Monday, 28 March 2011

Old mines and allotments.

The glorious spring weather we have been having has seen a marked increase in numbers of visitors.  Regular visitors will notice the ongoing work to improve our car parks.  Many now have new display boards to give some information about the immediate area and the one at Rosthwaite has been marked to optimize the space and provide dedicated parking for drivers with disabilities. 

Jessie doing a temporary fence-post job!

Another ongoing task is to monitor the experimental water-treatment plant at Force Crag mine so John Malley (the Trust’s National Water Advisor) and I paid another visit to check progress there.  Like many disused mines, the water flowing from it is contaminated and we are trying to develop a process that will reduce the level of contaminants.

Later in the week, I was working at Watendlath and the vegetation and light conditions were just right to reveal some interesting features in the landscape.  Quite close to the hamlet there are some low ridges that measure about 2m wide and 15 or 16 m long.   I took a few photographs and will show them to a Trust archaeologist for his opinion.  It’s possible they were once vegetable patches (ancient allotments) associated with the hamlet.  Whatever they are, as part of the history of the valley, it is worth identifying them and recording their position. 

Are these ancient allotments?

I then spent a day with a Trust ranger Mark over at Buttermere discussing a number of developments there.  One recurring issue for popular footpaths is the dog poop problem.  If only dog owners would take a stick and clear poop off the path to where it can rot naturally, it would be much less offensive to others.  The best solution is to bag it and deposit it in bins that are provided.  The worst solution is to collect it in a plastic bag and then abandon the bag in the landscape where it will not rot.

Reiver inspecting the board-walk.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Springtime activity

A good weekend with the Mountain Rescue team annual team dinner.
Good food + dancing + sore feet for two days = a good ‘do’.

Early morning in the woods.

Next morning I took Reiver for a walk along the Derwentwater shore below Falcon Crag.  We could hear the high-pitched shriek of the peregrines that are busy preparing a nest site.  The British Mountaineering Council website lists exclusion zones that climbers are encouraged to avoid because of raptors so it’s a good reference point for information about where they can be seen.  

Morning mist on Derwentwater

We continued to Ashness and back to the lake through the woods where there is a huge badger sett.   Badgers will be busy making new beds as spring is here.  Signs that badgers are in the area include well-trodden paths and little scuff holes for their droppings.  Where two territories adjoin, there will be several patches of droppings to mark the limits of each territory.  If you think you are near a badger sett and are lucky enough to find some hairs, roll a hair between your fingers and it will feel irregular rather than round – badger hairs have an angular cross-section.

Badgers lurking in the grass (Library picture)
The main job of the week was working with volunteers at Stonethwaite to strengthen the river banks.  For 20 or more years they have been protected by gabions of steel cages filled with stones.  These are now ageing and decaying so they are being replaced with willow cuttings.  A new fence will keep stock away from the banks to allow the willows to establish themselves and provide more natural protection.

Stabilising river banks with willow planting.

A sad end to the week - an 11 p.m. call out for a missing helicopter.  Tragically it was a fatality.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Unplanned entertainment

After a busy weekend at the NEC, I returned to my work in the Lakes.

This week has seen a definite move towards Spring.  We are still having some frosty nights but have also had some glorious sunny days.  Snowdrops are flowering and the earliest of the daffodils will soon join them.  So, volunteers of varying nationalities were seeing the area at its Spring-time best.

Will it take the load?

During the week an unexpected attraction drew a crowd of onlookers to the Derwentwater shore at the boat landings.  One of the launches was being lifted out of the water to be loaded and transported to a new location. 

 It’s not something that is seen very often so there were some busy cameras at work, including mine.

 It turned out to be an unplanned entertainment!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Lanterns by the Lake

Last week I mentioned briefly a lantern parade that was held as part of Keswick’s Winter Week of Light.  The event began with a lantern parade from the centre of Keswick to the shores of Derwentwater and ended with a celebration of music and fire to welcome Spring.

Much of my weekend was spent helping the specialist pyrotechnic guys prepare for the firework display.  Rafts for the fireworks had to be built then transported and put in place at the foreshore.  We had no idea how many people would turn up - much depended on the weather.  On the day, it was dry and we stopped counting people at 1200.  We estimated there must have been 1600 or more who paraded from the centre of Keswick to the lake shore.  Lots of them were children carrying lanterns containing tea-lights.  They had been making those in workshops held by Naomi, who organised the event.  At the shore, music was provided by two choirs.  The children’s choir charmed us all with a spring song.  The finishing touch to the evening was a superb firework display set against the mountain sky-line and reflected in the lake.

Monday began with the dismantling of the rafts etc. and the general clearing up that you would expect after a large event.  Later in the week there was a bit more clearing to do at another site where people had lit a fire and probably enjoyed a little social event.  It’s a shame though that some people don’t leave sites as they would want to find them and there was some broken glass to be cleared.
I ended the week by going off to the NEC in Birmingham for a few days to take part in the Mountain Rescue National Display.  Nine representatives of five North Lakes teams demonstrated aerial rope-work.