John Muir Trust Glenridding Summary Annual Report

Posted by Pete Barron and Isaac Johnston on 01/01/2019

This report summarises, mostly environmental work, undertaken on Glenridding Common in 2018 by the John Muir Trust (JMT) in its first full year of a three year lease from the National Park Authority.

This is the first year the John Muir Trust (JMT) has had an influential role in practical land management on the common after much consultation work in 2017 and early 2018. A ranger was employed in May, funded by the ALA Green Trust who were keen to help young local people interested in the environment into employment. Three posts were funded across the JMT with Isaac Johnston from Windermere taking the Lakeland job. Isaac has undertaken many of the land management tasks outlined in the operation plan alongside the property manager.

Footpath work

This year the John Muir Trust (JMT) has improved and maintained sections of path on the common. Although the JMT aren’t legally responsible for the maintenance of public rights of way, work has non the less been completed across the property. 2 skilled local contractors are employed for 2-3 days a month to conduct maintenance and small improvements to the site. The work includes drain creation, landscaping and seeding, small areas of pitching, blocking side routes and drain clearance.

Stretch of pitching at the base of Blea Cove put in by JMT staff and footpath contractors on an eroded section of path.

JMT staff and volunteers have also worked with Fix the Fells (FtF) project on pitching, drain clearance and drain creation. The work of the FtF volunteers is greatly appreciated. The FtF program has no plan for any large scale works on the property in 2019 but the drain runs will continue in conjunction with JMT staff and volunteers and our hope is that we will be able to continue to employ the local footpath workers once again.

Recreation

Regular patrols across the area have been made. Each visit has involved litter picking with the Red Tarn area requiring particular attention due to antisocial behaviour by a minority of fell campers. Litter and food waste is unsightly and potentially dangerous to livestock and wildlife. We will be considering how to address this issue for the future.

Numbers of guided walks for JMT members, Leader training, Outward Bound staff, Royal Geographical Society to name a few.

Large scale events were monitored from charity to athletic events. Most organisers of these events are able to adapt their plans if mitigation is required to avoid damage or disturbance.

The JMT AGM held at the village hall was a huge success and many thanks are due to the hall and local caterers for the wonderful way they hosted the event for well over 100 people.

Keppel Cove Dam

The Keppel Cove dam, a major structure is on the common. In 1931 the dam failed due to a collapsed bottom corner. The dam is now a potentially unstable structure requiring fencing and signage in place warning the public of the danger. A monthly program of monitoring is in place to ensure all the correct measures are in place to notify and protect the public but also monitor any changes in the structure of the dam. 4 photos are taken (2 from each side) from the same spot each month to track any structural changes.

After some high winds the fencing on one side of the dam needed to be repaired. A small group of volunteers repaired the damage.

 

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Repaired fence and safety warnings Keppel Cove dam

 

Juniper, woodland restoration and fenced exclosures

In 2014 a 20ha exclosure fence was set up around the younger juniper trees near Greenside Mine as part of an agri-environment scheme between the graziers and Natural England. The fence is stock proof and is in place to allow less mature juniper to grow free of browsing, thus increasing the juniper woodland, a nationally rare habitat at this scale. Within the exclosure Aspen, Rowan, Birch and Eared Willow has been planted in tubes and small cages. This fence is checked monthly for any damage.

The large exclosure was planted in winter 2017 with these native species with the help of JMT volunteers on two very wet days, replacing trees which had not survived. Acorns from Sessile Oak and Crab Apple seeds have been scattered within this area as well. We aspire to continue supplementing the exclosure with more Acorns, Crab Apple seeds and Hawthorn seeds into 2019. 

Due to a hot dry summer this year some of these planted trees died due to a lack of water. Aspen in particular have been badly affected by the dry weather. The trees that have died have been marked and will be replaced in 2019.

The smaller exclosure was also put up in 2014. It has been planted with the same species as the larger one. Within the fenced area we are seeing natural regeneration of Birch, Hawthorn and Holly. This exclosure has fared far better with regard to tree survival rates.  Almost all trees have survived this year with the largest ones being moved to ties and stakes rather than tubes.

 

Cuckoo Flower flourishing amongst tree tubes with mature juniper woodland in the background.

Breeding Bird Surveys

To our knowledge 2018 was the first year Breeding Bird Surveys have been undertaken on the common. 3 x 1km squares and the juniper fence were surveyed using the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) methodology which is repeatable and comparable over years. For every square 3 surveys are undertaken, 1 initial habitat assessment survey and 2 bird surveys. The ideal survey consists of 2 parallel lines, each 1km in length, about 500m apart, and about 250m from the edge of the square. Each 1km line is divided into 200m sections (transects) giving a total of ten transects per square. Bird species, distance from surveyor and bird numbers are all recorded on the survey form. Bird species are abbreviated for ease of recording. For example meadow pipit is abbreviated to MP, skylark to S., carrion crow to C. etc. In this report square 1 may be referred to as Sticks Gill, square 2 Sticks Pass and square 3  Blea Cove. Overall the surveys were a good representation of the bird life of Glenridding Common. The survey squares only record birds in those areas and do not seek to record all birds in the area. A good example of this is Ring Ouzel, the rare mountain blackbird which wasn’t recorded in any of the survey squares despite 3-4 pairs located breeding on the area in 2018.

Square 1 near sticks gill and square 2 which includes sticks pass were both on upland acid grassland habitat with a small area of heath/moorland at the beginning of square 1. Due to the habitat similarity the same species featured heavily in both squares (predominantly Meadow Pipit and Skylark).

Second visit to Sticks Gill breeding bird survey (square1)

 

An interesting observation we found on the Sticks Gill survey (square 1) is the change between the numbers of meadow pipits and skylarks recorded across the square. The first 5 transects are dominated with meadow pipits while skylark numbers remain much lower. However, transect 6 through to 10 shows a significant increase in skylark numbers while meadow pipits were fewer in number. This seemed to be in linked to altitude as transects 6 through to 10 were on far higher ground than 1 to 5.

Our third square (Blea Cove) included open grazed fell as well as a patch of juniper woodland/scrub towards the end of the square. It is worth noting the change in species as the juniper scrub becomes the dominant habitat.  Skylark numbers dropped while Meadow Pipits were still present. Species like Chaffinch, Wren, Willow Warbler and Dunnock created a more diverse range of birds, this is illustrated in the graph below. Buzzards and Kestrels were also seen and recorded on the surveys.

The juniper exclosure was also surveyed. The same recording form was used for the juniper exclosure survey despite its non-standard survey size. Mature areas of juniper had good numbers of woodland birds but with the addition of Siskin and Redpoll which are known to breed in juniper. Grey Wagtails were also recorded in Rowten Beck. Healthy numbers of raptors were also

seen hunting over the juniper woodland (Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard). Only the late survey was completed this year of the juniper fence due to time constraints.

 

Second visit to Blea Cove breeding bird survey (square 3)


Juniper fence breeding bird survey


The survey follows the fence line starting near Greenside Mine, moving up through the more mature juniper, then west along the top of the fence and down along the bottom back to the start. Contrary to the sticks gill and sticks pass survey squares, the juniper fence showed that meadow pipit numbers increased with altitude. One possible reason for this difference is the change in habitat. At the top of the fence juniper scrub is met with more acid grassland. This is a far more favourable nesting and feeding area for meadow pipit than juniper woodland.  As the fence drops back down again meadow pipit numbers decrease and more woodland species become present.

For the recording sheets and species code list please refer to: https://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/bbs_fieldrecordingsheet_2018.pdf

Mountain Ringlet Surveys

The Mountain Ringlet is our only true montane butterfly and only found in Lakeland and mid-Scotland, there is a good population in the Raise area.

Using Butterfly Conservation Scotland’s methodology and recording form JMT staff surveyed the community of rare montane butterflies on Raise. 7 x 200m transects were selected across the area where the butterflies have been found and were surveyed twice across the flight season. The first survey was conducted on 11/06/2018. We found good numbers of mountain ringlets from 569m up to 805m with a maximum count of 22 in 200m in transect 7. A second survey was done on the 9/06/2018 but no Mountain Ringlets were recorded across the surveyed area. The peak flight season for mountain ringlet is late June early July so the butterflies were on the wing a little earlier than expected.  The long warm summer would likely explain this abnormality in flight time.

The main food plants for mountain ringlet are Tormentil, Heath Bedstraw, Meadow Buttercup, Carnation Sedge and Wild Thyme. Whilst recording the quantity of Mountain Ringlets we also recorded the plants they were nectaring on. Across all transects we recorded the most feeding occurred on Wild Thyme which is a little unusual but possibly linked to the warm prolonged summer, a good flowering year for Thyme, an early nectar source for the butterfly.  The data collected was then sent to Butterfly Conservation for their national database.

 

Work Parties

The JMT has run 3 work parties on Glenridding Common this year the first in late July and the second in mid-September. These involved myriad tasks including summit stone scattering and landscaping, tree maintenance, archaeological restoration, fencing and drain clearance. Summit work and drain clearance were done conjunction with Fix the Fells.

The archaeological restoration work has been a great success. In conjunction with local experts, two days were spent exposing the pitched bottom and rebuilding some of the walls that had fallen in over the years on an old water leat which previously formed part of the water management system for the mine. The work was a real highlight of the 2018 JMT work party program on Glenridding.

 

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Volunteers are essential for the JMT in achieving many jobs. Here fence repairs and stone scattering on the summit.

An old mining leat before and after clearance by volunteers, exposing the stone lining.

 

Arctic Alpine Flora. Monitoring and Propagation

In conjunction with Natural England, the JMT has been working on restoring and monitoring the rare Arctic Alpine flora found on the property. Downy Willow, one of the rarest trees in the UK, has been grown from cuttings and planted back onto the crags.

A group of local people in the Glenridding/Patterdale area have been given special training on how to propagate Downy Willow, Tea leaved willow, Purple Saxifrage, Bladder Campion and Alpine Cinquefoil. They have been provided with the various materials needed for propagation of these species and once the plants are grown will be put out onto the fell to bolster the present small populations.

It is good to see local people enthusiastic to improve the environment on their own local fells and helping to ‘own’ and protect our rare local species. Going forward we hope to expand this to other species.

A grant kindly provided by the Lake District Foundation will help to fund the special growing mediums required for the propagation and collection.

Downy willow cuttings growing in pots and Purple Saxifrage ready for seed collection

Downy Willow was reduced to just 21 plants in the whole of England, now almost one thousand have been planted out across the Helvellyn range. From monitoring work done on willows planted out, the estimated survival rate is over 70% which is encouraging. To give them the best chance of survival the willows are being planted on hard to reach crags on various crags across the Helvellyn range. This work will continue into 2019 and beyond as new propagated plants are ready to be planted.  

Propagated Downy Willow being planted and a selection of rare willows being grown by local volunteers

The only English population of the very rare Alpine Saxifrage is found on the crags of Helvellyn and into Nethermost Cove.  Again in conjunction with Natural England, we have been monitoring and planting some of these rare flowers back out on the crags. Numbers are holding steady at their high thirties. It’s worth bearing in mind that the population has held at 38 with the help of the extra planting.

Events of note

Throughout 2018 we have noted other interesting observations. A record was made of anything worth recording and dated. Such finds include new species not previously recorded for the site. These include the very rare Duval’s thread moss, a new Cumbrian site for Cloudberry and a small stand of Hazel. The notes also highlight flowering times for certain rare plants, interesting ornithological sightings such as 12 Ouzels on a single Rowan tree, 19 Raven on a sheep carcass, high altitude Mallard nests and huge numbers of Fieldfare on migration. We intend to continue this into 2019 and observe any changes in the time of year these events occur along with the recording of any new finds.

 

The nationally scarce Duval’s Thread Moss growing near Sticks Pass.

 

This is the first annual summary for Glenridding Common, a guide to JMT involvement on Glenridding Common over the year. These tend to be the highlights and there have been many other less interesting issues to deal with.

The JMT have leased the Basecamp room adjacent to the TIC on the car park and if you are passing and we are in, please do call in for a chat or to discuss anything in this report for which you would prefer more detail or explanation.

We would be interested in any records you may have for species or interesting history you may have for the common.

We look forward to working with many of you again in 2019.

Happy New Year to you all.

 

 


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