News from Roy Henderson for July 2012

  • Touching the lives of children.

    06:54 31 July 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Sometimes life presents us with experiences or opportunities that remind us of those important things in life that can too easily be overwhelmed by our routines.  I had one such experience recently when  the Lake District’s mountain rescue teams headed up by Keswick Mountain Rescue Team hosted a number of families through the WellChild, Centrepontand Child Bereavement organisations.  This was in response to the involvement of Prince William who is patron of the Mountain Rescue (England & Wales) and is also involved with his brother Harry in these charities.  He is keen to see the charities sharing and supporting one another.  So the Lakes  Rescue Teams stepped in and offered a weekend of activities to children who are being supported by these organisations.

    We hosted the children with their families and gave them a number of experiences including a simulated mountain rescue, a four wheel drive trip, a trip on the lake, some abseiling & climbing plus a trip to the summit of Latrigg (a mountain overlooking Keswick and Derwentwater) – things they would not have been able to do without the kind of support that organisations like the rescue teams can give.    I was involved with WellChild.  We were expecting 6 families but unfortunately two children were not well enough to make the journey.  Of the four who came, sadly one has passed away since the trip.  The feedback since his return to the Hospice is that he had loved everything he had done over the weekend.

    You can read more on the WellChild website here.

    What many of us might have taken for granted became hugely significant and reminded us of how fortunate we are – those little, daily irritations became irrelevant.  It was a pleasure to spend time with these families.

    Path maintenance

    Later in the week I worked with some of our regular Trust volunteers – this time cutting back bracken along the side of the path on Kinn End.  Kinn End is basically soft, friable Skiddaw slate with overlying grass so in places it is particularly vulnerable to erosion.  We minimise the problem by switching walkers between two routes at intervals.  There are two stretches of path about 20 metres apart and, using bars across the path as shedding gates, we ‘bounce’ the walkers between the two every two years.  This is long enough for the vegetation to recover and strengthen before it is subjected to trampling again.  This is a very popular route that is part of the Coledale Round and this is the best way we have found to protect it from the permanent damage that could otherwise be caused by such heavy usage.

    Drain hunting

    Another task was a form of archaeological dig I suppose!  We were looking for an old septic tank, waste-water manholes and drains in Cockshot Wood.  We needed to work out which are still in use.  Over many years there has been an accumulation of these in the area.  It wasn’t the most glamorous job we have done but my volunteers were undaunted!

  • Journeys in the 21st and 16th centuries.

    08:36 18 July 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Heavy rainfall eroded path
    Since last writing, I have had another session working with a group of our regional volunteers  - the group that brings a cake!  We were repairing some of the damage we have had on the Catbells terrace path and also on the mine track on the Newlands side of Catbells.  A few weeks ago we had a heavy rainfall event where a lot of water falling in a short time onto dry summer ground had done some damage.  

    It could have been worse but some earlier work, again done by volunteers, had helped minimise the damage.  We were repairing that by putting in wide, angled ‘sleeping policemen’ to shed the water across the path as quickly as possible.   A lot of hard work was completed, the cake was up to the expected standard and the foxgloves were at their best!

    Then, one evening, a friend and I made an excursion into the disused  Goldscope mine in Newlands valley.  We explored a passage that carried water along a leat  from the Elizabethan stone and turf dam on the fell-side above the mine. The water entered the level and travelled through from one side of the hill to the other.  These passages were named coffin levels because of their shape.  

    Coffin level

    No overtaking!

    Copper staining
    This shape minimised the amount of stone they had to remove to create access for a man.  The levels predate the late 19th century and were hand-picked using iron tools much like those illustrated in the 16th century book  De re Metallica

    Children would have been employed in the early stages of digging out these passages.

    Many of these coffin levels were subsequently destroyed when explosives were developed that could be used to enlarge them and make it easier to bring out the ores.  This one survived because it was used only for water.  

    Chamber for water wheel
    Timber-work above the wheel-pit chamber

    About half way through this passage there was a chamber with a water-wheel that powered a chain system that dewatered the lower mine levels.  This too was cut by hand – the picture shows the tool marks clearly.
    The water continued through the hill-side and was then used to power another wheel for the stamping mills.
    It is awe-inspiring to stand in these passages knowing that such massive works were carried out using just hand-tools.

    Mist having second thoughts.

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.