Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Footpath repairs at Aira Force

Since our last post we've spent a fair amount of our time working at Aira Force, on a section of footpath above High Cascades.

Old path

The section of path that we've been working on had previously been repaired many years ago, but as the path was a bit "rough and ready" visitors were avoiding it which had caused the area next to the path to become eroded. This can be seen in the photograph above.

Path before commencing the rebuild

As the area is not very accessible, it was decided that some of the stone would be flown to site by helicopter. This was supplemented with useable stone from the original footpath and additional stone that we were able to gather from the surrounding area using our mechanical power barrow.

 Completed lower section of path

To make the path blend in a little better, we adjusted the line to make it snake through the site rather than cut through in a straight line. The line was partially dictated by bedrock, which came to the surface at a couple of locations. To avoid having to chip away too much, we gave it a wide berth where possible.

Working in the snow 

Our work was hampered on a couple of occasions by heavy snow which prevented us getting over to Ullswater or making it impossible to safely move large stones around. But on days with just a light scattering of snow we continued regardless.

 Middle section after moving rock to site

After a few weeks of work we had pretty much completed the stone path. The new path is much more user-friendly and incorporates a couple of large stone drains to shed water away and prevent damage.

 Middle section after completing the stone work

Unfortunately, due to the pressing job of gathering stone for our upland repairs, we weren't able to complete all the landscaping work in time. So we're hoping to get a bit of time later on in the year to tidy away some of the leftover rock and reseed the area and then the new path will be looking better than ever.

Completed top section of path

Monday, 5 March 2018

Tree planting in Grasmere and peat bog restoration work in Ullswater

It's been a busy few weeks since our last post so here's a taster of what we've been up to.
        
Earlier on, in mid-February, we spent a week tree planting on the slopes of Helm Crag. The work was funded by Natural England. We planted 1800 scrub woodland species over an area of 6 hectares, working alongside other National Trust staff and assisted by some of the Fix the Fells volunteers.

As the trees develop, they will help stabilise the soil and reduce rainwater runoff. They will also provide a valuable habitat for birds, such as Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer, mammals and insects.

You can read in more detail about the work on the Central and East Lakes Rangers blog... here, so here are just a selection photos of the work over a very wintery week.

Having a quick debrief on the first day

Planting out the trees

Looking towards Dunnmail Raise on the last day

Later on in the month we spent a day carrying out some peat bog restoration work up on Matterdale Common with the Ullswater team and staff from Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Over 70 per cent of peatlands in England are in a damaged state, often due to drainage, overgrazing, forestry or regular burning. This damage prevents the peat remaining waterlogged, causing plants to die off. Without vegetation cover, bare areas of peat are formed which rapidly erode. This damage can be repaired by revegetating and blocking drains to help raise the water table. 
The project has been overseen by Cumbria Wildlife Trust who've used digger contractors to do the main bulk of the work, but as a member of the Cumbria Peat Partnership we were eager to lend a hand with areas that couldn't be done with machinery.

Our main job was to plant heather on the bare areas of peat to help speed up the regeneration process.

 Heather plants ready to be planted out

So we took the trays of heather out into one of the two stock excluded areas on Matterdale Common and planted up in the barest patches.

Planting out the heather 

Areas of peat that have eroded (often as a result of grazing, historical peat cutting and water damage) may form steep banks, known as hags. These hags continue to erode, due to water flow and wind damage, forming large areas of bare peat that plants struggle to survive on.

By reprofiling the banks to an angle of around thirty degrees it gives the heather seedlings a much better chance to flourish. Many of the hags have been removed using the diggers but we were able to get to a few areas that the diggers couldn't reach and to also work on some of the smaller hags.

 Grading one of the peat hags

You can see the area where we were working in the photograph below and also the difference between the grazed and ungrazed areas. The area in the distance was fenced off about 10 years ago allowing heather and other peatland plants to return, this should further improve following the recent work.

Bundles of heather used for blocking drainage


You can learn more about peatland restoration on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website... here.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Woodland boundary repairs in Ullswater

After finishing our path repair work up at Hole in the Wall we've as usual, for the time of year, concentrated on working in the valley bottoms, so far mostly around Langdale and Ullswater.

Since the new year our main work has been carrying out repairs to a woodland boundary in Ullswater. The plantation where we've been working has been recently thinned which will allow more space for selected trees to develop and let more light get through to the woodland floor. This in turn should lead to an increase in woodland flowers and encourage a wider range of other species to use the woodland.

 Lower wall before repair

The work has consisted of two dry stone wall gaps on the east side of the lake below Place Fell. The lower gap had extremely tricky access with the wall being on top of a steep rocky slope which also meant a lot of carrying rock back up the hill before we could start.

 Lower wall after repair

The upper wall, although easier to access, was a much larger job and the stone was a lot more challenging being smaller and irregular.

 Upper wall before repair (bottom side)

 Upper wall after repair (bottom side)

We soon had both walls up and they will now hopefully last a good few years before being in need of any more repair.

 Upper wall before repair (top side)

To allow woodland plants to flourish the woodland ideally needs to be stock-proof. So the final job once we'd finished the walling was to reattach the wall-top-fence to make it difficult for both sheep and deer to gain access.

 Attaching the wall-top-fence to the upper wall after repairs

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Making progress at Hole in the Wall

Just a quick post with a few before and after shots of the path repairs at Hole in the Wall in Ullswater. We've been working on the path for around six months now so it's still very early days for the development of vegetation in the landscaped areas but it gives a good indication on how things are taking shape.

The following two photos are of the lowest section of path, that we completed first, so it's had the longest time to "green-up".

 Lower Section (before)

Lower section (after)

As we progress higher up the hill the work has been more recently completed so this is reflected in the development of the grass.You can see in the following two photos how we wind the path through the eroded area, this reduces the gradient and also helps the path appear more natural, much like the difference between a canal and a meandering river.

 Middle section (before)

 Middle section (after)

The final pair of photographs show a section of path towards the top. We've completed more work above it but the grass seed has only just started germinating.

  Upper section (before)

  Upper section (after)

We'll be back working on the path next year so we'll put more grass seed down on any bare areas and, if required, revisit the path in future years to put extra seed down. We'll then let nature do it's thing and allow any wild seeds from the surrounding vegetation take hold and eventually we'll be left with a much narrowed and sustainable footpath winding it's way through the heather and bilberry up to the Hole in the Wall.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

An update from Hole in the Wall

Over the last month we've been continuing our work over in Ullswater, on the footpath leading up to Hole in the Wall.

Building a stone footpath is slow work which is dependent on a wide range of variables such as; how hard the digging is, how busy the path is, the quality of rock, and the width of the path.

The following two photographs show roughly two months progress. In that time three of the team have worked on this section and roughly 30 metres of path have been pieced together.

Middle section, 21st June

Middle section, 16th August

Once a section of path is completed, it's time to landscape the path. The following two photos show the same bit of path before and after landscaping. The bank of spoil to the left has been levelled out, after removing any turf that would be covered over in the process, and this has been used to edge the path. Surplus stone has been dug into the ground around the path to give it a more natural look, and finally grass seed has been scattered over the whole area.

Middle section before landscaping

 Middle section after landscaping

A section of landscaped path, further up from the previous photos can be seen below.

Freshly landscaped section of path

As we've moved higher up the path the digging has become more challenging. The path has become littered with large boulders and sections of bedrock which all has to be removed before the new stone footpath can be built. Occasionally a boulder may be too large to move, or the bedrock too hard to break and in those instances it can usually, with experience, be worked around.

Working in ground like this is obviously more challenging and tends to slow down progress, in addition more rock and less soil is excavated which creates more difficulties with landscaping.

 Removing a sizeable chunk of bedrock from the path

We’ve now completed just over half of the path repairs up at Hole in the Wall so we’ll be working through until late autumn and returning to finish things off in spring next year.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Continuing our work at Hole in the Wall

Since last posting here, we've spent much of our time working on the Hole in the Wall project over in Ullswater.

We've been making decent progress and the lower section of path is now really starting to take shape.

The following photographs give an idea of how the path is developing. You can see how much narrower the new stone path is compared to the wide eroded path and how we've snaked the path to make it more pleasing on the eye and also to remove some of the gradient.

Bottom of path (before starting work)

Bottom of path (after landscaping)

The next two photos show how we've used the spoil that was generated to landscape the path. While building the path, the soil that was dug out was mounded on the left hand side of the footpath. Once the stone work was completed, we removed the turf on the right hand side of the path and shifted the majority of the soil to where the turf had been. This gave us plenty of earth for reprofiling the right hand side of the path. We created humps and dips to make the area less attractive to walk on, which should help guide people onto the stone path rather than cutting the corner. The turf that was removed was used to edge the path to prevent soil falling back onto the stone pitching. We then reseeded the whole area so it should start blending in nicely in a few weeks time.

Lower section (after finishing, before landscaping)

Lower section (after landscaping)

In between working on the path below Hole in the Wall we've also been running regular volunteer work parties on a section of path lower down the valley with the Fix the Fells volunteers. We've been concentrating on drain building, landscaping and adding a few short sections of pitching. The path is now starting to look much more defined and should better handle any heavy downpours.

Fix the Fells volunteers hard at work

Monday, 26 June 2017

Starting the path at Hole in the Wall and the Fix the Fells 10th anniversary work party

Since our last blog post we've spent much of our time working in Ullswater on the path just below Hole in the Wall. Building a stone path is never fast work and we reckon to build around 1 metre of path per person, per day. This generally depends on what the digging is like, the weather conditions and the amount of people using the path.

 Bottom section before starting work on the path

The digging has, so far, been pretty good, we're not pulling too many large stones out of the ground and there's been no sign of any bedrock (which often has to be chipped out before we can lay the path). We've had both really hot and really wet weather over the last few weeks but only for a few days here and there, so nothing really out of the norm. We've also had one or two really busy days, but the worksite is easy to keep safe and there is plenty of room for people to get past. So, apart from a little extra time spent explaining about our work, it hasn't really affected things too much either.

 After a few days work

As this path does get really busy at times (we're expecting lots more walkers during the summer holidays if we get some good weather) we're building the path a little wider than normal. Because of the extra width, we're maybe averaging a little under a metre a day at present.

 The path starting to take shape

After just over a month, we're now reaching the point where we're starting to join sections of the path together before we leap-frog each other and start work again further up the path.
Almost ready to join two sections

With the sections joined, it's time to start filling in all the gaps with some of the soil that's been dug out. There's still plenty of landscaping work to do on this section but it's really starting to look like a footpath now.

After filling in the gaps

Last weekend was the tenth anniversary of the Fix the Fells partnership. As part of the celebrations, there were work parties taking place throughout the weekend up on Tongue Gill, near Grasmere. The work was part of a project that the South Lakes upland rangers are working on, and we went to help out on the Friday. Around sixty volunteers and various people from the Fix the Fells partnership organisations turned out to repair the path that had been damaged during the Storm Desmond floods. Although the weather wasn't the best we still got plenty done and everyone appeared to enjoy the day.

Volunteers at work in the rain