News from Roy Henderson for February 2012

  • Wood working.

    16:48 28 February 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    As part of the work we are doing on the Derwentwater foreshore and Friars Crag I have recently been installing a length of riven oak post and rail fencing.  Riven oak is an old tradition of making posts and rails by riving the wood along its grain.  In the past we’ve prepared our own but this was bought in. Its advantages include that it lasts a lot longer and it looks better than clean-cut softwood.

    It is more expensive to install than softwood but, considering the extra life we will get from the material, it is a good investment.  Funding is coming from the lottery as it is part of the foreshore development and the Trust is installing it.  So, with the help of one of our volunteers. I have installed a short section as a trial.  We laid a short section of hedge to strengthen it and then the new fence was installed.  If it is successful, we’ll use the same technique elsewhere on Friars Crag.

    Phase 1:  Laying the hedge.

    Reiver still enjoys her outings and  meeting people but needs more rest stops these days!

     Styles of hedge-laying vary across the country.  This trial stretch uses plants that are rather thin because they are growing in little soil on stony ground.  To encourage stronger growth, they have been cut and bent to ground level where they can set new roots.  Meanwhile the fence will protect it.  The idea is to improve wild-life habitats.  About two years ago, we laid 140 metres of a similarly sparse hedge and it is now thriving.  All being well, this year it will be home to considerably more than the two nests it accommodated when we began its improvement.

    Phase 2:  Installing posts and rails.

    If we find that this trial section is successful, more of this work will be carried out on Friars Crag.  It will look good; it will protect vegetation from trampling and it will provide better wild-life habitats. 
    Phase 3:  Happy Naomi (coordinator of the project).

  • An unexpected adventure.

    14:06 22 February 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Despite what has been a mixed bag of weather, we have just had a little surge in visitor numbers over the half-term week.  We have also had a little flurry of mountain rescue call-outs including a few lower leg injuries (these make up a big proportion of our calls) and some mountain biking incidents.

    No pictures of a rescue in the dark but these show a choppy Derwentwater and islands.
     A rather unusual call came from a father, his son and a friend who planned a canoe and camping trip on Derwentwater but ended up marooned on two different islands in the lake.  Their story shows just how easily plans can go awry. 

    Their adventure began when they travelled from Liverpool to Penrith by train and then a bus from Penrith to Keswick and a second bus along the lake to Calf Close Bay.  They inflated two canoes and father and friend paddled across to St Herberts Island taking the camping equipment over.  Father returned with both canoes to collect his son.  By then the light was fading fast; it was cold and windy and the water was choppy.  On the return journey, and fortunately quite close to Rampsholme Island, both father and son found themselves overboard and in the water.  They were able to reach the island but were faced with what would have rapidly become a dangerous situation - a cold, windy, wet night with no equipment.  So they did the sensible thing and, using a mobile phone that had somehow stayed dry, they called out the rescue team.  We were able to quickly bring them back to a warm, dry hostel.

    It would be easy to think that they had been stupid but really they just unintentionally overstretched their boundaries.  They had shown admirable initiative travelling from a city by train and buses to have an adventure experience.   The rescue team did have to step in but, with slightly better judgement about equipment and the weather conditions, it could easily have been a successful  adventure.   The spirit and initiative behind the outing were great.  In both the Trust and the Rescue Team we want people to experience and enjoy the outdoors and that’s what they set out to do. There was nothing wilfully reckless about what they did.  There’s a limit to what can be learned without actually doing something and many of us can reflect on those occasions where we learned a lot from an experience that didn’t quite work out as we planned!  They certainly had an adventure story to tell when they arrived home.

    Postscript:  The Owl Prowl I mentioned attracted 103 people who had a great evening walk in the woods followed by encounters with owls in the Trust’s barn.

  • Come for an owl prowl.

    17:12 09 February 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Have you ever wanted a close look at an owl?  Well, here's your chance for a rare close encounter.

    Next week during half-term, you can join our 'Owls in the wood and owls in the barn' event.  It begins with a walk in Great Wood where, with luck, tawny owls can be seen on their silent hunt for food. It then moves into our barn where you can have a close look at just how beautiful these birds are. Details as below:

    Date:  Wednesday February 15th

    Time:  6.30 p.m.

    Venue:  Meet at Bowe Barn, the National Trust base which is about half a mile from Keswick on the Borrowdale Road.

    Cost:  Adults £3.50 and children £2

    Come in warm clothing and bring a torch.

    This is the first of a number of events that will take place throughout the year. We are already beginning planning to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and are having discussions with local Scout groups about having a beacon on Catbells.  I'll let you know in good time when that will happen.  If the weather allows, this will look quite spectacular so fingers crossed!

  • Not totally different from the mountains!

    09:31 08 February 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    I had a change of scenery last week when I popped out to the coast and met the Trust’s ranger Chris and two representatives of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC). The BMC had asked us to look at a site on St Bees Head sea cliffs where a lot of climbing takes place.  These cliffs are designated a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) bird reserve.  The BMC and RSPB have an existing understanding about using these cliffs without disturbing nesting birds in what is an important site.

    During the nesting season, this is a birder’s paradise with its teeming masses of nesting sea birds.  It is where you can see the only English nesting site for the amber-listed Black Guillemots.  For a list of the others go to

    The BMC has done some work in the past on access and erosion control and they asked Chris and me along to see if we can advise them about how to sensitively maintain and improve an access path down the cliff.

    There is a farm on the headland with a camping barn and it would be ideal if the BMC could have a work group staying there.  They could provide the materials and voluntary labour and Chris and I, working for the Trust, could provide the advice and necessary tools for the task. The BMC is taking the lead on this but we would contribute technical advice about installing and maintaining sustainable paths on steep terrain which is what we are used to doing in the mountains.

    It was a very useful site visit and meeting.   As ever, it is a question of balancing a range of uses of the landscape and it would be good to have a joint working programme with them. 

    While we were there, Chris and I spotted something in the water below.  After some time observing its behavior, we concluded it was most likely a seal.  It was just too distant to be sure and the photographs I took were inconclusive but both seals and sea otters can be seen from the headland.

    Leave a comment if you can identify this!
    We have also done more work at Braithwaite.  A contractor has been in with a JCB installing a large pipe as part of the drainage project. 

    Once that was done I was back with volunteers putting finishing touches. 
    One of our youngest volunteers (he brought his Dad with him!)

    All being well, the flood risk to the village will have been significantly reduced – these volunteers have much to be proud of.
  • The weather hasn't stopped us yet!

    15:11 01 February 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    As I write this, the weather we are having right now reminds me that it sometimes controls the jobs we can tackle.  We are now into the fourth day of freezing temperatures.  Today is sunny but even in the valleys the temperature will struggle to rise much above freezing throughout the day.  Fortunately we were still able to do the planned work last weekend (one of my working weekends) but at times the ground can be just too hard to work.

    On Saturday morning I went with three of our regular volunteers up to Watendlath.  We replaced a step-stile over a fence to allow access to a walk along the river.  It isn’t actually a public right of way (PROW) but the Trust does want it to be accessible for walkers.  This was a day that gave us the opportunity to stop and take photographs from Surprise View – you can see why this is a hugely popular viewpoint and the skilled, patient or lucky can take some stunning photos.  Actually, you’d probably have to obscure the lens with a finger to take a bad picture!

    Surprise View

    In the afternoon we moved on to Castlehead.  There is a small crag there that we are encouraging outdoor centres to use for children to learn and practice abseiling skills.  Because it is a small crag, it isn’t used by experienced climbers so there are no conflicting users.  But, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so we are limiting the area being used at the top and foot of the crag to minimize both damage to vegetation and erosion.  That’s why we were there working on a fence.

    That was two good jobs completed on Saturday and on Sunday we tackled another.

    This time there were 12 volunteers and we joined Naomi on her foreshore project.  There is an access-for-all path that runs from the large car-park through Cockshot Wood to the lake shore.  Like many of these paths it was accumulating a surface layer of mud and leaves.  If we don’t clear it. vegetation will reclaim the path very quickly.  So we set to work and, with a good deal of scraping and brushing, we gave the path its annual clean up.  It’s hard, physical work but it does feel good when we look back at a good, clear path.

    BBC at work

    BBC Look North provided an interesting diversion by coming to film and interview Naomi about working with volunteers on her Derwentwater Foreshore project.

    Where better to take a break?

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.