Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Himalayan Balsam "Pull For A Brew" with South Cumbria Rivers Trust.

The last organised volunteer balsam pull for this  year with South Cumbria Rivers Trust took place at  a site near Skelwith Bridge on Saturday 30th August. Vanda and I met up with Jen at 10 am. Sadly, no one else turned up; after waiting a while, our small band set to work.

Invasive Himalayan Balsam at Skelwith Bridge. It readily out competes,
and shades out our native plants, reducing diversity, and denuding river banks of understory
 vegetation. Winter die back exposes the bare soil to erosion. 
A volunteer, working on a recent National Trust project, told me about several studies that indicated volunteering has surprising benefits for the volunteer. She summed it up: "Doing good for the community makes you feel good...and does you good!"

Because it was so late in the season, bin bags were used to contain the ripe seed pods; they would be incinerated later. Many of the pods could be heard popping inside the bag!
Cutting the stem with the seed pods ready to put in a bin bag. A single plant can produce 800 seeds and project the seeds up to 4 metres away; hence the plant can spread with phenomenal speed over a few seasons.
An awkward site. I am in a silted up drainage ditch.
Vanda, National Trust colleague,
and Jen. South Cumbria Rivers Trust. and organiser of the
Himalayan Balsam pulling events.
It is easy to see why the Victorians were so taken with this plant.
They had no idea of how invasive Himalayan Balsam would become away
from its natural habitat. 
Bees find Himalayan Balsam irresistible because it contains so much nectar.
They often prefer it to native plants which means yet more Himalayan Balsam
gets pollinated to the detriment of native species. This allows it to spread and dominate large areas very rapidly.
Bees are drawn to this invasive species. Note proboscis already extended!

Oh Yes, this is 'THE PULL FOR A BREW'. Chesters By The River, a bakery, cafĂ©, and shop, heard that a balsam pull was to take place nearby and had kindly offered in advance to treat all participants to a cream tea.


Thanks to all at Chesters.



Thursday, 28 August 2014

Aria Force....winching, walling and revetment work.


A fallen Wellingtonia tree at Aira Force needed to be winched upright in order to tidy up the root plate. 

The upturned root plate is a bit of an eyesore especially as it is so close to the popular path leading up to Aira Force.

Although most of the tree had already been cut up, enough of the trunk was left intact to allow for leverage.

Going up. Nic can be seen, centre left, manning the heavy duty winch.

With the tree upright again, and the root plate back in place, it can now be felled 
leaving a tidy stump. 

The  trunk can now be cut up and removed.
Next job is the nearby wall.


The image above is of the tumble down wall that overlooks Aira Beck. The main beam of the water heck is in the foreground.

Not the easiest kind of wall to rebuild as it consists mainly of "beck stones" which are large irregular shaped cobbles. 

Care was needed in building the coyne end; there  was a steep drop into Aira Beck to contend with!

Breaking up stone to make filler or hearting for the middle of the wall. Without sufficient filler the wall will fall in on itself.

Steve and Ray positioning one of the large coyne stones. This large stone covers the entire width of the wall and gives added strength to the wall end.

Getting close to a finish.

Job done.

An attempt at a panoramic shot from the bridge.

Revetment Work.

Some erosion had occurred on the banks of a small beck that flows into Aira Beck. Revetment work was decided upon.

Ray and Nic unloading a large boulder for the revetment.

Top soil will be put in behind the stone at a later date.

Nic bringing in more stone for the revetment wall on the other side of the beck. The power barrow proving invaluable for the work.

All in all a productive 2 days with plenty of opportunities to chat about the work in progress to the many interested people on their way to and from the waterfall.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Ambleside Roman Fort. New interpretation signs and a reminder of the work accomplished there.

Ambleside Roman Fort, (aka... Galava), is situated at the northern end of Windermere. It is understood to have been built in the second century during Hadrian's reign. 500 infantry men (a cohort) were stationed there to guard the road between Brocavum (Brougham) and Glannaventa (Ravenglass). 
With its large granaries, the fort was also likely to have been used as a supply base.

Over the course of two weeks in the summers of 2011 and 2012, teams of volunteers, NT conservation builders, NT rangers and archaeologists worked together to consolidate the remains of the fort.  

Windermere Reflections provided funding for the entire project so thanks to them the work was able to go ahead.

Consolidation Work. 2011/12.

The indistinct  foundations prior to consolidation work.

Consolidation work consists of initially removing the 
turf covering the low walls that remain of the fort.

The next stage is to scoop out the earth between the
stones as seen in the left hand side of the image.
Surplus soil and turf was used to repair erosion
scars on the lake shore.

Scooping out and a find!

The final stage is to put a stone capping in place, bonded
with a lime rich mortar or cement. The word cement is
derived from "opus caementicium" a term that the Romans
used to describe masonry that resembles concrete; it was
made from crushed rock with burnt lime used as a binder.

Celebrating after completing the work.
Consolidation not only strengthens the remains, it also
gives a clearer indication of how the fort was laid out. 

Improving Access. 2013.

A new gateway was installed, through the boundary wall, 
linking Borrans Park and the Roman Fort.

A rock breaker was needed to tackle a large boulder that
was in the way.

With the gate and the cage  in place the wall can be rebuilt 
or coyned up on either side.

The gate is designed for large mobility scooters,
improving access for all. 

Geophysical Survey. 2013.

Geophysical survey of the surrounding area took place
in the summer 2013.

New Interpretation. 2014.

The final stage of the project was to remove the old signs and
put in place splendid new interpretation signs. 

The signs newly arrived at Borrans Barn.

The oak signs were treated with several coats 
of protective teak oil before installation. 

Jamie Lund, National Trust archaeologist and project
leader, breaking up one of the old concrete plinths on
which the old signs were mounted.

Cumbria National Trust Volunteers digging out more
of the concrete plinths.

The large heavy plinth is out of the ground
and awaiting removal.

Six of these concrete plinths were dug out by Trust
rangers and volunteers. A big job in itself!  To avoid 
overloading the trailer only two were taken away at a time.

The old...

and the new!

Digging holes for one of the larger signs.

The new lectern sign is in position and Cumbria NT 
volunteers are about to replace the turf around its base.

The first visitors arrive to have a look.

The new signs have had a huge impact....

with many more people visiting the Roman Fort.

Altogether 6 signs were put in position on National Trust
land and 2 signs on SLDC land at Borrans Park.