Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A great work experience team.

I’ve been working last week with four young men aged 15 from Keswick School who were on a work experience placement. They were with me for a full week of my working days. They were a really nice group of lads who got stuck into some hard work. You can see from the photographs just how much they achieved.



They repaired a ladder stile on the route from Watendlath to Kings Howe. Whilst we were up there we did a bit of deer spotting and saw about 20 red deer – that was a nice bonus. We did some maintenance work on the path along the western shore of Derwentwater to make sure that it remains accessible for wheelchair users. We also did some work on the footpath at Broomhill Point and then collected some brash to use at the Regatta for den building in the wild play area in the woodland behind the National Trust shop by the Lake.

They also attended two meetings with me. One was a full day with Natural England and the other was a Trust planning meeting for the Derwentwater Regatta which will take place this year on the weekend of July 11th and 12th. It’s always useful to see things from a new perspective so it was good to have them contributing to the discussions.

Ten years ago I had Dan doing similar work experience with me. He moved on from school to college to gain relevant qualifications and eventually he came back and joined us as one of our rangers. This kind of experience can inspire people to aim for a career in the Trust and it would be good to see any of them back in a few years. Read below for some of the things they said about their week.
Unfortunately Daisy missed out on enjoying meeting them.  She has been spending her days on Derwent Island on ‘light duties’. The staples are now removed from her paw but she needs a few more days before she’s free to tear around on rough terrain.

Here are some extracts of the things Nelson, Alex, Alan & Aaron had to say:
Aaron. I’ve really enjoyed work experience this week because it’s outdoors ... in future I would love to work outdoors and especially with people.
Andy. I really enjoyed this week because I like working with people and being outdoors. I also liked working with the National Trust and I think it might be something I want to do in the future.
Alex. I’ve enjoyed this work experience because I’ve done things I wouldn’t normally do. I would probably ... like to come back here to work when I’m older.
Nelson. I think it is good to respect and manage the beauty of nature. I’ve enjoyed work experience this week with the National Trust. I think it’s good that we were able to work outdoors.

Daisy here

I’ve been going to Derwent Island. It’s great. I get to play with lots of dogs over there.

Friday, 26 June 2015

From boardwalk to wild flower meadow.

It’s been great to get stuck back into work with my regular volunteer group. We’ve been working on some repairs to the recycled-plastic boardwalk at the southern end of Derwentwater. It has been in for some years now and, if it had been timber, would have started to decay by now because the constant changing of the lake water level would have meant the timber would fluctuate frequently between wet and dry. Because it is plastic, it isn’t affected like that and it is still looking really good. Just one or two of the posts had sunk so we jacked them up and installed some bracing beams to give the walkway the support it needs.

It’s also great to see some of the things I see during my working days. One recent morning I saw mother and daughter roe deer. If you are alert or will sit quietly and wait patiently, you will be surprised what you can see. I was able to take photographs of these and walk away quietly and they didn’t move. Really nice to see.

Another good day was a ranger team meeting out on the Cumbrian coast with our coastal ranger Chris. He has done some fantastic work out there planting and reseeding wild flower meadows. They are looking especially good at this time of year.

After the meeting we all pitched in and did some re-pointing of an old stone wall that he is working on. We were using traditional lime mortar. Many hands make light work and we were able to complete a good stretch of the wall.

Daisy here,
I’ve cut my paw on Derwent Island. I’ve been to the vet and have three staples in it. I keep on showing Roy but he doesn’t seem to do anything about it.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I'm back!

Regular readers of the blog might have realised it is some time now since I posted. I've been off work ill for the last three months. I've been in and out of hospital three times culminating with an operation to remove an abscess. The doctors say I will make a full recovery so, although there were times when it was quite grim, I feel incredibly lucky and happy. Things could have been so much worse and three months isn't very long in the grand scale of things.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to the Rangers who stepped in to make guest appearances on the blog. I think they did a really good job and it's something I'd like to keep going in the future.Daisy’s been to play dates on Derwent Island with the two Labradors that live there. That was a huge help and she loved it. Lou has almost adopted her and I'm sure if there were a custody battle with Lou at one end of the car park and me at the other calling Daisy's name, Lou would win.

So I’m now back to work with a renewed appreciation of what a fantastic job I have in what I think is the best valley in the Lake District (see other Rangers for alternative views). I’ve started with some gentle walks on the fells as part of my recuperation and to catch up with developments during my absence. It will take some time to regain my fitness after much of two months in bed and another month feeling a bit grim!

One outing was to see the temporary paper bridge in the Grisedale Valley. It was an interesting pop-up in the landscape that was eventually removed leaving no lasting effect. I’ve also been mooching about on the fells with Daisy and her best friends Gus and Bryn.

Work-wise, I have been spending a week at Millbeck Towers with a working holiday group and also, for one day, my usual regional volunteer group. Millbeck Towers is a National Trust holiday property situated in a beautiful position. 

It has extensive gardens and there is some fantastic work being carried out to restore them. I am not a gardener of any kind but the people who have been doing the work have been superb. The work party has been staying in the house and there are plans to have similar working holidays based in the house in future.

Daisy on a Trust vehicle

Another excursion was to Castle Crag to see the work that has been carried out by a couple of the guys here. They have been pitching and building steps through a dry-stone wall and rebuilding the wall. This was done to replace an old ladder stile with something that will be maintenance free in future and to improve access. They have done a fantastic job.

Daisy here.

I’ve been going to Derwent Island. It was great. Lots of contractors to play with and Gus and Bryn – they’re Labradors like me.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Joe B's post (Honister Heli Lift)

My name is Joe Bagnall and I am the guest blogger for Roy this week. I am a part of the North Lakes Uplands Ranger Team; we’re responsible for conservation in the upland areas of Borrowdale, Buttermere, Crummock Water, Haweswater and Ennerdale. Our work mainly entails maintaining and repairing footpaths using several techniques. In the winter we work on lowland jobs alongside the property Estates Team.  

In April the North Lakes Uplands team had their annual helicopter lift for one of the main uplands projects of the year. The team had seventy four ton bags of stone flown from the screes above the Honnister slate mine to the footpath leading up to the old tramway from the Mine’s carpark. The stone will be used to replace sections of the old pitched path that in places is falling out or has never been pitched and is eroding away.

The heli lift took place on one of the nicest days that we have had this year; the team were assisted by two volunteers to help with the management of passing foot traffic whilst the helicopter was flying. The flight crew and helicopter were from PDG, a contractor that Fix the Fells has used for a number of years.

Work will be starting on the path this summer alongside the Team’s other two main projects of the year on Dale Head and Carlside. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Joe's post (Fixing the Fells.)

Hi, my name is Joe Cornforth. I am the guest blogger for Ranger Roy’s blog this week. I am the upland ranger working in Borrowdale, Buttermere, Ennerdale and Haweswater. I work in a three person team. We work through the summer months building and repairing paths in the uplands and during the winter we do estate work (walling, fencing hedging etc.)

We work with a dedicated group of Fix the Fells lengthsmen once a month doing various tasks. Last weekend we had them in for three days building a bench path on Carlside.

We were using a full bench path construction technique. We cut the full width of the tread into the hillside and used the excavated soil in the erosion scar from the old path. The tread is out sloped so that water runs off the path surface and the bank above the tread is then profiled and turfed.

A large erosion scar has formed on the hillside so we are putting this new sustainable path in and landscaping the scar so that it re vegetates. We also put some drainage ditches in to stop water and gravity further eroding the scar.

 Over the weekend we had fifty volunteers helping us. The work they did would have taken our team two weeks to do.

As well as the Carlside job we are working on Dale Head building a stone pitched path using stone that we flew in with a helicopter, The stone is bagged up from nearby screes.  We will be doing the same technique on Honister tramway later in the year.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Daniel's post (Something different every day.)

Hello, my name is Daniel Simpson and I am the guest blogger this week while Roy is away. I am a member of the Ranger Operations team based in the North Lakes covering an area from Borrowdale round to Ennerdale. A major part of our work includes the practical jobs such as: dry stone walling, fencing and hedgelaying. We also spend time working at events such as the recent Keswick Mountain Festival, plus anything else which is asked of us from the other departments.

On Tuesday myself and Jack from the Operations team spent the day working in Ennerdale. Jack and I work with the Wild Ennerdale volunteers several times during the year helping them with a variety of tasks.  Tuesday saw a great team effort with staff and volunteers from Wild Ennerdale, the National Park, Forestry Commission and the John Muir Trust all working together. But before the work began we met at the Ennerdale Scout Camp where Rachael Oakley the Wild Ennerdale Project Officer fuelled us with tea and cake.

Tea and cakes.

The large group of staff and volunteers were split into three work forces. Jack and I joined the team who were cutting down small spruce trees.

Jack cutting down a spruce tree.

Line of cut spruce trees.
These trees would then be attached to large larch poles that will create an embankment on the edge of the River Ehen therefore reducing the amount of sediment that is washed into the river. If sediment continues to be washed into the river the young freshwater pearl mussels will be smothered and will not be able to receive the oxygen they require to survive. This job is just one way in which the severely endangered freshwater pearl mussels are trying to be saved by the Pearls in Peril Project. At the same time as we were cutting down the trees; the rest of the work party were removing a redundant fence as well as planting up a new woodland. 

The following day I led a group of primary school children who had been staying at the Borrowdale YHA on a farm walk around Seatoller Farm. Whilst they are at the farm the children will hopefully gain knowledge of where their food comes from and how farming has helped shape the landscape.

They seemed to be fascinated by the way Shepherds used to count their sheep using the traditional method of “yan, tan, tethera…” and the hefting system that exists in the Lake District fells which means the sheep know where to go when they are up in the fells. The hefting system is the way that a female sheep takes its lamb to the same area of fell that it was taken as a lamb for the first time.

Children get the chance to touch a herdwick lamb.

The hefting system is explained to the children.

The next couple of days will be taken up with ensuring the car parks are presented to a good standard in time for the busy summer season by strimming the grass. As well as carrying out some drystone walling on the Dunthwaite part of the property. All in all this blog summarises how mixed a week for the Ranger Operations team can be.