Friday, 23 September 2011

More volunteers, heritage apples and the words of Wordsworth.

Wordsworth's House, Cockermouth 

This last week some of us had an enjoyable change of venue for our activities.  We held another volunteer recruitment fair at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth.  It was good to meet up with the House team.
Once again it was successful and Jean & Jean were well pleased with the number of people who signed up.  Some wanted to help with estate work such as forestry and building and others were interested in working indoors in the House café, the garden or in costume.

Garden restored after flood damage.
Go here to find out more about the House.

 The House and café are open until Sunday 30th October 2011. It is open Saturday-Thursday (closed every Friday) from 11am-4pm. Our info line number is 01900 820884, or email us at

The place for treats.
Apple Day is coming up on September 22nd.  We will celebrate apples from our garden (heritage varieties including the Keswick Coddlin and the Greenup Pippin) in the Georgian Kitchen where they make moreish recipes from the time when William was a child growing-up in Cockermouth.  Elsewhere in the house there will be apple poetry and in the café you will find apple-based chutneys to go with fresh cheese scones plus cakes and pies made from apples from the garden.   We have an apple pie and a spiced apple cake in the café most of the time at the moment, so there’s no need to restrict yourself to Apple Day!  They’re great with clotted cream on the side…

Your apples might even be served by one of our volunteers!

A good crop this year.

You can also go here to read up more about heritage apple varieties including those from our garden. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

“For ever, for everyone.”

You may have seen that the National Trust has launched a campaign to voice concerns about the Government’s proposed changes to the planning system in England.  These changes are set out in the draft National Planning Policy Framework which was launched for consultation on 25 July, with the consultation due to close on 17 October.

(The National Trust was founded in 1895 by three Victorian philanthropists - Miss Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley.  They were so concerned about the impact of uncontrolled development and industrialization that they set up the Trust to act as a guardian for the nation in the acquisition and protection of threatened coastline, countryside and buildings.)

Now, with this draft National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) published in July, the Government wants to change the planning system into a tool to promote economic growth above all else. The National Trust does support the need for economic growth – just not at any cost.  The following are major causes for concern.

Ø  The removal of much detailed guidance to local authorities leaves too much power in the hands of developers who will only need to show that their proposals will deliver growth for other important considerations (such as the impact on communities, nature and landscape) to be pushed aside.

Ø  Local people will have to rely on local or neighbourhood development plans to protect what they treasure and shape where development should go. Only half of local authorities have such plans in place. Where there are no plans there will be a presumption that development will proceed, unless local people can find the resources and specialist knowledge to prove that it will cause significant harm. In practice, the dice are heavily loaded to favour development.

So, we are asking you to show Government that the Trust is voicing your concerns about the apparent reduction in protection for our most precious places.  By taking this action, the Trust is doing exactly what it was set up to do – it is acting as a guardian on behalf of the nation.

Please sign our petition to the government – and encourage others to do so. You can find the petition online at

You could also write to your MP -  go to for contact details.
Posted by Ranger Roy NT 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New volunteers in action.

Last week was the first experience of NT volunteering for a number of people who joined us at the recruitment fair we held at Theatre by the Lake recently. They have a good mix of skills to add to our team. 
One group worked with me on Seatoller Fell where we built a 50m safety fence around a disused mine shaft – this was using the wood that had been hauled up there by the international group who featured in the blog a couple of weeks ago.  The weather was pretty good for this kind of activity.

Another good job completed.

Unfortunately the weather was not so good for the second group – a bit windy and wet.  Despite that, we still went up to Force Crag mine to continue with the work to protect the buildings from flood damage.  As you can see from the pictures, this is a large project and it has taken some considerable time to develop an effective solution to this problem.  What you are seeing in the picture illustrates the lining of the erosion channel with bags of local material and then camouflaging them with rocks.  This will strengthen the channel banks to minimize future erosion.

The new volunteers said that they had a good, satisfying time so we look forward to seeing them again.

I rounded off my week helping Jean & Jean with preparations for another volunteer recruitment event.  This time it is to be in Wordsworth House in Cockermouth.  Holding it there means we are more likely to find people who live in and might volunteer for our ranger Mark’s Buttermere area.

Friday, 9 September 2011

It beats gym membership!

A busy week began when I went to the Penrith campus of the University of Cumbria accompanied by one of our volunteers (a retired academic) to discuss the potential for collaboration between UoC and the Trust.  This is the earliest stage in what we hope will develop into beneficial outcomes for all involved and also for the environment.

I then met a group of eleven who were arriving for a working holiday.  

Keen to get started.
We spent two days in the Force Crag area  filling builders’ dumpty bags with material from a landslip on the approach road and using them to protect the listed buildings from erosion caused by the water flowing from the old mine.  Yet again there was an amazing amount of work done by another group of dedicated volunteers.

Work in progress to divert water away from listed buildings.

They had one day off to walk or canoe … and then returned to the work. We moved on to Myrtle Bay at the southern end of Derwentwater where we are in the final stages of creating an ‘access for all’ path around the lake.  

Many hands (plus spades and wheelbarrows) making light work.

The well-earned lunch break - and it wasn't raining.

The completion of this path will be a winning situation all round.  It will make a circuit walk of the lake possible for many more people.  Once it is accessible for wheel-chair users, it is also so for prams, children and others with mobility problems.  It creates a good walking surface that people will enjoy using rather than a muddy track that widens as walkers attempt to find a route through.  When we started this work some years ago, the path was 20m wide and it is now 1.5m of good quality surface.  

A good path in the making.

The vegetation beside the path can now flourish and a beautiful part of the world can be experienced by many more visitors without causing damage.

One of the sundew species (Drosera rotundifolia)

So, another group of people can go home proud of the part they have played in a major project.  It’s difficult to convey just how important our volunteers are.  They do some hard work but there are compensations ...

... the view from the accommodation.

Friday, 2 September 2011

An international effort.

I’ve just had an interesting and enjoyable week with a distinctly international flavour.  I’ve been working with young conservation volunteers from across Europe who have been staying in the Glaramara Centre in Borrowdale.  This is a scheme partially funded by the Foreign Office and partially by the individuals who participate.  This year it brought together groups from Malta, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy.  Each day we worked with a different group of 30 so there were fun and games as I did the all-important health and safety briefing with such a multi-lingual mix.

Begin with a briefing.
The successful outcome of all the effort was that we now have in place on Seatoller fell a large amount of timber that we need to replace a ladder stile and to fence an old wad mine shaft.  This is a task that would have taken the Trust staff many weeks to complete so these voluntary groups make a phenomenal contribution to our work.

There isn't an easy way to do this!
There's just hard graft and slightly easier graft ...
... but it's a great sense of achievement on the walk back.
Once that was complete, we took them around Stye Head Tarn and we did a drain run which involves walking up a pitch path and clearing blocked culverts and drains just to maintain the footpath.  It also gets the group into a mountain setting which they enjoyed very much.  

Footpath maintenance.
We hope they are now telling stories across Europe about how wonderful the Lake District is and also that their experience has strengthened their commitment to care of the environment.

A fine perch for a rest stop.
The week was rounded off with preparations for the arrival on Friday of a working holiday group - I need to have ready all the equipment that will be needed by them for the planned work around the lake.  More about that next week.