Monday 13 November 2023

Continuing our work up on Stone Arthur

After completing the repairs lower down the path on Stone Arthur, we commenced work up towards the summit. 

Our work here was interspersed with days out around the Central and Eastern Lakes surveying the upland footpaths. During the surveys, we photographed damaged areas of path and graded the severity of the damage. This work will be used to set a benchmark on the state of the paths and will also help us identify priority work. 

The section being repaired on Stone Arthur had started to get a lot worse over recent years and was being badly gullied out by the rain.

Lower section (before landscaping)

A lot of the damage appeared to be caused by the depth of the topsoil. In places the soil was only a couple of centimetres thick which meant the grass was very shallowly rooted. Once the grass had been trampled, the surface layer of soil was quickly washed away and the compact subsoil underneath funnelled the water down the path.

Completed lower section

In the following photograph you can see the depth of the bank next to the footpath, which is indicative of how deep the gulley originally was. We roughly stuck to the line of the original eroded path as it was a good line to walk and nicely meandered, taking out some of the gradient.

Middle section before landscaping

You can see in the photo below how the exposed edge next to the footpath has been removed during the landscaping process.

Completed middle section

When the rock was flown to site it was dropped on the eroded line of the path. You can see how it had also started to erode next to the footpath as people did not want to walk in the gulley. 

Bags in place on upper section

Making progress on the upper section

The path sides have again been angled and turfed to help the path blend in with its surroundings. The spoil that was created while building the path was also turfed over and seeded with grass.

Upper section after landscaping

A stone drain was incorporated towards the top of the footpath to prevent any rainwater travelling down the path and causing damage. A long drain at the very top of the path will also help keep future water damage to a minimum.

Stone drain

With winter fast approaching, we've only got a few more metres to go to finish the stone pitching and the rest of the associated landscaping. Once completed, we'll make sure we get back next spring to check on things and put a little more grass seed down.

Just a couple of metres to go

Tuesday 1 August 2023

Repairing the footpath at Stone Arthur

Since our last update, we've been busy working on the footpath at Stone Arthur. We started collecting stone for the path repairs back in April at Tongue Gill, the next valley along from Stone Arthur. The rock was flown by helicopter to site in early May.

Getting ready to fill heli-bags in the snow at Tongue Gill

With the rock in position, we began work. We started on a lower section of path, which had previously been worked on but has since become badly eroded.

Bottom section after bags had been unloaded

As the path was so mobile, we decided to stone pitch roughly 40 metres through the steepest part of the path, until it started to level off.

Completed pitching on bottom section

You can see some of the older repairs in the following photograph. The steps would have originally been put in at ground level and were on the verge of dropping out.

Middle section showing earlier work that is now obsolete

The old steps were removed and the whole length of path was stone pitched to create a sustainable surface to walk on.

Middle section after repairs

As we got higher up the path, it started to level out but was still badly damaged and had got worse over recent years.

Upper section (before)

Upper section during work

At the top of the section we were working on, the erosion was at least a couple of metres wide and you can see in the photograph below how three separate tracks are starting to merge into one.

Eroded top section

By stone pitching the path, it can be narrowed down and the sides can then be revegetated.

Almost completed top section

This section of path is roughly half of the work we're doing up on Stone Arthur this year, as we're also working higher up the path above the work we carried out in 2018.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Deer Fencing around the Central and Eastern lakes

Since finishing our upland path repair programme for the year we've been working lower down on the property. To date, much of our work has been in the National Trust owned woodlands in Ambleside, Windermere and Troutbeck.

Our first job was extending a deer exclosure at Common Wood just outside Windermere. We originally worked on the exclosure back in 2020 but it was decided that we should double its size.

The exclosure will allow the woodland to regenerate without any grazing by deer or sheep, which should give an opportunity for woodland flowers to come through without being nibbled off.

Deer Fence at Common Wood

Once we'd finished at Common Wood we moved on to Skelghyll Woods on the outskirts of Ambleside, which is home to some of the tallest trees in Cumbria. This area had recently had a considerable amount of Larch extracted so the deer fence will once again allow for natural regeneration of both trees and ground flora.

Skelghyll deer exclosure

As a bit of a break from deer fencing we spent a couple of days gathering slate from one of the National Trust's disused quarries near Coniston. The stone will be flown up onto Gowbarrow Fell later on in the year and will be used to build drains.

Trailer loaded with stone

Our final deer exclosure was at Hird Wood at the end of Troutbeck Valley, near Kirkstone. Here the predominantly Alder woodland has been freshly coppiced, which will allow more light into the fenced off area again helping to promote woodland flower growth. All the exclosures are a minimum of 50m x 50m and will remain in place for at least five years.

Deer Fence at Hird Wood

Just outside Hird Wood are the remains of Low Kingate stone circle. Few of the stones are still standing and three have been incorporated into a dry stone wall (two of which can be seen in the photo below). It would have originally been a concentric (two-ringed) circle with the inner circle standing upon a mound and the outer circle being about 20m in diameter. An unpolished stone axe was found at the site in 1893.
Hird Wood/Low Kingate stone circle

Friday 11 November 2022

Footpath repairs at Bracken Hause

After finishing our work over on Loughrigg Fell for the year we started the job of bag filling ready for the helicopter lift at Bracken Hause. We filled around 150 bags that were flown to site in early July to go with the 40 bags that we had previously flown last year. 

Lower section before starting work

Once the bags were all in place, we began our work. It wasn't long before we discovered just how wet the path is, with the water funnelling down from higher ground and often sitting just below the path surface.


The water also seeped out of the banks on the side of the path. We added several stone drains to take the water off the path and into the stream below. 
Partly completed lower section

Where the footpath crossed the beck the path originally split in two with some people going up the beck and others crossing it and carrying on up above it. In the photo below the beck goes up to the left of the heli-bags and has been badly damaged through footfall causing it to become wider and lose much of the vegetation around its sides.

Beck crossing before starting work

To prevent future damage, our footpath crossed the beck and incorporated a stone wath (a stone ford), which would take more water than a conventional stone drain.

Completed beck crossing

The path then continued up the bank that had become badly eroded and widened where people had tried to find a way up or down a steep bank.

Steep bank out of river

Completed section out of river

Higher up the path the narrow track had also widened and although still mostly vegetated, it was showing clear signs of wear in a very short space of time.

Upper section before starting work

We decided to pitch this section too, as it would only be a matter of time before the grass was lost. By building a stone path the vegetation either side of the path would be protected.

Completed upper section

We again incorporated drains to take water away from the path and protect the stone work below.

Top drain from above
We've now completed just over half the work at Bracken Hause, so we will be back at a later date to resume the repairs.

Sunday 19 June 2022

Returning to Loughrigg

For the third consecutive year, we've been back repairing the path on Loughrigg Fell. Once again, we've been replacing sections of the original path and also adding some stonework to areas that have suffered from erosion damage, this time helped out by new team member Josh.

The following two photographs show a section of footpath immediately above where we finished last year. You can see that the path has eroded quite badly and has formed a sizeable gulley.

Lower section before work

Lower section after work

The next two photographs show the top of the lower section as it joins up to the section above.

Old section of risers

New section of path

The path had previously been worked on, but the steps were too high, which made it really uncomfortable to walk down. The new path has shallower steps set at different heights, making the descent a little easier.

The next bit of path that we replaced went through a narrow bedrock gulley. You can see the rock outcropping below-left and to the right of the original steps in the photo below. Again the steps were too high, so had to be replaced. 

Bedrock section (before)

As the bedrock was just below the original steps, a lot of it had to be broken out using crowbars and sledgehammers in order to set the new path in place. 

Much of these first two sections sat on bedrock that had to be chipped out. The rubble was then removed away from site using plastic trugs. If it had been left next to the path it would have constantly fallen back onto the new footpath and would also have proved difficult to landscape due to the lack of soil to cover it.

Bedrock section (after)

The next section was a steeply sloped bit of path that is extremely difficult to walk down. Here we're removing the old path, reusing any suitable stone and resetting it into low steps that are much easier to walk on.

Sloped section before

Sloped section after

The final bit of path that we worked on this year was slightly higher up the fell. Again bedrock was causing an issue (you can just make it out to the left of the black bags in the photograph below) by forcing people to find a route around it, causing the the path to widen.

Upper section (before)

We chose a line that meandered up through the bedrock and once the area has been fully landscaped and reseeded the new path should blend in well with its surroundings and prevent the path from over widening.

Upper section (after)

Monday 18 April 2022

Winter estate work

After returning to work from our winter breaks, we set about a variety of estate work around the Grasmere area. Our first job was to repair some damage caused by Storm Arwen to a couple of dry stone walls at Hunting Stile. 

The walls had been knocked down by low hanging branches and possibly also disturbed by tree root-plates, when the trees were being buffeted about during the strong winds. We removed the offending branches to stop any future damage and set about putting up the walls. One of the collapsed walls contained a large slate that had been used for hanging the top pin of a gate (photo below). The slate had to be carefully lifted into place, utilising our full team of four people, so that the gate could be re-hung.

Repaired wall and gate

Once we'd completed the wall repairs we turned our attention to erecting some owl and bat boxes around High Close Estate. The boxes had been kindly donated by the local Age UK's Men in Sheds project which offers support for older men to share and learn new skills. We'll keep a check on them throughout the year and hopefully they'll provide some extra roosting/nesting places to the resident bat and Tawny Owl population. 

Owl and bat boxes

Our final job before resuming our work on the fells was a fencing job at Bracken Fell. Due to the difficult access to the site the materials could only be driven part way. Once everything was unloaded from the trailer we had to load up the power barrows to move the materials to the bottom of the fence line.

Fencing materials

We were repairing over 400 metres of the fence, although the full length was well in excess of 600 metres. The posts, rails and wire all had to be carried by hand through the rough terrain and all the old fence posts and wire that we were replacing had to be carried back out.

First section of fence

The majority of the fence consisted of short sections of strained wire stock fencing.

Wire stock fence

In some areas the underlying bedrock was too close to the ground's surface to dig in the straining post required for a wire fence, so here we put in sections of post and rail as they require less depth.

Post and rail fence

Once we'd completed the fence and carried all the excess materials and old fencing off the site we were straight up onto Loughrigg Fell, filling helicopter-bags ready for the start of another season of path repairs.

Monday 29 November 2021

A return to Gowbarrow Fell

In previous years working on Gowbarrow, we mostly constructed an aggregate path with the Fix the Fells volunteers, but we returned this year to complete the stone work. The two sections that we worked on had both been repaired some time ago, but now due to the increase in visitor numbers the pathway was too narrow and becoming eroded as people walked off the path.

The old pitching before being replaced

The rock had been previously flown onto site, but we had to roll it through the bracken to where it was needed on the line of the new footpath. The rock from the old path was also removed and rolled across the slope to give us some extra pitching stone.

Rock in position

The lower sections of the path were fairly straightforward, but as we gained height we started encountering large boulders and bedrock.

A boulder, right in the way

In this situation there's not really much you can do except work with what you've got, so we incorporated any suitable boulders and chipped our way through the bedrock.

Excavated boulder

You can see the large boulder in the photograph above built into the footpath in the photo below (towards the front of the image, across the full width of the path). Much of this section used rock that was pulled out of the ground.

Boulder in position

With the main part of the pitching completed, we gravelled up to the new path (once again with the help from the Fix the Fells volunteers). In the photo below you can see the old path line, which has now been covered over with soil and crosses the new gravelled path. 

Approaching the new section of path

The new section of path takes a slightly new line and meanders to its destination, so some of the gradient has been removed, which means we could build it with much shallower steps.

Lower section of path after landscaping

The second section to be worked on was lower down the path and ascended straight through a bedrock outcrop.

Before starting work

We had to break our way through the bedrock again, before we could build the path. You can see some of the rubble that was produced in the photo below. In total, four sledgehammers were broken working on the Gowbarrow path, usually we're unlucky to break one in a year. The crowbars were also looking decidedly more blunt by the end of the season.

The path progresses

All the hard work was rewarded though, as we managed to complete the path on our last couple of days on the fell.
Completed lower section

Completed mid section

Completed top section

We'll be back working on Gowbarrow again next year, gravelling and drain building with the Fix the Fells volunteers. We'll also scatter plenty of grass seed around to help recover the fellside, as it was getting too late in the year to put it down this year.