On closer inspection

Clear water running through Lydford Gorge, Devon

The rangers at Lydford Gorge take a closer look at the rock faces above the river path over the winter.

The rock faces towering above the river path get all the attention over the winter.  The focus of the rangers work moves from keeping the gorge looking spick and span day to day to more focused work.

The gorge is always on the move
The gorge is always changing seasonally but also over many thousands of years.  At times this process is quicker with one off events such as landslides or the river undercutting the river bank during floods; natural processes that the rangers need to work with while maintaining access for people at the same time.
Over the winter period, with the lower path closed the rangers get the chance to survey the rock faces to help prevent such events. They need to be checked to ensure they are stable and if not any preventive action can be taken before the path re-opens in the spring. Carrying out any work with the lower path open would not be possible with the potential for both rocks and debris to fall.

Using technology and the human eye
The rock faces are surveyed using a combination of technology, looking visually, historical knowledge and experience.  The rangers invite experts to come in and using 3D technology scan a section of the rock face (the rock faces are surveyed on a rotational basis) as well as climb the rock faces on a network of ropes to check visually for new cracks and fissures. These can naturally occur or can be a result of tree and plant roots penetrating the rock faces.
Once the surveys are complete and the results known; any work to steady and secure the slopes is done.  This can take a long time given there is no vehicle access to the gorge and all the tools and equipment need to be carried in and out by hand.  The weather can also hamper efforts too.

The gorge is a special area of scientific interest and the aim is to keep it has natural as possible so keep any inventions in keeping as best we can.  Areas can be netted – vegetation grows back through and hides the bolts and nets.  Vegetation can be removed to stop roots splitting the rock faces apart. 

So next time you walk through the gorge take a look up and see if you can spot where work may have been done.