Sunday, 26 October 2014

Mushrooms and thrones.

Last week was one of those weeks where I was juggling a few different jobs.  I spent some time with my volunteers adding some mushrooms and thrones to the ‘fairy ring’ on the play trail in Cockshot Wood next to the Trust shop.  As usual, my team of volunteers did some great work.  

The son of one of the volunteers served as a very useful measure for how deep we needed to dig the holes for the thrones.  They need to be the right size. 

It has been very satisfying to see people sitting on the mushrooms as soon as we have stopped work for the day.  I think this ‘fairy ring’ in the wood is going to be very popular.

I spent some time with Leila, our new Academy Ranger surveying the area for an accessible path.  We do have to plan the route carefully.  Accessibility for all is always at the front of my mind and where ever possible I make things as accessible as possible. After all, our founders did say, “ For ever, for everybody.” That's a very long time and a lot of people.

And lastly but not least, I’ve been drawing up plans to submit with a planning application for a new stretch of board-walk.

On my day off, Daisy and me as usual walked along the lake shore.   I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it is worth repeating.  The colours are at their best at present and in sunshine or dappled shade the area is just stunning.  As ever, a few stormy days will begin to strip off many of the leaves from the trees and the first frosts will see the end of this year’s spectacular display.

Daisy here, 

Mucky face from digging.  Sad face because they have stopped me digging.

I was helping Roy and his volunteers dig holes for the mushrooms and the thrones at the wild play trail.  Then they tied me up and I don’t know why because all I was doing was helping dig.  And guess what – I’m brilliant at digging.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The 'Find the Casualty' Game

I had a new experience last weekend when I went across to Red Screes at Kirkstone Pass to watch Jan and Daisy training for Daisy to be a search dog.  It’s the first training session I’ve been to.  Until now I have deliberately stayed away so that Daisy would not be distracted by my presence.

Watching them both work was really interesting.  Daisy covers big distances incredibly well and is very good at finding the ‘casualties’.  She doesn’t always tell Jan that she has found the casualty though so the next training step is to make sure that she goes back and barks for Jan.  At the moment she finds one casualty and then tends to move straight on to look for more but she should always return to Jan as soon as she has found somebody.

It was obvious that both Jan and Daisy are enjoying the training and I was delighted to see just how much progress they have made in only a few months.  I also enjoyed meeting members of some of the other rescue teams.

We had gone over there with our camping van intending to stay overnight in the Ullswater area.  We found that the camping sites were all very busy with people who are taking the opportunity to see the autumn colours.  It’s good to know that so many people are appreciating the Lakes in all their moods.  It looks good even on wet days but when it is sunny with broken cloud, it looks spectacular.  It really is worth a weekend visit if you have the opportunity but don’t forget your camera!

Daisy here,

Roy came to watch me train.  I was brilliant.  I found everybody really quickly.  It’s not my fault that Jan can’t smell them.

Friday, 10 October 2014

A special day

One day last week began as a routine walk for Daisy and me along the western shore of Derwentwater to survey the condition of gates, fences, paths, culverts etc.  It has always been one of our favourite walks but everything was just right and this time it was a fantastic day.

These are regular checks that we carry out so that we can make repairs before major problems arise.  Mostly we are dealing with wear and tear rather than vandalism.  This time I have noted a few gates needing some attention, a bridge that needs repair, some fencing that needs to be replaced and some culverts that will need some maintenance. So our ranger repair team now can direct their efforts most effectively.

Whilst we were out doing that, by coincidence, we came across a school group I had worked with before.  There was lots of happy excitement as they called for Daisy and had a run around playing with her.

It was a fantastic day but I suspect it will have been one of the last days of summer.  We are now expecting rain.  I am hoping it will begin slowly and soak the ground before the real downpours arrive.  The ground is so dry at present that heavy rain will just run off the surface and might cause quite a lot of damage to footpaths.  All we can do is wait and see what happens!

Daisy here:

I’ve been running around the lake shore.  It was great.  I met kids that I know and played with them in the woods.  And then I learned all about how you mustn’t chase geese or swans.  You can just stand and look at them as long as you are careful.


Thursday, 2 October 2014

If you go down to the woods ...

If you go into Cockshot Wood on the play trail now, you’ll find a new surprise.  I’ve been working with my regular volunteers to begin the installation of a fairy ring of wooden mushrooms. These will soon be joined by some wooden thrones. I made them using local wood and a chainsaw. 

The idea is to tempt people further away from the lake shore and deeper into the wood to play and enjoy themselves.  Try to make a quiet time when you are in there and who knows what you might see or hear.

I’ve also had another trip over to Derwent Island last week for more of the ongoing planning of the project to change from oil to gas heating for the house.  We have done quite a lot of planning for this so far and we’re now into the final details before work can begin.  Soon we will have to have some training sessions for the contractors who will have to use the boat to get themselves and their equipment over to the island.  That’s not a bad way to commute to work each morning!

Daisy here:  I’ve been to Derwent Island to visit my friends Gus and Bryn.  They are brilliant. They’re a little bit younger than me but bigger.  But I’m faster than they are.   Gus has just had an operation on his front legs so I hope he gets better soon. 

Have a look at me with my special rescue team jacket on.

Thursday, 25 September 2014


Last week was one of remarkable contrasts for me. 

Firstly I attended a National Trust Rangers Conference at Speke Hall in Liverpool.  Speke Hall is a Tudor building situated beside Liverpool airport and that in itself is a startling contrast. 

The conference was excellent. With rangers from many different types of properties to meet and some very good workshops there is always a lot to learn.  To keep costs to a minimum, we were all asked to camp.  I took our camper-van.  As you can imagine, it was a noisy night with planes taking off & landing and grass-cutting beside the runways throughout most of the night.

I then returned to the Lakes and spent a night on the high fells helping to marshal a challenge event for the Youth Venture Trust.  Two of us camped up there overnight.  It was a clear night with fantastic star cover and silence.  It could not have been more different from the previous night beside an airport.

Those two nights illustrated perfectly that the National Trust has an amazing range of experiences to offer you.

I also returned to do some more work on Friars Crag.  You might remember that our foresters felled some trees and we used them to cover some old, decaying gabions that were protecting a stretch of shore from erosion.  We then covered them with material from our dredging operation that keeps the landing stage on Derwent Island usable.  I have now raked the top soil and seeded it.  Once the planting is well-established, we hope it will provide the necessary erosion control and will also allow visitors to walk along it.  We could have done the job with a dry-stone wall but that option would have cost about £15000.  Doing it this way means we have used our Trust manpower and local materials from other essential tasks.

Ideally I would have preferred to do the planting earlier in the year to give the plants a good start but the weather forecast is good for a while so I’m hoping they will be sufficiently established before we have any storms.

Daisy here;  

My exam was cancelled.  I got all excited and it didn’t happen.  But I’ve been told it will soon and I’ve got a special jacket.  I’ve been swimming in the lake.  I swam too much and I’ve got labrador tail again.  Sigh!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Art in unexpected places.

This year the National Trust is working with C-Art (Cumbria Artists Open Studios) on a new scheme where, for three weeks, artists and their work will be found in extraordinary places.  In my valley, Borrowdale, you will be able to find installations and working artists in a number of places.

At Ashness Bridge you will be able to find an installation featuring fleece, skulls and bones at the “Bark Barn” and the surrounding hillsides.

Around the Bowder Stone and nearby slate quarry, you will find art inspired by the Vikings.
You will also be able to see a ceramicist at work if you visit Watendlath Barn. 

All of these events and installations are temporary so their places will return to their previous status after September 28th when C-Art ends.

My favourite is where “Bark House” near Ashness Bridge has been wrapped in sheep’s wool. It might sound ridiculous if you haven’t seen it but I’m finding that the vast majority of people who see it have a big smile.  That’s not a bad reaction to it.  Of course, as for any art work, there are mixed reviews but these pieces are certainly generating reactions.  Different people will have different tastes.  Anything that stimulates reaction and discussion or persuades people to go to see other artworks, has to be a good thing to do.

By the end of September it will be as though they were never there but a lot of people will have a different perspective on our landscape.  You can read more about the National Trust and C-Art here.

Daisy here.  Roy’s back.  It’s great.  I’m going back to work.  I’ve been playing in rivers and lakes. 

Life’s brilliant.  I’ve got an exam soon as well.  I’m a bit worried, it’s for the rescue training.  I’ll let you know if I pass.