Ranger team round-up - where did 2016 go?

Ranger repairing flood damaged wall, Borrowdale

How is it 2017 already? A bit of time in the office allows me to give you a quick update on some of the work the Ranger team has done in the North Lakes during the summer and autumn of 2016.

Back in the summer...

A return to ‘haven

It was good to spend a few days with Whitehaven Ranger Chris, out on the coast helping with another section of wall that defines the old Saltom miners' trackway.

Repairs in keeping with the industrial heritage
Rangers repair wall with industrial heritage at Whitehaven, Cumbria

The weather was (for the most part) sunny, enhancing this amazing landscape. Despite its urban fringe ambience this is a really special spot; one lunchtime we ventured down towards Saltom pit and as soon as the housing was out of sight I could have sworn I was down on the South West Coastal path in Cornwall. It’s got that sort of western seaboard atmosphere; West Penwith comes to West Cumbria! I thoroughly recommend a visit, particularly when the wild flowers are out.

Washed out walls at Rosthwaite

In your travels in Borrowdale you may have noticed the roadside wall gaps just down-valley from Rosthwaite.

Wall washed out by flood waters
Flood damage to wall in Borrowdale, Lake District

Regular flooding at this spot means the walls take a battering, not from the usual trees or assorted uncontrolled driven objects, but from wave action that literally shakes them apart. Large vehicles driving through the water, often at speed, push out a considerable bow wave which is difficult for these slate walls to take.

With our flood recovery work we are seeking to put in place longer term solutions, rather than simply reinstating like-for-like. So, in this instance we have made some permanent gaps in the wall (to be filled by railings at a later date) which will allow water to flow without damage during times of flood in the future.

Built-in gaps now let water flow when necessary
Work on flood damaged wall in Borrowdale, Lake district

Incidentally it was interesting (for me anyway) to see that the slate in the walls was marked with quite distinctive black spotting, suggesting that the stone came from Quayfoot Quarry. A local stonemason (but really an artist with stone) once told me that one of the Quayfoot workings was called Rainspot because of this distinctive black spotting, the colour of fresh raindrops on dry stone. 

The distinctive black marks of local 'rainspot' stone
Local 'rainspot' stone, Borrowdale, Lake District

A mish-mash of maintenance

Summer tends to be less about projects and more about management and maintenance. The valleys are busy and everything is growing at a ridiculous rate, so you may see us at this time of year just getting stuck into the day-to-day routine stuff like shifting trailer loads of aggregate, strimming, Ranger Paul litter picking the shore at Crummock again (and again, though you have to be up pretty early to witness that!), did I mention strimming…? You get the picture.

Just keep strimming...
Ranger strims the verge in Borrowdale, Lake District

Moving on into autumn...

Do the Strand (s-hag)

Roxy Music…1972…73? No? Give yourself a treat and look it up on YouTube sometime.

Right, as we've experienced wilder and wilder weather over the last 10 years or so, certain paths have become less and less tenable. Such a case is the one through Strandshag Bay, on the shores of Derwent Water.

Strandshag Bay is always a popular spot
Photographers on the lakeshore in winter, Keswick

High water events, especially when driven in by gale-force south-westerlies, keep wrecking this super-popular lake shore track. Back in the ‘90s we laid footpad sensors in the neighbouring path that leads to Friar’s Crag. This showed that a minimum of 250,000 people  use this path every year and many of them carry on down to the beautiful adjoining bay.

Future-proofing by re-routing
Rangers create new path after floods in Keswick

A good quality path is therefore a necessity, but it no longer makes sense to just keep repairing it. Instead we have relocated the path onto the top of the bank, creating a high quality, very accessible route that requires minimal maintenance and can be enjoyed all year round. Visitors will still be able to reach the lake by using the existing paths, but beyond the gate (perhaps the most used gate in the Lake District?) we are allowing the shoreline revert to a natural beach.

Easy on the eye and on your feet!
Ranger walks at Strandshag Bay in winter, Lake District


As well as the Strandshag path work, we’ve been able to lend a hand to help Maurice our Woodlands Ranger, to build tree cages in the Langstrath Valley.

Tree cages ready and waiting to protect the new saplings
Rangers install trees cages, Langstrath Valley, Cumbria

It is possibly the first time that trees will have been planted in the valley - a bare place now, it was once well wooded. There are the remains of several charcoal burning pit steads on the valley sides, but in the 16th century all the trees were devoured by the mining smelts. So Maurice’s work, although on a small scale, is not without significance. We were also able to lend Ranger Roy some muscle power in the major work he has completed to essential revetments on Derwent Island.    

And now 2017 beckons, see you out there!