9 August 2013

An Interns Insight - 2 Weeks With The Footpath Team.

As an Intern Ranger, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Coniston, Woodland and Hawkshead teams. To complete the set, I’ve spent the last 2 weeks working with the Footpath team. I was a little apprehensive at first, walking uphill carrying a shovel and a mattock to build footpaths doesn’t appeal to me, but somehow, I found myself enjoying it, even in the rain and mud…

During the first week we were working at Blea Moss with Basecamp and West Runton, pitching a new path to protect the moss and the flora within it. We also had a day with the fix the fells lengthsmen finishing the path at stake pass. The second week we were working on the Fairfield project. During these two weeks I learnt the basics:
  • Never cover up turf, take the turf off and replace it later.
  • Pitching - all about digging big holes, rolling big rocks into them and making sure they’re level with good contact to the surrounding rocks.
  • Landscaping - making mounds or hollows at either side of your new path to discourage people from straying from it.
  • The erosion triangle - people/steepness/water.
  • Cake is always welcome (though I think that goes for Rangers in general).
  • Don't roll rocks onto your feet or hands. 
The path at Blea Moss progressed quite well during the week, but steadily became more and more muddy. Pitching holes were filling up with water instead of rocks, landscaping became playing in the mud and staying in one place for too long resulted in getting stuck.

The start of the muddy pitching at Blea Moss, before the rain came and ran down the newly laid steps like a river.
Stake pass had a slightly harder start to the day, about an hour’s walk up the valley into the cloud carrying a shovel and a mattock. Once up there we finished the section of path and topped up some other sections with extra gravel from the borrow pits (big pits dug out to get to the gravel underneath the peat, then filled back in by collapsing the banks and replacing the turf).

The second week we were working on the Fairfield project, fortunately all the tools were already at the top in the cabin, so all I had to do was enjoy the walk up by the waterfall.

Not a bad commute to work...
 The weather stayed fine and so I was able to experience pitching onto hard ground rather than mud. Working on Tom’s section we were able to pitch up to the point where a drain was to be put in, and managed to get some big stones in to compensate for the steepness of the section.


The finished section of pitching.
 I really enjoyed my 2 weeks with the footpath team, I'm still smiling despite a couple of crushed fingers, and a slightly bruised foot. I will hopefully get a chance to go out again with them soon, even if it means carrying the tools uphill into a cloud...

By Kimberley Goodall


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