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.

Friday, 25 June 2021

Working back on Loughrigg Fell

Our return to upland work this spring meant a return to the footpath on Loughrigg Fell. We started the season by gathering some more stone for the repairs, which was flown on to site.

Flying stone on to Loughrigg

For this section of path we've decided to change the line to add more bends in the path and remove some of the gradient. You can see in the following two photos where the path has been moved to the right of the original footpath. 

Original path and new line

You can also see that the old style of pitching is put in at the same angle as the slope, which makes it difficult to walk down, particularly when wet.
Lower section of path before landscaping

Lower section of path after landscaping

The old path line was landscaped by covering it with soil and turf that had been removed while building the new path. We left a section of temporary fence in to discourage people from walking in the area while the seed is beginning to grow. Once it's had time to bed in we'll remove the fence.

Middle section of path after landscaping

You can see in the following photo a section higher up the path where large stone steps had been used. The height of the steps were difficult to walk down and you can see to the left of the image where people have been walking around them.

Old stone risers

The following two photographs show the same section during repair work and after landscaping.

Upper section after removal of the old stone risers

Putting down grass seed on the upper section 

The final section that we worked on this year was just above the previous two images and was another bad mixture of angled path and more high steps.

The old section of path was built on top of bedrock. We had to remove the old path and chip out the bedrock before the new path could be built. The following two photos show the old path and the new path after landscaping.

Old path in bedrock section

Replaced path

We'll be back working on Loughrigg again next year, continuing up through the bedrock and a few more repairs higher up the path.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Continuing our work on Loughrigg Fell

As we mentioned on our previous post, during late summer/autumn last year we also worked on replacing a section of footpath a little higher up the path on Loughrigg Fell. The section worked on was towards the top of the photograph below.  

The section of path being worked on

Much of the path is in good condition, with decent sized steps, so was not a priority to replace. Towards the very top of the path the gradient became much steeper and the steps weren't quite deep enough to compensate for it. We therefore took out the old pitching and reset it with slightly larger steps and added a bend in the path to remove some of the gradient. 

Path before landscaping

Once again we hit bedrock, making it more challenging to lay the path and all the rubble that was chipped out had to be landscaped. As there was so little soil the only option was to cover it over with turf. We dug sections of turf from the surrounding fell side, which we then reseeded, and put the turf down over the piles of rubble.

Path after landscaping

A little further up the path was an older section that was sloped, steep and extremely difficult to descend.

Section of path to be replaced

We re-routed the path, again to add some more bends and reduce the gradient. The new section has larger steps and is less steep, so is now much easier to walk down.

New route

We continued replacing some of the older path as it levelled off. As we were running a little short of pitching stone, a large boulder that was next to the path proved to be quite handy and was incorporated into the path saving us around 6 or 8 standard sized stones.

Upper section of path before repairs

Boulders like this can also be used for landscaping, but since we weren't short of rubble and soil and the boulder had such a good flat top, it made sense to use it in the path.

Large boulder incorporated into the new path

On our final day we had just enough time to finish off the landscaping with some more turfing and seeding as the sun started to set behind the hills.

The sun starts to set on our final day

We'll be back working on Loughrigg again this spring a little further up the path, where we had additional bags of rock flown in last year. 

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Repairing the footpath on Loughrigg Fell

Since our last blog post we've been busy repairing the footpath on Loughrigg Fell, focussing on the lower section of path from the terrace up to the summit. Prior to having the rock flown to site we erected temporary catchment fences to prevent the risk of any rocks falling out of the heli-bags while they were being dropped and potentially rolling all the way down to the lake shore below.

Bottom section of path just after erecting the catchment fence

Our work has involved replacing old sections of the footpath that were difficult to walk on either because it had been put in at an angle or because the steps were too small to easily place a whole foot on. We reused as much rock as possible, mixing it in with the additional rock that was flown in by helicopter.

Bottom section of path after about one month's work

We started work on the path in mid-July and due to the furloughing scheme we had unprecedented numbers of walkers using the path. This offered us the great opportunity to showcase our work to members of the public, many of whom had never previously visited the Lake District before. 

Bottom section after landscaping

The high number of visitors also proved challenging, as we had to constantly stop and start as walkers moved through the worksite, making progress much slower than normal especially during the sunniest weather.

Chipping through bedrock

Another challenge that slowed us down was the large amount of bedrock just below the path surface which had to be chipped away before we could build the path.

Upper section of path (before)

Sections of the path that had previously not been worked on had started to badly erode (as seen in the previous photograph) and were also repaired.

Upper section of path during work

The erosion had also caused the old path to start falling out in places, so the path was pitched up to it to produce a hard sustainable surface.

Top section of path (before)

Top section after joining up to the original footpath

During the season we also carried out repairs to a section of footpath higher up the path, which will be detailed in our next post.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Returning back to work

Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, and the team being furloughed from March through to mid-June, it's been a long time since our last post.

Prior to our furlough we'd been involved in a wide range of lowland work such as drystone wall repairs, stock fencing, deer fencing, and improving the drainage at Stickle Ghyll car park.

Our drystone wall work was mostly around the High Close estate and included repairing field boundaries and a large stone revetment that had been damaged by a fallen tree on the trackway that runs adjacent to the Red Bank road.

Damaged revetment

Newly repaired revetment

Stock fencing work was also carried out around High Close. An old fence that had been put in around 30 years ago to keep sheep out of a small area of woodland was definitely showing it's age. The fence was removed, any re-usable posts were kept, and it was replaced with new posts and wire. This will keep both the tenant farmer happy and also improve diversity in the woodland... a win-win.

We also erected a deer fence in a woodland above Troutbeck Park. A small enclosure was made which, being deer-free, will allow the ground flora to flourish and the trees to naturally regenerate thereby improving the age structure of the woodland.

Old fence on High Close estate

Replacement fence

Deer fence in Troutbeck

Our work at Stickle Ghyll allowed us to turn our hands to a bit of brick-laying as we added additional drains to the car park and replaced many of the original drains with a new "chambered" design while also replacing the drain covers. The car park regularly struggles to cope with winter flooding so fingers crossed the improvements will help rectify things.

Excavating in the car park before rebuilding the drains

Completed drain

But just as we were just about to complete our estate work for the year and resume our upland footpath work, the announcement came that the team would be furloughed.

On our return, after a day of catching up and reading all the new guidelines on how we can now safely operate, it was straight back into bag filling on Loughrigg ready for the upcoming helicopter lifts.

First bag filled on Loughrigg