Saturday, 12 April 2014

Cleaner water.

Force Crag mine has been the focus of attention this last week.  This was the last working mine of its type when it finally closed in 1991.  In its early days it was mined for lead but latterly zinc and barytes were extracted.  After closure it was taken over by the National Trust and it is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and geological SSSI (site of special scientific interest).

The buildings and their machinery remain intact and this makes Force Crag mine a unique site.  The Trust now holds a number of open days each year and we have trained and enthusiastic volunteers to guide visitors around the site and behind some locked doors. The next three open days are:  April 17th, May 31st and June 31st.  You can find contact details here if you want to know more about these visits.

One of the legacies of its history is that the water flowing from the mine into local water courses is contaminated with heavy metals (zinc, cadmium, lead and copper). The Trust’s Water Advisor, John Malley has been working on a nationally funded DEFRA mine-water remediation project with the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency and Newcastle University to develop a passive mine-water treatment plant to deal with the contamination.

The build phase has now been completed and the plant is currently being commissioned.  This is a pioneering project that uses a passive-mine-water remediation scheme on a scale that has not been tried in the UK previously.  The core idea of the process is to carry out the clean-up without using chemicals or energy. You can read more about it here. For even more detail, look here.  I’ll tell you for starters that it uses old mine lagoons, limestone and processed, dried human ‘poo’!

As all this has been underway, the Trust has continued to develop opportunities for visitors to learn more of the old mining way of life.  So I recently talked to a group of Guides about the mine.  They seemed to be particularly interested in the ‘poo’ part of the story!  A dried form of the ‘poo’ covers limestone chippings in the lagoons.  The water will percolate through that and the bacteria will help to bind the contaminating metals.  The Guides were curious about what if any smell there will be.  At this stage, we honestly don’t know how much smell these ponds will produce.  I suspect you would not want to picnic beside them but they have in fact been fenced so that passers-by cannot approach too closely.  We hope there will be no more than a little whiff of it on rare occasions.

Many thanks due to John Malley for the photographs.

Daisy here.  I’ve been to the pub.  It’s great but ever so tiring.  I didn’t want to get up for work the next morning!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Whatever the weather ...!

A view from my roaming office (a Trust jeep!).
Last week we had incredibly varied weather.  Warm and sunny where it was stunningly beautiful and also weather which was wild.  I love being out in wild weather. It makes you feel alive.

Whatever the weather, the work goes on so I was out and about with Liz Guest one of our fundraisers to look at some of our next projects.  As ever, these decisions are heavily influenced by funding considerations and the search for sponsors or partners. We are constantly looking for ways to make our limited budget stretch to cover expensive work.  

What we are hoping to do next is replace a stretch of boardwalk near Keswick and to repair and maintain more footpaths.  When it is possible to do so, we now improve accessibility so that wheelchair users, pram pushers and others with limited mobility can enjoy as much as possible of this fantastic area.  The Trust was founded to protect places of historical interest and natural beauty for ever for everybody. That’s a lot of people and a long time.

One job that we hope to complete before Easter is some refurbishing and tidying of Bark House. This is a small, stone cottage near Ashness Bridge which has been used by the Scouts until recently when they decided to hand it back to the Trust.  So I’ll be going in with my volunteers to transform it for use by our recruiters.  If you are up there over Easter and we have managed to get it into use, just pop in for a chat.  You might even find a nice fire burning!

Daisy here,

Roy thinks I’m crazy just because I run everywhere.  Why walk when you can run?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Dramatic events

I’ve been working recently in the gardens of a rather splendid holiday property owned by the National Trust.  Millbeck Towers is near Applethwaite at the foot of Skiddaw.  It has beautiful, large gardens with superb views over Derwentwater. 

I joined Amanda (Wordsworth House gardener) and a group of gardening volunteers to do some Spring cleaning there in preparation for the new season.

I’ve mentioned before the kidnapping of Fletch the perchcrow from Wordsworth House.  Well, for some reason, Fletch was in the Millbeck Towers garden and I happened to be there to witness a crack team of gardeners do an SAS type rescue!


They had brought with them an attack dog who can only be identified as D.  As the kidnapper tried to escape with Fletch, D went in hot pursuit and brought him to the ground and promptly despatched justice.

It was a great day all round.  Fletch has been freed to go home; the Wordsworth House gardeners had the opportunity to work in a different garden; I really appreciated having such a good team to help me and we completed a lot of work.

Hi, Daisy here.

Che’s still with us. It’s great. Huzzah.HouH

Friday, 14 March 2014

Planning a project and starting a project.

The time is fast approaching when our visitor numbers will increase very quickly so I spent some time last week planning self-guided walks.  Leaflets for these walks will be available in the Trust shop on the Derwentwater shore and there will be oak marker posts along the paths for walkers to follow.  We see many families with small children for example who walk along to Friars Crag but, if they are new to the area, they are uncertain about whether or how to go further.  Where does the path carry on?  Will it be too difficult or too far?  Does it go along the lake or through the wood?  Do we have enough time to do it?

The leaflets and the way-markers will answer those questions and hopefully will encourage many more people to go out of their comfort zone to explore, discover and enjoy much more of this beautiful place.  The walks will begin at the shop & amphitheatre and will take in Friars Crag, Cockshott Wood and Strandshag Bay and there will also be one at Castlehead.  In all there will be four different trails with different levels of difficulty.  

Soon, we hope, there will be even more to enjoy in Cockshott Wood.  We are planning to develop a wild play area for children. We’ll be using natural materials from the wood itself to create this.  We have already looked at pictures of similar Trust developments to learn from them and will also hold a couple of sessions to consult with children about what they would like to have.  I feel really excited about this project and can’t wait to get started on it.

Meanwhile, we have started work on the Braithwaite Common project that I mentioned last week.

 A sizeable group of village residents turned out last weekend and set to work helping with the clearing of some undergrowth and laying a hedge.  As you can see from the photographs, their enthusiasm and sheer hard work achieved a lot in just one day.

Hi, it’s Daisy here,

Che’s been staying with us again.  Che’s always staying with us.  I think he’s moved in!  I quite like it though.  I was getting bullied the other day and Che came and stuck up for me.  He was great.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Shocking news about a perchcrow.

I have three exciting things to report this week.  I’ll start with the alarming news from Wordsworth House in Cockermouth.  If you have been following the blog of Fletch the Perchcrow, you will know that he has been kidnapped and there has been a ransom demand.  Fletch is a very friendly chap who allows crows to perch on him so it’s difficult to know why anyone would do this.  The ransom demand was originally for cake and coffee but has now escalated to cake, coffee and scones.  From my perspective as a ranger, I think the staff at Wordsworth House might have buckled too easily to the demands.  Where is this going to end? 

You can see from these photographs why we are so worried about him.  Check for any recent developments at Fletch’s blog.


The second thing to report is the beginning of a new project in Braithwaite village.  After discussion at a meeting with the Parish Council and a large group of village residents, a plan has been developed to manage Braithwaite Common.  There were many views expressed about how best to do this ranging from creating a garden to allowing it to grow naturally into a wild area.  We have now arrived at a compromise that will allow villagers to use and enjoy the site but will also encourage diversity of species.  Next weekend, I will be working with my regular volunteers and a group of enthusiastic villagers to begin that project.  I am hoping I will also be able to involve the village school children in this. An earlier, small project for the common was to plant fruit trees that are there for any villagers to use.  This more ambitious stage is likely to be a five year programme so watch this blog for news of how that develops.

And finally for now, I’ve been with 24 others to a National Trust training event run by one of the South Lakes rangers.  It was a Dark Sky Discovery training session.  This is something I have not known much about before now but he was an excellent, very knowledgeable trainer.  I am now very keen to develop these ideas especially with children.  If only we could guarantee clear skies!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Code for Winter Climbers in the Lake District

Last week I mentioned the new Code for Winter Climbers in the Lake District that can be found in full here.  This code was compiled by a group of Lake District climbers representing both winter and rock climbing interests. The project was supported by the BMC, FRCC, National Trust, National Park Authority and Natural England.

Here are the key points for ethical climbing in the Lake District and a list of agreed crags that we should stay off with ice climbing tools to prevent damage. We could so easily damage fantastic rock routes for ever if we scratch our way up them with ice axes and crampons. But there has to be space for both winter and summer climbing as many people, including me. climb in both summer and winter conditions.

The following voluntary code is a guide to allow for an accepted ethical ascent that has minimum impact on rock climbs, the natural cliff environment and the future of the sport:

  1. Winter climbing should only be undertaken under frozen and snow-covered conditions.
  2. The cliff should have a ‘wintery’ appearance with snow, rime or verglas covering most of the rock, not just snow covering ledges.
  3. Consider if your ascent would be feasible without axes and crampons; if you could brush the snow off the rock and rock climb the route then you’re doing a rock route.
  4. Turf can be an excellent winter climbing medium but should only be climbed on when it is solidly frozen or deeply covered in snow/neve and so unlikely to be dislodged. 
  5. Many summer routes have little vegetation or even ice. They are vulnerable to damage even in perfect/ideal winter conditions. This could involve loss of small holds, loss of flakes, modification of pockets and loss of protection placements. To prevent damage to summer routes please consider whether your proposed ascent is likely to cause such damage; if so, choose another objective.
  6. During any winter ascent there should be a presumption against the use of pegs if at all possible. Placement of bolts on mountain routes, as in summer, is unacceptable and counter to the area’s traditional ethic.
  7. Routes should be climbed from the bottom to the top of the crag in a single push, with no abseil pre-inspection. If a bivouac en route is required so be it, however abseiling off and resuming from your high point the next day is not a valid ascent. 

 Please keep off the following crags when climbing with winter equipment:


Raven Crag, Walthwaite.
Scout Crags - Lower, Middle and Upper.
Raven, East Raven and Far East Raven Crags.
Gimmer Crag – the South-East Face to the North-West Face inclusive.
Flat Crag – from Conditionalist to BB Corner
(excluding those routes).
Black Crag.
Lightning Crag.
Long Crag.

Dow, Coppermines & Slate

Dow Crag – A and B Buttresses not including the

Duddon & Eskdale

All the low lying crags in both valleys unless via
obvious ice lines.
Esk Buttress – from Gargoyle Groove to
Trespasser Groove (including those routes).

Scafell & Wasdale

East Buttress, except the obvious ice and
turf lines.
Scafell – from Moss Ghyll to Botterill’s Slab
(excluding those routes).

Buttermere & St Bees

Grey Crag.
St Bees.

Gable & Pillar

Kern Knotts – from Cat Wall to the Cracks Area
(including those routes).
The Napes – Tophet Wall and all the major
buttresses excepting the gullies.
Gable Crag – from Engineer’s Chimney to
Engineer’s Slabs (excluding those routes).


Shepherd’s Crag.
Black Crag.
Quayfoot Buttress.
Woden’s Face.
Bowderstone Crag.
Sergeant Crag Slabs.

Eastern Crags

Castle Rock of Triermain.
Raven Crag, Thirlmere.
Raven Crag, Threshthwaite Cove.
Dove Crag – North Buttress.

Eden Valley & South Lakes Limestone

Everything except High Cup Nick and various
New and existing winter routes climbed on
the above crags may no longer receive official

In addition to the above list, there will also be a general presumption against recording future
first winter ascents of any existing high quality rock climbs (** and *** for instance) unless
they are natural ice lines. Such climbs may no longer receive official recognition.