Tuesday 2 April 2024

Winter work around Great Langdale and Troutbeck Park

With the start of the new year, we were back down from our path repair work on the fells and getting stuck into some lower level work around the valleys.

Starting work on the tree cages

Our first job was at Raw Head in Langdale, where we started by erecting tree cages. These were planted up with scrub saplings that when fully grown will provide excellent habitat for breeding birds.

Completed tree cage

We also built a water heck (gate over the beck) and a small section of post and rail fence at Raw Head. This completed a fenced off area next to the beck which would prevent livestock grazing. It'll be planted up with a few wet-loving tree species such as Willow and Alder.

Heck and fence

Once this was finished, we headed a little further up the valley to an area of enclosed land above Middle Fell Farm, which we'd planted up with Juniper about ten years ago.

Juniper in Great Langdale

The top side of the enclosure was in urgent need of repair as it was no longer stock proof, meaning that sheep could get in and graze on the juniper and any other trees that have naturally regenerated. The fence line had been badly damaged by rock falls and moving scree, plus many of the original fence posts had long passed their best-before-date.

Part of the damaged fence line

In areas where the scree was most mobile we replaced the damaged posts with thick strainer posts dug deeply into the scree and tightened into position. These thicker posts should last longer than ordinary fence posts and also withstand more of a battering by any moving stone. We used rails in these areas as they'd be easier to replace than wire fencing when they become damaged.

Repaired post and rail

In areas that are less likely to be damaged by moving rock we used wire fencing and normal sized posts.

Repaired strained wire fencing

There were also multiple sections of fallen dry stone wall.

Damaged section of wall

Some of the larger sections of damaged wall were fenced off and the smaller wall gaps were repaired.

Repaired wall

New wall-top fencing was then added to prevent sheep jumping onto and over the wall.

Repaired wall (from above) with new wall-top fence

Many of the original wall-top fence posts had rotted away so these were also replaced where necessary.

Repairing the wall-top fence on another wet day

The whole section ran for about 500 metres and we managed to stock-proof the whole area. Although it's likely that many of the original wall-top posts are on borrowed time and will need replacing in the next few years.

Fresh section of post and wire fencing

We also spent a few weeks at Troutbeck Park building a wire tree exclosure and some tree cages. Again, this will help improve biodiversity in the area.

Livestock exclosure at Troutbeck Park

The area where we were working was rich in history, with people having been settled there since prehistoric times. Several old charcoal burning platforms were obvious as well as a post-medieval clapper bridge (probably at least as old as the 17th century) that we passed over each day to get to the worksite.

Clapper bridge

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)