7 June 2013

Itching to do some Pitching...

This week it is the turn of the South Lakes Upland Rangers to do the blog.

It may be helpful to first explain the title. "Pitching" refers to the stone step-like paths that are sometimes built in the fells to tackle erosion problems. The "Itching" relates to the fact that in recent years the team have not done much path work using rock and we were keen to do some.

In the last couple of years much of our work has used different techniques. These have included a subsoil technique, which uses compacted subsoil to create a hard wearing path surface, and landscaping techniques to define a sustainable path line and stabilise areas of erosion. These techniques predominately use materials near the path we are working on.

Subsoil path under construction last year 

There are various issues when considering rock for a path project, such as the proximity of suitable rock (we use rock local to an area wherever possible) and can we use it. There may be rare flora growing on a scree slope that is potential rock source that should not be disturbed. There may also be significant costs moving the rock if done using a helicopter (see blogs earlier this year) or it may simply be that rock is not the most suitable option.

The team's main project this year is on a path from Grisedale Tarn up Fairfield. Survey work concluded that an erosion scar that is developing was best tackled by 100 metres of stone pitched path. This means that the team has lots of pitching to get their teeth into.

Before work started: erosion scar developing
(Ignore rock on right, an old dry stone wall) 
In addition to getting rock flown by helicopter to the project site we were able to have a flat packed shed lifted there. This provides some storage but most importantly some shelter at lunch time when the weather is bad. The first job was to build & tether down the shed.

Project Fairfield "office" (not a bad location)
Once the shed was up we started on the stone pitching, taking a 10 metre section each. The first step was to dig in some of the biggest rocks at the bottom of each section to act as anchor for the rocks going in above.
Pitching in progress: looking down path at Luke & Tom in action
In addition to the stone work we also "landscape" out surrounding areas of erosion and finish off with turf and and grass seed to help the pathwork blend into the hillside.
Finished pitching plus landscaping
This project is progressing well and at the time of writing we are enjoying a very nice spell of weather.
Project progress as at end of this week
If you would like to know more about the daily work of the South Lakes Upland Ranger team they can be found on Twitter @NTLakesFells.

Posted by: Nick, Upland Ranger