Friday, 25 December 2015

Gallery 2015

I've been having a busy time in the aftermath of storm Desmond but have finally put together a selection of pictures that illustrate some of the work we have done this last year. There is more heavy rain forecast but we just have to hope it isn't as bad this time.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The after-effects of storm Desmond.

I’m sure you will be aware from news reports that we had large amounts of rain last week in the Lake District. It caused quite a lot of isolated pockets of damage including a number of landslides. Fortunately most of the valley withstood the deluge remarkably well. At the head of the valley where the underlying rocks are the very hard Borrowdale volcanics, there has been minimal damage. The land slips have occurred mainly in the part of the valley where the underlying rocks are the softer slates.

Path washed away

More path damage

Our new footbridge survived ...

... but the path will need some repair.
We are working as quickly as we can to have everything repaired and made safe for access. Some of the Trust guys from Wasdale have come across to help and they are doing a sterling job. It won’t be too long before we are back to normal.

Some of the damage on Catbells.
Repairs underway

Culvert firmly in place
Bridge at Watendlath - closed as it is dangerous.

It’s sad to see the people of Keswick, Braithwaite, Cockermouth and indeed county-wide who have had their homes flooded yet again. Some, including my brother, have had this happen three times in recent years. It could have been so much worse though but the emergency services and community flood action groups did fantastic work to keep people safe.

Work underway to clear beck above Braithwaite.

The calm (and some snow) after the storm!

Daisy here: 

Everything’s changed on the lake shore. My favourite walk is not the same but it’ll be OK. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Winter work.

I’ve spent much of this last week preparing for a project in Braithwaite, a village near Keswick. There is a flooding problem on the Common in an area owned by the Trust so I’m going to replace the old, clay land drain that has collapsed in places with a new one made from modern materials. We hope that will solve the flooding problem for the foreseeable future.

My main concern at the start of this is the position of existing underground services. I’ve been able to find some useful mapping on the United Utilities website but there are lots of other things in the area I will need to find. Telephone lines, power cables, fresh water, waste water and gas pipes all run through where we will need to dig. So I’ve spent some time carefully surveying the area with a CAT scanner. This scan detects the location and then I dig test pits to establish exactly what is there.
The next step will be to bring in a mini-digger and the last thing we want to do is sever essential pipes or cables.

It is now several months since construction of the water treatment plant at Force Crag Mine was completed. The mine is no longer operational but contaminated water continues to drain from the workings. This new plant will clean up the water before it enters the streams, rivers and lakes of this area. This is a pioneering project and is a collaborative venture between the National Trust, the National Coal Board, the Environment Agency and Newcastle University so it is of some significance. As such it merited an opening ceremony last Friday carried out by Rory Stewart MP who represents our neighbouring constituency of Penrith & the Borders and is also a minister in the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

A huge amount of credit must go to John Malley, the National Trust’s water advisor who steered this project from its beginning. It must be immensely satisfying for him to see it complete and working well.

Winter is now here so our upland footpath rangers have come down from the high fells to work for me and other rangers in the Borrowdale valley. So I spent some time delivering stone for them to collect with their wheel-less wheelbarrows to take onward to their working site.

Daisy here. 

Poppet has come to stay. Poppet is a dog that lives with Roy’s mum and dad and she’s come to stay for a little while. It’s great. We love playing. I’m faster than she is but she can turn really quickly.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

From Fountains Abbey to a Borrowdale cave.

Last week I had another away-day when I visited Fountains Abbey near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The Abbey was founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks. At the height of its power, it owned extensive lands including Borrowdale.  Four hundred years after its foundation, it was stripped of its land and powers by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Its subsequent decline left us with the stunning remains that are now a World Heritage site.

The Abbey is a now a National Trust property that is very different from Borrowdale in many ways. What it does share with Borrowdale is the enormous number of people who visit and the on-going project of how to maintain accessibility whilst protecting the site. As usual, for me, there is always something to learn from visiting other places. I must be honest and admit that, although I’m really pleased that the Trust owns places like Fountains Abbey, my heart’s in the mountains. It was great to be back in Borrowdale.

My return was to a very wet Borrowdale! The lakes and rivers here do have an enormous capacity but, at this time of year, we can have days of heavy rain falling on already water-logged ground. The lake level then rises too quickly for the rivers to accommodate the increased discharge and we have some flooding, especially of the paths around the lake shore. Where the flooding will occur depends to some extent on wind direction as it is the waves that do the most damage. So, we’ll be out soon looking for the repairs that need doing.

Fortunately for my regular volunteers, we had a dry job to do. One of the legacies of slate mining in Borrowdale is a cave that was adopted as home in the early 1900s by a remarkable character named Millican Dalton. He had been living and working in London but he gave it all up to spend 50 years developing a sustainable way of living in this cave. The cave is now often used for overnight camping. Some years ago, the Trust had a geo-technical survey carried out in the cave. The recommendation was that we observe a clear-floor policy. If we keep the floor clear of loose stone, we will be able to see if there has been any fall from the roof of the cave. The survey found that the roof is sound but we should still check regularly for any falls. The Trust wants to keep the cave open but needs to know that it is safe to do so. Many campers like to gather stone and arrange it almost like a nest. So, at regular intervals, we need to clear the floor again. And that was a dry job that we could do during some pretty wet weather!

Daisy here.

 I’m sick of it raining now but I’ve got a new jacket. I like it when I put that on.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Fleeces and waterproofs needed.

Deer on the skyline.

Last weekend I had a change of scenery when I took a trip with a couple of mates to Braemar. The main purpose of the trip was to buy some cross-country skis for a trip we plan to make this winter. But of course we took the opportunity to walk in the mountains while we were there. 

What was remarkable was that we saw hundreds of hares, far more than we have ever noticed before. They were very easy to spot because they were already developing their white winter coats even though there had been no snowfall this year.

Spot the hares!

It turned out to have been the best place to be. When I returned, Jan told me it had rained heavily in the Lakes and the lake and river levels are indeed very high. Once back at work, I went with another ranger to check one of our paths and a section is already under a significant amount of water. As there is very heavy rain forecast and the ground is already saturated, we are likely to have much more flooding. Our hills play a big part in the process that sees high rainfall in this area. Westerly airflows bring across a lot of moisture much of which falls on us!

In preparation for a big project we will be starting soon, I spent some time with other rangers up around Surprise View. We have had a very kind donation from a member of the public to spend in that area and we are going to use it to improve path and car-park surfaces. As far as possible we will improve accessibility with this work although one section will be done primarily to protect tree roots. This is one of our most visited places and sheer numbers create a lot of wear.

After we had walked the area and I had talked them through how to estimate what is needed to do the job, we individually calculated the cost.  Each costing was within 5% of all the others. So now we need to schedule the work. Once it is complete, Surprise View will be wheel-chair accessible; all users will have a good path surface and this will protect the surrounding vegetation.

Daisy here.

 I’ve been running around in the rain. It’s great. I love it when it’s really, really windy.