Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Mountains, valleys and coast.

This week saw the Keswick Mountain Festival and the Trust participated in several ways.  We held two appropriate outdoor events during the week and also at the weekend mounted a display about the work of the Trust and how important a contribution is made by volunteers.
One of the outdoor events was a beginners’ course in using maps and compasses – electronic gadgets can fail but good map reading and compass skills won’t!   The second was an ‘Archaeology at Altitude’ walk.  Many visitors to the Lakes don’t realise just how much evidence there is of historical human activities in what appears at first glance to be a ‘natural’ environment.  Newlands Valley alone has evidence of Bronze Age, Celtic, Viking and Elizabethan influences.  In the 16th Century German miners arrived to mine at the Goldscope Mine.  It yielded such riches that its name is derived from the German Gottesgab meaning  God’s Gift.

Goldscope Mine, Newlands Valley
In contrast with the mountain events, the Trust also held a coastal event at the weekend.  Chris (our Whitehaven Coast ranger) organised a sandcastle competition and tide-line walk.  The weather for this one could have been better but fortunately the damp, windy, overcast day did not deter everybody.  A few hardy characters (including me) built some very respectable sandcastles.  Some of us were revisiting distant childhoods and, it has to be said, we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Trainee architects?  (Footprints serve as a scale)
Once the tide was at its lowest, we were led by Chris along the old pier walls via rock pools and along the tide-line.  More childhood memories flooded back as we turned over rocks to see what might be lurking beneath.  It was great fun looking at the world through children’s eyes.

Four species on an A4 size space.
Our proud tally of findings included starfish, crabs, limpets, whelks, … and even some weaver fish.  

A rock-pool find
Despite the weather, it was a great day for us all.  Reiver and Chris’s dog Jess also had great days!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Building walls, feeding lambs and collecting eggs.

We have now had a return visit from the ‘Under the Big Blue Sky’ group of young people who come to experience a range of activities.  Katie was returning for a second visit.  This time we tried a new venture with Tom and Chloe who farm the Trust’s High Snab farm.  They are developing a camping barn to run ‘help the farmer’ experiences.  This group camped in the barn.  They brushed up their map and compass skills, tried some dry-stone walling and did some bottle-feeding of lambs. 

Katie and friends dry-stone walling.

Lambs can be orphaned or perhaps be taken away from a ewe that had too many to feed adequately.  Persuading a mother ewe to adopt an orphan is always tried but it sometimes doesn’t work.

Supper time!
On Sunday some of the group went navigating a route in Newlands valley using map and compass skills we had refreshed while others came to help with some work on an eroding stream bank.
The following are links to Katie’s blog and flickr pictures from her weekend.

During the week we had another school visiting from Liverpool.  John (who is a student on a work placement), Jessie and I took the group on a walk from the Youth Hostel to visit a farm at Ashness.  On the walks we talked about the things we saw along the way and why it is important to look after them. 
A good photo stop.

When we arrived at the farm, the farmer Anne took the children around to see the animals and talked about how to look after them and also about other things that happen in a farming year.  

Anne introduces a rooster.
These children were able to have close encounters with hens, pigs, cows, ducks, sheep and lambs.  Best of all, they could feed lambs and collect eggs – Anne had a way of making sure that the egg collectors always found eggs!  

... and more eggs.

Outings like this are hugely rewarding for us.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Homeless woodpeckers!

The May Bank Holiday Monday should have been one of my days off but a friend called to alert me to a fire in Castlehead Woods – its final extent was about 100m by 75m.  Cumbria Fire & Rescue now have light-weight hoses and we were able to carry them up the hill where the fire could be tackled with water pumped uphill from a hydrant.  It took 2 hours to put it out and by then it had done a lot of damage to the wood.  Somebody had enjoyed a BBQ and then built a fire that had not been extinguished.  The following morning was windy and the smouldering remains were stoked up and the fire took hold.  

Fire built in tinder-dry woodland - slight breeze could ignite the tree and ...
One of the tree casualties is an old oak that was used by nesting woodpeckers.  The fire had reached about 15 feet up the oak before it was stopped just before it reached the nest holes.  Later in the week I went to watch the tree for a while but there were no signs of the woodpeckers.  They have probably abandoned the tree.  Other trees will most likely die because of the heat of the fire around their roots.  Responsible camping is a great recreation but these are some of the consequences of reckless fire-building in unsuitable places.

A great day out island-hopping by canoe on Derwentwater.

This week was National Go Canoeing week and we cooperated with Chris Higgins of local providers Shearwater Adventures who provided canoes, expertise and instruction for a group.  We took them canoeing to the unoccupied islands on Derwentwater.  We visited each island and also had a walk through woods at Brandlehowe to see some of the Trust's work.  They had a fantastic day but were disappointed to see that some trees had been cut down for a fire. (It is just a small minority who do such things but they can do long-term damage.)

A tree cut down to burn - one less for birds, insects etc.

Might have been a good time for some but it's an eyesore to be cleared by others.

So, if you decide to camp, have a great experience but please be sure it is a sensible and permissible site, do no damage and always be vigilant about fire risks.