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.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Fence inspections, erosion control and transporting scaffolding!

Last week was a very varied week for me. I spent some time on the high fells checking the state of the fencing around old mine shafts. We do that at quarterly intervals. There are a number of open vertical shafts in some places and we obviously don’t want anyone falling down them.

I also spent a day driving the boat to and from Derwent Island. The main task there was to help remove the scaffolding that had been taken over for work that has been recently carried out on the house on the island. So I had a really nice day as boat driver.

Then, as reported briefly before, I’ve been working in Stoneycroft Ghyll with the footpath team and the estate rangers where we were winching a boulder to clear a route through the watercourse. This is a very large boulder about 2m x 1.5m x 1.5 m in size. It had probably fallen into the ghyll at some point in the past and was too big to ever be moved on through the entrance to the pool. So, with a combination of winches and some hard graft, we were able to move it to the side of the ghyll to clear a through route for scramblers. It took some doing but we think it will prove to be well worth the effort.




Some scramblers who were coming through on the day were very pleased with the improvement for them but I have also asked outdoor instructors to use the chute and pool and to let me know of their views. From the Trust’s perspective, it will be successful if it encourages users to stay within the watercourse rather than cause erosion by leaving to walk around the obstruction.

As always, we are trying to find the best ways to follow the Trust’s ethos by creating a balance between access for all whilst still protecting the special qualities of our landscape.

Daisy here;

I’ve had a great week - up on the high fells, running around on Derwent Island and then playing in the water. It’s great.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

News Flash

In Stoneycroft Ghyll in the Newlands Valley, we have moved the rock that is known as legbreaker rock . The primary reason for doing this is to stop further erosion caused by groups leaving the ghyll to go around the rock and the water slide. This will enable groups to stay within the water-course rather than creating erosion around it.

This is a win/win situation where we minimise erosion and also create a more enjoyable experience for ghyll scramblers.

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.