Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Townend bench repairs.

Yew wood is strong, dense, and resistant to decay; this has made it ideal for delicate carving work, turnery, and furniture. it was famously used for making English longbows given the wood is strong yet flexible.
Most parts of yew are poisonous, but the chemical toxin is now being used as a treatment for cancer.
Two of the rustic benches, made from yew, at Townend were in need of repair. After many years some rot had appeared.
A lower limb of the right shape and size for these bench repairs was removed from a yew in the woodlands at St. Catherine's. Pruning a small branch will be of limited concern to the tree as its strong and decay resistant wood will limit the amount of decay entering the cut. Yews are famously strong at regeneration and unusually for conifers will re-sprout from many points...like deciduous pollards. 
Given the historic use of yew wood for furniture, it seems appropriate to use the branch from a Windermere yew to repair benches made of Troutbeck yew! Long term volunteer, Stuart kindly undertook to do the work.
 Stuart is using a shave horse, used for green wood-working, at St. Catherine's to clamp the wood in order to remove the bark.
A close up view.
One of the benches repaired by Stuart with two new spindles and arms, ready to be returned to Townend House. 

Friday, 1 March 2019

Hedge Laying in The Langdale Valley.

Hedge Laying originated mainly from the need to keep livestock in fields...especially after the 18th century Enclosure Acts. These acts created legal property rights to land that was once held in common.

 Nowadays more emphasis is placed on the value of the habitat that a well laid hedge can provide for small mammals, birds, and invertebrates; hedge laying also promotes traditional skills and they look good in the landscape.

Our main project for February was to lay 135 metres of a hawthorn hedge that was planted 10 years ago at Harry Place Farm in the beautiful Langdale Valley. This also involved taking down the fence on the top side and replacing it with a new fence. 
A close up of the hedge with the old fence removed from the top side; the fence posts had become very rotten and unstable!
With the fence removed the hedge laying begins. An axe or a bill hook is used to partially cut...a technique known as pleaching... into the back of the stem at an angle to just above ground level. The trick is to leave enough sapwood and bark for the stem to flourish and yet make the stem pliable enough to be be be laid down. 
On thicker stems a chain saw is used to speed up this process.
A pruning saw is used to cut back to the remaining section of the stem, known locally as a ligger, once it is laid.
A view of the ligger and the partially coppiced stump from which new growth will usually occur to be laid in years to come.
The hedge is taking shape .
Weaving in the branches and twiggy bits .
Starting on the new fence by digging a hole for one of the strainer posts.
The newly laid hedge complete with hedging stakes hammered in alternately on either side; they are used to "train" the hedge, give it strength, and to keep it to a required width.
A Herdwick sheep enjoys munching on a discarded branch from the hedge laying.
Incidentally, Herdwick is derived from the old Norse Herdvyck meaning sheep pasture!
The completed hedge with one of the larger hawthorn trees left upright as a "standard" with a view of the Langdale Pikes and Blea Rigg. 

Monday, 22 October 2018

From Mighty Acorns....or Shed Some Light.

As part of a woodland management scheme, a group of oaks were due to be felled in High Hag Wood above the Footprint.

James Archer, (Area Ranger CEL), decided the wood could be put to good use for constructing a green oak  fire-wood store/tool shed to replace the old delapidated one.
Group-felling breaks up woodland structures, where trees are of a similar age and size. Creating new gaps with more light will encourage oak, rowan, birch, and hazel, to regenerate.

By developing patches of trees of differing ages and sizes, woodlands will become more varied and diverse.
Liam Plummer,Central and East Lakes, Woodland Ranger.

  Richard Tanner, the Woodland Ranger for South lakes, had already agreed to lead a Working Holiday Group to construct the framework for the shed out of the felled oak. Richard has successfully led groups at Wray Castle and Base Camp on similar 'green oak' building projects. 
Contractors with a chain saw mill processed the oak logs into timber to the required specifications.

The timber was brought down to the Footprint by power barrow.
Joinery work (NO NAILS!) was carried out inside the Footprint as well as outside on the decking. The frame work was assembled inside the Footprint and then taken down to be reassembled on its chosen permanent site.


Richard casting a critical eye!
Assembling the frame-work on the newly prepared pad.
Below...
A job well done and right on schedule! With Richard's skillful guidance, The Group can be justifiably proud of what they have achieved in just a week.
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Larch cladding was provided by NT Boon Crag sawmill. The rangers and a volunteer at St. Catherine's  fitted this around the oak framework, to show it off to its best advantage.

Putting on the roof was the next stage.
Roofing complete and under the eaves a newly installed nesting box.
The smaller of the two doorways under construction.
Finally the build is complete with doors and beautiful rustic handles.

 Thanks to Richard and Hugo from South Lakes, the Working holiday Group, Boon Crag saw mill, Ian Taylor and Stuart Morley.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A Monster Wall Gap...rebuilt through effective team effort!

Having been weakened by Storm Desmond back in December 2015 a large section of wall finally collapsed, in several stages, above 'Seldom Seen' overlooking Ullswater.

NT Rangers and volunteers from Ullswater and Windermere had the daunting task of rebuilding it!

The wall is adjacent to the footpath to Sheffield Pike; the gap was over 30 feet in length.
The wall was severely undermined by torrents of water. This section had to be taken down  to allow replacement foundation stones to be reset.
One of the truly massive foundation stones being levered back into place; this was not a task for the faint of heart!
Another, even bigger stone...
...was finally re-positioned with a few choice words of encouragement!
A view of the foundations gradually being put in place. It can be seen how steep the slope is;  many of the stones had tumbled down the bank and they had to laboriously be brought back up again.
Again, it is clear to see in this image just how steep the slope is.
Walling up on the low side of the wall.
The old concrete pipe was damaged in the wall's collapse so a new wider diameter pipe was brought in as a suitable replacement.
Walling over the pipe.
The wall is over 10 feet high on the down slope and at this stage the walling will have to be completed from the high side by walling 'over-hand'.
The pipe is in position ready to take the flow of the beck the next time it is in spate.
Some of the biggest stones we have seen in a dry-stone wall.
The wall is well on its way to completion
Another view with stone still to be dragged up the bank to be used in the wall.
Putting on the top stones or cams
Nearly up to height...
...and a view of the completed wall. The pipe will be trimmed but some overhang is desirable to allow the flow of water to clear the wall and hopefully reduce the chance of damage to the foundations in the future.

It took a team of between three and four, (depending on the days worked), to complete the work in just under five days.