Thursday, 30 April 2015

Repairing the path on Helm Crag

As part of our continuing repair work on the Helm Crag path, we recently arranged a weekend work-party with the Fix the Fells volunteers. Our task was to continue a section of path using the subsoiling technique, which you can read all about in a previous blog post here...National Trust Working Holiday on Helm Crag. The photograph below shows a section of completed subsoiled path, just before the area to be worked on.

 Recently repaired section of path

The work involved linking the path that we'd previously repaired to the original path-line. In the photograph below you can see the original, eroded path to the left of the photo and a bare area of grass to the right where our new path will go.

 Where the new path joins the old path

In just a few hours, most of the path had been dug off and we managed to find plenty of the red sub-soil which makes an excellent topping for the path.

 Digging out the path

We blocked off the old path (which you can see leading to the right in the following photograph) with some large boulders and used some excess soil to cover the eroded areas. At some point in the next week we'll put some grass seed down on this fresh soil to help green up the area.

 Looking down the new path

By the end of the day we'd completed the path and a turf-lined side drain which will now provide a more sustainable surface on the route to the summit.

Almost completed path

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Repairing the path at Aira Force

Since finishing the tree cages we've mostly been working over at Aira Force, carrying out some urgent path repairs. One section we've been working on can be seen in the photo below. It shows the original path to the right, which people had started to avoid due to the bedrock that is protruding. A new, lower path had started to form, which is potentially dangerously close to a steep drop down to the river.

 Before starting work

Firstly, we moved some large rocks from the original path to form an edge to the lower path. Any bedrock sticking up into the new path was broken with crowbars and sledgehammers until it was low enough to cover with gravel.

 Starting to build up the edge

As well as using the stone from the old path, we gathered some large boulders from higher up the bank to continue the edging. This would help keep people away from the edge of the river bank and give us a suitable edge to gravel against.

 Edging almost completed

The next job was to dig a trench to divert any water off the new path; this fed into a pipe underneath the path and out into the river. Ideally we'd have built a stone drain but there was not enough suitable material nearby so we had to make do with plastic pipe, though we made sure it was well concealed.

 Digging in the drain pipe

With the new edging and drainage in place all that was left to do was the graveling. We put some turf over some of the path edges and we 'll put grass seed down to help the soil revegetate more quickly and soon you'd never know the other path existed. The new path is now much safer, easier to use and a much better line. It'll allow people to enjoy there surroundings and not have to think as much about where they're walking.

Turfing the freshly graveled path

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Hanging a new gate and building tree cages

Over the past few weeks we've continued our lower-level work around Grasmere, Great Langdale, Troutbeck and Windermere. One of our jobs was to replace a gate at the top of Deerbolts Wood near Loughrigg Common. As you can see in the photograph below, the old gate had certainly seen better days. The long-term plan is to have an oak gate at this site to match those at High Close Gardens and help to identify the site as part of the High Close Estate. But with it being such a well used path it needed a temporary fix, so we decided to replace it with a softwood gate.

 Old gate ready to be replaced

The new gate is a massive improvement, even if its only temporary. When the time comes to hang the permanent oak gate, this gate will be re-used elsewhere. As part of our continuing improvements around High Close, we've already started installing new 'High Close Estate' signs in strategic locations. There's been lots of work done over the past couple of years around High Close and if you've never been, it really is worth a visit. You can see a photo gallery of some of the work here... High Close Gardens Restoration

 Newly hung gate

We've also spent a fair amount of time tree-planting and constructing tree cages in conjunction with our farm tenants. The tree cages below were built on one of our tenanted farms near Orrest Head, Windermere. A single native tree is planted in each cage, which is designed mainly to keep cattle from grazing or pushing against the trees, giving them time to properly develop into large standard trees.

 Constructing one of the tree cages

It's nice to think that in a hundred years time the saplings that have been planted in these cages will be a feature of the landscape overlooking Lake Windermere.

Finished tree cage

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