Team Update April 2013

April has been a varied month, finishing off our winter work programme but with the main focus being preparations for our upland path work for the coming months. This has not gone entirely smoothly due to the weather.....

The initial priority task was to collect rock for the projects.  Generally this is collected from a nearby scree so that it is the same type of rock as found in the project location. The most efficient way to move the rock tends to be by helicopter and so this rock has to be put into "heli-bags". These bag filling days tend to be quite gruelling and before we even start rolling rocks about we need to carry around 10 empty bags each to the rock site.  This serves as quite a good warm-up for the main event.

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Carrying "heli-bags" with the West team to collect rock for the Swirral Edge project.

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The West team contemplating the Swirral Edge job, will the snow be gone in time to fly the rock?

For projects and maintenance work our team has been involved in the filling of almost 300 bags with rock.  This was done partly with other teams but also with some much appreciated help from the volunteer lengthsmen. The lengthsmen did the last 40 or so bags for our Fairfield path project, which helped us make up for time lost due to snow making the screes inaccessible.  There is a story about "the 41st bag" which we haven't quite got to the bottom of....

It was hoped that all the rock for our projects (& that for the other path teams) would be completed within a single week. A second week of helicopter time was booked as back up. Thanks to low cloud and high winds making flying rock unsafe, nothing was lifted until the Friday of the first week and this second week was definitely needed!

Poor weather conditions in this second week even meant a couple more hours were needed to finish moving our final bags (the helicopter was still in the area.)

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Lifting bags of rock by helicopter to our Fairfield project, with Ian directing the pilot.

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"Squirrel above Swirral"; helicopter lifting rock to Swirral Edge.

In addition to rock we sometimes get a flat-packed shed flown to the site, particularly for longer and more remote projects. A shed serves mainly as a shelter for break times but can also be a useful place to store tools.  This year we flew a shed to the site of our main project, a section of badly eroded path heading up Fairfield from Grisedale Tarn. Once the shed was on site the number one priority became building our "office" and ensuring it was securely tethered.

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The "office" for project Fairfield; not a bad view!

Another project this year involves work on a path that heads south from Blea Tarn in the Langdales and passes above Blea Moss. This is part of a partnership project, with Cumbria Wildlife Trust and the Lake District National Park Authority, which aims to reduce the erosion and drying out of the peat on the mosses. Blea Moss is an important habitat, particularly for Bog orchids, Marsh Club Moss and Oblong leaved Sundew.

This site is very accessible and the aim is that the bulk of the work will be completed by volunteers.  One group we have been working with on the path is some students from Kendal college who are doing a BTEC diploma in outdoor adventure. The idea is that incorporating this project in their course gives them a greater understanding of conservation work in the countryside. Hopefully this helps bridge a divide that can sometimes occur between outdoor activities and conservation.

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Kendal College students: defining a single path line & landscaping work on the Blea Moss project, to reduce erosion. 

 Now that the team are at last set up for this year's upland path projects it should be full steam ahead.... 

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