Monday, 28 March 2011

Preparations for the Helicopter Lift

After a couple of weeks of rock collection the helicopter lifts are now nearly upon us. So we’ve turned our attention to getting everything in place ready for the lifts.

First of all, we went to collect sixteen 25kg bags of grass seed that will be used to revegetate around the footpaths; this helps slow down any erosion and also helps the path to blend in with it’s surroundings a little more quickly. The seed, and a few bags of fertiliser, will be flown up to this years work sites, and also to a few other sites where we have worked in the past that still require a bit more greening up.

Our stockpile of grass seed in the seed store

When we’re working up on the fells, we can often be an hours walk from our vehicle, so it is really useful to have somewhere near to the work site to store any equipment, tools and grass seed that we may need. So at each work site we generally have a shed flown in. Our shed also provides us with somewhere that we can retreat to for our lunch when the weather is particularly bad, or on rare occasions it provides us with shelter from the midday sun in the summertime.

Usually each shed lasts for many years, just requiring a little strengthening or minor repairs from time to time if it has suffered any damage during strong winds. When we’ve finished work at a site we dismantle the shed and flat pack it, secure it with tension straps and weigh it down with rocks (just in case of any gales) so that it’s all ready to be flown to the next site. Unfortunately, somebody had decided they wanted to take the tension straps we’d used to secure the shed next to the path above Stickle Tarn. So when we went to check that everything was ok with it, we discovered that the shed had been ripped to bits by the strong winter winds.

So last week we went to pick up a new shed. The shed is 7' x 7' and custom built so that it can be made with thicker wood than your standard garden shed which in theory should help it last that bit longer. But when we came to unpack the shed we quickly realised that whoever had ordered it had forgotten to ask for any windows in it, so our shed was more like a (very dark) box. Luckily we had some clear perspex so we cut it to size and set about putting a window in .

Glazing the shed

The next job was to strengthen it a little. We did this by securing each corner with three heavy duty bolts, and in addition the floor was attatched to the sides of the shed with coach screws. This tends to hold everything together much more strongly than if it is all just held in place with wood screws.

Drilling the bolt holes

Finally, work began on felting the roof. Although the rain always manages to find it’s way into the shed, and you can pretty much guarantee that at some point, late on in the year, at least one member of the team will be sat having their lunch whilst trying to avoid drips from the roof, you’ve at least got to make the effort. So a thick layer of waterproofing was painted on to the roof and the felt tacked on over it, so fingers crossed and we’ll see how it lasts.

Felting the roof

So now all that’s left is to put out a few signs on the paths where the stone is being moved. These help to inform everybody about the helicopter operations, so that people know what’s going on and that there’s likely to be delays and possibly diversions. Hopefully we’ll get some decent weather on the days of our lifts, though at the moment the forecast isn’t looking great.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Collecting Rock for Footpath Repairs on Stickle Ghyll

Well it’s that time of year again when we need to collect rock for this years footpath repair projects. Traditionally the bulk of our footpath work takes place between March and November with each season normally commencing with the collection of rock to carry out the necessary work.

Although we use different methods for getting rock to the work site, including hand winches, petrol winches, power barrows and physically rolling the rock by hand, the majority of rock these days is moved by helicopter.

Of course before the helicopter can move the rock we need to fill the bags. This comes from a suitable site on the fell as near to the work site as possible and simply involves us selecting and ‘handballing’ the rock into the bags.

Filling helicopter bags with rock

For anybody whose interested in facts and figures, on average each rock we put into the bags will weigh about 100kg and each bag when full will weigh between 800 and 1000kg. We’ll each fill about 10 bags a day depending on how far we’ve got to walk to reach the rock collection site. On Stickle Ghyll we’ve filled 102 bags, which took 3 days, this included carrying all the empty bags to the site.

Lunch time

Job done!

Bag filling at this time of year does have its drawbacks, other than it being physically hard, the weather can change from one extreme to the other. This week we had a day of sunshine and summer-like temperatures followed by 2 days of rain with a maximum temperature of 5°C.
The worst weather we’ve experienced was blizzards with temperatures below zero with a wind chill nearing -20°C, we literally had to prise the rock from the frozen ground.  At times like this lunch lasts about 10 minutes!

Filling bags in -20 degrees Celsius

Filling bags in the snow

Monday, 14 March 2011

Creating a bird feeding station in Langdale

Last week was spent installing new bird feeders and a viewing station at Stickle Ghyll car park.
A small section of land next to the footpath leading up Stickle Ghyll was selected as a perfect site.  A few small trees had to be felled first to clear a way so that the feeders could be viewed clearly. Once this was done the old fence had to be taken down.

Removing the Old Fence

The fence was to be replaced with a 6ft hand made hazel fence. This type of fence was selected because it was more natural to the environment, and looked much better than installing a solid garden panelled fence.

First a number of 8ft post hand to be knocked into the ground to help support the hazel fence.

Driving in the posts

Once this was done rails could be nailed to the posts. These where used to help strengthen the fence and it also provided something that the hazel panels could be tied onto.

The new screen

Work is still underway but the new and exciting viewing area should be completed soon. So get your self down to Stickle car park in Langdale to view some exciting birds close up.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Bridge Building on the Elterwater Path Project

Everybody that goes walking will have had to deal at some point with the problem of crossing water, be it a tiny trickle or a raging torrent, many times this involves a leap-of-faith or very nimble footwork, more often than not  resulting in wet feet.

Many of the paths we repair also include techniques for crossing water, and for the Elterwater path project this has involved constructing three wooden bridges.

Now although path work in general is not an exact science bridge building requires an element of precision. The process can be broken down into three stages:

Stage 1: Construction of solid bridge foundations in this case revetments along either side of the river.

Stone revetment for bridge

Stage 2: Installation of the bridge beams ensuring that they are horizontal, this requires the use of a spirit level, a simple but often under rated piece of equipment. This stage sounds simple but requires a lot of ‘messing about’ to get everything level, square and solid so that it doesn’t rock about when you stand on it or turn into a slide when wet.

Levelling bridge beams

Stage 3: Attaching of the bridge treads ensuring that there is a small gap between each one to ensure that water can drain off easily.

The final touches

 Certain bridges would include hand rails, but that’s a story for another time.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Collecting Rock for the Elterwater Common Path

Over the last few days we have mostly been involved in some low level footpath repair work on Elterwater Common. The path in need of our attention had some remedial work done a few years ago that had slowed down the rate of erosion but since then the path has begun to deteriorate again. It was therefore decided that we should give the path a full overhaul which will involve a slight re-routing, the addition of some stone pitched sections, improvements in drainage, and replacing the old bridges.
Once a specification had been written detailing exactly what work would be required we had the problem of  sourcing some rock for the repairs. As there was no available rock nearby, we were forced to look a little further afield. The best site with an abundance of suitable stone was at Raise Beck a mile or so outside of Grasmere.
Over at Raise Beck, our first job was to gather the rock into small piles that would be accessible with our petrol driven power barrow.

 Nic starts gathering stone

Next the power barrow had to be manouvered to the rock piles and the stone put into it. Some of the larger pitching stones were too heavy to be lifted in so had to be rolled on top of another rock to gain enough height from where they could be rolled into the barrow, which is generally harder than you’d imagine.

  Loading up the power barrow

To get the rock from the barrow into our trailer we had to drive the barrow up a set of ramps into the trailer, from where the rock could be removed. After five or six barrow loads we were ready to transport it across to Elterwater.

  Filling the trailer

Once at the Elterwater site, the trailer could be unloaded and the stone moved to where it was needed on the path.

 Rolling the rock to site 

This involved rolling the rock (carefully) out of the trailer and then moving it down the path to the sections where work is being carried out. Each trailer load, from gathering to moving the rock to it’s final resting place took around two and a half hours, with about one and a half tonnes of rock in each load. So now we can crack on with the job of  repairing the path.