7 February 2017

Restoring a Victorian Vision


Here in the Lake District the National Trust looks after an awful lot of land - about a fifth of all the countryside in the National Park. But it’s not all high, open fells, we also care for iconic historic places like Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top, and James Garth Marshall’s Tarn Hows.


A stunning wintry scene looking across Tarn Hows to the Old Man of Coniston and Wetherlam

Located in the low level hills between the villages of Coniston and Hawkshead, Tarn Hows is ideal for a walk or cycle trip from either, and has lovely circular walks around the tarn. With a commanding panorama out across the wider Lake District fells, it's a favourite with both regular and first-time visitors to the area, attracting over 300,000 visitors a year, and is popular with artists and photographers who love the fantastic views.

Marshall's design

Yet despite Tarn Hows dramatic setting, it’s very much a ‘man-made’ environment. It was created as part of a designed landscape by James Garth Marshall, a wealthy Leeds industrialist and owner of the Monk Coniston Estate, in the 1860s, in the ‘picturesque’ style popular at the time. Tarn Hows as we see it today was originally three natural tarns. When Marshall bought it he embarked on a project to create a new body of water surrounded by a bold, ornamental planting scheme, which also had an industrial use to feed his sawmill, downstream in Coniston. 

Tarn Hows in the late 19th century, much less wooded than it is today.
Marshall’s vision involved clumps of trees planted in a carefully considered way, highlighting rocky knolls and the dramatic Lakes landscape beyond. The new planting was protected by ‘nurse’ crops of conifers, which were intended to be removed once the young trees were established. However, Marshall died before his vision was realised and the nurse crops were never removed. Trees then grew to dominate the Tarn Hows panorama as we know it today. 

Looking across to the Langdale Pikes today...

The wood for the trees
Recently, the Trust decided that the majestic views over the tarn and across to the fells beyond were in danger of being lost amongst the trees. Marshall’s clumps of specimen trees, although still present, were hard to see in the thick growth, his vision fading in the passage of time. Aware of the popularity of the present-day landscape however, and realising that many visitors who came to enjoy Tarn Hows  didn’t know of Marshall’s ‘hidden’ landscape, the Trust carried out a full survey and consultation with local stakeholders to decide on the most appropriate  course of action. As Tarn Hows is highly protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, we also had to make sure that work would protect the rare plant communities and habitats that exist there.  An approach was agreed which therefore aimed to restore elements of Marshall’s vision, without impacting too suddenly and dramatically on the modern cherished landscape. There will be a gradual receding of the modern character and a simultaneous emergence of Marshall’s vision, with a medium term co-existence of the two landscape characters. Work will take place very incrementally over a number of years, with no sudden or drastic changes to the views and feel of Tarn Hows, and there will be periods when little or no work is being carried out there.
...and in the 1950's



The project today  

We have now started this work to restore elements of the designed landscape, as it was intended to look when it was originally created. This will involve very gradually removing some trees, particularly thinning areas where there is dense regrowth, to open up some views over the tarn and across to the fells beyond, as well as revealing some of the rocky knolls identified in the original design which have become overgrown.  Opening up views across the tarn and surrounding countryside will enable visitors to enjoy perspectives on this landscape as it was originally intended to look in the 19th century, as well as helping to protect some of those rare habitats around Tarn Hows. 

Our ranger teams will also be working to partially reinstate parts of Marshall’s vision with some new planting in selected locations from the suite of trees in his original plans. Work will be done very gradually over a number of years, but starting now means that we can avoid too much intrusive felling work in the future, and keep the visual impact on the landscape to a minimum. So if you’re out and about around Tarn Hows in the coming months, and see us working down there, do stop and have a chat. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this exciting project!

Matt Tweed.
Looking up Tarn Hows towards Helvellyn, possibly 1920's.

22 December 2016

Toblerone or not Toblerone that is the question - New Year Resolutions




Believe and Achieve


Another  year is coming to a close and it seems an appropriate time to look back and reflect, to think about the highlights, what’s been achieved and those New Year resolutions.

Last night I was tidying the bedside drawer and sifting through all the tablets, sprays, inhalers,ointments and contraptions that enable me to function as a vaguely normal human being these days,  I came across a crumpled bit of paper; on it I had scribbled my new year resolutions for 2016. It read.....


                  A)    Put an end to global poverty.
                  B)    Bring about world peace.
                  C)     Tidy the garage.

             Note to self . ... Believe and achieve
                                     

Mmmm.........Well if you’ve opened a newspaper, or turned on the news recently, you’ll have realised that I haven’t made quite as much progress on the first two as I would have liked, and indeed after a strong start in the garage earlier this year I have slipped back there somewhat in recent months as well. So much so in fact that a neighbours son came round recently while playing; aged about 6 he comes from a family who keep  their house scrupulously clean and are fastidiously neat. He was playing the role of an inspector of some description, complete with clip board , pencil and a disapproving look that Claude Littner off  ‘The Apprentice’ would have approved of ! He took a look inside the garage and after not much deliberation ,declared it a fail, on some unspecified health and safety infringement, .... cheeky monkey.  What’s wrong with kids these days anyway, playing at Health and Safety Inspectors,  when they should be out stealing from shops, smashing things up and having spitting competitions ?
To be honest looking at it myself again I could see his point, I thought it’s a good job he hadn’t seen the garage before I’d tidied it  ........ 

Sorry Claude - not only have I let myself down....


 The final Straw

That’s the final straw, I resolve that my  new year resolutions for 2017 will be more achievable  ....


               A)    Eat more Toblerone.
               B)    Use the word ‘truckle’ whenever I can.
               C)     Wear a hat.



      Climb every mountain ?

But, if you decide you have more about you than me,  why not make some more challenging resolutions.





             1.    Get fit –  try one of our free 'Trust 10' trail runs. 4th Sunday of every month, you don’t have to be Mo Farah you could be Mo....stly walking it, if that suits you ! (015394 41880  or nationaltrust.org.uk/running )

                   
join us on the West side of Windermere
                              






         2.      Re-connect with the natural world – Spend some quality ‘you time’ or should that be ‘Yew time’ in the beautiful, tranquil Dodgson  and Bailiff Woods on the east side of Coniston Water, Cumbria.
Dodgson Wood - Photo Ed Parker

                

                                    


                                 
 
              3.      Climb your first mountain – walk in the footsteps of Chris Bonnington. The summit of Latterbarrow at 803ft is a good starting point and gives you views as good as any summit in the Lakes. Alfred Wainright says  it's "a circular walk needing little effort yet yielding much delight".



              4.      Do more work for charity – volunteer for the National Trust in the countryside or at one of our houses.
( other bits of countryside and charities are available )


Whatever you decide to do have happy and peaceful 2017, this has been Ranger Paul signing off for the South Lakes Ranger team , see you in the New Year.....now where did I put that extra large triangular chocolate ? ahh there it is underneath my Trilby.

9 December 2016

I'm 'lichen' it - plenty to see on winter walks

With winter tightening it's grip it can feel like the whole of nature has hunkered down until spring and there's not much out there to appreciate. That’s what can make winter the ideal time to build an appreciation for some of the less dramatic lifeforms, the ones you might overlook in the more fecund months of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the lichens.

In fact, given that lichens cover (by some estimations) some 6% of the earth’s surface, overlooking them is something that we probably all do a lot of the time. If it wasn’t for the clean air act then this is something most town dwellers would have been forgiven for as lichens are a great indicator of air pollution – they don’t grow well in polluted environments. But nowadays they can be found almost anywhere, although admittedly you’d need to go to some of the more remote parts of northwest Scotland to see the best examples.
 
Cabbagey! A very leafy Foliose (see below) Lichen on a tree near Aira Force
But what is a lichen? Well, it’s complicated. And also a bit weird.

Simply put, they are composite organisms. This means they are neither one thing or another, but more a new kind of life form that arises from (mostly) an algae living amongst the filaments of a fungus in a symbiotic relationship. The algae benefit by being protected from the environment by the filaments of the fungus, which also gather moisture and nutrients from the environment, and (usually) provide an anchor to it. The fungus benefits because the algae produces food by photosynthesis, something they are unable to do.
 
Some lovely hairy Fruticose (see below) lichens on a tree
They’ve been recognised as organisms for quite some time but it wasn’t until 1867 when Swiss botanist Simon Schwendener proposed his dual theory of lichens that their true nature began to emerge. However, common censunsus at the time was that all living things were autonomous so this was rejected at first (it seems the composite organism thing was just too strange) and it took many years and the support of high profile people, including our very own Beatrix Potter, to finally see the idea accepted.

Nowadays, the arguments still go on. At the moment they are classified by their fungal component, but there is some debate over whether this is the right thing to do as two dramatically different looking lichens can be technically the same thing due to having the same fungus but two different algal parts. Confusing!
 
Beautiful patterns on a Crustose (see below) lichen on one of the walls at High Wray Basecamp volunteer centre
In fact, once you start to look into them it gets extraordinarily confusing with identification being a really specialized field requiring microscopes and chemicals. But this doesn’t need to take away from the fact that with a little knowledge and open eyes they can add an extra element to any winter walk.

A good starting point is to get to know the three most commonly accepted growth forms: Crustose (like a crust), Fruticose (like a little shrub) and Foliose (with leaf like structures). There are lots of others and the boundaries between these are sometimes blurry but get a cheap hand lens and go in close and you’ll be amazed at the microscopic and very alien world that is right there under your nose.
 
Bright red 'podetia' seen on some lichens, bearing spores 
Finally, here’s some  Fun lichen facts!

Unlike simple dehydration in plants and animals, lichens may experience a very high loss of body water in dry periods. Lichens are capable of surviving extremely low levels of water content (poikilohydric). They quickly absorb water when it becomes available again, becoming soft and fleshy. That’s tough!

The European Space Agency has discovered that lichens can survive unprotected in space. In an experiment two species of lichen were sealed in a capsule and launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket in May 2005. Once in orbit, the capsules were opened and the lichens were directly exposed to the vacuum of space with its widely fluctuating temperatures and cosmic radiation. After 15 days, the lichens were brought back to earth and were found to be in full health with no discernible damage from their time in orbit. That’s tougher!

Lichens are a pioneer species, often the first to colonize bare rock. They can grow in a very wide range of environmental conditions and can grow on almost any surface. They can even live inside solid rock, growing between the grains. Also quite tough …..


When growing on rocks some lichens slowly decompose them, contributing to the process of weathering by which they are turned into soil. Normally benign, this can cause a problem on artificial stone structures such as Mount Rushmore in the States which has to be regularly cleaned of Lichens. So tough even the might of the US struggles against them!


By Rob Clarke, Ranger at High Wray Basecamp volunteer centre

26 November 2016

Fell Season 2016




The South Lakes upland footpath team have been hard at it Fixing the Fells this year, whilst on our travels we've encountered wild weather, mountain mists, a healthy dose of hard working volunteers and one or two foot paths.

We've had projects running all over the Lakes and helped out some of the other teams too! Here's a rundown of some of the jobs we've been getting up to.  


Threshthwaite Cove

Threshthwaite Cove & Raven Crag
Threshthwaite Cove is a beautiful quiet valley (if not a little windy at the best of times!) situated near Hartsop.

Erosion scar before


After landscaping

Thresthwaite is a very damp place indeed and the path suffers a great deal from flowing water and foot fall. Above we have tried to define a path line and re-vegetate the damaged areas. 



Working holiday group





Working with different volunteer groups we carried out work all the way along the valley including installation of rock stepping stones, path definition and drain building.







Sca Fell Pike

Wasdale Valley
From time to time the upland teams like to help each other out, earlier in the year we had the chance to go to the dramatic wild west-ern fells to work on Sca Fell Pike.


West Lakes team on brown tongue. Wastwater at the back.
Path widening















Brown Tongue is a popular route up England's highest mountain and can be incredibly busy all year round. To reduce erosion and help accommodate the vast numbers of feet on the hill the path from bottom to top (its a big path, trust me!) is being widened. In the picture to the right you can see the new and wider pitching merging into the older path which is soon to be replaced.

Dolly Wagon PIke & Fairfield

We have have been paying some attention to the hills surrounding the popular Grisedale Tarn. With many a hard working volunteer group and help from both the Western and Northern upland teams we've been landscaping out side routes and placing stepping stones over sensitive peat bog. And look here some kindly fellow has labeled the hills just in case!!  

Working holiday


Opposite direction!


Below is a section of much needed pitching Nick put in near the summit of Dolly Wagon Pike. 




Helvellyn

Helvellyn is an understandably popular mountain which on a clear day rewards anyone who ventures up there with stunning views of the whole of the Lake district and beyond to up to Scotland and the Howgills to the east. It's therefore unsurprising to hear that we concentrate a great deal of effort up here.  

Thirlmere from Brown Cove Crags
Stone pitching put in this summer

Striding Edge 

Striding Edge suffers a great deal of erosion along the sides of the crest of the ridge so it would be impolite for 'Fix The Fells' to not go and visit and chip away at the on going work up there.  


Erosion Scar








Landscaped out! 

Goats Hause

To end the fell season we decided to do a bit of work in our own back yard and our focus turned to Goats Hause which is the col between Coniston Old man and Dow Crag. This project was funded by EOCA or the European Outdoor Conservation Association, you may have seen/heard coverage of this earlier in the year on the TV or Wireless! There is a huge amount of damage to the vegetation in this area so we have been using the usual techniques to reduce this.

The Fix The Fells lengthsmen hard at work landscaping


The above drain finished is now being blended in with its surroundings. Below we are trying to encourage people to use a path line that will erode less quickly


After
Before

























I

In the photo above, the path is relatively thin however it was three times as wide before the area to the left of the path was landscaped out. 


It's not a bad place to have lunch either......




So that's it for the fells for 2016 and next year's work plan is already in the pipeline, for now we're all having a well deserved break by getting on with some good old fashioned hard work down in the lowlands. 

Thanks for reading


4 November 2016

Claife Viewing Station - Facelift



Looking Spectacular

As we get older we all need a little extra help to keep ourselves  looking spectacular !


Looking hairy 
Dad

Mum

 For me it’s  my increasingly  hairy ears, nose  and eyebrows that require just that little bit more time spent in front of a magnifying mirror with the scissors and Remington nasal hair trimmer to ensure that I don’t start looking like the lovechild of Brian Blessed and  Chewbacca  !  



Must See Destination




At 238 years old Claife Viewing Station is no different and  needs a little love and attention to keep it looking as it should . The Viewing Station was once a ‘must see’ destination  for the very earliest tourists to the Lake District, when their traditional ‘Grand Tour ‘ of Europe was too dangerous an undertaking  due to the French Revolution .


The Station,  a now ruined building, lay  hidden in the woods for decades until it   re-opened to the public  last year after a £1/2 million pound  facelift and we continue  with the care by restoring the landscape around the Viewing Station itself,  so that the present day experience is as close to the original as possible.


Thrilling Dramatic Wild !




This week as part of our landscaping works, we have been planting 750 heather plants with the assistance of a couple of volunteer groups. We have also removed young self sown birch trees and in the near future will be removing more cherry laurel to expose more of the bare rock faces around the Station. All of this is being done to create a more thrilling , dramatic ’wild’ experience for our visitors.




Come and  see for yourselves , Claife Viewing Station is open all year round  as is the Courtyard cafĂ©. Located on the West shore of Lake Windermere, Far Sawrey,Ambleside, Cumbria.


https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claife-viewing-station-and-windermere-west-shore

21 October 2016







The Basecamp Toolstore...A Photo Essay.




In early September we held a green woodworking holiday, using traditional techniques to build a new Basecamp toolstore. This is that story...




 Removing the old shipping container…careful not to take the toilet block out while you’re at it…
 …or the small dog…!

Sayonara shipping container! You have served us well but we need an upgrade





OK, let’s cover all the surfaces. Things are about to get serious





“Here’s one I made earlier”…Our woodland Ranger, and Project Manager – Richard, briefing the troops, with the woodstore built on a previous holiday as an example.





Hmmm, that’s a lot of wood. A few daunted looking faces there…





Let’s get to it! This toolstore ain’t gonna build itself…

Especially if the boss is sitting down on the job.


Measure twice, cut once, as they say…We had to get measurements spot on to make sure everything would fit together perfectly


…But preferably not your own fingers – Eyes down Gary!


Show him how it’s done Jane! Textbook sawing...


Second-in-command Claire overseeing a measurement. Any errors meant holidaymakers were put on half-rations…


Concentrating hard on getting that jowl post right…at least the sun’s shining


An industrious scene, little changed from the Middle Ages…


Another timeless technique – here’s Tony making the wooden pegs for the frame. These were traditionally used to avoid costly iron nails (a tradition kept alive by National trust budgets).


…And relax…


Making sure the frame fits together…with a little gentle persuasion from Mr Sledgehammer.


Ged the dog overseeing on-site assembly.


Lots of fun was had putting the frame together…


Watch out for that car window! I don’t think my insurance covers oak-framed timber buildings.


The finished frame, and a happy bunch of campers…


But the toolstore wasn’t finished no siree…Richard and Claire came back with regular volunteers John and Ian to carry on with the roof and cladding


Hard at work to get it finished (most of us)


Gadzooks! Almost finished and looking great…Just needs a roof and a door and she’s good to go…come back soon guys!!

TO BE CONTINUED.....