As we head towards autumn we make our way down Kirk Fell
Our final project for 2015 began with an attempt to stabilise a badly worn area below Kirk Fell crags overlooking Ennerdale.
For those who decide against Wainwright's recommended route to the top following the old metal fence posts through stable terrain two rough and rocky gullies have provided a hazardous route to and from Kirk Fell summit. The area below these gullies has been steadily accumulating a mass of loose debris which threatens to overwhelm the green slopes below with a blanket of unnatural scree.
Below we see the bottom end of one of the rather uninviting gullies:
Looking towards Black Sail Hut and beyond. This debouchement of material is highly visible from the Haystacks direction and dealing with it has thus become a priority.
To tackle the problem we began by defining the direct post marked route, removing obstacles and generally easing progress wherever possible. We hope this will encourage more people to follow this more sustainable route. The next stage was to distribute thirty helibags of local boulders amidst the unstable area below the gullies to recreate a natural looking boulder-field landscape which will arrest the cascading debris and allow vegetation to re-establish itself. This will hopefully blend in with the naturally bouldery terrain below it.
On such a steep slope getting stones from the helibags and into a stable resting position was a slow process, the intention being to hold back the tide of smaller stones, to prevent them from covering these scraps of vegetation clinging bravely to the hillside in defiance of impending inundation.
We distributed the larger stones with their weathered and lichen-bearded sides upwards in irregular rib-like arrangements which will contain the smaller material and thus prevent it from sliding downhill any further. Creating little pockets of soil between these rocky peninsulas will give vegetation the chance to colonise the area, adding even more stability.
The rather overdue yet much welcome spell of summery weather we enjoyed throughout september gave this area plenty of chance to begin the process of regreening. It also made working on the next section of path along Black Sail Pass rather pleasant as we finally got the chance to discard waterproofs on a regular basis.
We were joined for much of the month by Callum Robinson, who as part of a university course has been spending a large part of the year working with various members of the Western Valley property team. One of his tasks on Black Sail Pass was to help make a steadily deepening, water scoured gully into a more walkable path surface, a challenge solved after a brief period of contemplation by the tried and tested method of filling it with blocks of natural paving stone thus:
This ongoing problem of water erosion has been tackled at various points along the bridleway with additional drainage, in the form of mountain bike-friendly waths:
Black Sail has for many years been one of the more popular mountain bike routes so wherever possible waths are the preferred means of shedding water.
Throughout the rest of October we will be continuing this pattern of remedying and preventing water damage down this route back into Wasdale.
We enjoyed a short break from Black Sail with the annual September Fix The Fells residential volunteer work party which has for many years now produced a flurry of action, more often than not on the Lingmell Gill-Brown Tongue route to Scafell Pike.
This year we concentrated on the section of path emerging from Lingmell gill onto the open fell below the stream crossing, with a variety of activities over three days ranging from defining the preferred route, adding extra drainage, landscaping away unwanted diversions and revegetating worn path edges.
Because of the huge numbers making their way to Scafell Pike we spent much time widening the path, using surplus stone to landscape other areas where excessive widening is now being brought under control, and also to consolidate areas where the path surface was continuing to erode eg: