Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

Well it has certainly been a wet week so far in the world of land management for Friends of the Lake District. But, another interesting few days. On Monday we went out to meet the RSPB at Haweswater to learn more about how grazing with cows wearing GPS collars is working.

Our woods in the Rusland Valley and over near Broughton in Furness are suffering from really high and dense bracken and we would like to reduce some of this to allow different habitats to flourish and better access. One way is cows as bracken hates being trampled. But, what do you do when there are no fences or you just want certain bits of land grazed and don’t want to put up lots of fences?  Well the answer in many cases could be cows wearing GPS collars.

Pictured: Members visit to woods at Rusland Valley during our 2022 AGM; fighting our way through head high bracken

You can set boundaries, a ‘virtual fence’ on an app on a phone or tablet. The cows wear the collars and when they get near the virtual fence, the collar makes a sound. As the cows get nearer the sound gets more insistent, and eventually they get a small shock. It takes about three or four days for the cows to understand the system and then unless the batteries fail in the collars, it seems to be pretty effective. It allows you to move the stock around by moving the boundaries and has real versatility. If we are brave enough and our grazier is amenable, we would like to try this out over at Broughton as it does have boundaries so if they did escape there is a real boundary to hopefully hold them in! 

On Tuesday we were out, again in the pouring wet on the Helm. Our Helm lookers group who report in on the cows and ponies when out walking, pointed out a tyre in the tarn. So after putting catches back on gates that someone had removed in Covid we ventured into the mud of the tarn on tyre removal duty.

The fun bit was rolling the tyre all the way down to the bottom where hopefully we can arrange collection and removal altogether.

Thanks to the Helm lookers group for reminding us!

Next job was to introduce our new super duper member of the team to the Helm: our new strimmer.

Although you would not normally strim bracken and bramble in winter, we have only had the strimmer a few weeks, so earlier in the year was not an option. We gave it a go on one of the paths from the top down through the woodland. In summer this gets really overgrown, so our thinking apart from trying out the new team member was to widen the path and hope that people will now use the wider path, in turn trampling the bracken down so in time it will become self clearing.

We pondered whether cows in this bit of woodland would work but given the proximity to roads and houses, and as yet no boundary to Underhelm Road, this may be a case of optimism over reality for now! 

Our next workparty will be on Monday at Dam Mire Wood. We will be working with the children at Threlkeld School to plant a new hedge along one of the boundaries, and amazingly, already trimming the hedge put in only two or three years ago to encourage it to bush out. Join us if you can, booking via our website>