Monday, 5 December 2016

Downed beech tree across a footpath.

On the way to do some tree planting... (Wednesday November 30th) on land belonging to The Howe Farm at Troutbeck, above Windermere,... this fallen beech across the footpath was discovered!
The tree had come down in the recent high winds partially blocking the footpath with the crown resting on a neighbour's property. The next day, Liam, forester ranger based at St. Catherines, can be seen here working out the best approach to deal with the tree.
Jess from High Close, who like Liam is also qualified to do large tree felling, was able to give assistance at very short notice. With warning signs set up and a lookout in place to warn walkers using the footpath work began.
In this image Jess has reduced the crown of the tree. Most of the wood will be cross cut and used for firewood... (after seasoning)... in the NT Footprint wood-burner.
Here Liam is cutting more sections out of the tree trunk to further reduce its weight prior to "felling" it..
Above and below.
Working down to where the tree is resting on the bank.
A robin popped by to see what was going on.
Finally the main trunk was winched to the side of the path and out of the way, ready to be dealt with later.
Jess kindly volunteered to do the winching.
Liam and Jess...what a team!
The first of many loads of wood on the way to St. Catherine's with the wood-burner as the final destination.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The walled garden pond...St. Catherine's.

Academy ranger Bruna Remesso, with volunteer help, has done a great deal of work in the walled garden at St Catherine's this year.
One of the jobs she undertook was to reinstate the old pond. It was dug out afresh and a new pond liner was put in place.
Stone dredged out of Troutbeck, after Storm Desmond, was selected to be used for landscaping the area around the pond. 
A volunteer group from Windermere School, who help out on most Thursday afternoons on various tasks, began landscaping work with Bruna.
A busy scene unfolds!
Smaller stones were put in buckets and...
...carried over to the pond.
looking promising.
Really taking shape.
Almost done. Approximately two and a half tons of stone was used for the pond.
The large rounds of wood floating  in the pond are alder. They have had large holes drilled in them as refuge sites for frogs and newts; hopefully they will colonise the pond.
The Windermere School group with Bruna on the right.
Julie King, Director of student pathways and careers at Windermere School, quite literally threw herself into the task, giving the term pond dipping a whole new meaning. She also ably demonstrated just how deep the pond was!

Friday, 28 October 2016


Last week, Monday 24th of October to Friday 28th, a number of small jobs were ticked off by the ranger team at St. Catherine's.
Lets start with a fallen oak blocking the footpath at Bordriggs Brow, Bowness on Windermere.
After our usual Monday morning litter sweep of the lake shore properties, Jenkyns Field, Cockshott Point and Millerground, we set to work.
With the path clear, the cut up oak was transported back to St. Catherine's...
 ..."processed" into firewood and stacked in the log store for seasoning, ready to be used in the Footprint wood burner.
Next up four farm gates for High Lickbarrow  Farm were undercoated and later painted in high gloss red. This colour is quite a feature of the farm's "colour scheme"!
This is the five foot gate, dazzling!..the other three gates are ten foot in length.
Next on the agenda, stone setts were used to create a defined border between the walkways, grassed area, flower beds and raised beds by the Footprint building.
Looking, dare I say, not bad!
the power barrow, proving its inestimable worth yet again, was used to collect gravel...
 ...and distribute it along the walkways around the raised beds.
The power barrow was also pressed into service to collect stones washed down
in the floods and then cleared into heaps along Troutbeck.

These stones will be used to landscape the newly dug out pond in the walled garden at St. Catherine's.
Our last job, during the week, was to repair a woodland wall gap above St. Catherine's. (The metal hurdle was put in place in case sheep were brought into the field before the wall had been rebuilt.)
Yes Blue! You are a great help!
Almost there.
Done and dusted. Back to the Bat Cave to write this post, have a coffee, and wind down for the weekend!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Touch-Me-Not Balsam and Netted Carpet Moth Conservation with Windermere School

St. Catherine's is an important site for scarce annual touch me not balsam plants. It is the UK's only native balsam, with the Lake District being its principal stronghold.
One of the rarest moths in the UK, the netted carpet moth, is totally reliant upon touch me not as it is the only food source for its caterpillars.
Unlike its relative, the highly invasive himalayan balsam (see above), touch me not is incredibly...if not... annoyingly fussy about its growing conditions! It likes nutrient rich soil in damp open woodland with just the right mixture of sun and shade. It is also very bad at competing with other plant species so it tends to opportunistically colonise bare or disturbed ground where it is sometimes able to form dense stands.
Nettles, creeping buttercup, and brambles overwhelmed some of the touch me not stands at St. Catherine's last Summer, so to give the plant a boost for next year, hopefully with a corresponding increase in moth numbers, a more intensive conservation programme has been initiated.
Students from Windermere School have been most helpful in pulling up nettles, brambles and disturbing the ground.
Incidentally, in NT Coniston woodlands, cattle have been instrumental in increasing the plant numbers hence moths by poaching the ground most effectively during Autumn and Winter months..sadly not an option at St. Catherine's!
Forks have proved useful in digging over the ground; the aim is for the touch me not seeds to germinate more readily and establish dense stands in Spring with the competition from other plants largely eradicated from this area.
Mrs Julie King, Director of student pathways and careers at Windermere School also helped with the conservation work... seen here getting to grips with a deep rooted bramble!
These images of the netted carpet moth were taken by Richard Dennison during a 'Moth Night' at St. Catherine's... late July 2016; he kindly gave permission for them to be used on this blog-site..
..Excellent images of moths on touch me not Balsam.

More conservation work will be undertaken at St. Catherine's right up until late March or until the first touch me not seedlings are spotted! 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Meadow Life...Plug Planting at Town Head Grasmere.

"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone..." Joni Mitchell, 1970.

    Wildflower meadows are in catastrophic decline. It is estimated that 97% were lost, nationally, between the 1930s and 1980s with a corresponding loss of insects and predators that are dependent on them. When, for instance, did you last see a hedgehog!?
With its wildflower rich grassland, open grown mature trees and wetland, the National Trust parkland at St.Catherine's, near Windermere, is a rare glimpse of a habitat that was once much more widespread. 
Bumblebee on betony at St. Catherine's. 
Many acres of perennial rye grass have taken the place of wildflower meadows. This has had a devastating impact on pollinators and especially bumblebee numbers. Two bumblebee species have become extinct recently.
Bumblebee covered in pollen on cats-ear at St.Catherine's.
Wildflowers offer a sustained source of nectar and pollen during the long Summers.
"Bumblebees are key factors in our wildlife. If they disappear many of our plants will not bear fruit." David Attenborough.
The presence of quaking grass is a good indicator of well managed "unimproved" grassland at St.Catherine's.
 Red clover. 
Clover releases nitrogen into the soil which benefits other plants.
Self heal
Harebells, betony and burnet saxifrage.
Black knapweed, birds foot trefoil and thistles.
Young goldfinches eat knapweed seeds. Other small birds predate on invertebrates attracted to the flowers.
Meadow brown.
Even stinging nettles have a place in hay meadows. Peacock butterflies lay their eggs on nettles; these plants are a food source for the caterpillars.
All of the above images were taken one afternoon in July at St. Catherine's with the exception of the damselfly and peacock butterfly.
The benefits and importance of well managed hay meadows to wildlife has become more widely recognised. 

 The Cumbria Wildlife Trust has been working with landowners to restore and manage hay meadows through Meadow Life, a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In September, Claire Cornish, Meadow Life Restoration Officer, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, met up with National Trust countryside rangers, volunteers and the tenant farmer of Town Head Farm in Grasmere.
The meadow below Allan Bank had been chosen to be planted up with 2000 wildflower plug plants. These plug plants are young plants raised in individual cells or small pots.
A spade depth of turf is dug out, then inverted...
...and a space is made in the centre...
...for the plug plant, in this instance a wood cranesbill.
This, a close relative, is meadow cranesbill at St. Catherine's in July.
 Eleven different species of wildflowers were planted with the aim to increase plant diversity in this meadow.
Will Benson, National Trust tenant farmer. took time out from his busy schedule to help with the planting.
Claire explained what was going on to interested walkers on the nearby footpath.

Plug planting is just one of many initiatives of Meadow Life.
Below is a quote from  Cumbria Wildlife Trust website:

Welcome to Meadow Life!

"What is Meadow Life Doing?"
"We hope to help reverse the decline of this very special habitat and bring back the stunningly evocative landscape of hay meadows to Cumbria".

For more information, click on the link below.