Saturday, 24 May 2014

64 kids, 3 rangers, 50 things????

School visits to our woods are becoming a fairly usual occurrence these days, and so when our friends at Lorton Primary rang to say they’d like to come out for a 50 things day at Holme Wood in Loweswater, of course we said yes, and then we looked at the numbers! This wasn’t going to be easy but was certainly doable with a bit of slick timing and a fairly flexible plan, a quick plan was cobbled together and Rangers Dan ,Paul and Mark talked it through got the kit together and hoped for fair weather amongst the thunder storms of previous days.

 The morning arrived and before even getting to the wood the children, and staff with parent helpers, had already completed one of the tasks, to take a long walk! Our narrow lanes weren’t suitable for the school buses so the day started with a 1.3 km hike along the farm track, where the mobs of lambs took minds of the long walk, and made it a tad slower as well!

Once on site we split into groups with Ranger Dan taking charge of the younger kids who set off pond dipping, we didn’t actually have a pond, the lake had to suffice. They would follow us, using a treasure map and making a stick trail on the way.

Rangers Mark and Paul led the rest of the group in to Holme wood, where after a swift talk about the day and a bit of health and safety we split again, Paul taking 2 groups off den building whilst Mark’s group set about lighting fires without matches, and then cooking marshmallows and trying out the rope swings over the lake.

We’d had to time each session to about 30 minutes, necessary in order for everyone to have a go at most tasks but we needn’t have worried, the quality of den building was impressive with some very sturdy examples and some good innovative designs being created well within time, really good to see how the builders organised themselves and got a system going, and all with the smell of roasting marshmallows drifting through the woods.

A couple of whistles from Mark and the groups changed over, and now the infants and Ranger Dan had caught us up and were busy bug hunting, turning over piles of bark and leaves and finding all sorts of weird and wonderful mini beasts , using magnifying glasses and work sheets to identify their captures.

Lunch time! So far we’re on schedule for the day, Things are being done, den building, rope swings, map reading, going on a  long walk, cooking on a campfire, after lunch we have mud pies, climbing trees out over the lake, slack lining, dam building, pooh sticks and grass trumpets, we need a snack for sure.

The afternoon sessions flew by with everyone having had a go at everything, the long walk back to the buses was accompanied by varying degrees of grass trumpet playing and laughter, it was as once again brilliant to hear our woodlands filed with giggles, both from the kids and the staff and parent helpers, who it must be said were excellent we really couldn’t have managed the day without their help, Thank you.

We had lots of kids asking if they could come back?  Of course you can, just let us have a wee rest first!




Friday, 21 February 2014

Whiteless breast

Buttermere is one of the few places left in the North Lakes with some grassy untouched paths. pre-emptive work can help keep the paths natural.

"Pidgeon holes" a line of circular bare patches can occur on grassy slopes when a large numbers of walkers follow the same line up a hill. 

Although these foot holes make the hill easier to climb, they quickly join together into a groove that water runs down creating a gully.

The holes can be easily repaired using seed, turf and cloche netting  (a willow frame covered with chicken wire) that is used to protect the area while it regenerates.

   The willow is locally sourced from a basket weaver, Phil Bradley.
   All the work was done by Fix The Fells volunteers supervised by a National Trust ranger.

                   How it looked with the cloche removed and after the local sheep had grazed it.                   
                      When we removed the netting the local herdwicks had a field day. 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Something nice that made us smile

Most of our blog posts deal with the day to day tasks involved in keeping our countryside in tip top condition, occasionally we have some fun and occasionally we even touch some hearts!
A few weeks ago we took some children from Ennerdale Primary School on a very wet and windy hike up Rannerdale Knotts, on the day we were impressed by the positive attitudes of the children who smiled and laughed all day despite the horrendous conditions, how lovely therefore for us to receive some letters  thanking us for being there with them, definitely worth sharing their thoughts on what was a truly fantastic day

Thanks kids, let's do it again real soon!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Mini Mountains Should Have Mini Mountaineers

Normally our blogs concern our day to day practical conservation work and of course our engagement with the public, on some days however this engagement become much more closely focused, and in this case definitely a lot of fun
We have always had connections with local schools and are keen to help get the children outdoors and closer to nature, well this week the children from Ennerdale & Kinnisde School got a wee bit closer to nature than they might have intended

Class teacher Mrs Watson leads the juniors up a very wet Rannerdale Knotts

On a very wet and wild Wednesday, Ranger Dan and myself, along with our guest blogger, intern Becky Ingham took 29 children aged 7-11 up Rannerdale Knotts to look at a range of subjects from glaciated valleys, NT footpath management, the water cycle and farming.

Becky explaining the Water Cycle while Ranger Dan shows us an ancient Potash Kiln

I’ll hand over to our guest blogger Becky to give you her impression of the day

“As an outdoor events intern I have been able to do so much with the National Trust in the last six months and I’ve found how much I enjoy being outside whatever the weather. That definitely came in handy on Wednesday when I went out with Rangers Paul and Dan and Ennerdale School up Rannerdale Knotts

Heading for the summit

The weather was magnificent, in the almost blown off your feet and wet enough to make a duck think twice about going out kind of way. It definitely proved the saying that ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothes’ as we were mostly kept dry and warm by our waterproofs. We had truly fantastic views as the clouds moved, showing us the fells and then hiding them again. At one point we could see the rain shadow hurtling towards us over Crummock Water and making the fells behind almost disappear.
The Ennerdale kids were fantastic, as Paul said; ‘mini mountains should have mini mountaineers’ and that’s definitely what we had. I don’t think I heard a single moan about the weather, even from the littlest.

Are we there yet?

 I hope they enjoyed learning about the footpaths that wind their way all over the fells, the Rangers who look after them and the history of that beauty spot as much as I did”

We'd like to thank the children, teachers and parents, and of course Becky for giving Ranger Dan and I, a cracking if wet day out, looking forward to next time.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Home and abroad; a tale of two lakes

During the first couple of weeks in
September, my wife and I were out visiting family in Canada. They are based in Toronto, and so we were able to explore some of the countryside in the region of the Great Lakes. Driving north on Highway 11, you "soon" (in Canadian terms - it is a very, very big country!) enter the fabled land of Muskoka. This is located on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield country. The terrain is very contorted , undulating rather than hilly, glacially scoured outcrops of granite and gneiss largely covered by mixed woodland, harsh, demanding, but softened by a myriad of sparkling lakes. It was the inspiration for the famed "Group of Seven" artists, and many Canadians regard it as the start of the "true" Canada, the edge of the wilderness that stretches up to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Circle. We stayed in a lovely B&B right on the shore of Fairy Lake. Here's a picture of their "dock".

It was a truly beautiful location, made even more special by the first hints of the onset of the fall; a chilly nip in the morning air, and the subtlest change in the tint of the woodland foliage. One morning, the cold night air had fallen on the warm water of the lake, producing a shimmer of mist, a picture of transcendental loveliness. I felt very privileged as I stood on the dock trying to capture the image, but when I looked at the photo I was dismayed to see the number of other docks, each with their accompanying boathouse. And when I looked at the wider scene, I realised that almost all of the shore of that beautiful lake was in private ownership, and accessible to none but a privileged few. This much loved area has little protection beyond local authority restrictions, and it struck me as being an area that was ripe for some sort of safeguarding, maybe not National Park status, but perhaps a Provincial Park, and yet it has none.

Then when I got home I started to wonder about our own Lake District. It has only been in the last sixty years that this other ultra special landscape has come under legislative protection. Before that our own Lakeland was in a very similar position to Muskoka. In 1902, Brandelhow Park on the western shore of Derwentwater could easily have followed down the Fairy Lake route. Instead, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley rallied the troops in the fledgling National Trust, started the first ever National Trust appeal and managed to buy the land on behalf of the nation. Nowadays we all enjoy unfettered access to Brandelhow, one of the quietest, and most beautiful shorelines in the Lake District. Picnicking, walking, boating, a chilly dip, simple pleasures available to all, forever. How much more beautiful would Fairy Lake be if a substantial part of its' shoreline enjoyed that very same principled freedom

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Beavering Away

From time to time what seems to be a simple task, becomes a bit of a challenge for Ranger Dan and myself, not such a bad thing though as it allows us to be slightly  imaginative  and change how we do things, also makes life more interesting I reckon!

A piece of footpath maintenance at Dunthwaite was a case in point, easy enough job but access to the site is a major problem, so what do we do? well we just use what's already there!
A steep section required some steps to make the ascent easier on the knees, these were constructed by using hazel cut from nearby coppices, easier to get at than carrying in treated timber and to my mind looks much nicer, we'd no sooner finished than we were thanked by a couple on behalf of their aged collie who apparently found it much easier, and we were amazed to then see the dog climb a custom made ramp into the back of a waiting Mercedes!!! ( Ranger Dan is now trying to source similar in order to get me in and out of the landrover more easily)

A little bit further on, a section of post and rail fencing which prevents our visitors plummeting down a slope to the river Derwent had over the years slowly started to lean over towards the river, on inspection the timber seemed sound so  rather than rip it out and replace it we ripped it out and re sited it, standing upright and braced against the slope it should last a good while longer, and to be honest looks much better than a shiny new bit of fence in amongst the old, cheaper too which should please our accountants!

before and after picture, not a lot different but that's the beauty of the repair

Another opportunity to carry out a repair using only what was on site presented itself at Holme Wood in Loweswater where following a very localised storm a stream had burst it's bank deposited a huge amount of debris in the wood and washed out a considerable section of all access path.
On another day we'd simply have got a digger in and rebuilt the bank but not this time, co-incidentally as we were in a wood there were a few trees around, and some of them right where we needed them, Ranger Dan and myself set about felling the trees so they lay across the breached banks forming a structure that we hope will catch silt and debris from future flood events and become a natural dam, and if it doesn't? well we're no worse off, the trees will coppice back up and we haven't spent a fortune, happy accountants again!!
Filling the gaps in stream banks, beaver style!

Ranger Dan beavering away

and there we arrive at the title of the blog, North Lakes Rangers beavering away, simples !!

Friday, 26 July 2013

A Mixed Bag!!

They do say ‘variety is the spice of life ‘ and of late we’ve had our fair share, aside from the seasonal chores which come with the preparation for our summer visitors we’ve had  a few diversions, an opportunity to have some work experience students from nearby Cockermouth school gave us  a chance to show  3 young people Ella, Cain and Matthew, some of the tasks which go into maintaining a countryside property and it has to be said they threw themselves into it with enthusiasm, one has since asked to come back as a summer holiday volunteer, which of course we have accepted.

Some of our visitors are more of a challenge than others, most folks are content to visit, enjoy our landscape, perhaps take in some spiritual enlightenment and leave refreshed, a minority of others however seem intent on trashing the place entirely, this past week we’ve been spending most mornings removing rubbish from lakeside fields, broken bottles, cans, barbeques, deckchairs, lots of underpants and general debris!
A small amount of the daily collection

While this can be quite disheartening, and we do have a’ real’ job to do, there is some hope, one evening we went round the known trouble spots and gave out litter bags, the reception we got was excellent and on the following morning we had perhaps an 80% reduction in the amount of time it took to clear the sites, so to those who took their rubbish home, Thanks!!

We’re sometimes told we must have the best job ever and some days that’s very true, the end of primary school for some local kids gave us the chance to let them have some fun in our woods, year 6 pupils from both Paddle and Ennerdale schools visited Holme Wood at Loweswater and took part in some of our’50 things to do’ activities including rope swings, den building tree climbing and most popular by far, mud slides!!
He's not terrifed, honest

Fantastic to once more hear our woodlands filled with laughter although I dread to think what the laundry bills were like afterwards, many of the children were keen to bring their parents and families back to have some more fun, let’s hope we’re around at the time, after all we need playtime too!

Then it was back to the real job, still fun though, a section of path leading from Pike Rigg to the lakeshore at Buttermere had become seriously eroded due to water damage and increasing traffic from walkers, the most suitable solution was to use stone pitching, a method more usually used in the uplands by the ‘experts’ at Fix the Fells, we think we matched their prowess however?
Before and After

 One difficulty we had was getting stone to the site, however the recent dry weather gave us a solution, much to the surprise of visitors and particularly photographers, each day Ranger Dan and myself would drive  along the lakeshore and at times through the lake itself to access the site.
 The new path took shape quickly and has been well received by all who have used it, already it’s looking like it’s been there forever.