Tuesday, 27 February 2018

High on a hill live lonely old tree planters!

On a wintry February half-term week and in full view of the busy (and often snowy) Dunmail Raise near Grasmere, National Trust staff and volunteers were hard at work on the slopes below Helm and Mungo Crags. Their mission? To traverse these steep and rocky slopes in the name of restoring scrub woodland…

Tree planting above Grasmere - there could be worse views!

The power-barrows - and their operators - relish a challenge...

Funded by Natural England, this involved planting 6ha of the slopes with typical ‘scrub woodland’ species – hawthorn, blackthorn, crab apple, holly and rowan, along with some silver birch, aspen and alder. Upland scrub is a valuable and often under-appreciated habitat; far from being “scruffy” and in need of tidying, the presence of scattered shrubs and trees provides valuable homes for insects, lichens, birds and small mammals, which in turn feed larger birds and mammals. The flowers of species such as hawthorn and crab apple keep pollinating insects happy, whilst their fruit can be a bounty in the autumn. And the roots of these trees and shrubs help to stabilise soils and improve the ability of slopes to hold water, reducing and slowing the water running off hillsides into rivers during rainy periods.

The scrub woodland will provide habitat and ecological benefits in the centuries to come

Fresh from their success as ‘Volunteers of the Year’, the Lake District’s Fix the Fells volunteers put in an impressive show of numbers to help plant the 1,800 trees that went in the ground during the week. Students from Myerscough College also came up during their holiday, learning how to plant and linking this to their Upland Management course.

A good turn-out of staff and volunteers helped achieve a great number of trees being planted in difficult conditions

We were also joined by volunteers from the University of Cumbria, as well as stalwarts of the Ullswater and Great Langdale volunteer teams. Staff from the National Trust’s regional office just over the valley in the Hollens also pitched in, experiencing first-hand a hillside they would normally look at from afar in their warm and cosy offices!

Planters struggle on, despite driving rain and steep slopes

The planting was far from easy;  on a couple of days the weather threw its worst at us, as Allan Bank Manager Dave and Woodland Ranger Liam tried to capture in this video!

The weather may have been trying, but all involved can look up at this prominent hillside with pride. There are still more trees to plant, hopefully in more amenable conditions!, but even so, look west next time you’re passing on Dunmail Raise and you’ll see a great example of the National Trust’s ambitions to restore a healthy, beautiful, natural environment.

The planted intake is visible from far below, and even from Dunmail Raise

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Hedge Laying in the snow at Townend.

The hedge bordering Townend House car park had been flailed for many seasons up until now.  
Last season the hedge was allowed to grow so that it could be re- laid more effectively.
This image shows the new growth from the previously flailed stems.
The hedge consists of thorn , ash and hazel.
This image shows a section of laid hedge.
Another view with the road beneath running alongside.
Pleaches at the base of the stems (usually made with a billhook) give them the flexibility to be laid down. 
The stems are interwoven to give the hedge strength and support.
The hedge was planted along the top of the roadside wall many years ago.
The difference in levels between the car-park and the road is considerable, making hedge laying a challenging job.
The view from the car-park of a heavy snow fall.
Later in the day working conditions improved when it stopped snowing..
An image of the laid hedge from the roadside, the following day February 7th, with the snow mostly gone but the temperature at minus 5!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Tribute to Volunteers 2017

Examples of the invaluable work of volunteers ...in and around the Windermere area.

Working Holiday Group

Lake-shore revetment work Cockshott, Windermere.

Windermere School working at St. Catherine's.

Thinning out ash and disturbing the ground to encourage growth of Touch-Me-Not Balsam in Spring..
..and collecting leaves for adding to the walled garden compost bins.

Cumbria National Trust Volunteers.

Tidying up the area in and around High Lickbarrow Farm

and taking down an old redundant fence.

First year Forestry students, University of Cumbria

working on a double fence line to protect a soon to be planted hedge at High Lickbarrow...

...under somewhat challenging conditions!

Stuart, long term volunteer, at St. Catherine's

constructing a 'hedgehog house' from scrap wood.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Stuart...Recycling Superstar!

Stuart, long term gardening volunteer at The Footprint, has become an inspiring member of the Windermere team here at St. Catherine's.

Stuart always has an eye on recycling so we find all sorts of useful and interesting objects refashioned from old gates and pallets. Above, he is completing his latest creation...a beautiful eco-home for hedgehogs.

This old gate is tanalised and therefore unsuitable for firewood but rather than skip it Stuart has repaired the walled garden shed with some of the timber and made trellis fencing with the rest.

Stuart brought this Jasmine in from his own garden at home; here it is in the planter that he made from scrap wood with the trellis fencing behind.

These images show planters created by Stuart for herbs and flowers which are offered for sale outside the Footprint in the Summer; donations go towards "The Walled Garden Project". 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Wet! Wet! Wet!

The recent heavy rainfall made Stock Ghyll Force near Ambleside look particularly impressive.

However the volume of water has caused many problems. For instance, the little clapper bridge over Wynlass Beck at Millerground  became choked with debris.

The bridge was giving a good impression of being a weir.

Finally the debris was cleared away and the water could flow freely under the bridge once again.

Nothing to do with the above post, but I went to the Lakeland wildlife Oasis at the weekend and took this image of one of the magnificent snow leopards!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Giant Hogweed. (inspiration for the 1971 song by progressive rock band Genesis...Return of the Giant Hogweed)

Back in July 2017 it was widely reported that Giant Hogweed was spreading across the UK. Mike Duddy...Mersey Basin Rivers Trust... described it as "the most dangerous plant in Britain" and that it was a "massive issue" that needed tackling.

 Thankfully there have been no more reported sightings of this invasive plant since 2013 in the Central East Lakes region.

This post from three years ago has been updated to celebrate the continued absence of Giant Hogweed on or near National Trust land at Cockshott, Windermere, and Bridge House, Stock Ghyll, Ambleside after two years of eradication work!

Giant Hogweed is probably the most feared of all the invasive plants. Its sap is phototoxic; it contains furanocoumarins, a toxic glucoside that photosenisitises the skin causing phytophotodermatitis...a serious skin inflammation. Exposure to sunlight causes severe and painful blistering that sometimes requires hospitalisation.

Even many years after the initial contact, the victim's skin is likely to remain highly sensitised to sunlight. A small amount of sap in the eyes may possibly cause blindness.

Giant Hogweed is the only invasive plant I am aware of that has had a song written about it...and an apocalyptic one at that! Below are some exerpts.....

"Long ago in the Russian hills a Victorian explorer found the Regal Hogweed by a marsh; he captured it and brought it home..."

"Fashionable country gentlemen had some cultivated wild gardens in which they innocently planted the Giant Hogweed throughout the land..."

"Soon they escaped spreading their seed preparing for an onslaught threatening the Human Race..."

"Around every river and canal their power is growing..."

"Stamp them out, we must destroy them...!"

© GENESIS. Return of the Giant Hogweed. From the 1971 album 'Nursery Cryme.'

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum Mantegazzianum) is a spectacular and exotic plant that is native to the Caucasus region. It is in the umbelliferous family Apiaceae. Superficially it resembles Common Hogweed or Cow Parsley (Heracleum Sphondylium)....but on steroids!

Victorian explorers introduced the plants to the UK. Since then Giant Hogweed has become highly invasive in the UK and will shade out native plants because it grows so fast and so tall. 

Without adequate controls, Giant Hogweed will spread and become dominant very quickly especially along watercourses restricting access and in some cases blocking footpaths.

It often contributes to river bank erosion. When the plants die back in Winter only bare ground remains that in flood conditions may easily be washed away.

Giant Hogweed plants were found growing alongside the small watercourse by the National Trust/SLDC Cockshott and Ferrry Nab footpath, Windermere in June 2011. The one above measured about fifteen feet tall! (The large trenching spade is completely dwarfed!)

Even more appeared the following year and these also were dug up and burnt.

Giant Hogweed is classed as a biennial, or monocarpic perennial living up to seven years. In its final year it produces the massive, hugely impressive flower heads, seeding in late August.
Bridge House, National Trust, Ambleside.

More recently in June 2013, Giant Hogweed was discovered twenty yards downstream of Bridge House, Ambleside. These were dug up well before the flower heads could seed. So far there has been no recurrence of the plants here.

If you see Giant Hogweed please contact the landowner, if known, or the appropriate authority.
 Digging up Giant Hogweed alongside footpath linking Cockshott to Ferry Nab. Protective clothing, goggles, gloves and face mask essential!
One less Giant Hogweed at Ferry Nab. This specimen measured 10 feet but many grow much taller.

Image of Giant Hogweed only 3 yards from Trust land. This plant would have needed another growing season at least before it could develop the flower stem; one plant is capable of producing fifty thousand seeds. These may remain viable for up to fifteen years! 

"Turn and run...nothing can stop them!"...© Genesis 1971.
This is the top half of the flower stem of a Giant Hogweed dug up from the side of Stock Ghyll just a few yards from Bridge House. June 2013)

A message from  South Cumbria Rivers Trust...

South Cumbria Rivers trust are aiming to locate and eradicate invasive non-native species throughout the catchments of South Cumbria stretching from the River Duddon to the River Lune. Any sightings of the following species below would help us to focus our efforts over the coming seasons with priority within the Windermere, Coniston, and River Kent catchments:
Giant hogweed
Japanese knotweed
Himlayan balsam
American skunk cabbage
American signal crayfish
Killer shrimp

You can record a sighting via the CFINNS website: 
or email Jen on jen@scrt.co.uk

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Until the (High Lickbarrow) cows come home....a mooving story.

The National Trust Scout Beck herd of the rare Albion breed were brought in today, Sunday 15th, from their grazing land to High Lickbarrow Farm. From here they were transported to their Winter quarters. Along with the cows there were 17 calves born earlier this year in May.

The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia are due to hit on Monday 16th so the timing was just about perfect!

Six helpers, including three National Trust staff, herded the cattle on a kilometre long route to the farm. It all went pretty smoothly with only the occasional break away attempt to have a sustaining snack. See above. John and James use their powers of persuasion to move 'em on! 

In this image the cattle are approaching the entrance to High Lickbarrow in an orderly procession.

These "first" heifers (about  18 months old) were brought in a week earlier from their grazing allotment at Moor How, near Newby Bridge.

Here are three of them back in June 2016 at just a few weeks old. This image
shows the Albions in all their different colourings. The breed has a dominant white gene which is the "true breeding". True bred Albions may be blue-roan, white, or black with some white as evidenced by the image above.

An image of one of the 18 month old heifers at Moor How with a glimpse of Windermere and Grizedale Forest in the background....

...and here she is at High Lickbarrow on her birthday, May 2016. Just a few hours old!

The herd will return to their High Lickbarrow 'home' in May ready for a new season. 

Some animals have been sold to farms in Cornwall and Derbyshire which will contribute to improving the bloodline, and increase the numbers of this rare breed.

To find out more about the Albion breed...The Albion Cattle Society have a website that is very informative. 

The Albion Cattle Society are "dedicated to raising public awareness of this dying breed and help save it from extinction" and to show the Rare Breeds Survival Trust
"Albion Cattle are a breed worth fighting for".