Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sub-soiling on the Helm Crag path

Last year we started work on a section of footpath on Helm Crag using a technique known as sub-soiling. We were helped originally by a group of volunteers on a National Trust Working Holiday and we recently re-visited it with a few of the Fix the Fells volunteers.

The weather was at times bitterly cold and there was continual flurries of snow, but when you've got your head down working it doesn't take too long to warm up.

The fence in the photograph below shows where we finished last year. The plan was to continue the path and put in another bend. Zig-zagging the path like this reduces the gradient and this in turn helps to stabilize the path.

Starting where we finished off last year

The idea is to dig off the top layer of soil until the harder (sub-soil) layer is found. This hard layer is removed, the soft upper layer is put into the hole and the sub-soil is placed back on top of it. The soil layers are basically being inverted.

It wasn't too long until the turfs were removed from the new section of path and the soil beneath them had been dug off.

Digging off the path

The next photograph shows the path with a drainage channel to the left. You can see now how the path is starting to develop. The soft material has been put back in and has been topped with broken rock and the sub-soil, which is the red-coloured material. This red soil compacts down really well and makes an excellent surface.

Topping the surface

By the end of the second day we had completed another section of path and turf lined the drainage channel. We've still got a little bit further to go until we've completely finished this section, so we'll crack on with it again later this year.

The finished section of path

Monday, 11 March 2013

Back working at Allan Bank

Since the last update we've been busily working away on the Woodland Trail at Allan Bank. It's a continuation of the work that we did last year and joins the two sections of path that we worked on to form a continuous loop.

Before we commenced work, the footpath was fairly level but rough and tended to be wet in areas. We want to make sure the trail is suitable for lots of people so we thought it'd be good idea to resurface it. It was unworked on last year as the other areas were of a higher priority due to the steepness and the likelihood that they may deteriorate.

Before starting work

Before surfacing, the first job was to sort out the drainage. We piped three areas where rainwater runs off from the bedrock and we also put in two new stone drains. The pipes were finished off with stone so you would never know they're there.

Digging in the new pipes

With this done we had to have access to get the gravel from where it was delivered to the rest of the path. In one place there was a set of steps with no way around. We therefore built a wooden ramp over the steps out of two tree trunks and some fencing rails. We'd now be able to access the path without ruining the steps.

Building the ramp

The next job was to edge the path. As part of the woodland management program at Allan Bank quite a few trees are required to be thinned out, this will allow more light to reach the ground and encourage plants such as bluebells, primroses and violets to flourish. So we took advantage of all the surplus timber to edge our new path.

Fixing the edging in place

Finally it was time to start moving the gravel. In total we'll have shovelled 30 tonnes of gravel and moved it around the woodland with our mechanical (power) barrows. It's not the speediest of jobs but it's the only way to do it.

Starting the gravelling

The new path is really starting to take shape now and when finished will provide a fantastic route around the woodland.

New section of path