Sunday, 24 May 2015

Help from Newton Rigg students

Over the past four Fridays the Ullswater Ranger team have been working with seven Newton Rigg Students at Wetheral Woods.

Wetheral Woods is located in the Northern most reaches of the Central and East Lakes property portfolio. The Woods are located on the banks of the river Eden, on the outskirts of Wetheral Village.

The woods are home to many interesting features, not least St Constantine cells, that have been dug into the red sand stone cliff face, right on the side of the river. It has been said that they were refuge for the monks from the nearby priory. The woods are also home to small leaved lime trees. This is the furthest north that they are found in the UK.

Some area of the woodland have started to get a little tired over the years, not least a steep section of steps that link the top path to the lower one.

This work would be an arduous task for the small Ranger team, with some 50 steps needing to be replaced. The team jumped at the chance to have Seven young fit students from Newton Rigg to help.

Newton Rigg is and Agricultural College situated on the outskirts of Penrith. These seven students are studying a Countryside Management course and needed some work experience in countryside estate skills.

The students broke up into two groups, one group concentrating on the steps, and another focusing on re surfacing some of the boggier sections of path.

The groups swapped over each work so that they could all try their hand at each task. After a couple of weeks the students were progressing well up the steep slope.

And by the final week the huge improvements in the path were clear for all to see with many local dog walkers thanking us for the improved access.

A huge thank you has to go to the students and their tutor Pam, in helping to complete a task that would have taken the Ranger team considerably longer to complete.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Challenging Wall Repair.

A section of the old dry stone wall, separating the lower slope of Queen Adelaide's Hill and Millerground, collapsed recently. 

The base of the wall is a good eighteen feet above Millerground footpath and as can be seen in the image the slope is exceptionally steep.

On the "downhill" side the wall is about eight feet high and it took a while to retrieve the stone that had tumbled down the bank.

Once the foundation stones had been reset, the rebuild could begin. (See image below)

Walling on the Queen Adelaide's Hill side.

The finished repair...on the Queen Adelaide's Hill side....

....and from the Millerground side.

 A view of the waterfall below the wall.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Access Improvements to Moor How.

Moor How (height: 229m/751 ft.) overlooking Park Cliffe on the South East side of Windermere. (The name Moor How is probably derived from moorland hill)

The footpath to Moor How crosses land owned by Park Cliffe Camping and Caravan Estate; access on to National Trust land and Moor How was once over a stone step stile.

The stone step stile set into the boundary wall....difficult to negotiate and deterred some people from using it, especially those with dogs. 

James Archer, NT Area ranger for Windermere and Troutbeck, was keen to improve this access; he proposed taking this section of wall down to allow a self closing "wicket gate" to be installed in the gap.

When consulted, The Lake District National Park Authority were in favour of this proposal, as were the proprietors of Park Cliffe, Mr. and Mrs. Dickson.

Thanks are owed to Mr. and Mrs. Dickson for their generous donation towards the cost of the work involved. Topsoil and gravel was also made available from Park Cliffe.

As well as improving access for walkers, the removal of the step stile will potentially make the boundary wall more stock proof. Sheep in some areas have learnt how to negotiate stone step stiles as shown in this recent image at a farm near Windermere!

The wall in the process of being taken down.
Monday, April 13th.

Because the boundary wall was built over bedrock, the gate pins were concreted directly into the wall...digging a hole for a conventional gate post was not feasible.  The closing or clacking post was anchored on the opposite side using threaded bars encased in concrete.

The wall is nearly rebuilt with the top  gate pin, set into the new wall end,  clearly visible. The top and bottom gate pins are offset. This will make the gate swing shut when released from the opened position.

Landscaping work below the relocated path.

Our first customers! (After completion of work.)

From the Moor How summit, a view over Park Cliffe and Windermere to the west....

.....and a hazy view of the Howgill Fells to the east.

Stands of gorse are a feature of Moor How. In flower, mid April.

A geological fold in the rock formation, near the summit.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Dora's field and the Wordsworth Daffodils

If there is one story that shows the character of William Wordsworth then it is surely the story of Dora's Field. This small patch of land in Rydal, cared for by the National Trust since 1935, hosts one of the least well-known stories of the great poet.

Wordsworth and his family rented Rydal mount, the large country house that can be seen from Dora's field, from Lady Anne le Flemming from May 1813. In 1825 Lady Anne announced her intention of giving the tenancy of Rydal Mount to a relative. Under threat of eviction, and desperate not to be forced away from the idyllic Rydal, William purchased the field (then known as 'The Rashfield' - the damp land was full of rushes) and made it clear to Lady le Fleming his intention of building on the field in what ever way he wished (this would have been right in the view from Rydal Mount). George Webster, a famous Kendal architect, was even paid to draw up a design.

The threat was enough and Lady Anne backed down, and Wordsworth gifted the field to his daughter Dorothy, hence the new name 'Dora's Field'. When Dorothy was diagnosed with leukemia Wordsworth cancelled his travels and they spent her final few years together. When she died Wordsworth and his gardener planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs in her memory - the same flowers that can still be seen today (quite literally on this occasion - see picture below).

In preparation for this years daffodil display our staff and volunteers worked hard to clear the pathways from the winter build-up of leaf litter, clear back some scrub from the daffodil areas and remove some of the invasive Cherry Laurel trees from the garden borders to prevent further spread. Once established Cherry Laurel puts down a poisonous ground layer of chemicals that stop any ground flora from growing, decreasing the value of the area to wildlife.

 Five large laurel trees - a monoculture and blocking our neighbours light

And after - since this image natural regeneration of native species has already begun occuring

Volunteers tending the fire site - as cherry laurel can grow new roots from cut branches we had to burn the brash on site

The smoke from the fire creating a lovely photo opportunity

Reinstating a historic dry-stone wall

Dora's field is open all year round and is located in Rydal next to the Badger Bar on the A591 between Ambleside and Grasmere. The daffodils are still in full bloom and will be followed by an excellent display of bluebells and wild garlic.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Tree Guards and Tree Planting: The Howe Farm.

Rangers have recently been involved with a lot of tree planting and the construction of wooden tree guards on various Trust farms in the Windermere and Troutbeck area.

The Howe Farm, on the A592 Kirkstone Road, is one such farm where this work is taking place.

This guard, under construction, is one of five in a field in which horses are kept...wider and stronger than most guards.

Two of the guards protecting recently planted oak trees.

A different style of guard by the stream...Troutbeck.
Narrow and much taller.

Another guard under construction overlooking The Howe Farm.

Complete with elm tree.

The last job was to remove and replace the broken protective fence around possibly the oldest ash pollard in the area.

Much better!

 A close up view of this veteran tree. It has, over the years, become a precious wildlife habitat. Note the new growth from the base of the tree.

The view from the ash pollard.
Troutbeck Park Farm below the Troutbeck Tongue with Yoke to the right of the image. This farm has been the subject of several posts relating to tree planting, wood pasture, and pollards

Saturday, 28 March 2015

High Living Touch Me Not Balsam.

St. Catherine's has become a stronghold for the nationally scarce touch me not balsam plants which are the only food source for the rare netted carpet moth caterpillars.

As they are annuals and sensitive ones at that, the numbers of touch me not plants may vary greatly from year to year depending on the prevailing conditions; this correspondingly affects the annual moth populations.

Netted Carpet Moth on Balsam leaf.
At St. Catherine's a great deal of work has been done over the years in an attempt to maintain or increase the numbers of plants each year; the aim is to ensure there are plenty of plants, on which the moths lay their eggs, and plenty of plants for the caterpillars to feed on.

An image of a Touch Me Not seedling (March 20th) about the size of a little finger nail...

..but what is unusual is that this seedling was spotted growing at a height of six feet on the west side of the wall at St. Catherine's.

 Up to now 30 seedlings have been seen on the wall ...

... amongst the moss and the ferns.

An image of the fully grown plant in late July showing caterpillar, flower and seed pod; when it is ready, the plant material inside the pod suddenly forms into a twisted coil and this propels the seeds far and wide.

However it was still a surprise to find seedlings on the wall...especially so high up; to my knowledge they have never taken root on this wall before.

More posts on The Netted Carpet Moth, and the Touch Me Not Balsam plant may be found on this Blog.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Wood Pasture Fence at Troutbeck Park Farm.

In partnership with the tenant farmer, the National Trust has embarked on a major long term project to improve the wood pasture at Troutbeck Park Farm.

The work is grant aided by Natural England through the Higher Level Stewardship scheme.

Part of the project involves fencing off a section of the 'Troutbeck Tongue.' This area will be grazed by a small number of hardy cattle. Sheep will be excluded, thus allowing wood pasture to regenerate after decades of over grazing.

The problem was to get the fencing materials up on to this steep and difficult terrain.

The Central and East Lakes Rangers and the Fell Rangers worked together to complete this daunting task.

The first leg of the journey: This is as far as the 'pickup truck' and trailer will go.
"She'll take no more Captain!"

The next phase of the journey: The indispensable power barrows loaded up with posts. Dave, James and Steve keeping the barrow level!
Troutbeck Farm can be seen in the distance at the head of the valley.

Onwards and upwards. Pete and Ade, Fell Rangers, on the second leg of the journey.

The power barrows have reached their limit and can go no further.
Nic and Laura seen here at the start of the last and most punishing leg of the journey.

This image does not do justice to the steepness of this incline.
Laura, Leo and Ray making their way up the gradient.

The U shaped Troutbeck Valley below.

And on into the mist.

Wood pastures are of historic and cultural importance. In addition they provide a precious habitat for rare and specialised species that are so dependent on old trees.

Managing the grazing effectively will bring long term benefits to wildlife and the landscape by ensuring that there will be more veteran trees in the future.

Below are images of wood pasture from previous posts.

An ancient Alder at Glenamara Park.
Image © S.Dowson. Area Ranger, Ullswater.

Wood Pasture at Glenamara Park.
Image © S.Dowson.

A pollarded ash at Troutbeck Park Farm.

Several related posts are on this Blog....Glenamara Park...Plantations on Ancient Wood Pasture... Trees + Cows = Wood Pasture ...Tree Planting and Pollards in Wood Pasture at Troutbeck Park Farm.