Monday, 28 May 2012

Moving materials to site

After all our exertions filling bags with rock over the last few weeks, we were ready for the arrival of the helicopter to move them. Usually as soon as the helicopter is booked you can guarantee that it'll rain, the cloud will drop or the wind will really pick up or even a combination of these things. This time we were lucky, we were forecast a whole week of settled weather and there was hardly a cloud in the sky all week.

Our first helicopter lift involved moving fencing materials over to Stickle Ghyll. As we are due to replace the fencing around the plantation on the left hand side of the ghyll, and since the helicopter was available we thought we'd take advantage. All the materials were carefully bundled together and flown up and we also had a few 20kg bags of grass seed flown up for re-seeding bare areas around the path.

Preparing the fencing materials

The next lift took place in Easedale, flying the bags of rock that we had previously filled over to the path at Helm Crag. The drop site was a tricky one as it is fringed by trees which means an extra long sling had to be used so that the helicopter had plenty of clearance while placing the bags in position.  Using a longer sling makes it more difficult for the pilot to drop the bags as accurately, and also increases the likelihood of getting tangled up in the trees.

The lift went on well into the evening but we managed to move everything to site and given the awkwardness of the drop site the pilot was spot on with where he put the bags.

Moving rock at Helm Crag

Our final lift was at Aira Force, where we flew in bags of slate for a section of stone footpath that we'll be working on later in the year and also several bags of gravel for resurfacing works.

Once again although there's a lot of tree coverage in the area the lift went extremely well and the materials were all moved to site in just a few hours.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Preparing for the Helicopter lifts

Over the last couple of weeks we've been getting ready for the upcoming helicopter lifts. Our main footpath repair project this year is on Helm Crag where we'll replace a few sections of old pitching and also repair some areas of path that have started to erode away. We'll be reusing any rock that we can but to complete the job we worked out that we would need an additional 88 bags of stone to be flown to site by helicopter.

First we had to carry the empty heli-bags to our rock collection site. Although the bags may not appear like much in the photo below they're certainly not light. So it's a bit of a slog walking up to the collection site with plenty of "calf burn" on the steep sections.

Carrying the bags to the rock collection site

With (arguably) the easy bit done it was time to collect up some rock. Each rock is carefully selected and depending what we need it for (pitching, drains or landscaping) we'll gather different types of rock. All the rock is rolled downhill until there's enough rock gathered together to fill up a bag.

Collected rock ready to be bagged

With the rock all gathered together the next job is to fill the bag. The larger stones are rolled into the bottom of the bag and the smaller ones then rolled on top of them. We try and keep lifting to a minimum as the majority of rock that we use is too heavy to safely lift. Each bag when filled weighs just over 800 kg.

Filling the bags

Although 88 bags may sound like a lot, in previous years we have filled well in excess of 100 bags and have had much further walks to get to the rock collection sites. So this years bagging was relatively painless...except for one trapped finger!

With all the bags filled all we had left to do was put out our warning signs and set up a diversion. We put all the signs out a few days before the lifts to give people prior warning about potential delays and any diversions. If we can reduce the number of people in the area of the pick-up and drop sites it makes things much safer which in turn makes our job much easier. 

We're now all set for next weeks helicopter lifts. Our lifts are planned to take place Monday 21st May to Wednesday 23rd at Helm Crag, Aira Force and Stickle Ghyll.

Putting out the signs

Friday, 4 May 2012

Fix the Fells volunteer training on Loughrigg

A couple of weeks ago an induction day was held for potential new Fix the Fells volunteer lengthsmen at the Stickle Barn Tavern in Langdale. Presentations were given explaining all about the project and this was followed up with a walk up Stickle Ghyll to give the potential new volunteers a brief insight into our work.

Last weekend we continued training up the new Fix the Fells lengthsmen. Nine volunteers arrived at our office and were given a brief presentation all about the lengthsman role and exactly what is required when you go out on a "drain run". Once they all knew what would be expected of them it was time to head to Loughrigg and put it all into practice.

A brief introduction before setting to work

The main job of the lengthsmen is to help us maintain the upland path network. They do this by going out in pairs, or larger groups, on regular "drain runs". The drain run consists of clearing the paths of any rubble, excessive vegetation growth and also monitoring the state of the path. A path monitoring sheet is filled in which states how much of the path has been cleared, if the path appears to be deteriorating at all and whether any repairs may be required.

Sweeping out a drain

The only tools required for a "drain run" are a shovel and a brush. It is essential that all rubble is removed from the path because it can quickly clog up the drains. This means that during heavy downpours water may overflow down the path, which can result in serious erosion damage.

Shovelling loose stone from the footpath

Rubble on stone pitched footpaths is also awkward to walk on, which means people have a tendency of stepping off the path and walking along side it, again causing further damage.

Continuing towards the summit

When you're out clearing drains you also have to be very aware of people around you. Even a small stone shovelled off the path can start rolling and pick up speed, this has the potential to seriously injure somebody walking on the path below.

We timed our walk up Loughrigg so we could stop for a bite to eat at the summit and although there was a cold wind blowing we managed to find some shelter and take in the fantastic views towards Elterwater.

Descending from the summit

Once we'd had our lunch (and also some excellent homemade flapjack made by one of the volunteers) we headed off down the other side shovelling and sweeping as we went.

For more information on volunteering with Fix the Fells click here....Fix the Fells