Wednesday, 10 May 2017

New Arrivals at High Lickbarrow.

The late Michael Bottomly bequeathed High Lickbarrow Farm near Windermere to the National Trust in 2015. It has 50 h of 'unimproved' land grazed by cattle only. 

Much of the land is designated as a Site of  Special Scientific Interest, (SSSI)...a conservation term denoting a protected area in the UK... as wild flowers grow abundantly under this regime and the herb rich grass lands attract a plethora of insects, butterflies and birds.
One of the steeper fields is red to purple hued in Summer owing to the sheer numbers of betony growing there. 
(See above with bumblebee in attendance)
The farm is home to a herd of rare cattle...The Scoutbeck Herd... known as Albion*.

  White Dairy Shorthorn, Welsh Black, and British Fresian cattle are thought to have been used in the original breeding of the Blue Albion in Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

The breed became official in 1921 when The Blue Albion Cattle Society was formed.

Tragically the foot and mouth epidemic of 1967 led to the extinction of the Blue Albion breed owing to a Nationwide culling programme to get the disease under control.

Since then attempts have been made to reconstitute the breed, now known simply as Albion*. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) are being petitioned to classify Albion cattle as a rare breed. This will ensure their status as critically endangered and will lend support for their future as a bona fide breed.
This Albion heifer was born at High Lickbarrow on the evening of the 9th of May so in this image she is barely a day old! She has the distinction of being  first in the line for the new herd mark that now exists for the National Trust making her number *****01!
This heifer was born shortly after and  so was beaten by a short head by number*****01 making her the second in the line with the number *****02!
Here she is being kept an eye on by her protective mum.

Another  fifteen calves are expected to arrive within the next few days!...
...speaking of which, here is the third...note the black and white markings.

Back in the twenties the Blue Albion Cattle Society wanted the blue roan colour to be the breed type, but as genetics was in its infancy then they did not understand that blue is not a colour that breeds "true". The breed has in fact a dominant white gene which is the "true breeding". True bred Albion may be blue-roan, white, or black with some white such as the new born calf in the image above.

Originally, the society excluded white and black Albion cattle which affected numbers and stunted growth. This had a detrimental impact on the breed for years...even after the eligibility criteria of the Blue Albion was  relaxed.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

New gates for Cockshott.

Cockshott Point, at the southern end of Bowness-on-Windermere, is an extremely popular lake-side walk along the east side of Windermere, overlooking Claife Heights and Belle Isle.
The old gates giving access to Cockshott...above and below...are inadequate for some modern mobility scooters
To allow better access for mobility scooters the old gates have recently been removed and replaced by purpose built mobility access gates.....
An angle grinder was needed to cut back the railings; in this image it was used to cut back and smooth off the old gate pins ready for new railings to be welded on at a later date.
Getting started at the northern end of Cockshott after dismantling and removing the old gates and railings.
Concreting the gate post in.
 To the left a trench has been dug to allow the mobility access gate to be installed next to the new vehicular access gate.
A close up of the self closing mechanism for the mobility access gate.
The new gates. The 10' gate is locked and is only to be used by vehicles requiring access for events on Cockshott or for maintenance purposes.
Work starting at the southern entrance.
Digging out for the framework of the mobility access gate.
The new gates and the recently resurfaced path have contributed towards making a big improvement at Cockshott.

Below are some views from Cockshott Point now more easily accessible for everyone.
A view of the Belle Isle Round House from Cockshott Point.
Belle Isle with Claife Heights in the background. This wooded area is renowned  for its variety of native tree species.             
      Looking north towards the Troutbeck Fells.
An elegant steam yacht from a bygone era southbound between Cockshott Point and Belle Isle.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Rebuilding a collapsed retaining wall at Townend farm.

This partially collapsed retaining wall forms part of the boundary for the farm yard at Townend Farm across the road from Townend in the village of Troutbeck. 
A tanker backs in here periodically to empty the septic tank that serves the historic yeoman farmer's house Townend...see image above.
The wall was built many years ago and was not constructed with the weight of a heavy lorry in mind so it finally gave way under the pressure.
For the rebuild large stones were used for the foundation course; to cope with the weight of the tanker lorry concrete was used to give the wall extra strength.
The partially rebuilt section of wall seen from above.
The completed wall... (note very heavy cap stone left of image!)...
...and the reinstated post and rail fence above the wall. (just in time for lambing season!)
An image of Townend from the path leading from the car park.
Townend has recently undergone extensive restoration work owing to the discovery of excessive wet rot in the supporting timbers. Part of one of the beams is on display in the garden!
Townend is open between 1 pm and 5 pm during the season with  house tours between 11 am and 12 noon.

Please click on the link below for more information.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Even tall trees have small starts...

If you've ever driven up from Windermere to Ambleside, you'll have passed the tallest tree in the northwest. You may even have noticed this grand fir, and other magnificent conifers, standing proud against the skyline.

The north-west's tallest tree
These trees dwell in Skelghyll Woods, just south of Ambleside. It's an interesting example of Victorian-era conifer planting, at a time when new and exciting trees were coming back with plant hunters from north America and other places. Douglas fir, giant redwoods, grand and noble firs... to hear some of the tales of trees over 100m tall must have sounded fanciful, but even though they would never see their trees grow that tall, many landowners began planting these new seeds.

Even now, when we look at Skelghyll, we might only be seeing tree-teenagers. It's easy to think of these as mature 'tall trees', but given some of these species last for a thousand years or more in their native ranges, it's possible that even now we're not seeing them at their best.

The cathedral-like grove of Tall Trees

Compare the ornamental planting of these new conifers, the excitement of interesting sounding trees, with later vast conifer planting for timber in what were previously natural oakwoods. If this was done now we could even consider it to be 'eco-crime', but at Skelghyll the trees reflect what was, back then, Victorian ideas of improvement. As much as we might resist such attempts now, it has undoubtably resulted in something rather special and unique at Skelghyll.

Although these conifers might live on for centuries more, they are mostly of a certain age with very few new trees growing. Because of this, we've recently planted a handful of new, exotic conifers in the woods. Dealing with trees that live for 200 years or more, not many need to be planted at any one time, but if in twenty years another ten are planted, and the same twenty years after that... well, you get the drift. The idea is to have a varied age range of conifers, the next generations coming through to ensure continued presence of cracking trees.

Last year we were very fortunate to get a kind donation that enabled us to buy four new trees and rolls of chestnut paling to guard them from hungry deer. The lovely couple that donated the trees, Mr & Mrs Vaughn, joined Area Ranger, James Archer, and Woodland Ranger, Liam Plummer, to plant them.

Mr & Mrs Vaughn plant a Japanese umbrella pine
with Area Ranger James

Thanks to this couple, we planted two American species - a grand fir, just like the tallest of the tall trees, and a Colorado blue spruce - and two east Asian species, a Japanese red cedar and a Japanese umbrella pine.

The couple plant a Grand fir with Woodland Ranger Liam

We were also lucky to receive four other trees from the National Trust's Plant Conservation Centre - two Himalayan firs, a Himalayan yew and a Jurassic-looking Podocarpus. The Lake District's 'woody volunteers' were out in the sunshine to help plant these ones, again guarded by chestnut paling.

'Woody Volunteers' Lynn and Alan plant the Podocarpus

Add to this the three trees planted by the rangers last year, and you can begin to imagine the next generation of tall trees at this woodland. Whilst none of us will ever see them as impressive as their neighbours, it's a welcome thought to imagine just how they might look in a century or two. Even our current tall trees must have had equally small starts at one point!

Little and large!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tree planting at High Borrowdale with Friends of the Lake District.

The National Trust actively encourages members of staff to work for up to 5 days per year with other conservation organisations.

I used one of my days to help with Friends of the Lake District's... Fell Care Force Tree Planting Day... on February 8th. See link below for more information.

The ongoing project will ultimately involve planting 5200 native trees at High Borrowdale. This land, acquired by Friends of The Lake District in 2002, is located north of Kendal and south of Shap. It is also within the newly extended area of the Lake District National Park.
A good turn out of over 50 volunteers were at the Hucks Brow layby on the A6 (GR553030) close to the track that leads to High Borrowdale.
Tools for the job! 
The mile long walk to High Borrowdale.
High Borrowdale is within the locality described by Alfred Wainwright as the most beautiful valley outside the Lake District.
By planting oak, alder, willow, hawthorn, rowan and holly amongst other tree species, a native woodland will be created.

This will not only enhance the landscape and habitats but tree roots, once established, will help to combat further erosion. This should reduce the risk of landslides that caused so much damage here in December 2015.
Struggling up the slope with a bulk bag full of tree tubes and stakes.
Looks enjoyable!
One of the sympathetically restored barns, undertaken by Friends of the Lake District, at High Borrowdale in which the trees to be planted are stored.
Like the wildflowers we planted in Grasmere...See a  previous post...The alder trees are plug plants, making them easier to plant.
A newly planted alder...
...complete with tube.
In total more than 600 trees were planted, staked and tubed on the day.
A well earned break and you can get 4G here! I enjoyed my day in High Borrowdale, felt a real sense of achievement, and look forward to working  with  Friends of the Lake District again.