ( 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).

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Removing Himalayan Balsam - Elterwater

The Langdale team have been busy removing the invasive Himalayan Balsam between Elterwater village and Rob Rash woodland.

Without intervention this fast growing annual (grows, sets seed and dies in the same year) with pink pea-like flowers, can cover vast areas of land. We try and pull all the Himalayan Balsam plants as one left can produce thousands of seeds. There is around a 3-week period between a flower developing and the seed being viable so by the time we see the pink through the trees, we act fast.

Due to its location, Elterwater picks up a wide variety of seed washing from the Langdale valley. We had to fight our way through a bamboo jungle to find some of the Himalayan Balsam.

Himalayan Balsam is especially common on river banks, shading out all other species and becoming a monoculture. When it dies back over the winter it leaves the river banks bare with no roots holding the soil back, leading to erosion and siltation.
 In wet areas they can grow extremely tall – they are hollow stemmed and so full of water some of them we could tip upside-down and pour it out! Here Gareth, head chef at Sticklebarn pub meets his match.

In this situation Wellies are preferred….

It is all worth it for this stunning view looking at Elterwater towards Skelwith bridge.

 And definitely worth it for a bit of free cake. Liam (also from Sticklebarn pub) digging in and showcasing one of the larger finds of the day!

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 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.