Monday, 2 March 2015

Replacing step stiles & laying a hedge.

Over the last few weeks we've continued our estate work around Langdale valley. Our first job was to lay a section of hedge next to the road near Loughrigg Tarn.

Hedge ready to be laid 

The hedge was predominantly Beech and contained a few trees that had been previously laid before. Some of the trees were over 15cm diameter, making it extra difficult to lay with just billhooks and pruning saws.

Laying the hedge

As the hedge was planted sometime ago, some of the hedge plants had already died off, which left several gaps in the hedge. Fortunately the hedge didn't need to be stock proof, otherwise we would have been better coppicing the Beech and planting some additional saplings. The main function of this hedge is to provide some extra habitat for nesting birds. When laying the hedge we managed to fill in most of the gaps but we'll reassess it over the year and perhaps add a few more saplings if required, either way it'll provide some nice nesting habitat for a variety of bird species.

Section of newly laid hedge

Our next job was to replace a couple of old step-stiles behind the back of the National Trust campsite in Great Langdale.

 Old step stile

When possible, we prefer to replace step-stiles with kissing gates as they are a bit more user friendly for people, but in this instance the farmer who grazes the land had requested that the ladder-stiles were replaced as it stops the risk of the gate being stuck open and sheep getting into the neighbouring field.


 Starting work on the new stile

We removed the old stile and had to work quickly as it was tricky getting over the wall with no stile in place. Luckily it was fairly quiet and we managed to help the few passing walkers over the wall. 

New treads in position 

Once we had the treads in position the pressure was off as it was at least possible to get over the wall.

The finished stile 

The final job was to add the platform to the top and the stile was complete. While working on the second step-stile a little further along the path a walker came by and told us he rated our first stile as "7 out of 10". We thought this a little harsh and were tempted to walk back to the stile with him, armed with a spirit-level and tape measure, and find out where we had dropped points. He obviously hadn't appreciated the accuracy down to just a few millimetres, or the perfect spacing between the treads on the platform, or the fact that that each tread was pretty much bang-on level! Needless to say we just smiled and let him get on his way. So if you happen to be out walking the path and use the new stiles (and rate them 9 or above) please do get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Creating the new entrance into Stagshaw Gardens

Just before Christmas we spent some time improving access at Stagshaw Gardens, near Ambleside. Our work was to create a new entrance way next to the main car park that would mean visitors can enter the garden directly, without walking past the house.

Before starting work

The first job was to remove a couple of small shrubs that were in the way of the new path. The entrance needed to remain deer-proof so we started by erecting the gate in the garden before we adjusted the original fence line,

Starting work on the new entrance

The new gate was an obvious spot for deer to enter the garden so we made the gate higher with wooden rails to make it more secure.

Digging in a post for the new gate

Once the new gate was finished we altered the fence line to open-up the area and give us space to add an interpretation board at a later date.

Newly adjusted fence line

With the gate and fence completed it was time to start gravelling the new path.

Gravelled entrance

We continued gravelling through the gate and joined up with one of the original garden paths.

Nicely joined up with the garden path

Once we'd finished gravelling we moved the shrubs that we'd dug out at the beginning into a new position behind the fence to the right of the new gate.

All finished

By next summer the areas of bare soil should be nicely greened up and the new entrance to Stagshaw should look even more inviting.

Completed entrance

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Footpath repairs at Dale Head

After we finished our work up at Esk Hause, and inbetween working at Gowbarrow, we also had a few weeks working with the North Lakes Team over at Dale Head in Borrowdale. This work was partly funded by the British Mountaineering Council Access & Conservation Trust who kindly donated £7,000 and also by a £600 donation from Kendal Fell Walkers.

Replacing a section of path at Dale Head

The path at Dale Head had previously been worked on but, due to a lack of drains, water has run down the path which has in some areas caused the stone pitching to fall out. The steepest sections of the original path are also extremely difficult to walk down and now that techniques have changed we can also remedy this. You can see in the photograph above the section where we were working, with some old-style pitching just below the worksite.

The work at Dale Head involved replacing the steepest sections of path and incorporating more stone drains to shed water away from the path.

New stone pitching

Although it's not immediately obvious from the photographs this section of path is a really steep section. The new path has been put in so that the stones aren't set at a steep angle, there's plenty of space to get a full boot on each step and the path also meanders to take out some of the gradient.

Landscaping the new section of path

As usual once the path was completed we set about landscaping the area around the path to help it blend in with it's surroundings. Any overhanging banks next to the path were graded to reduce any "hard edges" next to the path. Turfs that were removed while building the path were then used where the banks had been graded to make the path merge seamlessly with the fell side. Finally, grass seed was put down on areas of spoil and between the stones used to build the path. 

Looking up the newly landscaped path

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Another year of repairing the path on Gowbarrow

Throughout the year we've been working up on the path at Gowbarrow, in Ullswater. This is the second year that we've been working on this site and once again we've been joined by numerous volunteer groups.

Starting to dig off the turf

The Field Studies Council joined us again this year with a school group from Ripponden. The group got stuck right in with cutting turf and resurfacing the path.

The group hard at work

Coming back for a second year also gave the teachers a good opportunity to see how last years work had started to bed-in and blend in more with it's surroundings.

We were also assisted by other members of National Trust staff from around the property.

National Trust staff clear a route through the bracken

This helped give staff who work in different areas of the property a better idea of some of the work that we do, and also gave them the opportunity to try something a bit different to their usual jobs.

Freshly gravelled path

We also held monthly work parties for the Fix the Fells volunteers.

Starting landscaping the path

These monthly work parties have really helped push the project along over the last two years and a special thanks has to go out to the Fix the Fells volunteers.

Newly landscaped path

The Fell Rangers from the North Lakes have also regularly helped us out.

Two of the North Lakes team start on some landscaping

Since the North Lakes team was newly created this year, it gave them a good opportunity to get involved in a different type of project and helped them learn a few different techniques.

Completed landscaping

For the second consecutive year we also held our National Trust working holiday up on Gowbarrow.

Before starting work with the working holiday

Four volunteers from last years holiday returned, along with several new volunteers.

Digging off the path

We continued the section of path that we'd repaired with them last year, and extended it right to the summit.

The resurfaced path

Once again a huge thanks to all the volunteers who have helped us over the last two years, as without this help we couldn't have achieved so much. It's been great meeting you all, and perhaps we'll see some of you again in the not too distant future.

The Working Holiday on Gowbarrow

Monday, 15 September 2014

Adding the final touches to the Esk Hause path

Since the last update we've been spending much of our time working, and walking, up Esk Hause. We've calculated that for this year, in total, to repair the Esk Hause path we've walked a distance of 185 miles just to get to and from the work site and spent over 90 hours doing it. We've also climbed, and descended, over 102,500 feet, that's like walking from sea level to the top of Mount Everest three and a half times!

Turfing a section of path

In between all the walking we've also been building a path which has generated a lot of soil and rubble. This is all used to landscape around the path to help the area look more natural after the path repairs have taken place.

Starting landscaping around a drain

To help the path blend in and stop rubble falling on to it we also turf along the edge. Turf that is generated while building the path is reused and if any extra is required it is cut from areas away from the path, and out of sight.

Freshly landscaped drain

As you can see in the following photo often very large quantities of soil and rubble are generated. To reduce the amount of surplus rock smaller pieces are buried and any larger, and more weathered, rock is half dug in to create a natural looking bank.

Rubble and soil generated while building the path

Once the landscaping work is finished the area changes from something resembling a building site to something much more natural. After the area has been seeded (often once a year, over several years) the landscaping work will be indistinguishable from it's surroundings.

Path after landscaping

Monday, 7 July 2014

Fix the Fells Volunteering Day

A few weeks ago as part of our Fix the Fells work we held a volunteering day giving members of the public the chance to come along and help with some path repairs and maintenance work around Langdale.

About 35 volunteers and staff turned out on the day and the work was divided into two sessions, drain runs and path repairs. There were two different drain run routes, both starting out at NT Sticklebarn and heading up into the Langdale Pikes. Drain runs, where gravel is cleared from the footpath and stone drains, are an essential part of our maintenance work.

The repair work took place on a section of the Stickle Ghyll path just beyond the car park, and involved resurfacing and drainage work. In preparation for this work we had previously spent a few days collecting some suitable rock from the nearby area and clearing back a few trees from next to the path.

 Preparing the work site

The large boulders that we'd gathered were used to edge the path to encourage people not to cut the corners and cause any further damage to the area. Once the path was edged it was time to start gravelling.

 Newly gravelled section of path

We'd arranged for a delivery of gravel from the local quarry to be tipped in the car park so it was just a matter of moving it about 200 metres from the car park to the work site. Armed with shovels and wheelbarrows the volunteers set about moving the gravel up the path.

 Bringing in some more gravel

With the addition of this fresh gravel the old rough path was quickly transformed. To help improve the drainage on the path some of the original drains had to be repaired and lengthened to help prevent water running down, and damaging, the new gravel path.

 Repairing a stone drain

As part of our preparation work we had also dug a large hole ready for a new stone drain to be built. After some heavy rain it became obvious that the new drain would definitely take some water.

 Hole dug ready for a drain

A large trench was dug to drain the hole of water and a group of the Fix the Fells volunteers started building a new stone drain to protect the path from any future downpours.

 Building a stone drain

We'd like to say a big thanks to all the volunteers who came along on the day to help us out, you did some fantastic work!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Resuming our upland work

Since our last blog post we've started our Fix the Fells work repairing a few of the upland paths in Grasmere, Langdale and Ullswater.

Our first job was to prepare for our work up on Gowbarrow that we'd started last year. Once again we needed to fly some materials to the work site, so we set about filling some bags with gravel with a little help from the Langdale & Grasmere ranger team.

 Loading the bags with gravel

The day of the lift went pretty smoothly and we thankfully got all the materials flown to site.

 Flying the materials on to Gowbarrow

Another job that we're working on this year is at Helm Crag.

Starting work

You can see in the photograph below that the path had previously been worked on, but some of this had started to fall out as the ground around it had eroded. The bits that had not been worked on have also deteriorated.

 Bottom section before starting work

Rock had been flown to the site previously but we're also supplementing it with rock that had been used for previous repairs.

 After a few days work

You can see in the following photograph how bad the path has become. There's a lot of loose rubble on the path and the bank to the left is badly eroded.

 Mid-section before starting work

After just a few days work the path has already started to take shape.

Mid-section after being worked on

We're also working up at Esk Hause again this year, continuing to widen the path and improve the drainage.

 Old path before repairs

It takes about two and a half hours to walk to and from the work site, plus there's also a time consuming drive on top of that, so this really eats into the time left for working. Because of this, we're being helped out by the North Lakes team this year, to help speed things along.

The North Lakes team lend a hand