The (working) holiday season starts.
Throughout May we have enjoyed a fairly constant spell of dry, settled weather which has allowed us to rapidly progress up the flanks of Yewbarrow, creating a new path line which avoids the loose scree of Overbeck gully, as well as removing several ugly scars along the way, such as this one -
We briefly interrupted this programme to return to Swirral Edge on the north face of Helvellyn in order to bolster the work we did last year reinstating the ridge route along the edge. This was done to protect the rara arctic flora nestling amid the craggy ground to the north of the edge. This time we flew in some random landscaping rock which we distributed along the obliterated route to make it even less navigable.
IN the middle of June we returned to another project started last year, namely the gradual restoration of the Burnmoor packhorse route from Wasdale Head to Boot in Eskdale.
Our mountain biking / bridleway repair holidays have concentrated on this historic route and involve using traditional labour intensive techniques to create a stable surface to walk / cycle on combined with a side channel for water runoff.
Six enthusiastic volunteers hacked and hewed at the hillside to ezxtract hardcore and path surface material which was made into a raised terrace :
One of the great things about this method is that it is entirely self sufficient in materials, not requiring gravel to be imported in.
As we worked at this section we were actually compacting the material as we moved around the site and soon we had created a solid surface.
Inevitably the occasional obstacle in the form of bedrock rears up and resists but the indefatiguability of the volunteers - one of whom was actually a surgeon ( we hope he deals with his human patients a little more gently! ) - was not to be defeated and the granite was soon conquered:
The fragments of rock came in handy as base material for the path and soon the side channel was complete, leaving the final task of turf lining ( using turf cleared from the initial stages of the work ) to give a natural look to the path ;
In this final view the darker coloured soil indicates the newly completed section continuing on from the paler surface of last years effort :
Despite being plagued by midges the volunteers wrere very happy with the results and so another working holiday will continue with a further extension of the new path soon.
As we move into July one of our most demanding tasks of the year will be to tackle the growing problem of cairns multiplying and expanding along the ever widening route traversing the scafell massif from Esk Hause to the summoit of Scafell Pike.
The BMC is funding this undertaking, having identified it as a mojor cause of concern.
Our wild camping working holiday will be based in a secluded hollow below Ill and Broad crags, and the high altitude start to the mornings' work will allow us to achieve quite a lot ( weather permitting of course ).
One important task will be to reduce the size of some cairns such as this one :
which from above looks like a roundabout in the middle of the hillside; as well as removing many of the quite unneccesary cairns which in places are barely 3 metres apart along the route.
Also we will be reducing the width of the path in places where the eroded area has become almost 10 metres wide. Here the redder area has recently begun to erode quite rapidly :
By rearranging rocks and larger boulders we will hopefully restore the natural bouldery terrain and persuade people to follow a more contained line.
The first wild camping holiday in 2011 enjoyed near perfect weather; last year's was exactly the opposite with almost constant rain, so hopefully it is time for another favourable climatic experience which will not test peoples endurance quite so much.