As winter finally recedes the first signs of spring appear.
Wasdale's first residential weekend of the year attracted a huge turnout of volunteers eager to tackle water damage on the Styhead path.
To cope with the increasingly frequent bursts of heavy rainfall many of the drains along this path are in need of widening and deepening, so starting from the fell gate, using existing stones (some dating back to the late 1980s) as well as extra locally sourced materials over a dozen of our regular volunteers set about dismantling and reassembling several drains.
Beneaths the looming precipes of Great Gable's crags and ominouly entitled "Hell Gates" this drain just above the Fell Wall was the first to be widened as well as slightly extended. This will prevent water spilling down the path at times of heavy rain, preventing the damaging gullying that has occured in the past.
From here downwards several constricted bits of path were cleared of protruding stone and turf which was then used to landscape out trampled side channels and grooves gouged out by water, such as this one just below the drain above
In a series of leapfrogging manoeuvres small groups of FTFers continued downhill, in this instance widening the outflow of an existing drain where water had insufficient space to disperse and instead overflowed onto the path below
Not everyone had the modern luxury of a wheelbarrow to tranport materials however, so the traditional bucket was relied upon as well, especially for scraping up and reinstating surface gravel which had spilled onto adjacent grassy slopes
Over the course of three days a considerable distance was covered and hopefully this will reduce the amount of maintenance needed along this section of path in the future.
Despite the apparent abundance of stones of all sizes which the bouldery pyramid of Great Gable seems to consist of, finding available rocks for path repair isn't quite as straightforward as it may seem.
Nestling in sheltered clumps or simply perching atop outcrops, many protected mosses, particularly Wooly Hair moss and Club moss as well as tufts of Parsley Fern render many boulder fields out of bounds to us. As we gather helibags of path repair stone in advance of the usual April airlifts we have to keep a sharp eye out for such items, also refraining from over exploiting localised areas where we have permission to gather stone,so as to avoid making any obvious visual impact or destabilise such areas.
Here, just beneath the Styhead bridleway we are gathering 45 bags of stone to be used along the Great Gable Breast Route, from Styhead towards the summit, mainly to consolidate sections of the existing path which are in danger of collapse.
Inevitably we are to a large extent at the mercy of the weather as the airlift date approaches. So we scan the weather forecasts with a combination hope and apprehension.