A LAKE District conservation charity has been experimenting with an ancient technique to build footpaths – using native sheep wool.

Stone and gravel alone was not enough for the large, deep peat bog at Mart Crag Moor between Langdale and Borrowdale as it would have sunk into the bog and disappeared.

But the Fix the Fells project team decided to use rolled up Herdwick fleeces – donated by tenant farmer Mick Toms, who manages the Herdwicks that graze the fell – to prevent further erosion of the exposed upland path. They packed the fleeces into a shallow trench before covering them with the usual aggregates.

“The wool foundations allow the path to effectively float above the deep peat,” said John Atkinson, of Fix the Fells. “It is a more sust-ainable alternative to a man-ufactured geotextile product.

“While the method might seem innovative, it is actu-ally developed from ancient engineering technique for building routes over water-logged ground.”

The charity has used the Lake District’s native sheep wool before in work at Butt-ermere but with stone pat-ching, which is a different method.

Now, not only can walkers work their way across Mart Crag Moor, which was prev-iously treacherous due to a wide erosion scar that had formed, but the path also protects the peat and impor-tant archeology in the area.

Earlier this year, the National Trust discovered historic stone working sites under the peat.

Jamie Lund, National Trust archaeologist, said: “We know that the hard volcanic stone found in areas throughout the central Lake District was used by people to make axes and other tools during the Neolithic. When we visited Mart Moor Crag we found around six small working floors where people had stopped to create rough out axes leav-ing behind a pile of waste flakes.”

Mr Atkinson said the wool provided a ‘great solution’ and was ‘really pleased’ to use a sustainable local res-ource.

Christine Smith, communications officer for Fix the Fells, said they hoped to use the method in future projects. She added that the turf removed to form the route will be used to land-scape and restore the areas of exposed peat and subsoil on the moor’s scar.