Sunday, 13 August 2017

It's an ill wind....

The path at the back of Bridge House regularly needs resurfacing with so many visitors using it. 

Some drainage work was also needed as can be seen in this image taken after heavy rainfall.

After several successive storms, tons of lake-shore gravel was dumped on Jenkyn's Field, on the eastern shore of Windermere, well above the normal shoreline. 
This lake gravel looked ideal to re-surface the path at Bridge House, less than a mile away, as well as clearing the field to some extent.

In this image the power barrow, probably our most useful "bit of kit" was loaded up.

It was a tight fit between the wall and the hedge.



after a couple of power barrow loads...

... some after shots.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wetheral Woods Balsam Bash.

Owned by the National Trust since the late 1940s, Wetheral Woods (the most northerly of the Central and East Lakes properties) cover an area of around 9 hectares.

The woods are about three and a half miles east of Carlisle, on the west side of the River Eden. They form part of the ancient woodlands surrounding the river here.

A footpath runs through the woods along the banks of the River Eden...known to be one of the cleanest rivers in England. 
This river is one of the very few large rivers in England that flows northwards.

The woodlands have become increasingly inundated with invasive Himalayan balsam, the seeds of which are brought in by the River Eden from infested areas upstream.

Days have been set aside for rangers and volunteers to deal with this invasive plant. 

On the way to the worst of the infested sites, time was taken to have a quick look at the mysterious St.Constantine Cells, also known as Safe Guards.

These cave dwellings are early Medieval in origin and probably used by the nearby Priory of Wetheral as a refuge during border raids...hence the name Safe Guards.
However, legend would have it that St.Constantine stayed here when he was a hermit.

Three large square chambers were cut into the sandstone cliff face about forty
 feet above the River Eden with a protective masonry front wall into which
three windows and a fireplace were incorporated. 

...The fireplace...

...A spectacular view of the River Eden from one of the windows...

Originally access would have been by ladder from below.
 It would then have been drawn up.
Now access is from above down a flight of stone cut steps.

Back to business...slashing back the balsam before it has a chance to set seed.
It is a race against time!

A native fern, all but smothered by balsam.

Balsam in this instance is pulled up by hand to prevent harming the fern.

The fern now free of its "shroud" of balsam.

The balsam is snapped below the bottom node to prevent it from re-rooting itself.

In some areas a strimmer was used to good effect.

A large area of balsam cleared but much more work is needed elsewhere.
Very little can grow under such dense stands of Himalayan balsam.

Roger, foreground, and Martin. Two willing and able volunteers!

This stone on the riverbank is believed to have been used by prehistoric people
to sharpen their spears or axes.

A lot of balsam has been cleared, but it is an ongoing battle; more work on balsam bashing at Wetheral Woods will be written into the work programme for next season!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Bracken bashing at Hartsop

Back in 2014, a 'National Tree Planting Week' took place between November 29th to December 7th. 

Please click on link below for more information... 

To celebrate this event, the National Trust rangers and volunteers in Ullswater planted native trees and shrubs on a steep bracken covered slope overlooking the village of Hartsop and Brothers Water near the foot of  Kirkstone Pass.
This image is of two volunteers placing a tree tube over a newly planted tree. Over thirteen hundred trees and shrubs were planted on this slope over the week back in 2014!
Note the vast quantities of dead bracken; this indicates there is a massive rhizome/root system ready to send up many thousands of fresh bracken fronds in Spring. By Summer they can easily exceed five feet in height! 
Newly planted trees need lots of 'TLC'...for instance...

Every year in late May or early June the fast growing bracken needs to be knocked back from around the young trees. Rangers with great support from volunteer groups undertake this task; if left to grow the bracken will stifle the trees, and rob them of light and valuable nutrients. See above Image.
The most effective method seems to be to bend bracken stems over by bashing them with wooden poles; this weakens the bracken's growth for the following year. 
The bracken has been bashed back in a wide circle around the tree to give it the best chance of putting on a good growth spurt.
One of the planted oaks in its protective tree tube.
Another before...
...and after image.
Some prefer the use of "bracken slashers" to wooden poles; an encouraging sign is that natural re-gen is taking place as shown by this oak sapling!
Overlooking Hartsop before and...
...after a large area of bracken has been cleared. Bracken clearance around the trees should ideally take place twice a year between early and late Summer. Over the course of three to five years of control  work the bracken will become increasingly weak; the hope is that with the appropriate care and attention the trees will, in a relatively short time, have grown big enough to out compete the bracken.  

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Walling on Kirkstone

Kirkstone pass is the Lake Districts highest pass that is open to motor vehicles. It connects Ambleside in the Rothay Valley, to Patterdale in the Ullswater Valley. It stands at an altitude of 1,489ft (454m).



The Pass can experience all sorts of weather. From blazing sunshine in the summer, to torrential rain in the autumn and heavy snow in the winter.



Because of these extreme weather conditions the road can be very unpredictable. Throughout the year many accidents happen, some genuine mistakes, but sometimes it is because people don’t give the Pass the respect it deserves.



The National Trust try to maintain roadside walls where possible, so every couple of years a team of Rangers from the Central and East Lakes ‘try’ and pick a sunny week to repair the numerous gaps that have appeared.


This time we managed to pick the warmest week of the year. With the wall gaps identified and the ‘Stop’ ‘Go’ boards in place we could make a start.



After a long, hot, sweaty week we managed to get a lot of the wall gaps repaired.



So if you ever find yourself on Kirkstone Pass please take care and remember it’s not a race to get to the top, or bottom.

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.