At this time of year we are getting ready to return to the fells to start upland path projects. The bags in question are the ones we fill with rock to be moved by helicopter to the project sites.
The first stage of the process starts before the bag filling commences as it needs to be agreed where the rock can be collected from. Wherever possible we use rock local to the area so that it is consistent with the surrounding landscape. Nearby screes are a good starting point for potential locations. These have to be agreed with Natural England, a public body responsible for protecting and improving England's natural environment. There may be reasons a scree should not be used, such as rare or protected flora, and there may be limits on how much rock can be taken. For example during the current rock collection we are avoiding areas of woolly hair moss.
|A 'good-looking' rock but the woolly hair moss means we won't use it|
Our main project this year is a joint one with the Western team, tackling erosion on the path from Red Tarn to Crinkle Crags. The rock sites selected are between Crinkle Crags and Cold Pike and our walk up from the Three Shires stone is around an hour. A fairly good warm up before the 'main event' of bag filling!
|Carrying heli-bags towards Crinkle Crags with the Western team & others|
|Some of the group enjoying a break before bag filling|
(Ian seems to be amused about something)
|First rock of the day - a nice pitching stone "in the bag"|
|Sarah hard at work filling a bag|
|A full bag with bag-filling continuing in the background|
The heli-bags are designed to carry a ton of rock which is the limit that the helicopter can usually carry in one go. In reality the filled bags tend to weigh around 700 to 800kg.The number of bags that can be filled per person in a day can vary widely depending on the site, the type of rock needed and how accessible the rocks are. The author of this blog likes the challenge of filling all of the bags he carries up but has only managed this once this year.
There are legendary tales from the past of path workers filling impressive numbers of bags in a single day.
|A single rock fills this bag,|
(Courtesy of Jon, from the West)
Searching for particular shapes and sizes of rock can have side effects and you may find yourself noticing suitable rocks wherever you go. You can even find yourself strangely attracted to rocks and describing them as 'beautiful'. It is fair to say that this trait may not be appreciated by others, particularly friends and family when not at work.
After spending the winter doing mostly lower level work it is a great feeling returning to the fells to focus on the upland work that we enjoy.
|One of many nice views enjoyed during bag filling|
Posted by: Nick, Upland Ranger