Friday, 2 October 2015

Running repairs.

This is the time of year when we are out and about as often as possible fixing things. Last week my regular volunteers joined me to fix a gate on the path around Derwentwater. This is a massively popular walk around the lake. This particular gate is on the stretch from Friars Crag to Strandshag Bay and must be one of the most used gates in the Lake District. On some days thousands, of people will use it so it’s not surprising that it needs regular maintenance.

We also did some maintenance on a stretch of the lake shore. This was a timely intervention to stop a relatively small erosion problem before it becomes more difficult to deal with. Great work from the volunteers again.

Then, as I still had some holiday time outstanding, I took a few days of that during the glorious weather we are having. I had some superb walking in the Lake District. I know the area well and, of course, know Borrowdale especially well. We have lots of places that have become incredibly popular because they are so stunning but there are still many hidden gems to find and explore.

Daisy here, 

I’ve been running round the fells with Roy. It’s great.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Shepherds meet.

It would be easy to think that for some of our outdoor work here in the Lake District we might often be isolated from other people for much of a day. In reality, a lot of our work is about improving and maintaining access for people.  So, no matter where we are working, whatever the weather or season, it would be unusual if we didn’t see someone out and about. Which is as it should be because the National Trust was founded with the aim of saving our heritage and open spaces for ever, for everyone.


Last week was definitely a time of meeting people and having opportunities to talk to them about what we do. One day was spent with my volunteers in an area named The Ings on an Ordnance Survey map but commonly known locally as Dirty Wood. This is close to the lake on the path around Derwentwater. We were replacing the hand-rail on a small wooden bridge. Surprisingly, the old one had been vandalized and we like to fix problems like this as soon as we can. This is a walk that is used by a lot of people with limited mobility including those who are not always steady on their feet. So, although it is only a short stretch, we like it to have a hand-rail to give all users confidence in using it.


This was one of those days when we had immediate feedback about our work. Many walkers stopped to talk to us and were full of praise for what we were doing. It’s gratifying to know that people do appreciate our efforts and it reassures us that we are doing what the Trust was set up to do.


At the weekend I met many more people at the Borrowdale Shepherds Meet, a very traditional shepherds meet that takes place annually.  As the name suggests, it is predominantly about sheep with judging of sheep in a range of categories. The main focus of course is on our local Herdwick sheep – an ancient breed of hardy, fell sheep that probably came to these islands with the Vikings.

We were there literally flying a flag for the Trust and chatting to locals and visitors alike about our work and plans. We also had a wild-life identification quiz. The show is something I’ve been doing for a while now and it is always enjoyable to meet people who share my love of the Lake District and who want to know more about our job and our way of life here.

Daisy here. I've been playing in Dirty Wood. It's great. You get sooo... dirty!


Monday, 21 September 2015

Working on Walls.

Amongst the many obvious beautiful features of the Lake District landscape, the stone walls are easy to overlook. They are built from the stone in the immediate area surrounding them and, when conditions are right, they have been colonised by lichens, mosses and other small, resilient plants. They blend into their background and become a part of the landscape in a way that brick-built walls never could.  Well made walls will also stand for hundreds of years if they are carefully maintained so we in the National Trust do regular repairs.

So last week, some of my time was spent working with walls. I returned up Cat Gill to repair the wall that had been damaged by a fallen tree branch. The others were busy on a different job but this one was small enough for me to manage. Walling isn’t as simple as just stacking rocks on top of one another. There’s a skill in selecting the right size & shape then placing it in the right position to make the wall strong and stable. It’s very satisfying to be working outdoors and to see the outcome of the work.

Another day last week was spent with a large group from the National Park on a guided walk. It’s always useful to do these with a different group and to hear their views on the experience. We walked from Seatoller up to the Allerdale Ramble, around the back of Castle Crag, dropped down to the river Derwent and walked back along the river to Seatoller. These are popular paths with visitors and we like to check occasionally that there are no problems that need attention.

At the weekend, I was working with my regular Yorkshire volunteers who were here for their second visit this year. This time we worked over on Derwent Island.

The work included some walling, some fencing and the digging of a trench around an outbuilding over there. The plan is to eventually convert the building to a different use and the trench will stop it becoming damp. We also fenced off an old waste water system which is now redundant since we installed the new piping to remove the waste water from the island. 

It has to be said once again that the volunteers did an amazing amount of work.

Daisy here: 

I’ve been playing on Derwent Island with my bestie friends. They’re great.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Fungi, temperature inversion, Brocken spectre and more.

I’ve just had a working Bank Holiday weekend and enjoyed some superb weather. For those who were out and about early on the hills, one morning there was a temperature inversion where the valley bottom and lake were carpeted with cloud. From a modest height, there was a stunning view down onto a cloud. If you look closely at one of the pictures, you will see a Brocken spectre. The sun was behind me, the cloud was in front of me and this is my shadow being cast on top of the cloud.

Bank Holiday visitors who popped into Bark House near Ashness Bridge will have been able to see a weaver at work and to see some of her beautiful work. How we use Bark House is still evolving. At present you will often find volunteers there who will tell you something about the area and there have been occasional events like the weaving demonstration. The log fire is a great attraction of course and likely to be more so as the days become cooler!

I’m also posting photographs of the work some of our guys have done on fences, footpaths and steps on the way up to Watendlath. As you can see, they have done a great job. They can be rightly proud of the result of their hard labour.

Meanwhile, I’ve surveyed the footpath in Cockshot Wood to see what the next stage of improvement should be. Ideally we want to link to a new venture by Theatre by the Lake. The theatre is currently rebuilding the cafe between the theatre and the Trust shop and the plan includes having a wheelchair accessible link to our woodland path. We want to continue improving accessibility on our path so that wheelchair users can do a complete circuit of the wood and include the theatre's new cafe, the Trust shop and of course the play trail.

Another footpath job was to check out a report I’d received about damage up Cat Gill. A branch has fallen and damaged a stretch of retaining wall. This is a job I want to do sooner rather than later. At this stage it can probably be fixed in a day with my volunteers rather than leave it to worsen and perhaps need the footpath team having to do a major repair.

Whilst I was up there I took the following photograph of a fungus I didn’t recognise. I would like to know more about fungi so have been trying to identify it. After some searching, I’m hoping I’m right that it is a cauliflower fungus (ramaria sp). As a friend says, “Every day should be a school day.” As ever, the usual words of warning are to never eat any fungus unless you can 100% identify it as being safe to eat. 

Daisy here: 

I’ve been playing out. It’s great up above the clouds. Wow!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Back to enjoying my home territory.

After a really good holiday in Canada, I’m now back to my work in Borrowdale. Returning after a spell spent elsewhere always reminds me how lucky I am to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Canada is a superb place to visit but no matter where I’ve been on holiday, I’m always pleased to be home.  It was also good to see my regular volunteers again and to hear John’s good news. He has now started a full-time job which is great for him and we wish him every success with that. Of course I’ll miss having him as a frequent member of our team but he fully intends to carry on volunteering as often as he can fit it into his new timetable.

John was able to join us last week working on clearing brambles and gorse that have started to invade or overhang some footpaths. This is the kind of thing that rangers across the country will do regularly to keep rights of way and other networks of footpaths open and in good condition.

Another job last week was in response to email from the Calvert Trust outdoor centre that provides outdoor experiences for people with a range of disabilities. They drew my attention to some maintenance that was needed at the Bowder Stone abseil point. This is an abseil point I put in place for the National Trust and is intended for group use. The Calvert Trust makes good use of it because it is accessible for wheel-chair users. A big stone that is part of a retaining wall had started to move so we have bedded it in firmly again and will do more work on it during the winter.

The abseil point is for group use and we ask leaders to do their own risk assessment and to be qualified to a minimum SPA (single pitch supervisor) level or the equivalent for a military group. If two groups are using the site and the Calvert Trust turns up to use it, we ask that one group moves to another site. The Calvert Trust needs to use this site because of its accessibility but others can find alternative sites - Wodens Face, a natural crag, is literally just around the corner on the way to the Bowder Stone. With the use of a Larkin frame wheel-chair users can abseil from Bowder Stone point easily.

A Larkin frame in use.

Daisy here: 

I’ve been out to work with Roy. It’s great.

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


Mule deer


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.