Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A Stitch In Time

 The country-side rangers duties include regular patrols, usually on a weekly basis, of the lake-shore properties to check on any problems and deal with them.
 Litter picking and  pulling out invasive himalayan balsam takes up a fair amount of this time.
Whilst checking Galava, located  at the head of Windermere, we discovered that there had been a collapse over the covered culvert through which Fisherbeck runs; sometimes the culvert is unable to contain the volume of water, after heavy rainfall, and it will find a weak spot and punch a way through.

As this culvert is close to a very popular footpath to the Roman Fort, and the fact cattle graze this area we needed to repair it as quickly as possible!
We put in place a large traffic cone to warn of and at the same time cover the hole.
Luckily we were able to locate a large slate to cover the hole.

With the recent heay rain it wasn't possible to effect a full rebuild of the collapsed culvert but this will be done when the water levels have dropped.

This sort of problem does highlight the importance of regular patrols, particularly of the most popular sites!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Natterjack Toad Night Walk at Sandscale Haws.

Sandscale Haws, near Barrow in Furness, is an important site for the nationally scarce Natterjack Toad.
 On the 27th of April at 8 pm I went on an organised 'Natterjack Toad Walk,' here, led by two National Trust rangers, Neil and Adam.
One of the board walks at Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve.
A sand dune breached by a storm. The landscape is very dynamic. The dunes are often shifting and changing shape.
Natterjack toads are nocturnal and have evolved to breed in transitory water bodies. 
The name 'natterjack' is derived from the loud mating calls made by the males. The jack (or toad) that chatters!
Sandscale Haws.
One of the pools at Sandscale Haws where the toads were in fine voice. The males' mating calls can be heard up to a mile away on a still night!
Searching the area by torchlight for toads...
...Success! A young male is seen. Note the distinctive yellow stripe running down the centre of its back. 
I enjoyed my experience at Sandscale Haws and this was in no small part due to the knowledge and enthusiasm displayed by the two N.T rangers, Neil and Adam, who led the walk.

I also learnt that a gathering of toads is known as a knot of toads, whereas a gathering of frogs is referred to as an army of  frogs.

Posted by R. Wicksteed.


Sandscale Haws website

Below is an impressive video of a Natterjack in full cry!

Natterjack Calling

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Let Battle Commence....(the ongoing work to eradicate Himalayan Balsam.)

At Millerground, nationally scarce native Touch-Me-Not Balsam seedlings are starting to appear. 

Unfortunately, seeds washed down-steam last Autumn have allowed non-native invasive Himalayan Balsam seedlings to be  present as well... encroaching on Touch-Me-Not. (see image below taken April 4th.)
The cotyledon, the embryonic leaves in seed bearing plants (see above) are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed..

Even at this very early stage it is possible to spot which are the native plants and which are invasive!
To give the Touch-Me-Not seedlings their best chance the Himalayan balsam seedlings have been pulled up..Hard to believe that in a few short months these seedlings would have had the ability to grow upwards of 10 feet tall with one plant producing approximately 800 seeds!

 Himalayan Balsam is by far the tallest annual plant in the UK and will easily out-compete Touch-Me-Not, and indeed, other annual plants...
Above is an image of Himalayan Balsam taken in late June; this large woodland stand has become a mono-culture in that no other plants can grow such is its dominance.
Early to mid Summer is the usual time to start control work before the plants have a chance to set seed.
Strimming can be highly effective.
In this image the Himalayan Balsam has been pulled up by hand and then snapped below the bottom node. 

If  left on on the ground intact Himalayan Balsam can sprout new roots and survive very easily.
The image above is of Touch-Me-Not balsam also taken in late June. Under the right circumstances it too can form a mono-culture but in much smaller stands than its invasive cousin.
As mentioned in previous posts Touch-Me-Not Balsam is the food plant for the rare 
Netted Carpet moths' caterpillars.
Finally here is an image of a Netted Carpet Moth on Touch-Me-Not Balsam.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

New natural play area at Aira Force

A new natural play area has been built at Aira Force. A small unused patch of grass next to the Tea room was identified as the perfect spot.

For some time the catering team had witnessed children climbing (and falling off) the wall that surrounds the Tea room, not only is this dangerous for the children, but it spoils what is a fantastic view of the Lake.

The work originally started the week commencing Monday 26th of February. As some of you may remember that was the week the ‘Beast from the East’ arrived.

We managed to get one day of digging in before the snow hit, and the Tea room turned from this.

Into this.

After the snow had melted and we could get the digger back on site we carried on clearing the top layer of turf and soil. This provided us with the basis to start constructing the play area.

The idea was to use local timber that had recently been felled in the valley, thus saving costs and using a local natural source to build the play features.

There were plenty of ideas from the rest of the team on what should be installed; they ranged from a wooden crocodile! To a bird hide made from logs. It was finally decided that some natural balance beams and stepping stones would be most practical and user friendly.

Once a rough outline of where the obstacles needed to go, the digging, cutting and chiseling could take place.

Finally a wooden edge was put in to help prevent the gravel from the path, and the bark from the play area mixing. This was ably put in by some of the Aira Force volunteers (Roger, Diane and Martin).

Once the edging was in the play bark could be laid and the grand opening could take place

A special thanks to one of the Rangers daughters in helping to cut the ribbon.

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.