Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Indispensables.

Last week some of us turned our attention to recruiting more volunteers to the Trust’s team - the Trust could not do all that it does without its volunteers. (Indeed, the Trust was founded in 1895 by 3 volunteers and by last year we had 55,000.)  Jean and Jean, who are themselves volunteers, co-ordinate communications for our North Lakes team.  Theatre by the Lake generously allowed them to use the theatre foyer to mount a display to illustrate some of the work we have done and several people were there to talk about the wide range of opportunities.  Ten people ‘signed up’ on the day which was a great result for J & J.

Theatre by the Lake foyer
Plenty of choice!
Whoever walks through the door, we should be able to find them a role that’s right both for them and for us.  You could litter-pick while walking the dog, help with administration, work out with practical jobs such as repairing gates, be house stewards at Wordsworth House …  we can find something to suit your interests  and your available time.

Contact J or J to discuss joining our team.
We are now also planning a year ahead for working holidays – next year there will be 2 week-long holidays and 2 four-day long weekends in the Borrowdale area.  Because these are larger groups, we tend to involve them in larger projects such as creating access-for-all footpaths, resurfacing footpaths and the installation of the recycled board walk at the southern end of Derwentwater.  The following are examples of some brilliant teams we have had recently.

Creating an access-for-all footpath

The morning rush hour.

A new board-walk from recycled materials.

The Elizabethan dam maintenance team.

Resurfacing a footpath

Briefly, these will be groups of 12 - some of them come alone and make good friends.  They make a nominal payment for food and accommodation that will be either in Isthmus Cottage with its views down Derwentwater or a camping barn in a stunning elevated location at High Snab Farm.  There will be much more information in due course – check at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-trust/w-volunteering.htm  where you will also find information about local volunteering and voluntary internships for your career development.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Viking sheep!

Shearing sheep (or clipping as it is known hereabouts) may sound like an unusual way to choose to spend part of a weekend but that is exactly what a group of ten Venture Scouts did recently. They also made a significant contribution to repairing a dry-stone wall.  

What do you think of 'our' bit of wall?
To round off their efforts, we took a walk up to a reservoir that serves a farm and cleaned out the filters.  The dam up there dates from Elizabethan times and is a scheduled ancient monument that the Trust maintains.

Standing on an Elizabethan dam.
All this took place at the Trust’s High Snab Farm in Newlands Valley where the Scouts were accommodated in the camping barn.  High Snab is a name that derives from the 10th & 11th century Viking settlement of the valley and it is likely that the Herdwick sheep that are typical on the Cumbrian fells are also Viking in origin – the first documentary record of the name was in the 12th century.  Herdwicks are unusual in that they graze on unfenced common land and have an inbuilt instinct to keep to one area of fell.  They are said to be hefted and that is also a word with Viking origins.  Lambs somehow learn the behaviour from the ewes and become hefted to the same area – no need for fences or walls to keep them to their home territory.

Tom shows the expert way to do it.
Once they had tried it themselves, it’s probably fair to say that the Scouts were amazed at how quickly Tom had clipped a sheep.  Even though he was taking it at a slower pace because he was talking to them about the process, he still did it in one and a half minutes.  Professional shearers who work around the world can clip 600 sheep per day!

Jenny - half way and still smiling.
Unfortunately, after all the hard work, the fleece from one sheep costs 80p to clip and is worth just 40p at present – clipping is carried out for the animal’s welfare. 

Would make a great hearth rug!

Maybe not the neatest haircut but it will do the job!
The Trust now works with its hill farmers to find ways to make it viable for them to continue to farm sheep.  The sheep have had a big part to play over the last thousand years in shaping the landscape now enjoyed by millions of visitors.  Our visiting Venture Scouts have now made their contribution to that.

... and of course I had to do my bit.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

From chainsaw to children.

The week began with some chainsaw work to clear branches from a path in Cockshot wood and also to cut down a tree in Braithwaite village.  The Parish Council had expressed some safety concerns about it and they were right.  Parish Councils, local residents and keen walkers are all good allies in sounding early alerts about things that need quick attention.

I’ve had another work experience student with me this week, Matthew from Keswick School.  It’s always good to have someone keen to join in with the Trust’s work.  He shared the task of installing a new interpretation panel in Rosthwaite car park and also helped with leading a walk for school groups from Glaramara to Nook Farm at Rosthwaite. 

Matthew finishing off sign installation.
Once we arrived at the farm, the farmer, Stanley, gave the children a close look at some sheep and lambs as he told them something about life and work on hill farms.

  We moved on to a field where he showed how his sheepdog can cover a lot of ground and quickly round up a flock.  The dog then entertained the children by ending his shift with a flourish – check the photograph.

The sheep know where the dog is!

Job done so homeward bound!

I rounded off the week by joining Geoff (a Ranger) over at Buttermere where a group worked on repairing a dry-stone wall.  Our dogs just pottered around having a nice day.