8 June 2012

News from the fells

Rainbow seen from Glenamara Park
It's the time of year when the footpath team spend very little time in the lowlands (or in the office) and, unless you're a keen hill-walker, we are mostly seen as specks in the distance on the side of a hill.  At the beginning of May we led a Working Holiday teaching a group of very keen volunteers some upland footpath techniques at Glenamara Park, near Patterdale in Ullswater. 

The path is a popular route up to St. Sunday Crag and had stone pitching put in by volunteers about eight years ago.  In most places the path is holding up well, but there were some places where it had become eroded, so we replaced stones and landscaped out the eroded places with the hope that people will continue to want to follow the path.  The weather was a touch mixed, but as you can see from the photo, that just added a few rainbows to our already beautiful view.  You can also see the pitching (step-like stone path) in the foreground.
 >  We have had a couple of scorchingly hot work days with the Fix the Fells volunteer lengthsmen.  The first was on a popular route route up Coniston Old Man near the ruins of a former slate quarry.  We were using a technique that was used to create a hard-wearing but smooth path surface for dragging massive pieces of slate down from the quarries on sledges!  Slates are laid so that their narrowest edge forms the path surface.  As you can imagine this is a long term project as you don't get many metres of path laid in a day. 

Creating a slate path on the Old Man

The second lengthsmen work party was high on Helvellyn near Red Tarn.  A subsoil path had been created using a digger about 12 years ago and some stone drains put in at the same time had collapsed and were no longer effectively shedding water from the path.  Water erosion soon creates gullies and makes the surface unattractive for people to walk on, so our task was to fix the drains.  The drains run across the path and have two parallel stone sides and should have a flat stone base.  Many of the drains near Red Tarn had no bases at all and that's likely to be the reason why they collapsed as the base helps to hold the sides apart.  We scavenged stone from the hillside to put new bases in.  We had a great view of Striding Edge and the summit of Helvellyn and were grateful that there was some water around to help us keep cool!

Lengthsmen repairing drains on Helvellyn
The sheep fleeces that you heard about the Basecamp team bagging up in an earlier post have now reached their destination high above Langdale via helicopter!  We were involved on the ground on the day they flew, moving the bags to the field where the helicopter was going to land.  We were very lucky to have perfect flying weather (helicopters are a bit fragile and the Lake District doesn't always oblige with sun).  Sadly I didn't manage to capture the comedy moment when the wind created by the helicopter rotor blades blew the bags and sheep fleeces all over the landing site!  However, as you can see below we got all the bags flown successfully to Mart Crag Moor where the Basecamp team are going to be using them to build a path this summer with a working holiday.

Helicopter flying sheep fleeces to Mart Crag moor
In the past the footpath team have spent most of their time in the summer working on a single large project.  This year our focus has been mainly on doing maintenance on the paths that have already been built.  We walk set routes and clear drains of any gravel and mud that has accumulated in them and clear stone pitching of gravel so that it's easy to walk on.  We've been lucky enough to go all over the Lake District while collaborating with other teams, so I'll leave you with this panorama of Buttermere and Crummock water from our 'office' for the day on Red Pike.

Panorama from Red Pike (Buttermere)

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