Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Working with volunteers on Gowbarrow

Over the course of the year we've spent a fair amount of time repairing the path up on Gowbarrow in Ullswater, and to help us achieve this work we've had fantastic support from numerous volunteer groups.

Although the path had previously been worked on a few years back, those sections that have been left had really started to worsen. You can see here just how bad the path was getting, with bare sections of peat which were steadliy getting wider and wider.

After some consideration on what would be the best method to repair the path we decided we needed additional materials as there was little suitable rock on site. So earlier this year several tonnes of gravel and rock was delivered to a nearby site and we filled the bags.

With the bags all filled, the next job was to get it up to Gowbarrow. A helicopter was used to fly it in, with the bags dropped near to the most eroded areas.

With the bags now in position we arranged our first work party. A group of Fix the Fells volunteers came out with us for a couple of days. Our job was basically to dig a shallow trench through the peat and fill it with the gravel from the bags to create a hard surface for walking on.

The next group to help us was from the Environment Agency's North West team. Once again we struck lucky with the weather and by the end of the day we'd completed another good section of path.

Shortly after this we were joined by a National Trust Working Holiday for a week. The section that we were working on is shown to the left. We decided to move the path from it's original location (in the first picture above) higher up the bank. We did this as the line was less undulating and so the new path will be more sustainable and less likely to erode at a later date.

So we set to work. Although it always seems wrong putting a path through an untouched area, given a bit of time the original path will green over and, in this instance, eventually the heather will return and nobody will be any the wiser.

Due to the close proximity of the crag, the bags had to be dropped a fair distance away from the new path.
To overcome this we filled buckets with gravel and created a chain of people moving it to where it was needed.

After a few days the new path was really starting to take shape.

To help make the path more durable we used a whacker-plate to compress the surface.

Our next group of volunteers were school children aged 10 & 11 and accompanied by the Field Studies Council. They joined us for an afternoon to help them understand the impact that visitors to the Lake District have on the environment.Though only with us for a few hours they managed to get another decent section of path completed and also seemed to have great fun doing it.

As there was still a bit more work to do on the section, we arranged another Fix the Fells work party to finish off where we'd started with the school group.

Word had obviously spread from the Environment Agency about our work up on Gowbarrow, and later on in the year we were joined by another group, again from the North West.

Even though the weather had noticeably started to deteriorate since earlier in the year, we completed another good section of path.

With the days now shortening we had one more day to finish our work for the year. We were again joined by the Fix the Fells lengthsmen with numbers bolstered by staff from the Lake District National Park Authority, including Richard Leafe, the Chief Executive.
We had some more resurfacing work to do and also a large side drain that needed to be dug out.
It's really been a fantastic team effort to get this work done but there's still plenty more to be done. We'll be back working on Gowbarrow again next year for Phase 2, so maybe we'll see some familiar faces again then.

Over the course of the year we clocked up an amazing 162 volunteer days. Although we said it at the time we'd really like to reiterate how thankful we are for everybody's help. The work on Gowbarrow is incredibly labour intensive and there's no way we could have completed it without all the additional help. Thank you.

A few more photographs from our time on Gowbarrow can also be seen here... Gowbarrow photographs.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Footpath repairs at Allan Bank

Since finishing our upland path work for the year we've recently been working again at Allan Bank in Grasmere. We've done a lot of work there over the previous two winters creating a trail through the woodland, but there's always a few more jobs to do to keep on top of things.

Our first job was to build some stone drains. With a gravel path there's always a risk that during heavy downpours the path could be destroyed, so to stay one step ahead we've built a series of drains to divert the rainwater away from the path.

Drain building

Once we'd finished our drainage work we moved on to some path building. Using the same technique as previous years, we edged the path with logs, leading up to one of the view points.

Edging the path

With all the logs in place it was time to start gravelling. Once all the gravel was put down we finished it off with the whacker-plate which compacts the surface making the path more durable.

Gravelling the path

The photograph below shows a section of path that we were working on in February, we're putting in some drains before starting resurfacing. You can see just how wet and rough the original path was.

Working on the drainage earlier on in the year

The next photo shows what the path looks like now, and the drains certainly seem to have done their job. We're really pleased with the results, but don't just take our word for it, next time you're in Grasmere and you've got a spare hour why not pop into Allan Bank and have a walk around the woods? While working in the woodland we were also having daily sightings of Red Squirrels, so if you've always wanted to see one but not had the fortune, Allan Bank is certainly worth a visit.

The new path just a few months later

Friday, 25 October 2013

Lakes Appeal

National Trust rangers have been repairing and maintaining upland paths in the Lake District for over 25 years. To help us continue our repair work the National Trust has recently launched a new appeal.

We need to raise a total of £300,000, so please make a donation today. With your support, we can help keep the Lake District special for future generations.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Repairing the path at Mires Beck, Ullswater

We've recently been working on realigning a section of path at Mires Beck in Ullswater. The job was relatively short and only took a couple of weeks to complete, but was essential nonetheless.

You can see in the following photograph the secton of path that was in need of repair. A landslip had caused the edge of the path to fall away into the beck below. If left unattended it is highly likely that more of the path would have fallen out over the next few years.


To avoid the most unstable area we decided to divert the path higher up the bank and rejoin it again above the landslip. We'd already flown a few bags of rock to site by helicopter earlier on in the year, but additional rock from the old path and the surrounding area was also utilised.

 Before starting work

The next photograph shows the path shortly after work began. The old section of path has been blocked off with large boulders and the new route curves around to the left.

 Starting work on the new path

The area where we were building the new path had a lot of water running along and just under the surface. To help remove this water we incorporated several drains into the path. Removing the water at regular intervals should also help prevent another future landslide.

 Drain building

With much of the pitching stone removed from the old path, and with all of the rubble and soil that we generated from the new path also being used to cover over it, it wasn't too long until the original path line was indiscernible.

 Making progress

While building the new path we removed all the turf that was dug off and put it to one side. This was later used to cover over the soil that we generated. This will help blend the path back in with it's surroundings and reduce potential erosion.

 The completed path

The old path line was also blocked off at the top, meaning our new section of path blends in seamlessly with the original.

Looking down the new path

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Drain building on the Red Tarn path, Ullswater

Since finishing work on the path to Esk Hause most of our time has been spent working up on the path leading from the Helvellyn Youth Hostel, in Glenridding, to Red Tarn.

The path we're working on is a sub-soil path and was built several years ago using a digger. Since then with all the heavy use that it gets the path has started to become mobile and this has been made worse by surface water running down the path when it rains.

Although there are numerous drains already in the path we decided that to slow down the erosion process more drains were required.

Almost completed drain

So earlier on in the year we selected some suitable drain stone and had it flown to site. The picture above shows the work in progress. The piles of stone around the drain is some of what had been flown in but has not been used. The majority, in this instance, is smaller stone used to build the base of the drain. The sides of the drain are built using much larger stone (stones in excess of 2 feet deep are not uncommon) this means if the path below the drain should ever erode it will be a long time before the drain falls out.

Finished Drain with Landscaping

The photograph above shows the completed drain. Left over stone has been used to narrow the path. By doing this it also protects the top end of the drain by stopping people walking there. If a track was to develop in this area it's possible for water to bypass the drain thus making the drain redundant.

 Clearing the end of a newly built drain

The photograph above shows another drain almost completed. The end of the drain is being dug out to allow water to flow smoothly through the drain and away from the path. This is something that we also do as part of our regular maintenance work. 

The soil that has been generated while building the drain will later be seeded making it nicely blend in with the rest of the area. 

Finished Drain

Altogether we've put in roughly an extra 12 drains which should mean a lot less water running down the path. Of course all these new drains will have to be maintained regularly throughout the year by both ourselves and the Fix the Fells lengthsmen.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Finishing the path at Esk Hause

After several weeks working up at Esk Hause we've now finished the first part of the project. The first section of path has now been replaced with it's improved drainage, and we've also completed the landscaping work.

Landscaping is an essential part of the job and is key to getting the path to blend back into it's surroundings. You can see in the photograph below how it looked straight after building the new path and prior to any landscaping.

Lower section before landscaping

While building the path, large amounts of rubble are generated, and because we were replacing an old path we also had quite a lot of surplus rock to deal with.

In the photograph below, some of the larger bits of rock have been dug into the edge of the path to discourage people walking there, and also to help the path look a little more natural.

Excess rock, and larger bits of rubble have been gathered together and covered over with the soil that was generated while building the path.

Lower section after landscaping

The next photograph shows another section of path before any landscaping work. Again, notice the piles of spoil, rubble and surplus rock.

Upper section before landscaping

After landscaping, the spoil has been shaped to make it look more natural, it has also been seeded to help stabilize things and start the process of turning the waste back into fell side.

Turfs that were removed while building the path had been kept to one side and have now been used in places along the edge of the path to help stop soil falling back onto the path.

Upper section after landscaping

It will still take a little time for the vegetation to completely recover, especially somewhere as inhospitable as Esk Hause. But if you use your imagination while looking at the "after" photographs and imagine the soil areas greened over, you can see the effect that we're trying to achieve. We'll no doubt be carrying some more grass seed up to site in future years to give it more of a helping hand, and we'll post some more pictures later on to show how it's developing.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Rock Art in Great Langdale and Grasmere

No one likes shifting large rocks about more than us Fell Rangers, but that hasn't always been the case...

The National Trust owns and manages several important prehistoric sites in the Lake District. Castlerigg stone circle is probably the most famous. Situated just outside Keswick, Castlerigg is thought to be one of the earliest stone circles dating back to the late Neolithic around 3200BC.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

To the north of Penrith is Cumbria's largest stone circle, Long Meg and her Daughters. On the tallest standing stone is some impressive art-work (known as rock art) consisting of carved spirals and concentric rings. This site is privately owned but easily accessible to the general public.

Rock Art on Long Meg

There are known to have been in excess of 75 prehistoric stone circles in Cumbria although several have now been destroyed because of religious beliefs or/and used for building materials. It was believed that a circle was also present in Grasmere but it's exact location is unknown.

Recently one of our keen eyed rangers discovered some new rock art on a rock outcrop just outside the grounds of Allan Bank.

Rock Art at Allan Bank

These designs are known as "cup marks" and are the simplest form of rock art that can be commonly found. Maybe not as impressive as the spirals of Long Meg but nonetheless an important part of our cultural heritage.

 Close-up of the Cup Marks

Over in Great Langdale there are more fine examples of rock art. Copt Howe, also known as the Langdale Boulder is situated just outside Chapel Stile and has a variety of different motifs including both cup marks and concentric circles. It's been suggested that thousands of years ago it was used as a way marker to the Langdale "Axe Factories" on the Langdale Pikes, where stone axe heads were once crafted on an industrial scale.

These axes were of enormous value and were traded right across the country and Langdale axes have even been discovered in central Europe. It is thought by some that one of the uses of the stone circle at Castlerigg may have been for the trading of these axe heads.

In more recent years Copt Howe has become a place of pilgrimage for climbers and boulderers wanting to hone their climbing abilities.

Copt Howe

Another piece of rock art can be found in a small wooded area behind the National Trust campsite in Langdale. Although the views are now hindered somewhat by the trees, this boulder would have once afforded fantastic views towards the the Langdale Pikes once again pointing to the importance of the axe factories in these days gone by.

Boulder behind the campsite

All these sites are well worth a visit and only a few minutes walk from the road. Next time you're in the area why not pay them a visit and stand in the footsteps of prehistoric man?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Repairing the path up to the Esk Hause shelter

Over the last couple of weeks we've started work on this years upland path repairs, with our first job being a section of path leading up to the stone shelter at Esk Hause. It's on the far edge of our "patch" and getting there is a bit of a trek. It generally takes us over an hour to walk to site each day before we even start our work.

The path that we're repairing had previously been worked on over 20 years ago. When this original path was built all the stone was collected by hand from the fell-side, this meant that the selection of rock was fairly limited. Because of this, smaller stone had to be used, the path had to be narrow and there was little landscaping carried out to help encourage people to stay on the path. All this has led to people wandering off the path and causing erosion problems. You can see in the photograph below that this has also produced an increased amount of rubble, which again leads to people not using the path.

Old pitching

It was therefore decided that extra stone would be flown to site by helicopter so that we could widen the path and improve upon the landscaping. As there is now a lack of suitable rock in the nearby area, without the use of a helicopter it's unlikely that we could have ever made these improvements. As part of our work extra drains are also being added to help shed water and to catch any surplus rubble.

Starting to replace the path

By using some of the original stone plus the stone that was flown in, after just a few weeks of work the path is now really taking shape. There's still a lot of of landscaping to do once the footpath is completed but we're progressing along nicely.

New section of path

Being over 2000 feet high we tend to get a real variety of weather. Usually at this time of year the weather consists of strong winds, low cloud and rain (or a combination of them all) and we don't often get to see the sun for long! Even though Esk Hause tends to get it's fair share of bad weather we were still surprised by a recent reminder that winter wasn't quite over. As we approached the work site on the 23rd May we were greeted by a fresh covering of snow. Much of this melted off over the course of the day but there were several heavy hail showers throughout, and the temperature remained low.

Unseasonal snow

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Footpath repair video

Check out this great new video that was filmed last summer while we were working up on Helm Crag. It nicely explains how and why we do our upland path work.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Repairing the bank on Lake Windermere

As part of United Utilities work on preventing flooding in Bowness-on-Windermere  a new pipeline has been put in place that runs through part of Cockshott Point and out into the lake. In order to do this a section of stone revetment, that helps protect the bank, had to be removed so it was our job to reinstate it.

Before starting work

To make sure everything stays in place we decided to bring in some large "keystones" to create the bottom course. These will help keep the rest of the revetment secure in the event of the lake rising and falling and potentially undermining the bank.

Moving the keystones down the bank

As the water level can rise rapidly after melting snow or heavy rain it was essential that we got these keystones in quickly. To help speed up the process we bought in a mini-digger to dig out the initial trench, move soil around and help shift some of the larger keystones.

Digging the trench

It wasn't too long until we had the line of keystones in place.

Putting in the keystones

With this done the next job was to get our levels right. With four people all working at slightly different speeds across a large section it's quite easy to wander off line a bit. So we set up string lines to keep everything even.

Getting the levels right

The revetment is built up in the same fashion as a drystone wall where a series of courses are created and each stone overlaps that underneath it. In just a few days we were starting to make good progress up the bank.

Making progress

After another day, or so, we reached the top of the bank. To finish the top course we used some good, deep, stones and tightened them to the courses in front.

Getting higher up the bank

With all the stonework in the ground it was just a matter of filling in the gaps with soil and seeding over the area to prevent the soil washing out.

 Filling in the gaps

Update: A photo of the work two and a half years later, taken early October 2015...

After some "bedding in" time