News from Roy Henderson for August 2012

  • Force Crag revisited

    08:11 31 August 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    I had another of my regular visits to Force Crag Mine last week   It’s becoming a very familiar site for me now that the mine project up there is beginning to gather a bit of pace.  This time I was visiting the site with some of our partners in the project - the Environment Agency, Coal Authority and environmental consultants Atkins together with Natural England’s geologist.  We were outlining our proposals regarding the mine-water treatment plant.  As with any form of ‘development’ on protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), we need the consent of Natural England before any work can be carried out.  It’s important that any developments do not damage the qualities for which a site has been designated SSSI. Force Crag Mine is listed as part of a Geological Conservation Review (GCR) site because of its national importance for the study of the formation of associated minerals (paragenesis). It lies entirely within the Buttermere Fells SSSI.

    This time we were discussing in particular the discharge from the mine level just above the mine buildings where a few weeks back we installed a temporary flume.  Here water is still getting around the flume and washing away the bank which supports the water gauge tank and ideally we need to be removing all the water away from this channel to prevent any further erosion.  One possibility is to use the concrete cloth that is used by the Coal Authority for a temporary solution on many sites where temporary drainage is needed.  As a bonus I discovered a new variety of waxcap at the site  - really nice with a distinct purple tinge to the gills and a glutinous slimy cap together with some earth tongues, another form of rare fungus that looks like black matchsticks -  so all in all quite a nice day!
  • 50 things to do before you are 11¾

    07:18 17 August 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Some time ago I mentioned the Trust’s campaign 50 things to do before you are 11¾.  This is a campaign to encourage people to try 50 simple but very enjoyable outdoor activities.  You can read more about those here.   You can even enter a competition here to suggest your ideas about good things to add to the list.  If you are in the Keswick area before the end of August, you can go to the National Trust yurt near the boat landings at Derwentwater between 10 am and 3 pm where you can pick up a free leaflet for a trail that includes 11 of the things on the list.

    The Yurt

    You can also learn how to light a fire without matches; collect wild food for fish and squirrels; build a den; hire a canoe; use free wi-fi and take advantage of a special offer on Trust membership.  You might even want to go twice to fit it all in!

    Last week the Trust held a popular woodland event.  Foresters were on hand to demonstrate tree surgery and tree climbing.  A few intrepid visitors were able to try supervised tree climbing.

    We also had a demonstration of charcoal-making and other traditional woodland crafts and skills.  

    Even though the forests are ‘wild’, there is still a lot of work to be done to keep them healthy and thriving.

    Towards the end of the week I had a ‘back to school’ experience with a training session about the use of electronic media to extend our communication about what we do.  This is something that the Trust is actively developing in as many ways as possible – this blog being one of them of course.  At the end of the day I took Ben, who had been our trainer, out onto Derwentwater for a canoe trip.  It’s a great way to wind down after a busy working day and the weather was perfect.  It’s also a great trip out for Reiver!

  • Making a difference.

    16:28 09 August 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Just occasionally my job presents some exasperating situations.  I’ve had two separate irresponsible camp and fire sites this last week and have had to go and tidy up the ensuing mess.  If I find out about these as they are happening, I go along to talk to the people who are having their parties about the damage and potential danger of what they are doing.  They are a tiny minority of our visitors but their activities can do and have done in the past some serious, long-term damage especially if a wild fire takes hold.  We also have those who just walk away leaving behind an unsightly mess of litter, empty cans, broken bottles even tents and sleeping bags.

    From this ...

    This time one of the sites was in Great Wood.  A woodland fire causes the obvious visual scarring and destroys wildlife habitats but worst is that it can be years before regeneration takes place.  That’s a big price to pay for a thoughtless camp-fire in the wrong place.  Coincidentally, Keswick Mountain Rescue Team had a recent lecture from the Cumbria Fire Service about handling wild fires – Rescue Team and Trust Rangers, will all turn out to assist the Fire Service with fighting wild fires.

    ...via this ...

    ... to this ...

    The second site was at Grange in Borrowdale by the river – a very popular and beautiful place to sit.  It’s difficult to understand why people would make the effort to come to such a beautiful place and would then trash it so that others can’t fully enjoy it, but it happens.  Unfortunately, there are now tents etc. on the market that are so cheap, they are treated as disposable.

    ... and this.

    It is frustrating to have to go out to clear up these sites but the pay-off is restoring them to the beauty that is typical of the Lake District.

    On a more positive note, I am currently making progress with a plan to hold a wild swimming event with a difference.  A Trust archaeologist is hoping to be available to be the ‘difference’.  Swimmers will swim across to Lord Island where there will be an archaeological walk and talk.  We will then swim back.  Watch the blog for more details when they are available.

  • My island for a week

    18:59 03 August 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    It’s been an unusual week since I last posted.  I have been acting as guardian of the house on Derwent Isle while the tenants were away. 
    One of the island's resident guardians.

    Derwent Isle is an island in Derwentwater that was owned by the monks of Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire during the mediaeval period.  Then Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries and it became a royal estate.  In 1569, it was purchased to be used as quarters for German miners brought in to extract ores from the Goldscope mine.  The present house dates from 1780, when an eccentric banker, Joseph Pocklington, made his home on the island.  He had the house and several follies built.  His druids circle no longer exists but a boat-house chapel and a cannon emplacement survive.  One of his many eccentricities was to drape himself in an Admiral’s gold braid and mount an annual defense of the island against a mock attack by hired locals!

    Reiver relaxing.

    Eventually Henry Marshall, a wealthy Yorkshire textile baron, became the owner in 1844. He added two wings to the house, giving it the Italianate style it has today. The Marshall family supported the establishment of the National Trust. The three founders - Sir Robert Hunter, Octavia Hill and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsely - were frequent guests. In 1951, Henry's grandson gave the property to the Trust.

    The view from the house.

    Jan once spent a summer there as the caretaker so we know the house well and are able to find stop-cocks, fuse boxes, oil supply taps etc. should the need arise.With the permission of the tenants, our WellChild visitors plus some members of the Mountain Rescue Team had made the trip over to the island. Not all the rescue team members were able to go because we did not want to overwhelm the children so a separate trip and BBQ were organised for the remaining rescue team members.  I was also able to take some friends from Hong Kong on a quick guided tour of the island – they are unlikely to be in the country for any of the open days.

    The ripples are exciting ...

    ... the engine is exciting ...

    ... it was all good.

    Temporary residence on the island was a great experience but I did realise that it would not be something I would want to be permanent.  The house, the island, the views are superb but the isolation is something that would not suit me.  For the short period we were there, setting out to work in the morning by taking the boat on a gentle journey across the lake was a highlight – lots of wildlife and even ‘wild swimmers’ to be seen.  (Wild swimming is becoming increasingly popular in recent years and I will soon be planning a wild swimming event so watch for details about that).  

    En route to work.

    The morning rush hour!
    I suspect that the daily commute would be less enjoyable in the cold, wet, windy winter!

News from Roy Henderson

Photo of Roy Henderson

I’m the National Trust ranger for Borrowdale and Newlands in the North Lakes, UK. I volunteered for the Trust when I came on the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme aged 13. I started by building a new fence on Friars Crag to tackle an erosion problem and making paths more accessible for people with limited mobility. I enjoyed it so much that I continued to volunteer until I left school and was lucky enough to get a job with the National Trust. After working for the Trust for 29 years, I still love the job.