Monday, 4 February 2019

Wall repairs and deer exclosure at High Close estate

Since the new year, we've come down from the upper fells and have started doing some estate work around the valley.

Our first job was to repair a couple of sections of dry stone wall at Low Wood, on the High Close estate just outside Grasmere.

 Section 1 before starting work

With the wall keeping livestock out of Low Wood, it was important that the gaps were repaired quickly to prevent sheep from entering the woodland. This helps both keep the tenant farmer happy and also stops sheep entering the woodland and nibbling away at early woodland flowers such as Snowdrops and Lesser Celandine.

 Section 1 after repairs

As a small Ash tree was growing close to the wall, and was likely the cause of it falling down, we decided that the tree should be removed to prevent any further damage.

 Rear of Section 1 during work

Trees growing close to a dry stone wall can often destabilise it, especially during strong winds, either by brushing against the wall and loosening stones or by the root plate moving and damaging the wall from below.

 Rear of Section 1 after, with tree stump in foreground

Removing trees like this can also be beneficial by allowing more light into the woodland, which helps woodland flowers to flourish and also gives other trees more space to grow.

 Section 2 before starting work

The second section that we worked on was more pre-emptive as it had started to lose stones from half way down the wall and would likely collapse in the short term. The wall was stripped back beyond the area of collapse to where the wall was more stable and  repaired in the usual manner. Both wall gaps took roughly a day to repair.

 Section 2 after repairs

Our next job was to build a deer exclosure in a small woodland on the edge of Loughrigg Common. The area, known as Billy Plantation, had recently been thinned and as a bit of a trial we've put up a couple of deer exclosures to see how the woodland develops without any grazing pressure. If the trials go well we may look into stock proofing the whole plantation at a later date.

Erecting the deer fence on Loughrigg

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Finishing the footpath at Stone Arthur

Since our last post, we've finished our upland path repair work for the season; culminating in the completion of the footpath up Stone Arthur. You can see how the path looked prior to us commencing work in a previous blog post here... link

Lower Section (completed and landscaped)

There's still a lot of bare soil visible, as many of the photos were taken just before, or just after, putting the grass seed down. Although it was late in the year, hopefully the grass will start to germinate next spring. We'll have a look at it next year and put extra seed down if required.

The following two photographs show work on the tricky bedrock section. The surrounding area has since been landscaped by moving large quantities of soil on to the lower side of the path below the drain and then edging with turf (you can just see a pile of turf that was kept to one side on the left hand side of the second photo).

Building the drain on the bedrock section

Bedrock section after joining up to the middle section

The next series of photographs show the completion of the middle and top sections. The middle section turned out to be particularly wet due to water flowing just under the surface, out the bank and on to the path. To remedy this we dug out a long side trench (not pictured) on the bank above the path that fed into a stone drain.

Working on the middle section

Middle section joined to top section

Completed top section

Further up the path we worked on another section that had started to deteriorate due to people taking different lines while descending a section of bedrock. The damage was exacerbated by the volume of water that flowed down the path during wet weather.

Before starting work on the bottom section

Bottom section (completed and landscaped)

You can see how we've removed three separate paths and created one sustainable line. We've also incorporated three stone drains into the section of path to remove as much rainwater as possible.

Bedrock part of top section

This section of bedrock at the top was the root cause of much of the damage so the path was continued around it up to a point where the path started to flatten off.

Finished section before landscaping

Landscaped top section

With our Fix the Fells work completed for the year we'll now be working lower down in the valleys, on National Trust land, until next spring.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Revisiting Boredale Hause

We recently had a site visit over to the bridleway coming down from Boredale Hause to check how things were looking and catch up with the South Lakes team, who are still working up there.

Bottom section before starting work

 Bottom section (after)

This series of photographs shows how the path looked either prior to commencing work, or just after landscaping, and one month after the landscaping once the grass seed has started to grow.

 Lower section (before)

 Lower section (after)

You can immediately see the difference now the grass has started to grow, as the eroded area has been considerably narrowed. The erosion is wider in many places than can be seen in the photographs, as much of it is hidden by the piles of rock.

 Lower Section 2 (before)

  Lower Section 2 (after)

It's still early days for the grass growth, as the banks are still very mobile and it can easily be set-back by sheep, dogs, or people walking over it. If the grass can be left undisturbed for a year, it is much more likely to withstand walking on.

Sheep also have a tendency to be attracted to this fresh growth, but as it is just developing the sheep tend to pull the seedlings out by the roots as they are unable to cut through the grass with their teeth. This uprooted grass, of course, perishes.

 Middle section (immediately after landscaping)

  Middle section (one month later)

Most of the turf that was placed alongside the path, which had originally struggled due to the very dry summer, has now started to grow. This will help keep much of the soil off the path if disturbed by sheep wandering over the banks.

 Upper middle section (immediately after landscaping)

 Upper middle section (one month later)

It can take time for everything to properly settle down and it's also likely that some of the grass will die off during the winter, so we'll keep a close eye on things and carry some more bags of grass seed up when required.

Bedrock section (immediately after landscaping)

Bedrock section (one month later)

Monday, 17 September 2018

Repairing the footpath up Stone Arthur

About a month ago we started work on our second upland project of the year over in Grasmere, on the footpath up Stone Arthur.

 Rolling the rock into position

When we had the rock moved to site by helicopter last year it was impossible for the stone to be dropped exactly where we needed it. Because of the steepness of the slope and the presence of a large Sycamore tree many of the bags had to be dropped away from the area where we need to work.

 The rock on site and ready to use

Our first job was to roll several tonnes of rock down, and across, the hill to where we needed it for the path repairs.

 Lower section (before)

The main part of the job is to divert the footpath around an area that was badly damaged by a landslip during the Storm Desmond flooding. The original path-line skirts around the fellside a few metres below where we're working.

Lower section (after)

During the landslip that washed away the path, a large area of bedrock was exposed that proved difficult for many people to navigate. Because of this, numerous new paths were created and vegetation was being lost rapidly as water flowed through these newly trodden routes.

 Bedrock section (before)

You can see the new line of the path going up and around the area of exposed bedrock in the photographs above and below.

Bedrock section (after)

Much of the area is quite boggy, due to the hard ground and bedrock just below the surface (which caused the landslip as the overlying saturated ground washed away), so we've incorporated plenty of drainage to help keep water off the new path.

 Working on the middle section

We're also making use of a large gully that has been created by both water and walking boots, by diverting the path around on to an alternative route and turning the gully into a large drainage channel to help remove water from the area.

 Top section (before)

Due to the hardness of the ground and having to spend several days moving rock around the site, the job is progressing slightly more slowly than we'd have hoped. But once completed, the new path will make a real difference. We'll be able to remove several old paths, improve the drainage of the area, re-vegetate areas that have been worn down to the soil and make it much easier and safer for people out enjoying the fells.

Top section (after)

Monday, 6 August 2018

Continuing our work at Boredale Hause

We've been working on the path leading up to Boredale Hause for around three months now and although there's still a fair amount to do, it's really starting to take shape now.

When working on a long length of path like this, we each work on a stretch of about ten metres at a time. When that section is completed and joined up with the team member working above, we leapfrog higher up the path and continue like this until the whole length of path is finished.

Starting higher up the path

You can see in the photo below how the full width of the erosion is used to help meander the path, making it easier to walk on and reducing the visual impact.

 Completed section of path

Due to all the dry weather we've had this year, we've struggled getting grass seed to germinate on sections of path that we've landscaped and many of the turfs that were carefully removed while building the path have dried out and died.

Starting another new section

 Section almost completed

We've reseeded a couple of times and hopefully now that we're getting a few more showers, the grass will start to grow and cover the bare areas.

 Starting a new section while working around some buried bedrock

As we've moved higher up the path, we've started to encounter more areas of bedrock. Most of this is just below the ground surface and can be removed with a crowbar or sledgehammer if it's in the way of the path. Dealing with bedrock adds an extra layer of complexity to the process of building a path, as well as substantially increasing the level of exertion required.

 Approaching the bedrock outcrop

One notable section was a large outcrop higher up the path. Generally, exposed bedrock like this is much harder and more difficult to break. Since bedrock becomes slippery when wet, many people try to avoid walking on it, which causes more erosion in the area... exposing more bedrock, etc, etc. So rather than stopping the path at the foot of the outcrop, we continued around it until a weaker section was found that could be chipped out to form the new path line.

Continuing around the bedrock outcrop

The new path line works really well and we're also leaving access to the exposed bedrock section alongside the path for the more adventurous mountain bikers to descend.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Starting repairs at Boredale Hause

It's that time of year again and work has now officially started on this years upland path repairs. Our biggest project this year is repairing both the footpath and the bridleway that lead up to Boredale Hause which is a joint project with the South Lakes upland ranger team.

Work started towards the end of March by filling heli-bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass.

 Filling bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass

Due to the amount of rock required for the repairs (over 380 bags), we gathered rock from a second site at the end of Grisedale valley. Both rock collection sites are a good distance from Boredale so moving the rock was a long drawn out affair. The helicopter took roughly six minutes between each drop, which is two or three times longer than the average lift.

 Moving the stone to site

Once all the rock was in position, it was time to start on the repair work. The South Lakes team started on a lower section of the bridleway and we positioned ourselves higher up the path. All the photos are of this higher section.

 Lower Section (before)

 Lower Section (after)

As some of the repairs are on the bridleway, the Lake District Mountain Bike association was consulted for suggestions to make the path more easily passable on bike. It was decided that any undamaged stone culverts (underground drains) would be left in place and additional stone drains would be designed so that they could be circumnavigated.

  Lower-Middle Section (before)

 Lower-Middle Section (after)

We've only been working on the path for about two weeks at present so there's still a fair way to go, but you can see we're starting to make progress.

Upper-Middle Section (before)

 Upper-Middle Section (after)

To make the path easier to walk and ride on we're, as usual, trying to meander the path through the eroded area, this helps reduce the gradient and makes the step height a little lower.

Upper Section (before)

 Upper Section (after)