Monday, 28 November 2011

Sheep-proofing a SSSI.

Last week saw me with a group of regular volunteers returning to work in Cat Ghyll.  The ghyll, which runs alongside Great Wood and up Walla Crag, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  SSSI is a conservation label applied to protect sites of biological or geological interest.  What makes Cat Ghyll special is that it is home to some rare lichens.  (Lichens tend to be rather modest in appearance but for scientists they are highly-valued for their sensitivity to a wide range of environmental stressors like air quality and climate change.)

The long haul up the ghyll.
A well-earned rest stop!
Time to enjoy the view.
The protection of the site has been the Trust’s responsibility for some years now and we have been working on a long-term (200 years!) project to establish a corridor of hardwoods, mainly oaks, from the lake shore to the top of Walla Crag.  As part of that, it is essential to exclude grazing sheep from the site so that natural regeneration can take place.  Last week we needed to replace a rotting gate post.  In itself, that’s a relatively simple job but we had to carry all our materials up there before we could start so it actually took most of a day to complete.  But our volunteers don’t let us down and they did another great job.

Out with the old!
The sheep aren’t the only threats  of course.  Some time ago we put in place a stone pitched path to narrow the footprint made by walkers.  It’s human nature to find a stable route to walk and by providing that, we find that people don’t stray onto surrounding vegetation.  It’s all aimed at trying to find the best balance between the uses of the landscape and its protection.

Good job done.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Autumn glories

A big job this week was to start working around the shore of Derwentwater doing litter picking.  Of course litter picking is a regular feature of our year but now that the vegetation is dying back we can see the stuff that has been hidden for some time.  Once again I had a great group of volunteers working with me.  We know that we have many more unsung volunteers.  Huge numbers of dog-walkers routinely take a carrier bag and collect litter.  Most fell-walkers will bring down any litter they come across.  Taking a bag when we go out is something we can all do easily and keeping the area tidy discourages careless littering from others.  We can all compensate for that day when the gale blew the wrapper out of our hand and whisked it beyond reach!

Some of the rewards for litter-picking in our area are to be seen in the following pictures – morning mist on the lake and a skein of geese being just two of them.  On sunny days the place is a blaze of colour from the copper of the bracken to the reds of the rowan and holly berries.   Keats nailed it when he wrote about the "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'!

We were hoping to see otters because we now have a healthy population of them in Borrowdale.  They have been breeding in the valley for the last ten years.  I have seen and heard them a number of times and one of our recruiters has also frequently seen them from the Kettlewell car park between 10 and 11 am.  No luck this time but we’ll get lucky one day.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Autumn pleasures.

After a busy summer with several working weekends, I had accumulated enough leave to be able to take time off for a trip to the Ardnamurchan area.  Jan and I searched on-line and found Loch Shiel House Hotel which suited our needs very well.

 We took our bikes and just cycled around enjoying the great landscape and looking for wildlife.
On one of our outings we made use of a Forestry Commission hide on the loch shore.  It was a brilliant location with the additional advantage of being very accessible for wheelchairs.  We spent the best part of a day there watching a couple of otters and several seals – the otters were stealing the show and we didn’t immediately notice the seals! 

Look for an otter and a seal!

Soon after returning home to the Lakes I had a call asking for advice about what to do with an otter cub that had been found in an outbuilding.  It had been left undisturbed all day but was beginning to ‘cry’. The best advice in that situation is to call the RSPCA who have the knowledge and skills to deal with it.  In this case the cub was not there the following morning so either the mother had eventually returned for it or the RSPCA had made an early collection!

One of several dogs on the guided walk.
As part of the Trust’s walking festival 13 people joined my guided walk taking in Walla Crag, Falcon Crag, Ashness Bridge and the return to Great Wood via Falcon Crag.  Red squirrels, red deer and peregrines made appearances and we were also able to look at footpath management in Cat Ghyll and moorland management on Armboth Fell. 

Derwentwater in middle ground, Bassenthwaite Lake on horizon and another of the accompanying dogs.
The weather could not have been better – mainly sunny and clear visibility which was ideal for showing autumn colours at their best.