Making Crow Park accessible to all
Not all of the ranger team’s work is up on the fells; some is a little closer to home. Thanks to a local donation we've been working hard creating a new accessible path and repairing the dry-stone wall boundary at Crow Park.
Crow Park is a special place overlooking Derwent Water and the Borrowdale Valley. A combination of stunning views and a long history is why it was chosen as the site for the UNESCO plaque which marks the Lake District as a World Heritage Site.
The park used to be covered with oak woodland which was cut down and sold for timber in the mid-1700s, causing some disapproval. This is perhaps one of the first written records about over damage to the environment, and shows us the value people were beginning to place on picturesque scenery.
" If one single tree had remained, this would have been an unparalleled spot."
In need of a little TLC
The park has become increasingly popular over the years for those wanting a picnic with a view, dog walkers and those completing the round the lake walk. It has also been used for events, such as Keswick Mountain Festival and the Derwent Water Regatta. This in many ways is wonderful, as we want to share the beautiful views and access to green spaces but the grass has not been enjoying the tread of thousands of pairs of feet each year though and has become degraded. The park also gets very wet in the winter and conditions become too difficult for wheelchairs and buggies.
With the help of a gift to the National Trust from local resident Jill Chambers we decided to resurface the path at Crow Park. The new fully accessible route will allow the grass to regenerate and to open the park to everyone year round.
" I’m so happy with what National Trust have been doing to improve access to Crow Park, as it enables me to enjoy this route with my mobility scooter."
The Lake District National Park also to helped fund the path, as it joins up the popular multi-user Derwentwater Walk round the lake. The boundary wall and fence has deteriorated over the years, occasionally allowing sheep onto Hope Park; which the gardeners, and the shepherd, would like to stop. These collapsed sections of dry-stone wall needed repairing and a new fence installed.
I joined the ranger team in April, and creating the new path was the first job I worked on. The first task was to get the gradient right for wheelchair users at the rugby club entrance, using sight-levelling. This is a real brain teaser and a challenge for the team, and quite frankly made my brain hurt! We realised that a lot of material would be needed to create a ramp from the road at the right gradient. Thankfully this material would be easily obtained from the soil being taken out further along the path. This was expertly dug out by our contractor with his dumper, and was filled in with Threlkeld quarry waste and a top layer of local slate so it would blend in. Raking out the materials was sometimes back and arm-breaking, but we were very thankful for the dumper.
While building the path we needed to be careful to conserve the foundations of the racecourse that used to run around the park ensuring we only took the top soil off where its located. The racecourse was built around 1780 by the eccentric Joseph Pocklington, who lived on Derwent Island and started the local regatta.
We installed new gates and some sheep pens for our grazier. The path was neatened up, seeded, and left for mother nature to heal and weather it into looking like it’s been there for years.
Repairing the drystone wall
We are now back at Crow Park to repair the boundary, after spending the summer carrying out other work across the property. We’ve started by trimming some of the trees that had branches damaging the wall and have also taken out the old rotten fencing. Various sections of the wall needed rebuilding or taking out and replaced with post-and-rail fencing. The trunks of larger trees have pushed the wall out; quite a clue as to how old this wall really is.
We have already put in a few ‘quoin ends’ to the wall, this is the correct way of ending a dry-stone wall, and are slowly tackling the sections that need rebuilding. Slowly being the operative word here, as we’re working with quite difficult stone. Each seems to have lumps in all the wrong places and makes for quite a hard jigsaw puzzle. Once finished, we’ll move onto replacing the boundary fencing to Hope Park, and on the other side to the Isthmus.
The new path proves popular
One of the most satisfying parts of our jobs is when we see our work being appreciated. Even before the path was finished, people started using it and now months later, many a wheelchair and buggy is rolling along smoothly. The grass has now grown up and the path looks like it’s been there for years. We’ve had many positive comments while working and everyone we've spoken to, from locals to visitors, is pleased with the work we’ve carried out at Crow Park. This was my first big project after joining the team at the start of April, and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and rewards of such a high profile job.