Monday, 8 October 2018

Revisiting Boredale Hause

We recently had a site visit over to the bridleway coming down from Boredale Hause to check how things were looking and catch up with the South Lakes team, who are still working up there.

Bottom section before starting work

 Bottom section (after)

This series of photographs shows how the path looked either prior to commencing work, or just after landscaping, and one month after the landscaping once the grass seed has started to grow.

 Lower section (before)

 Lower section (after)

You can immediately see the difference now the grass has started to grow, as the eroded area has been considerably narrowed. The erosion is wider in many places than can be seen in the photographs, as much of it is hidden by the piles of rock.

 Lower Section 2 (before)

  Lower Section 2 (after)

It's still early days for the grass growth, as the banks are still very mobile and it can easily be set-back by sheep, dogs, or people walking over it. If the grass can be left undisturbed for a year, it is much more likely to withstand walking on.

Sheep also have a tendency to be attracted to this fresh growth, but as it is just developing the sheep tend to pull the seedlings out by the roots as they are unable to cut through the grass with their teeth. This uprooted grass, of course, perishes.

 Middle section (immediately after landscaping)

  Middle section (one month later)

Most of the turf that was placed alongside the path, which had originally struggled due to the very dry summer, has now started to grow. This will help keep much of the soil off the path if disturbed by sheep wandering over the banks.

 Upper middle section (immediately after landscaping)

 Upper middle section (one month later)

It can take time for everything to properly settle down and it's also likely that some of the grass will die off during the winter, so we'll keep a close eye on things and carry some more bags of grass seed up when required.

Bedrock section (immediately after landscaping)

Bedrock section (one month later)

Monday, 17 September 2018

Repairing the footpath up Stone Arthur

About a month ago we started work on our second upland project of the year over in Grasmere, on the footpath up Stone Arthur.

 Rolling the rock into position

When we had the rock moved to site by helicopter last year it was impossible for the stone to be dropped exactly where we needed it. Because of the steepness of the slope and the presence of a large Sycamore tree many of the bags had to be dropped away from the area where we need to work.

 The rock on site and ready to use

Our first job was to roll several tonnes of rock down, and across, the hill to where we needed it for the path repairs.

 Lower section (before)

The main part of the job is to divert the footpath around an area that was badly damaged by a landslip during the Storm Desmond flooding. The original path-line skirts around the fellside a few metres below where we're working.

Lower section (after)

During the landslip that washed away the path, a large area of bedrock was exposed that proved difficult for many people to navigate. Because of this, numerous new paths were created and vegetation was being lost rapidly as water flowed through these newly trodden routes.

 Bedrock section (before)

You can see the new line of the path going up and around the area of exposed bedrock in the photographs above and below.

Bedrock section (after)

Much of the area is quite boggy, due to the hard ground and bedrock just below the surface (which caused the landslip as the overlying saturated ground washed away), so we've incorporated plenty of drainage to help keep water off the new path.

 Working on the middle section

We're also making use of a large gully that has been created by both water and walking boots, by diverting the path around on to an alternative route and turning the gully into a large drainage channel to help remove water from the area.

 Top section (before)

Due to the hardness of the ground and having to spend several days moving rock around the site, the job is progressing slightly more slowly than we'd have hoped. But once completed, the new path will make a real difference. We'll be able to remove several old paths, improve the drainage of the area, re-vegetate areas that have been worn down to the soil and make it much easier and safer for people out enjoying the fells.

Top section (after)

Monday, 6 August 2018

Continuing our work at Boredale Hause

We've been working on the path leading up to Boredale Hause for around three months now and although there's still a fair amount to do, it's really starting to take shape now.

When working on a long length of path like this, we each work on a stretch of about ten metres at a time. When that section is completed and joined up with the team member working above, we leapfrog higher up the path and continue like this until the whole length of path is finished.

Starting higher up the path

You can see in the photo below how the full width of the erosion is used to help meander the path, making it easier to walk on and reducing the visual impact.

 Completed section of path

Due to all the dry weather we've had this year, we've struggled getting grass seed to germinate on sections of path that we've landscaped and many of the turfs that were carefully removed while building the path have dried out and died.

Starting another new section

 Section almost completed

We've reseeded a couple of times and hopefully now that we're getting a few more showers, the grass will start to grow and cover the bare areas.

 Starting a new section while working around some buried bedrock

As we've moved higher up the path, we've started to encounter more areas of bedrock. Most of this is just below the ground surface and can be removed with a crowbar or sledgehammer if it's in the way of the path. Dealing with bedrock adds an extra layer of complexity to the process of building a path, as well as substantially increasing the level of exertion required.

 Approaching the bedrock outcrop

One notable section was a large outcrop higher up the path. Generally, exposed bedrock like this is much harder and more difficult to break. Since bedrock becomes slippery when wet, many people try to avoid walking on it, which causes more erosion in the area... exposing more bedrock, etc, etc. So rather than stopping the path at the foot of the outcrop, we continued around it until a weaker section was found that could be chipped out to form the new path line.

Continuing around the bedrock outcrop

The new path line works really well and we're also leaving access to the exposed bedrock section alongside the path for the more adventurous mountain bikers to descend.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Starting repairs at Boredale Hause

It's that time of year again and work has now officially started on this years upland path repairs. Our biggest project this year is repairing both the footpath and the bridleway that lead up to Boredale Hause which is a joint project with the South Lakes upland ranger team.

Work started towards the end of March by filling heli-bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass.

 Filling bags with stone above Kirkstone Pass

Due to the amount of rock required for the repairs (over 380 bags), we gathered rock from a second site at the end of Grisedale valley. Both rock collection sites are a good distance from Boredale so moving the rock was a long drawn out affair. The helicopter took roughly six minutes between each drop, which is two or three times longer than the average lift.

 Moving the stone to site

Once all the rock was in position, it was time to start on the repair work. The South Lakes team started on a lower section of the bridleway and we positioned ourselves higher up the path. All the photos are of this higher section.

 Lower Section (before)

 Lower Section (after)

As some of the repairs are on the bridleway, the Lake District Mountain Bike association was consulted for suggestions to make the path more easily passable on bike. It was decided that any undamaged stone culverts (underground drains) would be left in place and additional stone drains would be designed so that they could be circumnavigated.

  Lower-Middle Section (before)

 Lower-Middle Section (after)

We've only been working on the path for about two weeks at present so there's still a fair way to go, but you can see we're starting to make progress.

Upper-Middle Section (before)

 Upper-Middle Section (after)

To make the path easier to walk and ride on we're, as usual, trying to meander the path through the eroded area, this helps reduce the gradient and makes the step height a little lower.

Upper Section (before)

 Upper Section (after)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Footpath repairs at Aira Force

Since our last post we've spent a fair amount of our time working at Aira Force, on a section of footpath above High Cascades.

Old path

The section of path that we've been working on had previously been repaired many years ago, but as the path was a bit "rough and ready" visitors were avoiding it which had caused the area next to the path to become eroded. This can be seen in the photograph above.

Path before commencing the rebuild

As the area is not very accessible, it was decided that some of the stone would be flown to site by helicopter. This was supplemented with useable stone from the original footpath and additional stone that we were able to gather from the surrounding area using our mechanical power barrow.

 Completed lower section of path

To make the path blend in a little better, we adjusted the line to make it snake through the site rather than cut through in a straight line. The line was partially dictated by bedrock, which came to the surface at a couple of locations. To avoid having to chip away too much, we gave it a wide berth where possible.

Working in the snow 

Our work was hampered on a couple of occasions by heavy snow which prevented us getting over to Ullswater or making it impossible to safely move large stones around. But on days with just a light scattering of snow we continued regardless.

 Middle section after moving rock to site

After a few weeks of work we had pretty much completed the stone path. The new path is much more user-friendly and incorporates a couple of large stone drains to shed water away and prevent damage.

 Middle section after completing the stone work

Unfortunately, due to the pressing job of gathering stone for our upland repairs, we weren't able to complete all the landscaping work in time. So we're hoping to get a bit of time later on in the year to tidy away some of the leftover rock and reseed the area and then the new path will be looking better than ever.

Completed top section of path

Monday, 5 March 2018

Tree planting in Grasmere and peat bog restoration work in Ullswater

It's been a busy few weeks since our last post so here's a taster of what we've been up to.
        
Earlier on, in mid-February, we spent a week tree planting on the slopes of Helm Crag. The work was funded by Natural England. We planted 1800 scrub woodland species over an area of 6 hectares, working alongside other National Trust staff and assisted by some of the Fix the Fells volunteers.

As the trees develop, they will help stabilise the soil and reduce rainwater runoff. They will also provide a valuable habitat for birds, such as Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer, mammals and insects.

You can read in more detail about the work on the Central and East Lakes Rangers blog... here, so here are just a selection photos of the work over a very wintery week.

Having a quick debrief on the first day

Planting out the trees

Looking towards Dunnmail Raise on the last day

Later on in the month we spent a day carrying out some peat bog restoration work up on Matterdale Common with the Ullswater team and staff from Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Over 70 per cent of peatlands in England are in a damaged state, often due to drainage, overgrazing, forestry or regular burning. This damage prevents the peat remaining waterlogged, causing plants to die off. Without vegetation cover, bare areas of peat are formed which rapidly erode. This damage can be repaired by revegetating and blocking drains to help raise the water table. 
The project has been overseen by Cumbria Wildlife Trust who've used digger contractors to do the main bulk of the work, but as a member of the Cumbria Peat Partnership we were eager to lend a hand with areas that couldn't be done with machinery.

Our main job was to plant heather on the bare areas of peat to help speed up the regeneration process.

 Heather plants ready to be planted out

So we took the trays of heather out into one of the two stock excluded areas on Matterdale Common and planted up in the barest patches.

Planting out the heather 

Areas of peat that have eroded (often as a result of grazing, historical peat cutting and water damage) may form steep banks, known as hags. These hags continue to erode, due to water flow and wind damage, forming large areas of bare peat that plants struggle to survive on.

By reprofiling the banks to an angle of around thirty degrees it gives the heather seedlings a much better chance to flourish. Many of the hags have been removed using the diggers but we were able to get to a few areas that the diggers couldn't reach and to also work on some of the smaller hags.

 Grading one of the peat hags

You can see the area where we were working in the photograph below and also the difference between the grazed and ungrazed areas. The area in the distance was fenced off about 10 years ago allowing heather and other peatland plants to return, this should further improve following the recent work.

Bundles of heather used for blocking drainage


You can learn more about peatland restoration on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website... here.