Our Volunteering day with the West Cumbria Rivers Trust

The record-breaking rainfall associated with Storm Desmond in December 2015 had a devastating impact on families and businesses, across tight knit rural communities and larger towns and cities alike. The River Greta in Keswick, Cumbria, suffered severe flooding, with several key bridges washed away and businesses and homes inundated.

One of the main tributaries to the River Greta is Glenderaterra Beck, which runs down the steep hillsides of nearby Blencathra. During peak rainfall, water rushes down the slopes into the Beck, feeding into the great catchment area in high volume.

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A group of colleagues from our marketing team joined the Cumbria Rivers Trust on a volunteering day in July, to help manage a 5 acre woodland that has been established to rewild the Blencathra hillsides. By planting trees and managing them to grow in an otherwise barren landscape, its helps to alleviate surface water runoff, providing a natural barrier below the soil where the root systems will take up more water and stabilise the shallow soils, slowing the flow of excess rainfall into the river systems.

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We set off up the gravel track, winding steeply up the side of Blease Fell, meeting up with Susie Grainger, a volunteer from the Rivers Trust in her truck with the supplies we’d need for the day. Our task was to check in on the tree saplings in the Girl Guiding Associations ‘Centenary Wood’, planted back in 2010 to celebrate their centenary year.

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“The wind really blows along the fellside here” explains Susie, as we start passing tools and stakes down the steep slope, “It’s really important that we can keep on top of maintaining the young saplings. Their root systems are still quite new, so it’s key we can support them to establish.”

20190620_103850.jpgIt took some serious teamwork to get all the stakes, plastic sleeves, mallets and ties down the steep slope to the site, with many of us slipping and sliding the last few metres, but we made it, ably assisted by Susie’s two dogs, and our Brand Manager’s dog Alfie, joining us for the day. The centenary wood itself is fenced off, to avoid the Herdwick sheep grazing on the fell damaging saplings, but some do get in. “Each sapling needs a plastic cuff around them to help them establish, and prevent and damage by sheep and other animals” said Susie. “Once they get established, they’ll grow out of the cuff.”


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We headed down to the lower edge of the wood, and began working our way back up the slope, firmly re-staking any trees that had fallen over. ‘I felt very lucky that we were allowed this volunteer day to do something a bit different, and all for a great cause.’ said Josh, our Brand Executive. ‘It’s difficult to envisage the true impact we’ve had at this moment in time. I think when we come back in 20/30 years, when the trees have really begun to flourish, it will be a very humbling moment.’ 

The saplings are mostly Hawthorne and Birch, as they are quick growing and have strong roots systems, helping them to establish in the barren landscape as quickly as possible. We headed into the thicket of Bracken, finding some larger trees that had fallen down in a recent storm.

Our legs aching, we packed up the remaining stakes and tools, and made our way back down the track for a well-earned pint in a nearby pub.

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The day was arranged as part of our Colleague Volunteering Day programme, giving colleagues at all levels of the business the opportunity to take an extra paid volunteering day for a local community group or charity. Find out more about our great range of colleague benefits at http://www.westmorlandfamily.com/work-with-us

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