Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Looking out for Mountain Ringlets

This time of the year is a wonderful time to see a wealth of different insect species while you're out enjoying your walk. A wide variety of dragonflies and damselflies inhabit the becks and tarns including the impressive Golden-ringed Dragonfly, the Large Red Damselfly and the Common Darter.

 Large Red Damselfly

On a good sunny day, if you wander into any taller vegetation a bit further off the beaten track, there's also a good chance of disturbing moths such as Yellow Shell and Green Carpet or possibly Map-winged Swift, whose larvae are closely associated with bracken roots.

 Map-winged Swift

While walking the fells it's also possible to see a good array of butterflies, including more common species such as the Red Admiral and Painted Lady at lower altitudes and as you gain a bit more height, less well known butterflies like the Small Heath (probably the most common butterfly on the higher fell) and the Mountain Ringlet.

 Small Heath butterfly

The Mountain Ringlet butterfly is a rare and incredibly under recorded species. It is found on mountainous slopes dominated by Mat-grass, at an altitude of between 500 and 750 metres, with the Lake District being to the far south of it's British distribution. The Mountain Ringlet tends to fly close to the ground and will often disappear out of sight as soon as the wind picks up, or the sun clouds over. The best period to see this butterfly is from mid-June until late-July.

Mountain Ringlet

Whenever we are out and about during June and July if we happen to stumble across one of these rare butterflies we always record it's whereabouts and forward on the information to the Cumbrian Biological Records Centre based at Tullie House in Carlisle, here's a link to their excellent website

This year, to try and gain a bit more knowledge about the Mountain Ringlet's abundance, distribution, and habitat preferences Butterfly Conservation are running a survey, and they could do with as much help as possible. If you fancy taking part in this years Mountain Ringlet Survey, have a look at the website of the Cumbria Branch of Butterfly Conservation or download the information sheets below:

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Grasmere Gallop 2011

As a bit of a change from rolling rocks around up on the fell, last week we came down to slightly lower ground to help out with stewarding the Grasmere Gallop. It's hard to believe that only last year the National Trust stepped in and took over the management of the Gallop, which had been an annual event in the area but had unfortunately been discontinued a couple of years ago.

The new National Trust managed event has been slightly altered by changing the main route into a 10 kilometre race, as well as the main race there's also a 5 kilometre Fun Run and a Teddy Dash for the under 5's. So on the day of the Gallop, we went out, flag in hand, to various strategic points around the course. Our job mostly consisted of; being there in case of any emergency, letting walkers, cyclists and motorists know exactly what was going on, to offer a bit of support to any of the runners who might need it and watch out for any shortcutting (which, of course, there wasn't).

 New flags waiting to be taken out

So while several members of National Trust staff ably assisted by numerous volunteers went and took to their positions around the circuit, things were beginning to hot up over in Grasmere as the event got under way.

Warming up ready for the race

Around 250 competitors turned out for the 10k race, and luckily we had some great weather. Once the runners had been registered they all began to assemble in the "Muster Area" prior to the race. Once all together, they were lead from here to the start of the race, in the centre of Grasmere village, by our very own piper, National Trust Ranger Iain Grey.

National Trust ranger and piper Iain, here with the Fun Run competitors

Once the race was under way it wasn't long until the first competitors came past, we were situated around the midway point of the race and even by this stage the first two runners had already built up a sizeable lead. This lead wasn't to be overturned and the two leading the pack carried on to finish one-two in the race, the race winner was Carl Bell in a fantastic 36 minutes and 16 seconds.

The race winner approaching the finish line

At the same time as the winner was crossing the line, there would have still been about another hundred competitors yet to come past us. Of course it's not all about the winning, it was just great to see everyone seemingly enjoying themselves, those further back in the field taking the time to say "hello" or "thank you" as they ran past.

 Looking back towards Grasmere 

Once the last few competitors had past us we upped-flags and repositioned ourselves ready for the 5k Fun Run which was eventually won by sixteen year old Will Smith in a time of 20 minutes and 58 seconds. Will had already competed the 10k race, and finished second!

Last, but by no means least, came the Teddy Dash that by all accounts was as hotly contested as all the other runs. Our thanks go to everyone who came along on the day, whether as a competitor, spectator, volunteer or whatever other involvement you may have had to make our first Grasmere Gallop such a fun and successful event.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Landscaping at Stickle Ghyll

Over the last couple of weeks our work has focused on landscaping work at Stickle Ghyll. While we were bagging up rock for the helicopter lifts we filled several of the bags with large "landscaping" stone that we use to help define the path. This helps stop people (or sheep) wandering along the edge of the path, forming a channel which water gets into and starts eroding the edge of the path. This if left unattended can cause the path to become undermined and eventually cause the path to fall out. As sections of the path have been in place for nearly twenty years the tell-tale signs of erosion have begun.
So during the helicopter lifts we had the bags of landscaping stone dropped next to the path where there were signs of erosion beginning. In addition to the rock which was flown, any suitable rock was moved by hand from the fellside.

Before Landscaping (Lower Section)

After Landscaping (Lower Section)

As you can see from the photos, once the large rocks have been dug into position the areas of erosion have been greatly reduced producing a footpath that is more defined and natural looking. 

Before Landscaping (Upper Section)

After Landscaping (Upper Section) 

With all the rock now in position, we needed extra soil to assist with seed growth and roughing up the landscaped areas. To generate some soil we dug out areas around the landscaping stones and filled them in with rubble. These pits were topped off with some of the soil we'd dug out, and the rest was used elsewhere.
Finally we re-used any turfs that we had removed and put down some grass seed. Providing we manage to get a good growing season the path should quickly start to blend in much better with its surroundings.