An excellent start to 2013

The 2013 Fix the Fells season has started well despite what the weather threw at us. A prolonged cold spell with lots of snow should have meant that little work on the fells could take place.  The weather failed to take account of the enthusiasm, dedication and energy of our volunteer work force.

In the first four months of the year they gifted 413 days to the programme to drain runs, minor maintenance and work parties throughout the Lake District National Park. Apart from our core business of clearing fell drains and paths they also honed their skills on our traditional winter pastime of Hedge Laying and Dry Stone Walling in the valleys and accessible areas working closely alongside National Trust Rangers on their various properties.

Tanya Oliver the fix the fells programme manager has said how delighted she is with the contribution made so far (particularly given the winter has been rather prolonged) as it makes such an important difference to the fells and gives vital support to the ranger teams.

Many volunteers now have a new string to their bows having for the first time assisted the hard pressed National Trust Rangers with a day of filling 40 helicopter lifting bags on Tongue Gill Grasmere with a tonne of stone each. 6 hours of hard graft and 40 tonne of stones securely bagged up in preparation of being flown to nearby paths that need major works in the coming year by the skilled National Trust footpath teams.

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Volunteers Peter and Jane working hard filling helicopter lift bags

Little could dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteers who dare I say are itching for the weather to clear up, the snow to melt and give unfettered access to the high fells our “volunteering home” for more fun, hard work and without a doubt many more laughs and frivolity.

Each week we have at least three events any volunteer can attend. Two drain runs, one north and one south plus at least one work party with the Rangers.

Work parties allow the volunteers to develop their path and drain building skills.

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Volunteers Ivan and Ian supervised by Alf a terrier. A drain built on the Manesty path Nr Cat Bells

A favourite task for our volunteers is hedge laying. In February one of our work sites was on High Snab Farm, Newlands Valley. Over two days 35 volunteers gave up their time to lay 100 metres of hedge. The ensuing bonfire burning the brash helps especially on an icy cold day.

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A section of hedge completed by the volunteers

Drain runs are the core business of our regular volunteering. They go ahead despite all but the most severe weather. It may be wet but helps us see where the water is going and allows early intervention that prevents further damage.

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Volunteers Bill, Phil and Ted working on a path at Manesty clearing out drains and a wath

Dry Stone Walling is quite a hit with the volunteers as well. We recently visited Loweswater and helped repair several wall gaps near to Holme Wood

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A view over Loweswater with Ivan, Charlotte and Jenni working on a wall

The year ahead should be an interesting one with new recruits joining us from April.

There is lots of hard work and fun to come in the next months with our group of dedicated volunteers and National Trust Rangers throughout the Lake District National Park.

David Brooks– Fix the Fells Volunteer April 2013

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