South Lakes Path Team Update - End of the Season Report It’s that time of year again when the team starts to migrate from the upland fells and moves to the valley bottoms and we start to look back and reflect at how the season has gone.
The year started … with the usual mix of low level jobs in and around the South Lakes property which included lots of walling, hedge laying and other maintenance tasks that keep the land we look after in good shape. The first big project of the year for the path team was a relatively straight forward stone pitching job on a track at Hallgarth in Little Langdale. We worked on this in the months of January and February and we had some fantastic weather. The only problem was that the precise area where we were working never saw the sun as it could never quite get high enough to clear the hill in front Gav collecting stone on another gloriously dark and cold day of us. As a result of this it was always cold and dark. Not joking around but on literally the last day of the project the sun managed to get above the hill and shine on us. Better late than never, I suppose.
This year’s first upland path project …was on Helm Crag in Grasmere and overall the job has been very successful in the short term. We’ve managed to put in a new path line that takes people away from a damaged area and this is constructed by digging in to the hillside to create a near level surface. This is built by using just mattocks, spades and hard graft. It’s very simple to put in but there is a technical aspect to it. The steepness of the path has not to be above a certain gradient so that the surface won’t erode away and to calculate this we use a vital bit of kit called a clinometer. It’s a small hand held device that you The technical bit. Nick and Gav using the clinometer. No pressure!!!! can look through to a scale on a lens and it’s used to measure the angle of the slope and if we get it wrong at this point, the path could be in jeopardy of eroding away as fast as we can build it.
The scar that used to run down the hillside has now all but disappeared and people are now sticking to the path line that has been put in place. We’ve had plenty of help on the path from volunteers and one of the benefits of not working with big, heavy stones is that we can work as one big group in quite close proximity to each other and so you can have a good laugh along the way. The thought of having to dig for over half a kilometre could slightly dampen spirits if you thought about it too much. Once we completed around half of the distance on the Helm crag path the team split in to two and half went up to Crinkle Crags in Langdale with the Western Valleys team, and the other half went to Borrowdale to continue the work on Langstrath with our Northern path team.
Crinkle Crags, in Langdale… The project on Crinkle Crags involved repairing a damaged section of path where people were avoiding the “Bad Step”. The work went extremely well and has settled in very nicely. The idea of working on this job in June and July was to try and make sure we had some good weather and so it proved to be the case. This particular work site is more often than not in cloud and also gets a battering from the wind but whilst we were up there we had some glorious days and had clear views of not only the Isle of Man but of Wales and Snowdonia. One of the more memorable days that stood out on the Crinkles job is the day we had a Fix the Fells Work Party up there. Morning: You can see the path winding its way along the ridge in the background.
The task was on the highest “Crinkle” and it was to try to make the path along the ridge a little clearer to walkers as it’s an infamous spot where people seem to get lost. The day started in very good, clear conditions and as I began to explain what work we were doing up there on that day, I think some people thought I was mad as the path was very clearly visible and only a fool could get lost on this particular point on the ridge. Thankfully, although not so good for the spectacular views from up there, the cloud came down at lunchtime and the feel of the place completely changed from the morning. I think it was now that some of the group could understand why we were doing the work.
Afternoon: - Everyone can clearly see (or maybe they can’t) what the problem is.
Whilst half of the team were on Crinkles, the other half were back on Langstrath in Borrowdale.
Langstrath, in Borrowdale … This a sub soil path and a project that the team has been working on over the last three years with the help of the North Lakes team and it’s a case of chipping away at it each year and eventually we’ll get the worst of the erosion sorted. We’re all very pleased with how the path is progressing and because we return to it every year we can clearly monitor just how the path is holding up. The two photos below show myself on the same part of the path and on the left, it shows a section of work that we did over three years ago that was half way through completion and the one on the right shows what it looks like today. I guess the photo shows that it’s sometimes difficult for people to comprehend just exactly how much work goes into repairing the paths when just about three quarters of the work we do gets buried after we’ve completed it.
What a difference three years makes.
And now … The team is now officially “off the fells” again and we now begin to plan and look forward to the winter work program. Again, we have various projects lined up but probably the most interesting is a boardwalk across a small bay of Windermere. I’m sure that on this project the British winter weather will be good to us and we won’t have floods and heavy rain to put a dampener on the project!!!
By Ian Griffiths
The National Trust's South Lakes Footpath Team tells you what it's been up to in 2011