Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

We have been having an exciting time on Friends of the Lake District’s land at Mazonwath. This land comprises only three fields but it is adjacent to our stunning Little Asby Common, to the east of Orton. We purchased it in 2008, partly to help with the management of the common if needed. We have always wanted to add to enhance it in terms of both landscape and natural diversity and so far our efforts have focused on significant wall rebuilding and some new individual tree planters.

Pictured: Westmorland Dales Scheme apprentices in 2020 constructing tree guards on-site

However, this summer we were delighted to have the opportunity as part of our Westmorland Dales Scheme to work with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust to do an upland hay meadow restoration on the top 6ha field. We have looked at this before but the phosphate levels were too high. We only allow one spread of farm yard manure a year and so with over a decade of no fertiliser, nutrient levels have dropped sufficiently to allow a hay meadow restoration to be possible. Our grazier Thomas cut and baled the grass and then the CWT stepped in.

Pictured: Green hay being spread

They lightly harrowed the land and then transported a freshly cut load of hay from one of our previous commoners on Little Asby who lives nearby. The green hay was then spread and we are now waiting for it to be rolled in. On first site the field still looks like it has just been cut. It was far greener than we expected.

Pictured: Green hay from Town Head

Each restoration we have done at High Borrowdale left the ground looking like it had been ploughed. By chance Claire the CWT Grassland Officer in charge of the restoration rang whilst we were on site. She said it had only been lightly harrowed as she was worried about the limestone that is often sticking out near the surface and did not want the contractor to damage his machinery. She is also looked to add some additional seed of certain varieties.

It is all very interesting to be able to compare and contrast to our other hay meadow restorations and adds to the pot of learning and experience. We already had a grazing regime which was fairly low in terms of sheep and also allows cows so there is little we have needed to change there.

We can’t wait now to see the results coming through… patience needed….

Meanwhile, we went back to the day job of the landscape restoration – dry stone wall repair. We do one day a month with our volunteers, honing our dry stone walling skills and we are nearing the end of several years of work rebuilding one of the internal walls. The wall is looking stunning and we had another good day in the sunshine and breeze adding a few more metres to the line.

Pictured: Walling workparty August 2022 

Looking at the wall is like looking at a diary or history in motion. As we walk alongside the rebuilt wall we remember difficult times on some sections, e.g. Tony Crow barring out stone that was frozen into the ground; happy laughter as we heard funny stories or tales, past volunteers who for various reasons may no longer come out with us but have contributed so much and we can also see how our skills have developed and learn from what we have done before.

Pictured: Walling workparty March 2011 

Visit our Little Asby Common page to find out more about our landscape enhancement work on this site, recent activities and upcoming events, workparties and volunteering opportunities.