Friday, 25 February 2011

Another mixed bag of weather

Just to contradict what I said last week about spring being on its way, we have had a few days of wintry weather this week with some knee-deep snow and ice in places on the high fells.  It didn’t stop a group of Trust staff and volunteers who completed fencing a new-laid hedge to keep out stock until the hedge has regenerated.  A good job done there.
Fencing the newly laid hedge until it regenerates.

The weather was kinder for a day of working with another ranger Mark and the school in Lorton.  I have worked with Borrowdale, Threlkeld and Braithwaite schools but this was a first time working with Mark and Lorton School.  It’s always good to learn from others who might do things differently.  In the morning we helped the children put up bird boxes and in the afternoon we had a range of activities to learn about animal and bird habitats.  It was great to see children having fun out in the sunshine but still learning.
School holidays are upon us and from now we will see increasing numbers of visitors.  This year they will find some colourful new information boards that Joe (of the Trust’s Estates Team) and I have been installing in the car parks.  We also spent time building a raft for the Foreshore Project’s fireworks that took place on Sunday at the end of a lantern parade.  Hope everyone enjoyed that.

Lntern parade ready to leave market square.

In between all that, I had two rescue call-outs.  One was for a sheep – they have a knack of jumping down a crag but can’t jump back up so we rope down, grab them, put them in slings and then rope on down.  The second was for walkers who had fallen a short distance in the wintry conditions on Sharp Edge, Blencathra – one of our black-spots.  No-one was injured so we were able to escort them off along ropes we had fixed.  It could have been a much worse outcome if they had tried unsuccessfully to extricate themselves.

Friday, 18 February 2011

A week of wintry storms and spring sunshine.

The week began with checking for damage from the weekend’s high winds.  Damaged trees had to be made safe and checks carried out to be sure there were no trees that might blow over onto roads or paths.  It’s sad in a way to see damaged trees but storm damage is a natural process and we always try to use the broken branches to create habitats for creepy-crawlies and small rodents etc.

Then Jessie (a colleague) and I met with one of the Trust’s tenant farmers at High Snab Farm to discuss a joint venture.  He is developing a camping barn that we would like to use to offer working holidays where volunteers can take part in dry-stone walling, sheep shearing or even lambing if they are lucky – a taster weekend for both aspiring and armchair farmers.  The farmer is very keen to work with us like this so we need to work out if it is viable for both the Trust and the farmer.

Sadly we also had to spend about a day and a half rebuilding a vandalised collection box at Calf Close Bay.  These are very well protected so someone spent a lot of time and effort for no return.  We could have been using our time on projects that are of benefit to the area e.g. 14 volunteers and 6 staff have been working hard to replace an old fence and to lay a hedge in the appropriate local style.  If you look carefully as you travel from the west coast and valleys to Borrowdale and on to the south Lakes, you will see different styles of hedge-laying.  As far as possible, we work to maintain the old, traditional practices.
By the end of the week, we’d had some beautiful sunny spells with clear blue skies.  Spring is definitely on its way.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Rescuing hollies and people.

Transplanting hollies.
 This week I was working with a team of volunteers in Great Wood.  There is a lot of regenerated vegetation in the wood.  We have too many hollies in a small area and they won’t thrive so they need to be thinned out.  Transplanting some will allow the rest to thrive.  We are working with the Keswick in Bloom group and the Derwentwater Foreshore Project (check out for details).  Rather than buying in plants for the foreshore project, they can have free plants that are genetically suited to the valley. 

My weekend was mainly taken up with mountain rescue activities.  On Saturday I was in Penrith meeting up with the National Mountain Rescue Teams’ rope-work display team which I’m coordinating.  We ran through what we’ll do at the NEC in three weeks time at the outdoor show - finalised what we’ll do and how we’ll do it.   Sunday began with a visit to the rescue team base to meet a lovely lady who had given £200 to the team in memory of her late husband.  We showed her around the base.  In the afternoon we were called out to Catbells to rescue a lady who had broken her lower leg – bread and butter for us but very stressful for her.  It was good to be able to alleviate her discomfort and package her up for a safe trip to hospital.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Otter poo and jasmine tea.

I started the week working  with a group of adult volunteers who turn out on a regular weekly basis.  They are a really good group to work with.  We began in Calf Close Bay on the shore of Derwentwater by clearing debris from recent flooding.  Every time we have flooding the prevailing winds drive the debris and rubbish from the lake into the bay.  We are also removing an old fence that has been damaged by the floods.  We have already built a new fence, hopefully above future high water marks.

Volunteers in Calf Close Bay

As we were tidying up at the end of the afternoon’s work, a couple came over to say that there was a dead dog further down the lake shore.  What they described sounded like a young otter.  I took a walk along with my dog Reiver but couldn’t find it so either their description was not quite accurate or Reiver’s nose wasn’t working as well as it could do.  I suspect that it was a young otter that drowned under the ice when the lake was frozen.  Although it’s sad to hear of a young otter dying, the fact that we now have otters breeding on a regular basis in the valley is a huge success story.  One of the good things following the disaster of foot and mouth is that otters have moved back into Borrowdale from the lower Derwent and have been breeding successfully since 2001. 

Otter tracks, December 2010

 We are seeing more and more signs of otters such as spraints (pooh) on rocks.  It’s sometimes described as smelling like jasmine tea but it doesn’t smell like that to me!  Look in places they might want to mark to let other otters know that they are around.  Occasionally we even see otters. 

A picture I took previously.

 Look for them early morning or late afternoon although, if they are feeling confident, you might see one during the day. The future of otters is looking a lot brighter these days.