News from Roy Henderson for January 2012

  • On-going stuff.

    21:22 26 January 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Our work on the new diversion channel above Braithwaite moved another step forward last week when we broke through the wall going out of the old dam.  It was a lot easier to do than ‘breaking in’ to the dam.  

    None of this will pose a problem for walkers because the channel is narrow enough for them to hop over quite easily.  The next stage will be to install a 6m x 600mm pipe.  That shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the ground is soft at present.   Thankfully my fantastic volunteers are still with me on this one!

    In stark contrast, the drilling at Force Crag is hard going just now.  The drill has encountered about 3 or 4 metres of very hard rock and a larger rig has been brought in.  If this doesn’t do the trick a change of drill bit or a relocation of the drill site will have to be tried.

    Later in the week,  Alistair, our North Lakes General Manager hosted a meeting of Trust general and property managers at Bowe Barn.  This included a trip over to Derwent Island to look at work that will need to be done there and to generate ideas about how to make it more accessible for members of the public.  At present there are some open days with limited numbers of places.  Watch this space for open day dates. 

    Evening walk.

    Spot the squirrel
    At the weekend Jan and I went to Edinburgh.  It’s nice to visit a city for a change and Edinburgh is a lovely place.   Of course the pandas are drawing large crowds at present.  Then, when I returned home and took Reiver for a walk on Friars Crag, just by being alert to the surroundings, I saw a red squirrel, a nuthatch and a tree-creeper.  We sometimes forget to take the time to see what is around us all the time – no queues and no charges!
  • Diversionary tactics!

    15:55 19 January 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week we were finally able to begin the task of diverting water from an old, inadequate drain into a new channel that will by-pass the village of Braithwaite and lessen future risk of flooding.  The Trust’s archaeologist, Jamie Lund had visited the site and researched archive material before we started work.
    Ranger Joe at work & Reiver on inspection patrol.

    One of our fantastic regular volunteers.
    The existing drain runs under an extension to an old building that is now Coledale Inn.  It began life in 1824 as a carding mill but by 1867 had been purchased by Robert Wilson of the Cumberland Pencil Company.  In 1898 it was destroyed by fire.  Attempts were made to divert water from the old mill pond to douse the fire as the fire engine made its way from Keswick.  The splendidly-named English Lakes Visitor & Keswick Guardian reported on Dec 24th 1898 that … the fire engine (horsed by a pair of good animals and driven by John Nelson of the Blencathra hotel) … made its way to the fire.  Perhaps predictably, all that remained the following day was the pitiful sight of the shell of the building.  A subsequent meeting of the shareholders (including Canon Rawnsley, one of the founders of the Trust) decided to sell the remains and it was then rebuilt as Coledale Inn.

    So, this site has long been an important part of the village.  Once our project is complete, water will be channelled across the mill pond and out the other side to avoid building up a head of water there.  Following Jamie’s advice, this part of the channel has been dug out by hand to minimize the risk to the site.

    More volunteer power.
    I worked alone for one day; had a fellow ranger Joe with me on the second and then had three volunteers on the third so it has taken seven days of hand digging to complete this section.  We completed just over 30m which is brilliant.

    Feet complaining?
    Fortunately we can now bring in contractors with a JCB to complete the job. All being well that should reroute at least 80% of the flow that threatened the village with flooding. 

    The end-of-the-day clean-up.
    It hasn’t been a particularly glamorous task but sometimes we just have to get our heads down and get on with a job.  Sadly, there were no exciting archaeological finds to reward the hard graft!

  • Winter rescue skills practice

    16:43 13 January 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Although it isn’t exactly T-shirt weather here in the Lakes, it has definitely been an unseasonably warm start to 2012.  I did manage to do some ice climbing on Helvellyn a couple of weeks before Christmas but it has been really warm since then.  So I and a few other members of the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team had to head off to Cairngorm for a weekend to refresh and practice our winter skills. 

    Cairngorm area January 2012

    The walk in - patchy snow cover
     Even there the snow cover in many places is significantly less than we would have expected at this time of year.  One of the associated problems is that some areas hosting rarer plant species are more vulnerable to damage.

    Most of the weekend was spent practicing skills that we don’t often have the opportunity to use but can be crucial on rare occasions. So we worked on generally Grades 1 and 2 mixed terrain practicing lowering and down-climbing sections, stomper belays and snow belays.

    A bonus to the weekend was spotting a ptarmigan in winter plumage and arctic choughs.  Anything that overwinters in Cairngorm has to be a hardy bird!

    Spot the Ptarmigan
      We returned to almost spring-like conditions in the Lakes. The days are bright and sunny but the crisp, frosty mornings remind us that it is still winter.  If a very cold spell sets in now, it will nip a lot of early growth amongst the vegetation.  For the time being though we can make progress with the Trust’s outdoor projects so I’ll be writing about those next time.

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.