Monday, 23 November 2015

Fleeces and waterproofs needed.

Deer on the skyline.

Last weekend I had a change of scenery when I took a trip with a couple of mates to Braemar. The main purpose of the trip was to buy some cross-country skis for a trip we plan to make this winter. But of course we took the opportunity to walk in the mountains while we were there. 

What was remarkable was that we saw hundreds of hares, far more than we have ever noticed before. They were very easy to spot because they were already developing their white winter coats even though there had been no snowfall this year.

Spot the hares!

It turned out to have been the best place to be. When I returned, Jan told me it had rained heavily in the Lakes and the lake and river levels are indeed very high. Once back at work, I went with another ranger to check one of our paths and a section is already under a significant amount of water. As there is very heavy rain forecast and the ground is already saturated, we are likely to have much more flooding. Our hills play a big part in the process that sees high rainfall in this area. Westerly airflows bring across a lot of moisture much of which falls on us!

In preparation for a big project we will be starting soon, I spent some time with other rangers up around Surprise View. We have had a very kind donation from a member of the public to spend in that area and we are going to use it to improve path and car-park surfaces. As far as possible we will improve accessibility with this work although one section will be done primarily to protect tree roots. This is one of our most visited places and sheer numbers create a lot of wear.

After we had walked the area and I had talked them through how to estimate what is needed to do the job, we individually calculated the cost.  Each costing was within 5% of all the others. So now we need to schedule the work. Once it is complete, Surprise View will be wheel-chair accessible; all users will have a good path surface and this will protect the surrounding vegetation.

Daisy here.

 I’ve been running around in the rain. It’s great. I love it when it’s really, really windy.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

History and archaeology.

At a cursory glance, it would be easy to think that the Lake District landscape is natural and has been little touched by human activity. In reality there is much evidence of such activity since Neolithic times. In the Trust, we like to take every opportunity we can to enhance visitor experiences by informing them about the history and archaeology that can be seen in the landscape. To that end, I spent a day last week with Jamie Lund (the Trust’s archaeologist) and a number of outdoor pursuits instructors up Stoneycroft Ghyll. The idea is that we show them the archaeology; we explain its significance and we discuss how to protect it. The instructors will then be able to cascade that knowledge to all the groups they lead into the Ghyll. Hopefully members of the groups will then go on to tell their friends and families.

I’m hoping that Jamie’s enthusiasm will inspire the instructors to weave this aspect of landscape awareness into their daily practice. We have used this method of cascading before and it has worked well. It is very effective at transmitting information to a lot of people we might not otherwise meet. The benefits are twofold; people have an enriched understanding and enjoyment of their surrounding environment so they are then more likely to be protective of an important part of our heritage.

An unexpected highlight of last week was taking a walk up Skiddaw on my day off. Much of the country was shrouded in fog for the day but I walked up into sunshine and looked back over the top of low-lying cloud. It really is a fantastic experience to see just the hill tops emerging through cloud.

I had Daisy with me of course and also Gus and Bryn, her two doggy friends from Derwent Island. They had a great time running around and playing together.

Daisy here.

I’ve been up Skiddaw with my besties. They’re not very good at walking up mountains - not compared to me. It’s brilliant. I’m really fast. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

A gift for photographers!

Last week was one of those weeks where I seemed to spend much of my time going from one meeting to another. We do need to have them of course to make sure that all our current projects are going to plan and to also plan what we will do next. It just happens that we have been having a spell of fantastic autumn weather and it’s a shame to have to spend any of it working indoors! Fortunately the meetings went well and there’s the satisfaction of knowing that we are being careful stewards of this special place as we try to improve accessibility.

I’ve mentioned before that I would be having some consultation sessions about the possibility of creating a recycled plastic boardwalk through Ings Wood. Lots of people stopped off to talk to me about that and I also had emails about it. Everybody was in favour of the idea. It will improve accessibility and will also protect the wetland vegetation that might otherwise be trampled so it’s a win/win situation.  We always have in mind the Trust’s core aim to protect the environment for everyone for all time.

Between meetings I managed to pop out one lunch-time to take photographs in Borrowdale. It also gave Daisy a breath of fresh air as well. The colours are spectacular at present and the weather has been perfect for some great photographs.

Daisy here.

 I’ve had a boring week but I did get to run around for a bit. That’s great.

Friday, 30 October 2015


This week I’ve been preparing for two consultation sessions followed by walks in the Ings woodland. This is a wetland area with a walk quite close to the lake and it often floods. We are genuinely consulting with as many people as possible about their views on how we can best improve all year access.


As usual in the Lakes, we are looking for the best balance between access and conservation. The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so it is important to protect the wetland vegetation. One way we feel we can do this is to construct a recycled boardwalk like the one that has been successful at the southern end of Derwentwater. (We have also used it beside our shop.) Natural England has indicated that they would see a boardwalk made from recycled materials as a suitable solution. The following pictures show its use.

It is half-term holidays for schools so we are expecting a lot of visitors. I’m hoping that many of them will drop in on one of the sessions to have their say about the proposal. It’s always possible that someone can see the situation with a fresh perspective and might offer an idea that hasn’t occurred to us so it’s worth having these consultation sessions.

Daisy here,

I love running through the Ings. Everybody calls it Dirty Wood though.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Ghylls and mines.

Last week took me away from my usual territory in the Borrowdale area to spend some time in Eskdale in the South Lakes. One of the rangers there, Clive, is setting up a working group to look at issues relating to ghyll scrambling. This is an activity which is growing in popularity and it has the potential to create some problems. The two main concerns are erosion of the landscape and conflict between a minority of users and the farming community.

This can be the result of lack of awareness from the users so Clive has decided to nip it in the bud at an early stage in the development of the activity in the Eskdale area. This first gathering of the working group consisted of a number of representatives from outdoor centres, the local farmer, representatives from the Lake District National Park Authority and of course the National Trust.

It was a very successful day and everyone who was there seemed to leave feeling positive and optimistic for the future. Clive will now move on to the next stage and will develop a Code of Conduct so that all concerned can feel that a balance respecting their needs has been found. In the North Lakes we have already developed a similar code and so far it seems to be working well.

For me it was a great day. It’s good to share experiences with others who are working in another location – there’s always a new perspective to give me food for thought. And the Eskdale area, although different from my Borrowdale, has its own beauty.

Elsewhere in the week I took advantage of the good weather and made one of my regular, quarterly checks of the safety fencing and signing around the old wad (graphite) mine shafts on the high fells above Seathwaite. It’s important to keep these in good order as we don’t want anyone falling into a shaft. 

It’s also important because the wad mine is the only example of its type in the world. It is actually a scheduled ancient monument with the same status as St Paul’s Cathedral. During the reign of Elizabeth I the wad was used in the manufacture of cannon balls and the mine was so important that it was protected by armed militia.  It also became the foundation for the world’s first pencil manufacturing, an industry that carries on here to this day although it no longer uses local graphite.

Daisy here.

I’ve been running round the fells with Roy. He’s been looking at holes in the ground. I don’t know why but running round’s great.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Autumn glory approaching.

Last week began with a trip back to the bridge in Ings Wood on the Derwentwater shore. We had already replaced its handrail but I returned with one of my volunteers to complete the job by finishing off the abutments. All these details are what will ensure that the path is accessible for as many users as possible.

Another wood-working project that is underway is an unusual one. Those who know Borrowdale well will probably have visited the Bowder Stone (a name possibly derived from Baldur, the son of the Norse god Odin). This is a massive chunk of rock measuring approximately 30'(9m) high, 50'(15m) across and 90'(27m) in circumference. It has been a must-see for travellers for hundreds of years. At one time it was owned by Joseph Pocklington. He recognised its commercial potential and around 1798 he erected the first fixed wooden steps for visitors to climb to the top.

It is now in the ownership of the National Trust and its current steps have been well used by many thousands of people. We have replaced some of the treads recently but the time has come to consider a complete replacement of the stairway. So, I am now putting together a plan and pricing for that.

Another project at the planning stage is the next stretch of accessible path around Derwentwater. We are hoping to collaborate with Keswick Tourism (KT) and the National Park Authority (NPA) to secure funding for this. So I spent some time with representatives of KT and NPA walking the path to consider what will be needed to achieve that. Happily, it was a glorious day and the autumn colours are just beginning to show. Borrowdale is always beautiful of course but the autumn colours add an extra attraction. It should be spectacular in a couple of weeks time and will be well worth a visit – remember to bring your camera.

Daisy here. 

I ran round the lake and in the lake and out of the lake and back in the lake. I like that sort of meeting.