Saturday, 30 April 2011

More great volunteers and a couple of four-legged companions.

I spent last weekend with a voluntary group of people from Yorkshire – 19 on Saturday and 15 on Sunday.  This is a group that has been coming each year for more than 10 years now and there are often familiar faces returning for another session.  This year they managed to build 250 metres of stock-proof fencing in just two days – a fantastic achievement.  If I’d been working alone, I might have just about managed to take down the old fence in the same time so they really make a great contribution.

Meg and Reiver planning their next move.

During the week I went to a Mountain Liaison meeting that comes around every 6 months.  This is where the National Trust, the National Park Authority, Natural England, the BMC (British Mountaineering Council) and representatives from the Army (they use the Lake District for training) get together to discuss issues such as access or any potential problems.  There is increasing demand for organised outdoor events that have to be planned carefully to minimise conflict between different needs and expectations.

Let's start with a spot of scrambling ...

As the busy Bank Holiday period approaches and we have had prolonged dry weather, we are now prepared for potential fires.  There is still a lot of dry bracken and not much green growth on the fells so the fire risk is high.  Many of us will be on duty over the weekends hoping that we can deal with problems quickly.  I did manage to take some time off during the week for a spot of climbing.  The rock was warm and dry – great conditions.

... followed by a cool-off ...

This week I’ve had an extra dog companion.  Meg is a daughter of Reiver’s who is now owned by friends and when they have a holiday, she comes to stay with us.  It’s noticeable when they are together that the younger Meg is so much bigger than Reiver but they are good friends!  

... and then a good shake.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Force Crag Mine

Force Crag Mine

I’ve mentioned our work at Force Crag Mine a few times now so I thought I’d tell you a bit more about it.  It is situated in a superb, wild position at the head of Coledale Valley above Braithwaite village and was the last working mine in the Lake District.  Between 1839 and its closure in 1991, it was mined firstly for lead ore and then for zinc and barytes.  Over its lifetime there has also been a significant amount of silver extracted.  Now it is a SSSI (site of special scientific interest) and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Force Crag Mine and Braithwaite in distance

The buildings that you can see today contain the ore-refining machinery that was being used until it closed. It is the most complete collection of processing equipment of its kind in the country. The National Trust now owns the site and there are several guided open days per year for visitors.  This is one reason we are working to find the best way to clean up the contaminated water that flows from the mine.

Mine buildings and water outflow

On Thursday April 28th, from 10.30 am until 3.30 pm you can join a guided tour to explore the mill. For details and to check dates of other open days contact the National Trust, Borrowdale on 017687 74649.

This week the Mountain Rescue Team had a slightly unusual call-out.  Max, a collie, had fallen 30 metres into Cat Ghyll Ravine.  In the words of Max's owners, "The two team members who walked up to where we were waiting went out of their way to keep us informed.  The other two who walked up the stream bed to rescue Max, also showed great dedication.  They not only carried a wet and bedraggled Max back down the stream but were also kind enough to carry him back to their vehicle."  We eventually had email to tell us that "After a lot of sleeping, he is walking around, albeit rather slowly and stiffly and we are hopeful for him making a complete recovery."

Friday, 15 April 2011

Path repairs

The main job this week was to reinstate an ‘access for all’ path that runs along the side of Catbells – this is a path that enables access for wheelchairs so it needs to have a level surface.  Last winter was generally quite dry but there were occasional heavy downpours where the water flowed over the path creating some gullies so some sections of the path needed levelling and resurfacing. 

Winter damage to path

Now that it is level again it is possible for visitors to get away from the road and traffic on a path that is in a fantastic elevated position looking across Derwentwater to the eastern side of Borrowdale. 

Repair underway
 In clear, sunny weather the views are spectacular.  In wet, windy weather there is a great sense of isolation and escape.

View across Derwentwater.
The Easter break is rapidly approaching now so we are expecting large numbers of people to be arriving soon.   From now the Trust’s ranger service will operate seven days per week so we will be on 7 day rotas. 

If you spot Reiver, I'll be close by!

We have already had some problems with litter and fires and it’s inevitable that there will be more as visitor numbers rise.  Rangers will be busy clearing sites where necessary, checking that there are no avoidable dangers and generally communicating with visitors about the area and perhaps recommending appropriate walks and activities.

All we need now is for people to dress for the weather and to get out and enjoy themselves. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Oaks and frogs to new homes. Children and new 'friends'.

One of our developing projects is an ‘adopt an oak tree’ scheme.  Tree seedlings have been grown from local Keskadale acorns to be planted in the Falcon Crag area.  Over the weekend I went with friends and their children who had agreed to be photographed to launch the scheme.  As soon as the details are finalised, I’ll let you know how you can adopt your own oak.

Reiver supervises planting oak seedlings

Monday began with a slightly unusual task.  A trust-owned house in Grange is being renovated and a pond in the grounds needed to be drained.  Our regular Monday volunteers got to work doing that and found a resident population of frogs that had to be rescued and relocated.  They were carefully transferred to their new home in a pond nearby.

How many frogs?

Of all our projects, one of the most enjoyable is sharing our knowledge and love of the Lakes with as many people as possible.  That often includes working with school groups.  This week Jessie and I led a guided walk for a group who were staying at the YHA in Borrowdale.  We walked from the hostel to Stonethwaite where a local farmer gave some of her time to talk about local farming practice.  

Mutual curiosity!

Popular ponies.

One aspect of our landscape that is not immediately obvious is its industrial legacy.  There are many old mineshafts scattered around the fells that could be dangerous to the unwary.  This week I spent some time visiting these with a group of volunteers who will monitor the sites to make sure that safety fences and warning signs are in good order - an interesting outing but the weather was particularly inclement!

I ended the week at Derwentwater with Naomi (our foreshore development officer) and more of our volunteers.  This is a group who will become ‘welcomers’ to visitors to the stretch of the lake shore along to Friar’s Crag.  They will be there to talk to visitors about the area; to answer queries and to generally make visits more enjoyable. 

You will have realised that there are many different opportunities to volunteer for the Trust.  Check the following link if you are interested.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Fire, fences & stone circle

Over the weekend I took my bike for an outing – part of my keep fit efforts.  Returned to find there was a report of a fell fire on Skiddaw.  We have had a long dry spell of weather and there is a lot of old, dry vegetation that will burn easily.  Trust rangers and the mountain rescue team often join the fire service to deal with these.  This time it was close to a road so the fire service could use tenders and hoses to quench it but sometimes the only way is for as many people as possible to tackle the fire with beaters.
Fire fighting close to a road.

Library picture:  Fire on upper slopes that was much more difficult to extinguish.

Monday was spent working with volunteers at Friars Crag repairing a fence that had been damaged by winter storms.   It’s lambing time and a farmer is planning to do his lambing in that field so needed a stock-proof fence.  The early lambs, the catkins and the daffodils mean that the Lakes are looking at their spring-time best.

Lamb-proofing a fence

During the week we had a day of planning meetings and a day of taking delivery and storing wood for future projects.  We use a lot of wood.  Then it was back to outdoor projects like repairing the jetty on the island, making an early start to complete a car-park job before visitors started arriving and then on to hanging new gates at Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Repairing jetty

New gate to stone circle

Those who know Castlerigg will know that it is in a magnificent location.  It is about 5000 years old and is one of the most visited of the stone circles.  It was acquired in 1913 by a group including Canon Rawnsley who was a co-founder of the Trust.  The Trust has recently been working to improve visitor access whilst protecting the site.  New information boards have also been installed.  If you have not seen it before, it is well worth a visit. has some good pictures but you really need to visit to feel its true glory.