Thursday, 24 July 2014

Wildlife at Bowe Barn

If you are familiar with Borrowdale, you might have noticed that we have our National Trust North Lakes offices at Bowe Barn.  This is an old, typical Lakeland stone-built building situated in an area with lots of very mature trees.  A happy coincidence of that is that some of the local wild-life makes good use of the building.

We have a breeding colony of pipistrelle bats living in the roof space above our offices at present.  Pipistrelles are one of the commonest and also the smallest bats to be found in Britain.  They are 3.5–5.2 cm long along the head-and-body, and the tail adds 2.3–3.6 cm. They weigh from 3.5 to 8.5 g and have a wingspan ranging from 18 to 25 cmIt’s fantastic to see them but occasionally one or two find their way inside the building. The carpet of our office is a dangerous place for them to be so we have to very gently take them outdoors and put them into a crevice in the outside walls of the building!

 We also have swallows nesting and breeding with the young ones finding some handy perching places.  Right now they are at their noisiest as they sit and demand food.  We must have a very healthy insect population to support them and the bats!

Hi, It’s Daisy here.

As part of my Mountain Rescue training, I’ve been to the pub again.  This bit of the training is really tiring.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Daisy's infinity pool!

I’ve just had a week of working with a number of different groups.  One day was spent with a group of students from Keswick School.  These were students who had successfully completed the Headmaster’s Challenge by making extra contributions to their community both within and outside the school.  Their reward was to spend a day with me as Junior Rangers.

We spent the day on Derwent Island where we cut down some vegetation from the lake shore and also cleared some rhododendrons.  We followed that with a big fire.

They were an excellent group of students of course and they can be rightly proud of the very good work they did.  Everyone seemed to have a good time and Daisy certainly enjoyed the day.

We have also hosted a group from the Environment Agency for a couple of days.  They spent some time working on practical tasks with me.  We were weeding around oak trees that had been previously planted by Borrowdale school children and also clearing branches that were starting to overgrow a footpath. They seemed to enjoy their day and we achieved a lot.  The next day they had some internal meetings and then met up with me to bounce around some ideas for a project I have in mind.  I want to create a stretch of sustainable and easily accessible footpath along part of the Derwentwater shore.  It was good to hear the views and ideas from such a positive and knowledgeable group.  They were asking some in-depth questions and then identifying the problems and suggesting the solutions – a really useful contribution.

The other big task of the week was to go up to Castlerigg Stone Circle with the Trust’s archaeologist Jamie Lunt, my regular volunteers and his archaeology volunteers.  We did some routine repair work to the turf around the stones.  This is just making good the wear and tear that is to be expected from the large numbers of people who visit the site.

And finally, as the Tour de France has just started, I’ll mention that I had a morning bike ride around the lake recently that was just stunning.  No cars on the road and beautiful views across the lake.

Daisy here,

Roy says I’ve been swimming in an infinity pool.  Well the lake looked bigger to me.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Calling in the pros.

The big job last week was one where I had to call in our team of foresters to help me fell some trees near Friars Crag.  Our foresters are all qualified tree surgeons and were able to fell trees exactly where I wanted them. I needed them to fell several trees but into quite precise positions.  As you can see from the pictures, one of them also worked in a tree removing some quite large branches. These guys are incredibly skilful and professional about what they do. I'm qualified to cut down trees but I certainly don’t have the experience or skills to work in the tree canopy as they do. 

Thinning out the trees will allow in more light and should improve growing conditions for plants.  But, on this occasion, there is another important aspect to the work.  When the lake level is high, the path to Friars Crag is protected from erosion by a series of gabions formed with rocks in metal baskets.  These are now over 20 years old and are beginning to decay so I have decided to try a different technique.  The felled trees are going to be left in place with the old gabions.  They will be covered by soil that comes from some dredging at the island’s landing stage and from a job on Crow Park.  These new slopes will then be seeded and hopefully the vegetation will anchor it all.

We hope they will do the job of protecting the path whilst being aesthetically more sensitive and sustainable for the location. We just have to hope that there is no serious flooding before the vegetation is well-established.  It is a method we have not tried before but we really hope it works because it will be so much more sympathetic to the environment.  

I also took the opportunity to extend one of our fences whilst the lake level is low during the current dry spell and it was then that I found some broken glass.  This doesn’t happen very often because there are so many people who pick up rubbish whilst out walking. There are just a few though who have no thought for the safety of others. Broken glass is clearly very dangerous especially for paddling and swimming children or animals and it is particularly difficult to spot in the water at the lake shore.  So, when we find it, we are especially careful to pick up all that we can find.


Daisy here,

I’ve been working with the foresters.  The foresters are great.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Working for cleaner water.

I had a very pleasant day out last week with a team from Natural England. This gave us the opportunity to show them the work we're doing within the Water Framework Directive.  This is the national policy aimed at improving water quality so it influences much that we do here in the Lake District.

With that in mind, John Malley (our regional water advisor) and I planned some visits to see relevant projects in our North Lakes area.

We began with a visit to the new treatment plant at Force Crag Mine.  At this early stage, it is showing all signs that it is working incredibly well.

There wasn’t time to fit in a visit to Stoneycroft Ghyll  but we did have a  discussion about contributing to erosion control and slope stabilization in and around the ghyll with our installation of chains for the use of scramblers.  We then looked at our work on the woodland expansion schemes.  This also contributes to slope stabilization.

Our final visit was to High Snab Farm to talk to Tom about his hay meadows which are thriving and looking exceptionally good at this time of year.  Indeed, High Snab in general is looking fantastic.

Each of these projects has a part to play in reducing the amount of pollution and sediment being washed down in streams and rivers into the lakes.

Quote of the week came from one of the Natural England team who wished that we could clone Tom and have him throughout the Lake District.

Daisy here.

Roy’s been looking at flowers.  So have I.  It’s great when you roll on them.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Adventures in the wood.

Last weekend I combined our regional and my local volunteering groups.  These are all very experienced people that I have worked with many times and they always do a phenomenal amount of work.

This time we continued the work in Cockshot Wood behind the theatre.  This is a wood with lots of potential to develop so we are going to create a zone where the children can be excitable and make as much noise as they want without disrupting wildlife or other people.  It’s all part of the National Trust’s big project to show children how much fun they can have outdoors.

We have started to make a wild play trail so this time we were building a balancing beam. We are using timber from one of our other woods that was being thinned as part of the regular forestry work.

The result will be 40 metres of beam made by laying out the trees and staking them so that they don’t wobble from side to side.  The beam will become progressively harder as the children move from one end to the other so it will be a challenge (even for adults!) to successfully walk its full length.  This will lead into other activities which will be planned with local school children. 

We were making terrific progress with this when the unpredictable happened and one of the volunteers had an accident that damaged one of his fingers. I phoned for an ambulance and the crew arrived quickly and were as brilliant as ever.

I have spoken to him since then and the damage won’t leave any lasting effect thankfully. It just shows that even with experienced volunteers and taking sensible precautions, accidents can still happen.

Daisy here,

I’ve been playing in the woods with loads of volunteers.  It’s great. Loads of people.  I’m doing really well with my dog training.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Some routine 'housekeeping'.

After a few weeks of activities surrounding events like the Keswick Mountain Festival and the increased numbers of children during half-term, last week I returned to the routine Ranger duties that form the background to all that we do.

One of those was to walk the path beneath Falcon Crag overlooking Derwentwater.  I’d had a report from a member of the public about tree branches beginning to overhang the path.  So, I spent an incredibly pleasant morning with Daisy walking and trimming back branches that were indeed beginning to hinder easy access along the path. The path is now fit for use by more members of the public without having to duck under or scramble around the obstructing branches.

These are just basic ‘rangering’ duties but it was good to be back on the ground doing some practical work.

Hi its Daisy here.

I’ve been running around on the fells again.  It’s great.  We walked to Falcon Crag.  You could hear the peregrines.  They’re a bit scary.  Have you seen how fast they can fly?

Question from Roy: 
How fast do you think a peregrine falcon can fly?

a.        Up to 50 miles per hour
b.      100 to 150 mph
c.       More than 200 mph

You can find out about the speed of peregrines here.