Landslides continue to occur on our land at High Borrowdale and as a result, in partnership with the University of Cumbria we are beginning work to experiment with different geotextiles to see if one type is more effective than another to stabilise the soil.

We are looking into the effectiveness of a new landscape stabilisation matting called sisal. Sisal has been around for years, but not used for stabilisation work before. This matting will be put onto the exposed areas of fell side on our land and the area regularly observed to see if it positively affects the way the vegetation grows back, and therefore how the landscape can withstand extreme rainfall events by building flood resilience into our fell sides and river banks.

January has seen the work start with our hardy volunteers gamely braving the elements, the incline, the saturated ground underfoot and stony soil. A morning was spent 'sewing' sisal panels together on-site at High Borrowdale. Teamwork then saw the sisal matting carried to the side of ghyll where the matting was planned to be pegged down using iron stakes. You'll see from the images that volunteers went to great lengths on treacherous and waterlogged ground to get matting in place.

We were on this occasion, defeated as the ground was simply too waterlogged to make the work safe and the sisal secure. As in all new research, we chalk it up to experience, learn a valuable lesson and move on!

We will now reschedule the work in drier conditions in the spring when the ground under foot is safe to work on and provides the stability to stake out the matting and secure it safely.

The project has three main aims:

  • Is sisal effective under laboratory testing vs more commonly used materials such as coir and jute?
  • Is sisal effective in a real world application for landscape stabilisation? Comparative field trials will be conducted on Friends of the Lake District land at High Borrowdale
  • Is sisal effective for Cumbria including cost comparisons with coir and jute? There is potential to compare vs non environmental solutions as a desktop exercise (no trials.)

We'll keep you up to date with progress over the coming months, when hopefully we'll see a period of more clement weather.

You can read a further article (pdf) on the research featured in the last edition of our members' magazine