Friday, 19 June 2015

Landscaping and path repairs for the hydro-electric scheme

Last summer work commenced on building a 100kW hydro-electric scheme at Stickle Ghyll that would provide enough clean energy to power Sticklebarn. Sticklebarn is the only pub that is both owned, and run by the National Trust and is conveniently situated at the bottom of Stickle Ghyll. An engineering project of this scale has obviously created a sizable visual intrusion so we were tasked with helping to reinstate the area and return it to a more natural state.

Our first job was to repair the section of path next to the bridge and intake weir, where the water storage tank is located. After the tank had been installed the path was initially graveled, skimmed over with soil, and piles of rock were left along the edge of the path.

 Before starting work

We gathered much of the usable rock by hand and moved it up to the path, in addition we brought in some extra rock that had been generated during the engineering work to make sure we had enough. The job was complicated by the first few metres of path being sat directly upon the large concrete water tank but it wasn't too long until the new path was starting to take shape.

 Pitching the new path

Once the path was completed we set to work on landscaping the path to help it blend back in with it's surroundings. We brought in several tonnes of topsoil to cover over the spoil and gravel that had been generated while building the stone path. This was either shoveled or moved by power barrow to where it was required. We then dug in surplus rock and re-positioned some of the larger boulders, turf was added to a few spots and the whole area was covered liberally with grass seed.

 Freshly landscaped path

We've been closely working with some local contractors on the larger areas of landscaping, their main work has been moving the topsoil and reprofiling with diggers. Once we'd moved the usable rock from the lower side of the path the contractors dumped several loads of soil for us to spread next to the path.

 Landscaping the lower side of the path

In just a few weeks the seed was starting to grow and the path was again starting to fit in with it's surroundings.



 Path starting to recover

The photograph below shows the wider area before we started and the rock pile that was used for building the path.

 Rock pile next to path

With the new path in place, a lot of extra topsoil and several bags of grass seed the whole area has now been transformed. We'll continue to reseed the area through the summer and, given a little time, the area should once again be looking great.

 New path with the seed starting to grow

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Repairing the path on Helm Crag

As part of our continuing repair work on the Helm Crag path, we recently arranged a weekend work-party with the Fix the Fells volunteers. Our task was to continue a section of path using the subsoiling technique, which you can read all about in a previous blog post here...National Trust Working Holiday on Helm Crag. The photograph below shows a section of completed subsoiled path, just before the area to be worked on.

 Recently repaired section of path

The work involved linking the path that we'd previously repaired to the original path-line. In the photograph below you can see the original, eroded path to the left of the photo and a bare area of grass to the right where our new path will go.

 Where the new path joins the old path

In just a few hours, most of the path had been dug off and we managed to find plenty of the red sub-soil which makes an excellent topping for the path.

 Digging out the path

We blocked off the old path (which you can see leading to the right in the following photograph) with some large boulders and used some excess soil to cover the eroded areas. At some point in the next week we'll put some grass seed down on this fresh soil to help green up the area.

 Looking down the new path

By the end of the day we'd completed the path and a turf-lined side drain which will now provide a more sustainable surface on the route to the summit.

Almost completed path

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Repairing the path at Aira Force

Since finishing the tree cages we've mostly been working over at Aira Force, carrying out some urgent path repairs. One section we've been working on can be seen in the photo below. It shows the original path to the right, which people had started to avoid due to the bedrock that is protruding. A new, lower path had started to form, which is potentially dangerously close to a steep drop down to the river.

 Before starting work

Firstly, we moved some large rocks from the original path to form an edge to the lower path. Any bedrock sticking up into the new path was broken with crowbars and sledgehammers until it was low enough to cover with gravel.

 Starting to build up the edge

As well as using the stone from the old path, we gathered some large boulders from higher up the bank to continue the edging. This would help keep people away from the edge of the river bank and give us a suitable edge to gravel against.

 Edging almost completed

The next job was to dig a trench to divert any water off the new path; this fed into a pipe underneath the path and out into the river. Ideally we'd have built a stone drain but there was not enough suitable material nearby so we had to make do with plastic pipe, though we made sure it was well concealed.

 Digging in the drain pipe

With the new edging and drainage in place all that was left to do was the graveling. We put some turf over some of the path edges and we 'll put grass seed down to help the soil revegetate more quickly and soon you'd never know the other path existed. The new path is now much safer, easier to use and a much better line. It'll allow people to enjoy there surroundings and not have to think as much about where they're walking.

Turfing the freshly graveled path

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Hanging a new gate and building tree cages

Over the past few weeks we've continued our lower-level work around Grasmere, Great Langdale, Troutbeck and Windermere. One of our jobs was to replace a gate at the top of Deerbolts Wood near Loughrigg Common. As you can see in the photograph below, the old gate had certainly seen better days. The long-term plan is to have an oak gate at this site to match those at High Close Gardens and help to identify the site as part of the High Close Estate. But with it being such a well used path it needed a temporary fix, so we decided to replace it with a softwood gate.

 Old gate ready to be replaced

The new gate is a massive improvement, even if its only temporary. When the time comes to hang the permanent oak gate, this gate will be re-used elsewhere. As part of our continuing improvements around High Close, we've already started installing new 'High Close Estate' signs in strategic locations. There's been lots of work done over the past couple of years around High Close and if you've never been, it really is worth a visit. You can see a photo gallery of some of the work here... High Close Gardens Restoration

 Newly hung gate

We've also spent a fair amount of time tree-planting and constructing tree cages in conjunction with our farm tenants. The tree cages below were built on one of our tenanted farms near Orrest Head, Windermere. A single native tree is planted in each cage, which is designed mainly to keep cattle from grazing or pushing against the trees, giving them time to properly develop into large standard trees.

 Constructing one of the tree cages

It's nice to think that in a hundred years time the saplings that have been planted in these cages will be a feature of the landscape overlooking Lake Windermere.

Finished tree cage

Monday, 2 March 2015

Replacing step stiles & laying a hedge.

Over the last few weeks we've continued our estate work around Langdale valley. Our first job was to lay a section of hedge next to the road near Loughrigg Tarn.

Hedge ready to be laid 

The hedge was predominantly Beech and contained a few trees that had been previously laid before. Some of the trees were over 15cm diameter, making it extra difficult to lay with just billhooks and pruning saws.

Laying the hedge

As the hedge was planted sometime ago, some of the hedge plants had already died off, which left several gaps in the hedge. Fortunately the hedge didn't need to be stock proof, otherwise we would have been better coppicing the Beech and planting some additional saplings. The main function of this hedge is to provide some extra habitat for nesting birds. When laying the hedge we managed to fill in most of the gaps but we'll reassess it over the year and perhaps add a few more saplings if required, either way it'll provide some nice nesting habitat for a variety of bird species.

Section of newly laid hedge

Our next job was to replace a couple of old step-stiles behind the back of the National Trust campsite in Great Langdale.

 Old step stile

When possible, we prefer to replace step-stiles with kissing gates as they are a bit more user friendly for people, but in this instance the farmer who grazes the land had requested that the ladder-stiles were replaced as it stops the risk of the gate being stuck open and sheep getting into the neighbouring field.


 Starting work on the new stile

We removed the old stile and had to work quickly as it was tricky getting over the wall with no stile in place. Luckily it was fairly quiet and we managed to help the few passing walkers over the wall. 

New treads in position 

Once we had the treads in position the pressure was off as it was at least possible to get over the wall.

The finished stile 

The final job was to add the platform to the top and the stile was complete. While working on the second step-stile a little further along the path a walker came by and told us he rated our first stile as "7 out of 10". We thought this a little harsh and were tempted to walk back to the stile with him, armed with a spirit-level and tape measure, and find out where we had dropped points. He obviously hadn't appreciated the accuracy down to just a few millimetres, or the perfect spacing between the treads on the platform, or the fact that that each tread was pretty much bang-on level! Needless to say we just smiled and let him get on his way. So if you happen to be out walking the path and use the new stiles (and rate them 9 or above) please do get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Creating the new entrance into Stagshaw Gardens

Just before Christmas we spent some time improving access at Stagshaw Gardens, near Ambleside. Our work was to create a new entrance way next to the main car park that would mean visitors can enter the garden directly, without walking past the house.

Before starting work

The first job was to remove a couple of small shrubs that were in the way of the new path. The entrance needed to remain deer-proof so we started by erecting the gate in the garden before we adjusted the original fence line,

Starting work on the new entrance

The new gate was an obvious spot for deer to enter the garden so we made the gate higher with wooden rails to make it more secure.

Digging in a post for the new gate

Once the new gate was finished we altered the fence line to open-up the area and give us space to add an interpretation board at a later date.

Newly adjusted fence line

With the gate and fence completed it was time to start gravelling the new path.

Gravelled entrance

We continued gravelling through the gate and joined up with one of the original garden paths.

Nicely joined up with the garden path

Once we'd finished gravelling we moved the shrubs that we'd dug out at the beginning into a new position behind the fence to the right of the new gate.

All finished

By next summer the areas of bare soil should be nicely greened up and the new entrance to Stagshaw should look even more inviting.

Completed entrance

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Footpath repairs at Dale Head

After we finished our work up at Esk Hause, and inbetween working at Gowbarrow, we also had a few weeks working with the North Lakes Team over at Dale Head in Borrowdale. This work was partly funded by the British Mountaineering Council Access & Conservation Trust who kindly donated £7,000 and also by a £600 donation from Kendal Fell Walkers.

Replacing a section of path at Dale Head

The path at Dale Head had previously been worked on but, due to a lack of drains, water has run down the path which has in some areas caused the stone pitching to fall out. The steepest sections of the original path are also extremely difficult to walk down and now that techniques have changed we can also remedy this. You can see in the photograph above the section where we were working, with some old-style pitching just below the worksite.

The work at Dale Head involved replacing the steepest sections of path and incorporating more stone drains to shed water away from the path.

New stone pitching

Although it's not immediately obvious from the photographs this section of path is a really steep section. The new path has been put in so that the stones aren't set at a steep angle, there's plenty of space to get a full boot on each step and the path also meanders to take out some of the gradient.

Landscaping the new section of path

As usual once the path was completed we set about landscaping the area around the path to help it blend in with it's surroundings. Any overhanging banks next to the path were graded to reduce any "hard edges" next to the path. Turfs that were removed while building the path were then used where the banks had been graded to make the path merge seamlessly with the fell side. Finally, grass seed was put down on areas of spoil and between the stones used to build the path. 

Looking up the newly landscaped path