Sunday, January 30, 2022

Fix The Fells - January 2022

Gowbarrow Fell, Cumbria. Saturday 29-January – 2022.

My first experience of volunteering in the Lake District. Very different from London where I used to volunteer pulling shopping trolleys, etc out of the River Wandle.

This was an experimental collaboration between Fix The Fells and Friends of the Ullswater Way in association with the National Trust. Fix the Fells do exactly what you would expect. The NT Rangers do the serious path building and the volunteers do ongoing maintenance. Today's outing was making sure the various drainage channels that cross the path are clear ensuring water flows and thus preventing unnecessary erosion.

I was surprised to learn that the Ullswater Way is a recent creation. FOUW lobbied for its formal designation by joining up existing permissive paths and after some negotiation with various farmers and relevant authorities launched it back in 2016. So when we walked it first it would have been brand-new. 

We did it for a second time starting during the first lockdown as part of our allowed exercise: "In the Footsteps of Dorothy" i.e. Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of William. It took us several outings to join up all the dots and complete the circuit. During that time we discovered FOUW and joined a couple of their very interesting lectures via Zoom over lockdown. This is their first foray into volunteering.

We were all given a shovel and a brush and then proceeded to do a gentle walk round the Gowbarrow loop. As we came to each drainage channel one or two of us would stop to clear it out under the tutelage of a Fix The Fells volunteer whilst the rest leapfrogged onto the next one.

We did this for a couple of hours and then stopped for lunch.

More of the same in the afternoon with a final leg down alongside Aira Force and back to the car park. Along the way we saw large bags of rocks and gravel that had been dropped by helicopter for some major path construction on the steep slope to / from the summit where all the walkers feet had caused a fair amount of erosion.

Some bags contained gravel, some had big rocks.

A sturdy path does, apparently, encourage walkers not to stray off onto the grass and cause more damage.

The final stretch down alongside the stream.

At the end I took a small side trip with the chair of FOUW out of the car park to Dorothy's Gate with a quote from Dorothy's poem, "I never saw daffodils so beautiful".

We all thought that it was a successful day. So much so that Mary and I are hoping to join Fix The Fells as one of their volunteers.

Update: 03-Feb-2022.

I completely forgot to mention that we saw two red squirrels after two years with nary a single sighting. They are like buses, nothing for ages then two come along all at once. One ran across the road just as we were approaching Aira Force and another was on a squirrel feeder next to the picnic area. 

Also we made the ITV regional news:

That's me in the brown fleece and cream beanie, Mary is next to me in black.

Fame at last? Well maybe not.

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