Monday, 5 October 2015

Hartsop bridge repair

Bridge repairs at Hartsop.

One of our roles as Rangers, is to work alongside tenant farmers in helping to maintain, boundary walls, gates and fences on their farm land and in this case a bridge.

As you can see from this picture the bridge had become very worn, with numerous holes starting to appear.

The plan was to re-use the steel girders that the rotten beams where sat on. New timbers had been ordered from our in house saw mill based at Boon Crag near Coniston.

They were very heavy

The old beams where cut out and the new ones placed onto the steel girder

They were then bolted into place.

It was a very fiddly job to get the nut screwed onto the bottom of the bolt!

Some of the new beams didn’t match up to the previous holes that had been drilled into the girder, this meant new ones had to be drilled.

Although the girder was well over 10 years old and looked like it had seen better days. It was still extremely strong.

A few alterations had to be made to the final beams, so that they fitted around the old fence posts.

A chainsaw was slightly quicker than using a hand saw!

Once the final beams had been slotted into place, it was clear to see the huge improvement we had made.

The farmers cattle where now safe to cross the bridge once more.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Tour of Britain

On Thursday September the 10th a blur of Lycra clad cyclists whizzed past the entrance to Aira Force. The Tour of Britain had come to town.

The Tour of Britain’s origins are believed to date back to just after the Second World War. The event has grown and grown ever since. This year saw competitors such as 2012 Tour De France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish winner of 26 Tour De France stages, taking part.

With two of the eight stages starting or ending in Cumbria the locals had really gone to town in decorating road side verges, trees, gardens and anywhere else they could think of to place what has become a local landmark, of bikes that had been painted yellow.

It was decided here at Aira Force we needed to enter into the spirit. So in keeping with the ethos of naturally made items, we thought we would make a bike out of some leftover timber we had in the yard.

After a day of sawing, bolting and painting, what started the day as a pile of wood, was now a giant wooden bike

I wonder if Sir Bradley could have won the Tour De France on this!!!?

It took four Rangers to load it onto a trailer and deliver it to the bottom of Park Brow (just outside the tea room)

The bike being secured into position.

On the day of the race the sun came out and the local primary school came down to cheer on their favourite cyclists.

The 120 or so competitors shot past in the blink of an eye.

Overall it was a great day enjoyed by all. And if you look closely enough on the highlights, you can just about pick out the yellow wheels of the bike as the helicopter shot pans down Ullswater.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Working Holiday Group at Millerground.

This post is in acknowledgment of the invaluable help we received from the Working Holiday Group who were with us between the 6th and 11th of September at Millerground and for half a day at St. Catherine's.

The gateway to Millerground. 
National Trust land at Millerground is one of the few public access points to Windermere's eastern shore. It is extremely popular, especially as it is within easy reach of the nearby towns of Bowness and Windermere.

This bank on which an oak tree is growing , by the lake shore next to the path, was extensively undermined by high lake levels and strong wave action.
Millerground, on its west side, is at the base of a large drumlin known as Queen Adelaide's Hill. Drumlins are rounded, elongated hills formed from glacial deposits. This heterogeneous sediment consists largely of gravel; it is soft and easily eroded.

An eroded bank prior to being stabilized shows a cross section of glacial till...
a heterogeneous mix of large stones, clay and gravel.
When lake levels are high, and especially during Winter storms these banks, consisting of glacial till, are all too easily undermined by strong wave action, putting the raised lake shore footpath at risk. (See images above.)

To combat this, the undermined areas are filled in with stone and then larger stone is pitched up the slope at an angle to protect the repaired area. (See image below)

The bank now stabilised below the oak tree after extensive stone pitching work in December 2014.
With the help of the  working holiday group the last 'at risk' sections have now been repaired and barring extreme Winter storms should be good for many years to come.

Queen Adelaide's Hill, a favourite view point above Millerground, was formed by a glacier. Consisting of glacial drift it is aligned in the direction of the former ice flow. 

The only two airworthy Lancaster Bombers on their historic flypast viewed from Queen Adelaide's Hill.

Members of the working holiday group are seen here collecting  small stones for filling in the undermined areas, and larger stones for the revetment or stone pitching work.

This image shows an undermined area in the process of being repaired. If left for too much longer the footpath above would be compromised by being undercut.

Another section well on the way towards completion.

A close up view of some of the completed stone pitching work.

The surface of the footpath was upgraded in several places with several tons of MOT road-stone. A lot of blind or partially sighted walkers use this path.

The new surface being raked in.

We were lucky with the weather; the morning mists from temperature inversions gave way to sunshine for most of the week.

On the Wednesday, the working holiday group had a day off and took to the water with Windermere Outdoor Adventure who have a base at Millerground. Here, Lee is giving instructions and a safety talk.

Paddling due south. Wednesday was the only overcast day!

Group photo.

   The group stopped at Cockshott Point to stretch their legs and have a chat with the fell rangers who are working on a major lake-shore revetment project there. 

A stop in-front of some of the revetment work completed the day before at Millerground!
Later in the day the group went sailing.

The sails ready to be hoisted.

On the Friday, 2000 bulbs were planted at St. Catherine's.

Mission accomplished! Group photo by the 'Spirit of Place' Sculpture at St. Catherine's.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Netted Carpet Moth Survey. (East Windermere) 2015.

The netted carpet moth is one of our rarest moths; its caterpillars or larvae depend on touch-me-not balsam, a 'nationally scarce' annual plant. It is their only food source. 

The Netted Carpet Moth (Eustroma Reticulatum) is classified as vulnerable in the Red Data Book and listed as a priority species by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Its main stronghold is within the Lake District.

Touch-Me-Not Balsam (Impatiens Noli-Tangere) with larvae in late August. Caterpillars pupate in the ground by October. Adults emerge in July and are 'on the wing' until mid August. The females lay eggs singly on the underside of the plant's leaves.

Since 1990 larval count surveys have been undertaken by Dr. Paul Hatcher of Reading University and John Hooson, National Trust  Wildlife and Countryside Adviser, with help from Trust staff and volunteers.

The fifth Quinquennial Survey started out at St. Catherine's near Windermere on September 2nd. and then covered the other East Windermere sites.

A caterpillar about to be photographed on touch-me-not at St. Catherine's by Academy Ranger, Pete.

The cool summer has delayed the caterpillars growth and development; many were exceptionally small and incredibly hard to spot. The larvae go through four stages of growth known as instars before they pupate. Usually by September the larvae are on their third or fourth instar. The one in the image is only on its first!

A rare find was this caterpillar on its third or fourth instar!

No Caterpillars were found at the Hodge Howe Wood site in spite of an intensive search!

Sadly, none were found at this large stand of touch-me-not, a previously unrecorded site.

Success! A caterpillar on the underside of a balsam leaf at the Birthwaite Road site.

A rare and unusual image of my clean fingernails! 
Seriously, it is showing a small larvae lunching on a small touch-me-not seed pod or capsule.

YIKES! This large caterpillar is the larvae of the elephant hawk moth and they are occasionally seen on touch-me-not. More often they are to be seen on willow herb.

Once the rest of the known touch-me-not sites have been surveyed an estimate of the current UK populations can be arrived at; this will give an indication of  how well the netted carpet moth is doing.

Related posts to this one are on this blog and tell the story of  National Trust rangers' conservation work involving the moth and the plant.

Monday, 24 August 2015

New Heck

A new Heck* is to replace the existing one on the Troutbeck, north of Windermere in the Troutbeck valley. This is part of a major environmental project to improve the land and especially to recreate wood pasture.
 Logistically it's tough being over half an hour from the farm, so the old hanging beam (pipe) was deemed to be OK. Unfortunately the walls that held it were not, and had to be repaired and the beam repositioned.

The original heck in disrepair.
Repairing the wall on the west side.

New parts arriving.

And old ones leaving.

The finished Heck.

*Heck (dialect) the lower part of a door; a grating,esp in rivers or streams; a rack for animal fodder or drying cheeses. Old English hec/haec  grating, hatch; Dutch hek  a gate.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Wall rebuild on the Dubbs Road.

Dubbs Road, a popular bridleway, leads on to the Garburn Road linking Troutbeck, Kentmere and Stavely.

Part of  the wall - bordering the Dubbs road (bridleway) next to a ladder stile - had become very unstable. The wall is over nine feet high in places and looks much taller as it is built on a steep bank.

  Its height and instability meant it was too dangerous to take the wall down progressively (as is usually the case). To make it safer, the bad section of wall was "allowed"to collapse completely, with just a little help...minimal encouragement was needed!



The wall was built from local Applethwaite Quarry stone. This stone is  notorious for its poor quality. It is prone to frost damage and disintegrates surprisingly quickly. 

Water gets into the cracks of the stones; in a frost the water expands and ice  forces the cracks to become wider and wider over time.

In this close-up image of a wall built from Applethwaite stone, it is clear that some stones are crumbling away; the stones above have sagged and this section of wall, like the one above, is on the brink of collapse.

With the fun bit over, the stones were cleared back in order to dig out for the foundations or footing stones; this image gives some idea of how steep the bank is we had to work on.

The foundations are in place and the wall is now being rebuilt. 

Luckily, we recently put in a new entrance through a woodland wall at St.Catherine's to allow for timber extraction. The surplus stone  was brought in for this rebuild as so much of the original walling stone had disintegrated.

The stones are 'tied into' or overlapped into  the sound part of the wall that is under the ladder stile in this image. 

Once a certain height was reached, stone was carried up the ladder stile and walled 'overhand' from the high to the low side.

The finished wall repair from the high side...

...and the low or track side.

And just a reminder of what it did look like!

A view from the ladder stile, Troutbeck valley and village.