25 July 2014

Improving the lakeshore

If you have been down to the lakeshore recently, you may have been wondering why there have been rangers scratching their heads, diggers digging and fences being erected. The reason for this new development has been baffling many passers-by.

The first stages of development, what a great spot to have the office for a few days!
 As the days go by, more and more features keep appearing, such as hedge banks, gravel road ways and fencing.

Even the cows are interested in the new development!

This development is the result of a partnership project between the National Trust and Windermere Reflections. Up and down the lakeshore are many small tender boats. These are used by those lucky few with moorings on the lake bed and are their means of transport out to these beautiful boats on the lake. These are currently chained and tied up to trees, roots and whatever else, scattered along the whole of the West Shore from Ash Landing through to Strawberry Gardens.

The tenders being stored on the lakeshore.
Whilst these tenders do not do harm in themselves, owners edging steadily down steep wooded banks often found it rather precarious to do so. There is also the erosion caused to the sensitive lake shore, through the physical erosion of boats being dragged across young unestablished vegetation and the reed beds which are a fast disappearing habitat.

Since the 19th century, there has been a rapid decline in the number of reedbeds along the shores of Windermere. Reedbeds are a succession of young reeds which colonise open water. As the reedbed ages, the successive layers of vegetation build up the water level gradually turning it into increasingly drier ground. This allows scrub and woodland to develop.

Reedbeds reduce the erosion of the lakeshore banks by absorbing the impact of waves from passing boats and high winds, giving the vegetation on the lake shore some protection. Reedbeds are important places for invertebrates and bird species, with those in Windermere being particularly important for overwintering birds and breeding birds in the spring and summer. These have been all but lost along the Harrowslack lakeshore. 

Works in progress.
This decline has not just been caused by people hauling their tenders through the reeds into the lake of course. These are also caused by bow waves from boats, grazing by geese, ducks, farm animals and changing nutrient levels in the water.

So the plan is to place all of these tender boats into 3 compounds spread equally along the lakeshore. This will give the lakeshore vegetation chance to get re-established, make access to the boats safer and hopefully improve the visual look along the length of the lakeshore. Once the hedgerows have established and the compounds weather a bit, it will look great.

Of course, it will take more than just moving the tenders into one place to allow the reedbeds to re-establish. Windermere Reflections have started by mapping the existing reedbeds along the lake shore and will in the future, along with South Cumbria Rivers Trust, look at ways to artificially propagate and reseed the reedbeds to give them the best chance to establish as well as educating boat users about the best places to land their boats. Check out the Windermere Reflections website for more information about this and their other projects: http://www.windermere-reflections.org.uk/

Hedges will be planted into these raised banks to screen off the boats.
 Pop down and watch our progress. Constructing the tender storage is just another way of improving our lake shore. We hope to have the first compound built by the end of August and in use by the beginning of next year.

13 July 2014

Upland Tarns.

The word ‘tarn’ is derived from the Old Norse ‘tjorn’, which was used to describe any small body of water. It means ‘a small lake’ or more poetically ‘a teardrop’.

Tarn is a regional term used largely, but not exclusively in the Lake District, which along with many other local names, originated with the Viking invaders who settled in Cumbria in the tenth century.
The tarns in Cumbria were formed as a result of glacial action, when the glaciers and ice sheets finally receded some 10,000 years ago, scouring the landscape, allowing water  to be trapped and contained. Many of the highest and most spectacular tarns occupy corries (from Scottish Gaelic coire meaning a pot or cauldron) scooped from the fells by ice, some are surprisingly deep.

Bleaberry Tarn.
Bleaberry tarn and Buttermere looking down from Red pike.

Lying south-west of lake Buttermere, Bleaberry Tarn (meaning blueberry tarn) is a fine example of hanging valley and corrie glacial scenery. The tarn lies between Chapel Crags, Red Pike and the tough scree of The Saddle. The outflow of the tarn flows into Buttermere via the quirkily-named Sour Milk Gill.

Grisedale Tarn.

Grisedale Tarn is surrounded by the high ground of the summit of Fairfield itself, Dollywaggon Pike and Seat Sandal. In the past, the tarn was a welcome watering hole for traders on the packhorse routes that used to move goods through the Lake District.
Grisedale tarn looking towards raise beck from Fairfield path, can you spot the shed!
There are a few other historical stories associated with it. Legend has it that the last king of Cumbria, King Dunmail, was killed in battle at Dunmail Raise and buried under the large stone pile at the top of the pass. The kings’s surviving warriors are said to have threw his crown into the waters of Grisedale Tarn.

Red Tarn.
Red tarn and striding edge looking down from Swirral edge.
A textbook glacial corrie tarn with surrounding back wall, lying beneath the summit of Helvellyn and surrounded by the southerly ridge of Striding Edge, the northerly Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam. Red Tarn is fed by a number of streams running down its back wall into the corrie and it flows outward down into Glenridding Beck. In the 1800s the Tarn was dammed with boulders, raising the level of water some eight or nine feet in order to supply power to the lead mines in Glenridding.

Blea Water reflecting the back wall.
Blea Water.
Remote Blea Water is one of two corrie tarns that lie beneath the eastern crags of High Street, the other being Small Water. Circular in shape, Blea Water bears the distinction of being the deepest tarn in the Lake District. In 1948 its depth was ascertained to be 63 metres, which is exceeded only by Windermere and Wastwater in the Lake District. The tarn occupies a dramatic setting, edged on three of its sides by an amphitheatre of towering cliffs and slopes of Riggindale Crag, Pilot Crag and High Street.