Friday, 28 August 2015

Great trip to Canada



Jan and myself have just returned from a fantastic three week holiday in Canada where we travelled as far north as Jasper and as far south as Invermere on the shores of Windermere.



We spent some of the time with some friends Andy, Sarah and their two growing sons. They now live in Canmore and we managed to do some good things with them.




Andy is super-fit at the moment and is into 50 and 100 mile races. He ranks in the top 20 in North America. In contrast I am still on the road to recovery from illness earlier this year and am not as fit as I have been in the past. Despite that Andy did manage to coax me up some big hills.We then spent some time with other friends and did some canoeing, rafting and walking with Kirk and his family.




Whilst we were there we managed to see a lot of wild-life that we have not seen on previous visits. We have seen grizzly bears before and this time spotted a black bear. A particularly special sighting was of a lynx but sadly I wasn’t able to take a photograph of that. We also saw lots of squirrels, marmots, deer and elk etc. So, we had a great trip!

Grizzly bear (picture from previous trip)

Grizzly bear reflected in wing mirror

Coyote

Mule deer

Grouse


Bald eagle

Snowshoe rabbit



But you don’t have to go to Canada to see wild life. You can come and see it in the Lake District or in your home area. In the Watendlath area you can see an ant highway for example.This are made by hairy wood ants (formica lugubris) that are found in coniferous forests.  They may not be big mammals but they are still very interesting. You can read about some hairy wood ant research that is taking place on a National Trust estate in the Peak District at this link.  


Ant highway
Otter tracks
     
I’ve also included some pictures of animal tracks we saw in Canada. If you look carefully, you might be surprised at how many tracks you can find in your garden or the nearest park. It’s often a particularly good time to look when there is a fresh fall of snow or even muddy puddles. Even if you can’t identify them all, you will see just how many creatures frequent quite small areas.

Moose track

Beaver track

Bear track

Daisy here: 


Jan’s Mum and Dad came to look after me whilst Roy and Jan were away. It was great. They gave me special treats but I don’t think Roy is supposed to know.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Beating back bracken and brambles!


Leila (Academy Ranger) here with one of my occasional posts.

Derwentwater from beneath Falcon Crag
I’ve recently been working with Sarah and John of Roy's volunteer team to clear some overgrown footpaths. This is the time of year when the bracken and brambles can really start towering over some of the Trust's more out-of-the-way paths. That isn’t to say they’re not still well used and there were plenty of grateful walkers passing us, particularly those who had just walked through the bracken jungle on the section we hadn’t done yet. In favourable conditions, bracken can grow to a height of 2 metres or more! 


This is the kind of work that can slip down the priority list because it’s not essential maintenance – the paths are still usable and most of the vegetation dies back over winter – but it is greatly appreciated by anyone who has had to walk through bracken on a wet day and it is certainly worth doing. 


Fortunately for us it was a gloriously sunny day. It made for hot work but we were well rewarded with some stunning views of Derwentwater from under Falcon Crag. As ever, the volunteers did a great job. 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Trees, flowers, birds, benches ... all in a day's work!



One of the great pleasures of my job is the unexpected. I was out and about recently with Leila (our academy ranger) working on Friars Crag and in the middle of the day we were treated to the sight of a young tawny owl. They are beautiful birds and it’s good to know that they are thriving in the area.


Leila has also been working with the forestry team on tree safety tasks along the Borrowdale valley roadside. The Stagecoach bus company operates a popular open-topped double-decker bus service in Borrowdale and they were becoming concerned about overhanging tree branches. After discussions with Maurice, our woodlands ranger, Stagecoach offered the services of one of their drivers and an open-topped bus for the day. It made it so much easier for the Trust’s foresters to work at just the right height and the bus company was happy to have encroaching branches trimmed back. As they worked from the top deck, other rangers were on the ground clearing the debris quickly and controlling the traffic. The driver could just drive on when necessary. It was a very efficient alternative to hiring an expensive ‘cherry-picker’ (mobile elevating work platform). This was a win/win situation and a great example of effective collaboration.







We have also been out and about replacing old seats.






Working on one of them on the western shore of Derwentwater gave me the chance to see the improvement that followed on from some footpath work we did a while ago. Fifteen or so years ago there had been a widening track across some boggy ground. After installing a boardwalk, the vegetation alongside the path regenerated quickly and it was fantastic to see the number of plants re-colonising the area now.




Another gratifying part of the job was to meet a couple who were packing up early one morning after a night ‘wild’ camping. They were a great example of how to do it and they left the site immaculate. As they walked away, they left no sign that they had ever been there and they had had a great night. That is how we want people to enjoy the landscape.




Daisy here, 

I’ve been playing in the wildflowers. I can run really fast.


Monday, 27 July 2015

A 16th century dam.


I’ve just had a really good day on one of my trips to monitor the dam up Newlands Valley. As it is a structure that is part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, I check its condition on a regular basis. At the moment there is some water flowing from the toe of the dam wall so it appears to have sprung a leak.


It might just be water that is overflowing from either side of the top of the wall and then tracking across and down to the toe of the dam – that’s my best guess. Perhaps when the water level is lower during a long dry period, we will find that there is no apparent leakage. The trust archaeologist, Jamie and our water advisor John have both been informed and will also be monitoring the situation.


We have consulted with the Environment Agency about the potential if ever the retaining wall should fail catastrophically. It is so far up the valley that the volume of water held in the dam would not be a danger downstream. Even so, we do want to protect it as part of the area’s heritage. The dam was originally constructed by the Elizabethan miners who worked the Goldscope mine in Newlands valley. Water from the dam was channelled along a leat to turn water wheels that powered the machinery they needed.



Its main purpose now is to supply drinking water to the Trust’s High Snab Farm so Tom, the farmer, will also be monitoring it. The water is filtered as it leaves the dam so I cleaned out the filter while I was up there. It is piped down the valley and any remaining particulates are filtered out as it goes into a header tank at the farm. It then undergoes UV treatment and the result is the sweetest drinking water you could wish for.



This is one of those tasks that is a great pleasure. High Snab is a great farm to visit. It is immaculate; Tom is always welcoming and the kettle is always ‘on’.

Daisy here,

 
We’ve been to High Snab dam. Jan came with us. It was great. I ran backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards across the top of the dam. It was great.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

King Pocky's Regatta

Early morning start.

Well, we are all just about recovered from the long hours of setting up and dismantling King Pocky’s Derwentwater Regatta. (Look for the short video of the 2015 event.)



King Pocky was Joseph Pocklington who, in the 18th century bought Derwent Island and had the large house built. He then designed his regatta for local people to either take part in water-based activities or enjoy a fair on Crow Park. We have tried to recreate the spirit of fun and mayhem of his vision. We didn’t sink pontoons in the lake so that horses could race between the island and shore. We didn’t go as far as a mock cannon attack from the island to repel local invaders but we did fire a small cannon from Crow Park at intervals! However, there were many other fun activities both on water and on shore.



There were many ways to participate in the action including dragon boat racing and boarding. For landlubbers there were craft activities and traditional fairground rides. Spectators could just enjoy the festival atmosphere and sightings of the occasional pirate, Georgian or Viking.




This is the third year since the revival of the regatta and it is rapidly growing in size and popularity. I spoke to many people over the weekend and all were agreed that it was hugely enjoyable.  Seeing so many people having a great time makes all the long days worthwhile.


Daisy here,


It’s been the regatta.  I don’t like the cannon. It’s too noisy.