Friday 31 January 2020

Conservation Work at Millerground and Moor How.

In late January, Windermere rangers cleared a bramble-choked bank at Millerground above the public footpath leading to the lakeshore.

Bramble growth was in danger of choking out native bluebells that the Millerground Enhancement Group, in conjunction with the National Trust, had planted in previous years.

In addition, this area is home to native touch-me-not-balsam, which is the only food plant for the rare netted carpet moth. Pulling out the brambles not only gives more light for the plants it also has the effect of disturbing the ground. Empirical evidence has shown that touch-me-not requires some ground disturbance to thrive, and in the absence of wild boar, us Rangers will have to do!

Waste not, want not! The pulled out brambles were then transported to Moor How and put to good use as a barrier... protect any potential tree or flower regeneration.

While at Moor How a small-leaved lime was planted in one of the twelve tree cages that have recently been constructed here. This is a native tree often found in ancient woodlands in the south of the country, and Cumbria and the northeast are its northern-most strongholds. It has distinctive heart-shaped leaves, flowers that provide nourishment to many bees in the height of summer, and can be extremely long-lived.

The tree had a tree guard placed around it to protect it from being ring barked by rabbits or small gnawing rodents.

Finally, Natural England and Butterfly Conservation advised that if small, designated areas of Moor How were "scarified", it would assist marsh violets and primroses to colonise said areas. 

Time for the Rangers to be wild boars again... with some help. The power-barrow was brought in to "scarify" the ground. Skilful skid turns and drifts were performed...

...and a border collie, well trained in the art of conservation, soon had the ground well and truly "scarified"!

Another chosen area...Before...

 ...and after. Well done Blue (and power barrow). 

 Breaking up rank, thick grasses (dominant through previous over-grazing) has exposed mineral soil. Native wildflowers and tree seedlings will now get their chance to shine.

Monday 25 November 2019

New Oak Gate for Low Wood.

The old oak gate to the entrance of Low Wood...forming part of the National Trust High Close estate...was replaced recently by a new oak gate constructed in the same style by  accomplished N.T joiner, Ricky.

The top bar of the old gate, weakened after many years.

The gate stoop.

The original gate hangings were removed with some difficulty from the old gate, wire brushed and painted, ready to be used on the new gate.

The newly painted top hanger is put in place on the new gate complete with new coach bolts.

The excellent new oak gate, ready to provide years of service.

Monday 18 November 2019

An Ash Pollard and a Wall Gap..

The above image shows a wall gap by an ash pollard in a National Trust field adjacent to the A591 near Troutbeck Village. 

Ash pollards are difficult to age accurately as they usually hollow out, but it is likely this one is around 200 years old.

Once the stone from the fallen wall had been cleared back, it was clear to see the problem was at least in part due to a large root from the pollard tracking above the ground and spanning the width of the wall towards the road.

Here is a close up image of the root

A large flat stone was located nearby to bridge over the root allowing some movement from it without it disturbing the wall too much.

The completed wall from the roadside.
 Hopefully the pollard and the wall can now co-exist in harmony for a little while longer!

Monday 21 October 2019

Count The Duke In.......Primrose planting for the Duke of Burgundy.

A rare British butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, has been in sharp decline over the years through loss of habitat, climate change, and intensified agricultural practices.

Conservationists, including the National Trust in partnership with Butterfly Conservation are attempting to protect this species from the danger of  extinction.

 The butterfly is mainly to be found in Central and Southern England with isolated colonies in Southern Lake district, Morecambe Bay area, and The North York Moors.

 Unlike warmth loving butterflies, the Duke is intolerant of open downs and will not prosper in dark, dense woodlands. It is extremely picky about its habitat!

However, it does thrive, albeit in low numbers, on extensive or lightly grazed  grassland and scrub (see above image), or open or coppiced woodlands...

...just as long as there are sufficient numbers of primroses, (see image) or cowslips. These plant species are the only food-plants for the Duke of Burgundy's caterpillars.

Under a Natural England... Countryside Stewardship Scheme... National Trust land at  Moor How is grant funded with the Duke of Burgundy very much in mind.

Taking a break from the National Trust's farm at High Lickbarrow, a small herd of  the rare Albion cattle, up to the age of eighteen months, have Moor How as their grazing allotment from May to October each year. 

They have been called conservation grazers as they help to establish the right conditions for the Duke of Burgundy. Cattle do not graze as close down to the ground as sheep. Unlike sheep, cattle  use their tongues to pull tufts of vegetation into their mouths. As they graze, tussocks of grass are formed in which the caterpillars can pupate successfully.

As cattle have wide mouths they do not overgraze or target specific plants...this results in a highly diverse habitat benefiting both insects and small mammals.

A "first heifer" at Moor How.
The Duke of Burgundy has not been seen at Moor How as yet but with a colony close by it is hoped that they will spread to Moor How given time. This has happened in areas where clusters of suitable sites have been maintained. For instance, last Summer, numbers of these butterflies have increased significantly in Kent, Sussex, and North Yorkshire.

Primroses have been brought in to add to the numbers at Moor How.

 They have been planted throughout the year, with the last batch planted in October.

 The light grazing regime, coupled with the increasing numbers of primroses planted, should ultimately make Moor How a highly suitable site for the Duke of Burgundy.

Hopefully there will soon be news that the first Duke of Burgundy butterfly has been seen at Moor How!

Thursday 3 October 2019

Home Sweet Home.

Long term volunteer, Stuart, has constructed several barn owl boxes. Three of the boxes, two of which are now occupied by barn owls, have been positioned inside suitable National Trust barns.
In the image ,above, is a dilapidated old barn owl box on an oak tree near Galava Roman Fort...
...and here is its replacement, courtesy of Stuart...a highly des. res. for any barn owl that may wish to settle in the area. 
With the resurgence of red squirrels in the Ambleside and Windermere areas, Stuart has also constructed some magnificent red squirrel boxes. The entrance hole is large enough for reds but too small for greys. The entrance hole is protected by a metal surround to stop greys from making the hole bigger.
One of the red squirrel boxes has been positioned on an oak tree near Stagshaw Gardens where reds have been seen recently. Hopefully, it will provide both a good nesting habitat and a safe haven from predators.

Saturday 28 September 2019

Partnership Working on September Surveys.


In early September the annual survey for the rare netted carpet moth took place in the Lake District. The moth, in its larval stage, (caterpillar) depends entirely on nationally scarce annual touch-me-not balsam plants... its only food source.

The survey was led by Dr. Paul Hatcher of Reading University and John Hooson, Wildlife Adviser for The National Trust. The fact that they have led these annual surveys since 1990 is a testament to their dedication.

One day was spent at the East Windermere sites including National Trust St. Catherine's.

 A splendid view of  a touch-me-not stand at St. Catherine's through the open door of the staff toilet!..mid August. Over 100 caterpillars were recorded on these plants which is a tremendous result as this is not one of the larger sites.

Volunteers and colleagues from South Lakes National Trust were of great assistance in the survey work.
 Volunteers can be seen here at another site...not National Trust owned... about half a mile from St. Catherine's. This site, once in decline, has improved through the removal of invasive species. 26 caterpillars were found here.

9 caterpillars were recorded at the Windermere School site; kind permission was granted by the school to survey the area.

Regrettably no caterpillars were found at the Millerground site.

However the numbers recorded elsewhere at East Windermere makes for encouraging news for future populations in this area..
A not fully grown caterpillar found under a touch-me-not leaf at Hodge Howe. By October the caterpillars will have pupated in the ground ready to emerge as adults in July. 
Finally this is an image of the moth on touch-me-not balsam at St. Catherine's in late August.


In late September two rangers from St. Catherine's met up with Jayne Wilkinson of South Cumbria Rivers Trust. An Electrofishing survey at Trout Beck...where it runs through National Trust farm land at Stonethwaite... had been scheduled.

 Surveys take place between July and September throughout the catchment area.

To quote SCRT...

"A 50 metre stretch of river is chosen at each site and the following is recorded:







The voltage and pulse width of the electrofishing equipment is then adjusted according to the recommended settings for the respective water conductivity and fish species. This ensures the safety of the fish and the operators of the equipment.

The electrofishing operator is aided by two assistants who are then responsible for netting the fish and transferring them to holding tanks. After the 50 metre stretch has been completed the fish are then surveyed, recording fish species and length. In order to minimise stress, surveys are completed as quickly as possible and the fish are then returned along the length of the survey site.

Electofishing and its results give us a clearer picture of what species are in the river, numbers and fish health. It points us to issues and improvements that can be made to help fish migration, including: changes to barriers affecting migration, highlighting any pollution points and potential habitat improvement work. It's a great monitoring technique to ensure fish, river, and catchment health." 

Jayne is working her way upstream, from one side to the other, using the electrofishing back pack equipment. Pete is about to net a fish. Trout and salmon were the fish to be surveyed.
After 6 metres a number of trout and salmon have been caught.
They are swiftly transferred to a large trug with an aeration system to keep them well oxygenated.
A juvenile salmon about to be measured. They have a more concave tail than trout and their upper jaw does not extend beyond the rear of the eye as it does with trout. They are also more streamlined in shape.
This is a trout. A positive id can be made here. The adipose fin is red. On the salmon it is not!
Jayne was happy with the results of the survey. 111 trout and 36 salmon in a 50 metre stretch indicates good fish and river health. As a rough guide only 60% of  the fish in a 50 metre stretch of river will be caught for recording purposes.

Friday 14 June 2019

The Curious Quoin End of Wansfell Holme(s)

The Langdale Pikes viewed from National Trust Jenkyn's Field.
Although you may be distracted by the view of the lake just south of Ambleside, look the other way and you'll see Wansfell Holme on the hill above you.

An early Victorian mansion, Wansfell Holme is situated at the heart of a "designed landscape" that spreads upwards into National Trust woodlands at Skelghyll.
From Jenkyn's Field, you'll see the Tall Trees of Skelghyll framing the skyline behind the house itself. 

A gap in the former Wansfell Holme boundary wall into Skelghyll Woods presented us with an unusual problem. 

Apart from its daunting height of 8 feet in places, the wall had been mortared in the original construction at the wall ends or quoins forming a pedestrian gateway. However, the rest of the wall had been built as a traditional dry-stone wall.

This had the effect of some of the mortared wall near the gateway staying up while a non-mortared section adjacent to it had collapsed mainly through foundation stones shifting over many years.  

After stabilising the mortared section of wall with some additional mortar, the foundations were reset and the rest of the wall was built "dry" as in the original construction. 
In this image the stone has been cleared back and rebuilding the wall is well on its way.

This image shows the finished result with the rebuilt dry-stone section of wall blending in...this proved quite challenging... with the  mortared wall end.

The mansion framed by the gateway is Wansfell Holme; the owners had the wall built as a boundary between the woodlands and the fields that formed part of their estate. 

The wall is situated along the route of  The National Trust Tall Tree Trail.
The owners of Wansfell Holme in the 19th century were avid tree collectors. They planted many conifers in what was once their woodland. The Grand Fir in this image was one such tree and is the tallest tree in the North West, as well as being the tallest Grand Fir in England.