Reflecting back on 2012

by Ade Mills. East Team. December 2012

Our year began over at Aira Force. Our work involved improving the drainage and replacing an old section of footpath with more formal steps to make the path more suitable for a wider range of visitors. Once this was completed, we carried out some more footpath repairs at Wetheral Woods near Carlisle. This time defining the path and preventing it from eroding away into the river Eden. Next up was Allan Bank. 

New steps at Aira Force.JPG
(Picture: New Steps at Aira Force)

Allan Bank in Grasmere was once home to William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and later Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley one of the founders of the National Trust. In 2012 it was opened to the public for the first time in its history. Our work was to repair a woodland walk and make it suitable for the increased number of visitors. We repaired roughly 30 metres of slate steps, as well as gravelling, edging and installing wooden risers. We had just enough time, finishing late in the evening the day before we opened. It took a total of 146 staff days and 82 Fix the Fells volunteer days to complete.

Creating the woodland walk
(Picture: Creating the woodland walk)

Repaired slate steps
(Picture: Repaired slate steps)

Before starting back on our upland path work we had just enough time to build a bridge at Easedale to provide access for a team of archaeologists and volunteers to survey a Medieval Fulling Mill. 

Working on the bridge at Easedale
(Picture: Working on the Bridge at Easedale)

Our biggest job of the year was replacing the path at Helm Crag which took 211 staff and 60 volunteer days. The work included 120m of stone pitching, numerous stone drains, 200m of sub-soiling, all the associated landscaping as well as repairing substantial amounts of the dry stone wall that runs alongside the path. To complete the stone footpath we had to hand fill bags with over 70 tonnes of rock which was flown to site by helicopter.

Pitching at Helm Crag(Picture: Section of Pitching at Helm Crag)

Throughout the year we’ve also spent 137 man days on “drain runs” and path maintenance work all over the Central and Eastern fells. Clearing drains means that they continue to flow. Without any regular maintenance they are likely to overflow during heavy rain and cause damage to the path. It's an essential part of our job, as all the hard work of building the paths would soon be undone if they weren't properly maintained. We've got a huge patch to cover but fortunately the Fix the Fells voluntary lengthsmen are also out on a regular basis helping us out. In May we also held a training session for the year’s new Fix the Fells volunteer lengthsmen. They were given a brief presentation all about their role and what is required when you go out on a "drain run". We then headed up Loughrigg and put it all into practice.


Fix the Fells Induction Day
(Picture: Fix the Fells Induction Day) 

Our first job of the autumn was to replace the stock fencing around one of the plantations in Stickle Ghyll. The original fence was put in about 25 years ago to help stabilise the scree slope around the stone pitched footpath. We replaced the pitching in 2009 and more trees were planted at the same time. Since then sheep have found a way to gain entrance and graze on the trees, so we decided that the fence should be replaced. It took a total of 79 man days to remove and replace the original fence. Now in future years the vegetation in the enclosure should flourish.

Newly strained fence resized 
(Picture: Newly strained fence) 

The year ended as it started over at Aira Force, again working on the path network. We repaired a section of path using a technique known as herring bone pitching, built some new stone drains and gravelled damaged sections of path.

 Herring Bone Pitching (Picture: Herring Bone Footpath) 

There have been numerous other smaller jobs that we’ve been involved with over the course of the year but hopefully this gives a good snapshot. For a more detailed insight into our work, please visit: or follow us on Twitter @NTCentralFells

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