Drought? What drought?

Today on the blog we have a guest blog from James Squires of Fix the Fells. Over the coming months we will be hearing more from the Fix the Fells team on the vital work that they do to repair and maintain the upland footpaths.

It has been a period of weather extremes on the fells since Easter what with having hot sunny conditions throughout a good part of April and then, in May, experiencing several prolonged spells of wind and rain. This culminated in flash flooding along the Borrowdale valley and 100mph gusts of wind on the fell tops. We even had sleet and wet snow showers there just before the Whit Bank Holiday!

Extreme conditions can play havoc with the best laid plans. Hot  weather makes turfing difficult since the turfs quickly dry out and begin to resemble the legendary British Rail sandwich of old – brown with slightly turned up edges. It is also hard to make the turfs ‘stick’ when it is time to lay them. On the other hand, if you have ever cut a large piece of turf in bone dry conditions and then tried to lift it after several days’ heavy rain, you will know to find a good osteopath first: what was once a manageable piece of sward becomes just the heaviest thing imaginable, but it does batter into place! On the plus side though, severe wet weather gives us the opportunity to see that our fell drains are doing their job and determine if we need to build more.

The Fix the Fells team are working hard to repair the footpaths

The Fix the Fells team are working hard to repair the footpaths

We have finally finished the work left over from last year at Esk Hause and are now leaving the site to re-vegetate for the next few weeks. We shall monitor the progress of the new grass and periodically throw some more seed down. If you are passing, we hope you like what you see and would ask that you stick to the footpath so that the edges have the best chance to re-establish themselves. Do not be concerned either at the bright blue stuff you see at the path edges: it is just a mulch to help the seed get established on the thin upland soils, is made of wood pulp and will rot down in a year or so. What’s more, in spite of its fearsome appearance, it’s completely harmless!

We have now moved to the north side of Stake Pass and have begun the third year of work on this route. Once again, we shall be working in collaboration with our colleagues from the South Lakes team and, with only a handful of other jobs to do between now and the end of November (for the North Lakes team at any rate), we hope to make some significant progress down into Langstrath.

It's not just the footpaths that the team help repair

It’s not just the footpaths that the team help repair

We have also been busy with the usual round of FTF volunteer work parties, and training new FTF volunteer recruits so they can get started on the fell as soon as possible. There have been several wall gaps to repair in Langstrath along the Cumbria Way, emergency repairs to footpaths in Borrowdale and completing our six days’ work with the students from the Newton Rigg campus.  We were also busy in mid- May with the annual Keswick Mountain Festival, where we ran a guided walk to let the public see what we get up to on the high fells. Finally, we have begun our own North Lakes blog and are tweeting from the work sites each day.

The sun has begun to shine again. Time to get out on to the fells…

Have you been walking through the Lakeland Fells? If so – which is your favourite path/route?

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