News from Roy Henderson for August 2014

  • Preparing for advanced training.

    06:13 29 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    By the time you read this post I will have left for a trip to the Dolomites for some mountain rescue training.  Cheap flights mean that we can now travel easily to more extreme environments to extend our skills and in previous years we have trained in Zermatt, Chamonix and Canada.  There’s no guarantee of good weather but we can guarantee big mountains.

    So it has been a busy time for me and a couple of other team members as we have organised a sizeable trip.  Spread over two weeks, twenty four rescue team members from five different teams will spend a week working on advanced skills so there has been a lot of organising to be done. 

    Before we left, I also ran some extra rope skills sessions to prepare for the advanced work we were expecting to do in the Dolomites.

    While we are there, our training will be overseen by Kirk Mauthner (a Canadian and one of the best mountain rescue trainers in the world) and an Italian guide he recommended.  The great advantage of training like this in terms of both altitude and intensity is that, when we return to the Lake District, our crags are small in comparison.  The primary aim of the training is that our teams can perform rescues more safely for themselves but of course that also means safer for those being rescued.

    So my next post should have lots of good photographs of big mountains and of rescuers practising their techniques.

    Hi, Daisy here.

    I’ve been helping Roy train all year.  I check at the top of the crag and then I go and check at the bottom of the crag.
  • A Day on Derwent Island.

    21:28 22 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Reliable as ever, the Yorkshire volunteers have just been for one of their two annual visits.  It’s always good to see familiar faces and also to meet a few new ones.

    This time we went across to do some work on Derwent Island.  The plan was to cut back some rhododendrons to bring them under control.  The unplanned work was to try to get into the secret room that our buildings manager and I had found when we were surveying the cellars of the house to make sure that they would be adequately ventilated when a new gas heating system is installed.  It had been walled off so long ago that I knew nothing about it and I think I know the island and house pretty well.

    The wall is quite substantial in construction but has not been keyed into the side walls of the passage.  It isn’t load-bearing in any way so its only use seems to be to block off the room behind it.  Whilst the Yorkshire group worked clearing the rhododendrons, I took some time to remove some cobbles from the wall so that I could pop my camera in for some pictures.

    As you can see, there’s nothing obvious in the photos to suggest why it was blocked off with such a wall so we are still speculating about it.  I’ll let you know if there are further developments.

    As usual, the Yorkshire volunteers group did a terrific job so many thanks to them.  These are people who are very experienced and highly motivated.  They can see what needs doing and just get on with it.  It’s also good fun to work with them.

    Daisy here,

    I’ve been on my first full weekend training.  It was great but very tiring and I came back with Labrador tail again.  It was really sore but the vet made it better.
  • A house with secrets.

    09:39 20 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Having had a good holiday, I was ready to go when I returned to work.  The big event of the last week was the annual Derwentwater Regatta weekend so there was plenty to do helping to set that up.  This year we had a busy Saturday with lots of people joining in what was on offer.  Unfortunately the weather forecast for the Sunday was not good and that probably deterred some people.  Nevertheless, those who decided to brave the weather found that it wasn’t as bad as predicted and they had a good time.

    This year I just couldn’t find the time to take photographs during the regatta but I’ll post some from the Friday when we were setting up.  There’s also one of the sunset reflected on the lake as I walked home at about 9 pm.  Could there be a better way to end a working day?

    As it was a regatta, a lot of things on offer were water activities as you would expect but there were others for landlubbers.  For the first time, we offered Frisbee golf and this proved to be very popular with small children right through to some rather competitive adults!

    Earlier in the week I made a trip over to the house on Derwent Island with one of our buildings managers.  The house will soon have a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) system installed.  LPG is heavier than air so we need to be sure that, should there be any leakage, there is good ventilation and it cannot accumulate under the house. I knew of the existence of a passage under the cellar floor that had been blocked off sometime in the past.  So we lifted some of the floor slabs and dropped down to explore the passage.  What I didn’t know is that we would find a room that has been blocked off.

    So, I will soon be going back with my team of volunteers who come annually from Yorkshire and we will set about clearing debris and hopefully will be able to enter this room we didn’t know existed.  It’s all rather intriguing because we have no idea what, if anything, we will find inside it.  I’ll let you know on the blog as soon as there is anything to report so keep following.

    Daisy here,

    I’ve been to Derwent Island. It’s always great going to Derwent Island.  I’ve got two friends there.  They’re Labradors as well.  They’re younger than me but I can outrun them easily.

  • Holiday time.

    15:27 14 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    I’m not long back from my summer holiday.  Jan and I went to Brittany to cycle and camp. It was my first visit to the area and I am now a big fan.  The roads were quiet but the few wagon and car drivers we encountered drove courteously and safely around cyclists.  There is a superb network of cycle tracks along canal tow-paths and disused railway lines and they are all in good condition.  We found some great camp sites that were well maintained and cheap. The landscape was stunning and there was lots of interest to see.  The people were friendly and welcoming and the weather was kind to us.


    The area is dotted with historic villages and towns and mediaeval architecture.  The high spot was a visit to Mont Saint-Michel, a small island just off the coast of Normandy.  This is a World Heritage site with about 3 million visitors each year so we made sure that we arrived early to see some of it before it became very crowded. There is so much to see here from its impressive appearance as you approach across the causeway to the smallest details to be found on many of the buildings.  We took an English language tour of the Abbey but otherwise just spent hours exploring and discovering for ourselves.  It really is worth a visit.


    We also thoroughly enjoyed the culture of a good lunch with a glass of wine followed by some relaxation in the afternoon.  Jan even took the opportunity to enjoy a second breakfast – not a mid-morning snack or elevenses but a second breakfast!  What more could you want? It was a really good, relaxing holiday.

    Second breakfast!

    As a closing note, I’ll mention that one of our young foresters has moved to pastures new. He has been signed up by Carlisle United so will now be working at ground level rather than swinging in trees!  We hear he is enjoying his new job and wish him well.

    Daisy here.  Jan’s Mum and Dad came to look after me.  They’re nice people.  They took me walking in the mornings and in the evenings. It was great. And I went to Catbells with them.
  • Enjoying the weather.

    17:27 05 August 2014
    By Roy Henderson

    Just before the end of school term I paid another visit to High Snab Farm with a combined group of children from Braithwaite and Borrowdale schools.  We split them into two groups with Tom (farmer) introducing one group to his hay meadows while I took the other to look for wild-life in the walls, hedges and down by the river.  We then swapped them of course.  Hay meadows are not nearly as widespread as they once were and High Snab provides a great opportunity to see and begin to understand the importance of these habitats. The Trust is committed to showing that it is possible to both enjoy and respect the outdoors so school visits like these are invaluable.  We had a great morning at High Snab and a lot of learning took place.

    I’ve mentioned before that the creation of a Wild Play Trail is underway in Cockshot Wood.  It will take some time to complete it but already we have some things in place.  I have also involved local children by asking them to design a Wild Play Trail.  I have now received their plans and have been cherry-picking the best ideas to make a collage of things we hope to include in the Cockshot Wood trail.  The trail is meant to be mainly for the use of children so it makes sense to ask them what they would like to have. I took an opportunity recently to look in at Sizergh Castle where they have already made a woodland trail.  The pictures show you some of their ideas although Cockshot Wood has its own character so we can’t just copy the Sizergh model.  It was a really useful visit though as there is always something to be learned from others’ experience.


    And finally for now, I’ll mention an unusual activity for me.  I had email from a Rescue Team guy who was looking for people to help out with a blind cycling event.  So, willing to help, I turned up to find that they were short of people to ride on the front of a tandem.  So I rode upfront with a young man who was blind.  We rode along a disused railway line leading out of Keswick.  Those who have cycled it will know that it is a fantastic ride out.  We had a great ride with lots of chit chat along the way.  Describing the route opened my eyes to our surroundings.  It was a really enjoyable experience.

    Daisy here:

    Roy’s Mum and Dad have a new cocker spaniel puppy. They are pleased with me because I am so gentle with it.  It’s going to be called Poppet but I think it should be Smudge.  It is a new friend but is still very small.

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.