News from Roy Henderson for October 2012

  • This one for Reiver.

    17:39 26 October 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    We have now started work on the riven oak fence on Friars Crag.  The oak came from management work in a National Trust woodland in the South Lakes.   It is sold to a local firm that rives the timber.  Then we buy it back. The timber has probably only travelled 30 miles as the crow flies. This also helps preserve traditional skills.

    It isn’t easy to work with riven oak for fencing because nothing is square and it doesn’t come in neat, straight lengths.  Cutting the joints can be quite time consuming.  It is worth the effort though because it looks more natural in the landscape and also it is much harder wearing than even tanalised softwood.  It won’t be long until it looks as though it has been there for years.

    Last weekend Kintail Mountain Rescue Team came down to work on some rope-work techniques with us.  The various teams regularly share good practice.  This time we were working on Steel Knott which is just opposite Castle Crag in Borrowdale.  We were practising using a double rope system to evacuate casualties.  We have adopted a Canadian system devised by Kirk Mauthner.  This is a system that has been designed so that it is possible to cut the rope at any point or to let go of the ropes and it will ‘fail to safe’.  It is a system that is safe for both the casualty and the rescuers.  Casualties have a smoother, more comfortable experience and knees, hips, backs etc of rescuers are subjected to reduced stress.  We did lots of repetitions of vertical lowering and also some guiding line practice – this is where a rope is slung across rough ground so that a stretcher can almost hover across it with a couple of rescuers alongside.

    Sadly my dog Reiver has died.  She was 13 which is a good age for a golden retriever and she was having a good active life until very recently when time caught up with her.  We shared great times on the fells and I’ll miss her.  A colleague at work said that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, he would like to come back as my dog. I think this is one of the nicest compliments I've ever been paid.

  • Canoes, ATV and Bikes.

    13:24 15 October 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    It has been another busy week during which the North Lakes team hosted a Ranger Day, a day when many of the Rangers in the Lakes and North West region get together.  More than 50 Rangers attended. The day was based around Barrow house hostel with presentations in the morning followed by afternoon working groups and finally a session canoeing on Derwentwater.  A brilliant day was had by all and the feedback has all been positive.

    Thoughts have now turned to our winter work programme including hedge-laying.  My first steps will be to see Tom at High Snab Farm to agree which hedges need cutting back this year and also to discuss with the estate managers which other hedges in Borrowdale need attention.  Hopefully we can get started on that this Autumn and then finish off in early Spring before the hedges begin growing and birds begin to nest.

    In preparation for another big job, I helped Joe (upland footpath Ranger) to transport 10 large bags of grass seed as high up Sail as possible.  

    We have a six wheel drive Polaris all-terrain vehicle which is brilliant at taking heavy loads up incredibly steep hills.  Joe has a volunteer group coming this weekend to help him sow the seed along the edges of a path that the team has been working on. This will help the recovery of the path by blending in the edges. The grass seed mix we use was put together after consulting with our advisers and Natural England.

    Then we also have the task of putting in place the new handrail at Friars Crag.  That will use riven oak that has now arrived so we are ready to go with that job.

    Over the weekend I cycled Coast to Coast again with a friend who couldn’t come last time.  We rode the same route from Gretna via Keilder and Morpeth to the east coast.  These are some very quiet roads with little traffic.  We camped at Bellingham and treated ourselves to a few beers with our meal. 

    It did all fit into one week somehow!

  • Mining, flooding and flying.

    07:31 05 October 2012
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week the Keswick Mining Museum closed its doors for the final time.  Fortunately for the Trust, we were able to purchase some of the exhibits. A few of us (Jessie, a Trust colleague and a volunteer Maggie) then spent time sorting, cataloguing and packing them for transport to our Force Crag site.  These will add to our growing collection of data and artefacts relating to local mining.

    Jessie and Maggie (modelling miner's helmet) cataloguing.

    Wooden detonator box

    Battery box.
    You will not be surprised to read that the high lake level caused by the recent rain, more rain and even more rain has resulted in some flooding.  Parts of the access-for-all footpath that we have been working on at the lake shore are now under water.  Our contractors have had to stop working on the project for now. Thankfully there is little wave action along the lake shore at this point so there shouldn’t be any serious damage done. For most of the time this path is high and dry and gives spectacular views across the lake to Catbells. 

    We have also been working on preparations for the annual Ranger Day when rangers from several areas get together to share experiences and learn from each other.  This time it will be on our patch in Borrowdale.  The day will be hosted from a private hostel, Barrow House.  The grounds of the house contain a magnificent specimen of a small-leaved lime.  You can see in the picture that it has one massive branch that must be exerting enormous forces on the main trunk.  Small-leaved limes are at their northern limit in Cumbria.  You can read more here.  I have included a picture of a packhorse bridge that is also situated in the grounds.


    There have also been a few call-outs for the rescue team. One of the rescues was in Coombe Gill where a woman had taken a tumble from the climbing route Corvus on Raven Crag. The thing of note about the rescue was the superb flying of the crew from the RAF Sea King search and rescue helicopter. They flew up the valley from Keswick and into the Coombe underneath the cloud . Then they held the hover very close to the crag whilst they winched up the casualty. Crisp and professional as ever!

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.