News from Roy Henderson for June 2012

  • Another away-day

    16:18 30 June 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week we had another of our days when we extend our experiences by visiting an area where we do not usually work.  This time it was to Whitehaven and Ennerdale in the west of the county.  Chris, the Trust’s ranger for that area, was running a volunteer day and a guided walk.  He took us walking around the Haig Pit area and the reclaimed land from the coal-mining industry that was centred there until 1988.  

    Chris - National Trust Ranger
    Reclaimed industrial land.
    Natural vegetation is now colonising the area and you can see from the pictures that it is rich in species including bee orchids.  (Bee orchids are named for their distinctive bee-like appearance and are predominantly found on sunny, well-drained grasslands low in nutrients.)  

    You can find out much more about this area at:

    And you can download a walk guide here:

    We then moved on to Monks Bridge on Coldfell near Calderbridge. 

    This is the oldest packhorse bridge in Cumbria.  It was built for the monks of Calder Abbey , originally Savigniac monks and then later on Cistercians from the larger Furness Abbey in the south of Cumbria.  It would have been an important part of the route for transporting iron ore from Ennerdale across Friar Gill to be smelted at the smithies on the fells.

    Unfortunately a tree had taken root so near to the bridge that its roots were threatening to cause damage so we had to cut it down.  We dragged it away from the bridge for burning and took the opportunity to have a barbecue.  Once again, Chris had organised a great day – two great locations, some essential work carried out and the weather allowed us a barbecue!
  • Defying the rain and the midges.

    15:29 28 June 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    The hunt for oak saplings

    We have recently embarked on a big job with some of our volunteers hand weeding around oak saplings planted on a woodland expansion zone below Falcon Crag.  These were grown from acorns collected locally by the National Trust to be grown on.  The saplings were then planted out by school children.  For a few years, the bracken on the slope will outgrow the saplings and would deprive them of light so we need to clear the area surrounding each one for about a 1 metre radius.

    Tools at the ready!

    This is a laborious process of first finding them amongst a metre or more of bracken growth and then cutting that back using a sickle.
    Heavy rain that the camera can't 'see'.
    The weather was not particularly kind to us and we worked in a relentless downpour and were thoroughly soaked.  Conditions were just right for there to be enough midges to be troublesome.  We resorted to Avon’s Skin-so-Soft bath oil to give us some protection against them! 

    Despite the aggravation of the rain and the midges, the volunteers completed an extraordinary amount of work and maintained their usual good humour.  
  • Riches on our doorsteps.

    14:03 17 June 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    When I came to write this latest blog and reflected on what I had been doing, not for the first time, I realised what a fantastic place the UK is.  Here in the Lakes it would be easy to take it for granted but the visitors are a constant reminder of how lucky we are to live and work here.  We are part of a relatively small but accessible part of the globe where we can enjoy so many different experiences.

    In a couple of weeks I have been climbing in snow on Skye and have also enjoyed walking Roman walls and the historic city of Chester in glorious sunshine – this with my Canadian friends Kirk & Jo who were keen to visit some ancient sites. 

    We three also did some climbing in the Lake District. 

    I then spent some time with a large number of our fantastic, ever-willing volunteers working on an access-for-all footpath with the Fix the Fells team.  That was followed by working with the Scouts, the Army Cadets and the Mountain Rescue Team to create the Jubilee Beacon on Catbells and the bonfire at Crowe Park on the lake shore.  Around 2000 people enjoyed the bonfire and about 80 made their way up to the beacon where there was a great atmosphere and we could see several beacons on other fell tops.

    Soon after that, I was able to spend some time road-biking in Pitlochry, another fantastic area.  These islands are so compact that we can easily access an enormous range of experiences even if we have only one spare day.

    It all led to thinking about the Trust’s project '50 things to do before you are 11¾'.  During the rest of the year we are all going to be building some of those into our visitor experiences so I’ll be reporting on those soon.  Meanwhile, why don’t you have a go at something near your home that you haven’t tried before?  You can tell us about it by writing a comment on the blog.
  • Skye in May

    11:02 04 June 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    I’ve just had a few days climbing with some friends up in Skye.  When we arrived, we were surprised at how much snow there was.  There had been a recent fresh flurry of snow and it was looking good.  So, for the beginning of our trip, our fingers were quite cold when climbing which was a stark contrast with the last few days when it was absolutely scorching.

    On our first day there, my climbing partner Steve and I climbed up to the Cioch by a relatively easy route and then carried on to the top of Coir Lagan – a cold-fingers day but really good climbing.  The following day we did Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean.  Again, there was a lot more snow than we had initially hoped for but it was great to be back on big hills.

    On the final day we took a boat into Loch Coruisk and we four stayed at the climbing hut – a beautiful, remote location with stunning views down the loch.  The next day we did the Dubhs Ridge and then down the other side to where we were camping. 

    One of the things that always strikes me about Skye is that it is the only place in the UK in my experience where you can have a truly alpine climbing day.  The climbing is fantastic with grades from easy to extreme but you do need to be a competent and confident climber.  There is some easier walking or non-technical climbing but It would take too long to rope everything so sometimes you need the skills and confidence to move together and quickly. 

    So on this trip, we did three good climbing routes and then had the added bonus of seeing lots of seals and even an otter.  We saw the otter just about half an hour walk from our camp where we sat very quietly for about an hour and it worked its way across the shoreline in front of us.  The vast majority of people on the camp-site didn’t see it purely and simply because they didn’t look for it.  Seeing otters is often a case of finding the right location and just sitting quietly, preferably without a dog because the smell or barking of a dog will scare away otters.

    It was a good trip but now I am back in the Lakes preparing for a Jubilee Beacon on Catbells and hoping for dry, calm weather!

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.