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)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Footpath repairs at Aira Force

Since our last post we've spent a fair amount of our time working at Aira Force, on a section of footpath above High Cascades.

Old path

The section of path that we've been working on had previously been repaired many years ago, but as the path was a bit "rough and ready" visitors were avoiding it which had caused the area next to the path to become eroded. This can be seen in the photograph above.

Path before commencing the rebuild

As the area is not very accessible, it was decided that some of the stone would be flown to site by helicopter. This was supplemented with useable stone from the original footpath and additional stone that we were able to gather from the surrounding area using our mechanical power barrow.

 Completed lower section of path

To make the path blend in a little better, we adjusted the line to make it snake through the site rather than cut through in a straight line. The line was partially dictated by bedrock, which came to the surface at a couple of locations. To avoid having to chip away too much, we gave it a wide berth where possible.

Working in the snow 

Our work was hampered on a couple of occasions by heavy snow which prevented us getting over to Ullswater or making it impossible to safely move large stones around. But on days with just a light scattering of snow we continued regardless.

 Middle section after moving rock to site

After a few weeks of work we had pretty much completed the stone path. The new path is much more user-friendly and incorporates a couple of large stone drains to shed water away and prevent damage.

 Middle section after completing the stone work

Unfortunately, due to the pressing job of gathering stone for our upland repairs, we weren't able to complete all the landscaping work in time. So we're hoping to get a bit of time later on in the year to tidy away some of the leftover rock and reseed the area and then the new path will be looking better than ever.

Completed top section of path

Monday, 5 March 2018

Tree planting in Grasmere and peat bog restoration work in Ullswater

It's been a busy few weeks since our last post so here's a taster of what we've been up to.
        
Earlier on, in mid-February, we spent a week tree planting on the slopes of Helm Crag. The work was funded by Natural England. We planted 1800 scrub woodland species over an area of 6 hectares, working alongside other National Trust staff and assisted by some of the Fix the Fells volunteers.

As the trees develop, they will help stabilise the soil and reduce rainwater runoff. They will also provide a valuable habitat for birds, such as Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer, mammals and insects.

You can read in more detail about the work on the Central and East Lakes Rangers blog... here, so here are just a selection photos of the work over a very wintery week.

Having a quick debrief on the first day

Planting out the trees

Looking towards Dunnmail Raise on the last day

Later on in the month we spent a day carrying out some peat bog restoration work up on Matterdale Common with the Ullswater team and staff from Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Over 70 per cent of peatlands in England are in a damaged state, often due to drainage, overgrazing, forestry or regular burning. This damage prevents the peat remaining waterlogged, causing plants to die off. Without vegetation cover, bare areas of peat are formed which rapidly erode. This damage can be repaired by revegetating and blocking drains to help raise the water table. 
The project has been overseen by Cumbria Wildlife Trust who've used digger contractors to do the main bulk of the work, but as a member of the Cumbria Peat Partnership we were eager to lend a hand with areas that couldn't be done with machinery.

Our main job was to plant heather on the bare areas of peat to help speed up the regeneration process.

 Heather plants ready to be planted out

So we took the trays of heather out into one of the two stock excluded areas on Matterdale Common and planted up in the barest patches.

Planting out the heather 

Areas of peat that have eroded (often as a result of grazing, historical peat cutting and water damage) may form steep banks, known as hags. These hags continue to erode, due to water flow and wind damage, forming large areas of bare peat that plants struggle to survive on.

By reprofiling the banks to an angle of around thirty degrees it gives the heather seedlings a much better chance to flourish. Many of the hags have been removed using the diggers but we were able to get to a few areas that the diggers couldn't reach and to also work on some of the smaller hags.

 Grading one of the peat hags

You can see the area where we were working in the photograph below and also the difference between the grazed and ungrazed areas. The area in the distance was fenced off about 10 years ago allowing heather and other peatland plants to return, this should further improve following the recent work.

Bundles of heather used for blocking drainage


You can learn more about peatland restoration on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website... here.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Woodland boundary repairs in Ullswater

After finishing our path repair work up at Hole in the Wall we've as usual, for the time of year, concentrated on working in the valley bottoms, so far mostly around Langdale and Ullswater.

Since the new year our main work has been carrying out repairs to a woodland boundary in Ullswater. The plantation where we've been working has been recently thinned which will allow more space for selected trees to develop and let more light get through to the woodland floor. This in turn should lead to an increase in woodland flowers and encourage a wider range of other species to use the woodland.

 Lower wall before repair

The work has consisted of two dry stone wall gaps on the east side of the lake below Place Fell. The lower gap had extremely tricky access with the wall being on top of a steep rocky slope which also meant a lot of carrying rock back up the hill before we could start.

 Lower wall after repair

The upper wall, although easier to access, was a much larger job and the stone was a lot more challenging being smaller and irregular.

 Upper wall before repair (bottom side)

 Upper wall after repair (bottom side)

We soon had both walls up and they will now hopefully last a good few years before being in need of any more repair.

 Upper wall before repair (top side)

To allow woodland plants to flourish the woodland ideally needs to be stock-proof. So the final job once we'd finished the walling was to reattach the wall-top-fence to make it difficult for both sheep and deer to gain access.

 Attaching the wall-top-fence to the upper wall after repairs

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Making progress at Hole in the Wall

Just a quick post with a few before and after shots of the path repairs at Hole in the Wall in Ullswater. We've been working on the path for around six months now so it's still very early days for the development of vegetation in the landscaped areas but it gives a good indication on how things are taking shape.

The following two photos are of the lowest section of path, that we completed first, so it's had the longest time to "green-up".

 Lower Section (before)

Lower section (after)

As we progress higher up the hill the work has been more recently completed so this is reflected in the development of the grass.You can see in the following two photos how we wind the path through the eroded area, this reduces the gradient and also helps the path appear more natural, much like the difference between a canal and a meandering river.

 Middle section (before)

 Middle section (after)

The final pair of photographs show a section of path towards the top. We've completed more work above it but the grass seed has only just started germinating.

  Upper section (before)

  Upper section (after)

We'll be back working on the path next year so we'll put more grass seed down on any bare areas and, if required, revisit the path in future years to put extra seed down. We'll then let nature do it's thing and allow any wild seeds from the surrounding vegetation take hold and eventually we'll be left with a much narrowed and sustainable footpath winding it's way through the heather and bilberry up to the Hole in the Wall.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

An update from Hole in the Wall

Over the last month we've been continuing our work over in Ullswater, on the footpath leading up to Hole in the Wall.

Building a stone footpath is slow work which is dependent on a wide range of variables such as; how hard the digging is, how busy the path is, the quality of rock, and the width of the path.

The following two photographs show roughly two months progress. In that time three of the team have worked on this section and roughly 30 metres of path have been pieced together.

Middle section, 21st June

Middle section, 16th August

Once a section of path is completed, it's time to landscape the path. The following two photos show the same bit of path before and after landscaping. The bank of spoil to the left has been levelled out, after removing any turf that would be covered over in the process, and this has been used to edge the path. Surplus stone has been dug into the ground around the path to give it a more natural look, and finally grass seed has been scattered over the whole area.

Middle section before landscaping

 Middle section after landscaping

A section of landscaped path, further up from the previous photos can be seen below.

Freshly landscaped section of path

As we've moved higher up the path the digging has become more challenging. The path has become littered with large boulders and sections of bedrock which all has to be removed before the new stone footpath can be built. Occasionally a boulder may be too large to move, or the bedrock too hard to break and in those instances it can usually, with experience, be worked around.

Working in ground like this is obviously more challenging and tends to slow down progress, in addition more rock and less soil is excavated which creates more difficulties with landscaping.

 Removing a sizeable chunk of bedrock from the path

We’ve now completed just over half of the path repairs up at Hole in the Wall so we’ll be working through until late autumn and returning to finish things off in spring next year.