News from Roy Henderson for November 2015

  • From Fountains Abbey to a Borrowdale cave.

    10:30 28 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week I had another away-day when I visited Fountains Abbey near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The Abbey was founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks. At the height of its power, it owned extensive lands including Borrowdale.  Four hundred years after its foundation, it was stripped of its land and powers by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Its subsequent decline left us with the stunning remains that are now a World Heritage site.

    The Abbey is a now a National Trust property that is very different from Borrowdale in many ways. What it does share with Borrowdale is the enormous number of people who visit and the on-going project of how to maintain accessibility whilst protecting the site. As usual, for me, there is always something to learn from visiting other places. I must be honest and admit that, although I’m really pleased that the Trust owns places like Fountains Abbey, my heart’s in the mountains. It was great to be back in Borrowdale.

    My return was to a very wet Borrowdale! The lakes and rivers here do have an enormous capacity but, at this time of year, we can have days of heavy rain falling on already water-logged ground. The lake level then rises too quickly for the rivers to accommodate the increased discharge and we have some flooding, especially of the paths around the lake shore. Where the flooding will occur depends to some extent on wind direction as it is the waves that do the most damage. So, we’ll be out soon looking for the repairs that need doing.

    Fortunately for my regular volunteers, we had a dry job to do. One of the legacies of slate mining in Borrowdale is a cave that was adopted as home in the early 1900s by a remarkable character named Millican Dalton. He had been living and working in London but he gave it all up to spend 50 years developing a sustainable way of living in this cave. The cave is now often used for overnight camping. Some years ago, the Trust had a geo-technical survey carried out in the cave. The recommendation was that we observe a clear-floor policy. If we keep the floor clear of loose stone, we will be able to see if there has been any fall from the roof of the cave. The survey found that the roof is sound but we should still check regularly for any falls. The Trust wants to keep the cave open but needs to know that it is safe to do so. Many campers like to gather stone and arrange it almost like a nest. So, at regular intervals, we need to clear the floor again. And that was a dry job that we could do during some pretty wet weather!

    Daisy here.

     I’m sick of it raining now but I’ve got a new jacket. I like it when I put that on.

  • Fleeces and waterproofs needed.

    09:10 23 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Deer on the skyline.

    Last weekend I had a change of scenery when I took a trip with a couple of mates to Braemar. The main purpose of the trip was to buy some cross-country skis for a trip we plan to make this winter. But of course we took the opportunity to walk in the mountains while we were there. 

    What was remarkable was that we saw hundreds of hares, far more than we have ever noticed before. They were very easy to spot because they were already developing their white winter coats even though there had been no snowfall this year.

    Spot the hares!

    It turned out to have been the best place to be. When I returned, Jan told me it had rained heavily in the Lakes and the lake and river levels are indeed very high. Once back at work, I went with another ranger to check one of our paths and a section is already under a significant amount of water. As there is very heavy rain forecast and the ground is already saturated, we are likely to have much more flooding. Our hills play a big part in the process that sees high rainfall in this area. Westerly airflows bring across a lot of moisture much of which falls on us!

    In preparation for a big project we will be starting soon, I spent some time with other rangers up around Surprise View. We have had a very kind donation from a member of the public to spend in that area and we are going to use it to improve path and car-park surfaces. As far as possible we will improve accessibility with this work although one section will be done primarily to protect tree roots. This is one of our most visited places and sheer numbers create a lot of wear.

    After we had walked the area and I had talked them through how to estimate what is needed to do the job, we individually calculated the cost.  Each costing was within 5% of all the others. So now we need to schedule the work. Once it is complete, Surprise View will be wheel-chair accessible; all users will have a good path surface and this will protect the surrounding vegetation.

    Daisy here.

     I’ve been running around in the rain. It’s great. I love it when it’s really, really windy.
  • History and archaeology.

    11:45 12 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    At a cursory glance, it would be easy to think that the Lake District landscape is natural and has been little touched by human activity. In reality there is much evidence of such activity since Neolithic times. In the Trust, we like to take every opportunity we can to enhance visitor experiences by informing them about the history and archaeology that can be seen in the landscape. To that end, I spent a day last week with Jamie Lund (the Trust’s archaeologist) and a number of outdoor pursuits instructors up Stoneycroft Ghyll. The idea is that we show them the archaeology; we explain its significance and we discuss how to protect it. The instructors will then be able to cascade that knowledge to all the groups they lead into the Ghyll. Hopefully members of the groups will then go on to tell their friends and families.

    I’m hoping that Jamie’s enthusiasm will inspire the instructors to weave this aspect of landscape awareness into their daily practice. We have used this method of cascading before and it has worked well. It is very effective at transmitting information to a lot of people we might not otherwise meet. The benefits are twofold; people have an enriched understanding and enjoyment of their surrounding environment so they are then more likely to be protective of an important part of our heritage.

    An unexpected highlight of last week was taking a walk up Skiddaw on my day off. Much of the country was shrouded in fog for the day but I walked up into sunshine and looked back over the top of low-lying cloud. It really is a fantastic experience to see just the hill tops emerging through cloud.

    I had Daisy with me of course and also Gus and Bryn, her two doggy friends from Derwent Island. They had a great time running around and playing together.

    Daisy here.

    I’ve been up Skiddaw with my besties. They’re not very good at walking up mountains - not compared to me. It’s brilliant. I’m really fast. 
  • A gift for photographers!

    13:44 07 November 2015
    By Roy Henderson

    Last week was one of those weeks where I seemed to spend much of my time going from one meeting to another. We do need to have them of course to make sure that all our current projects are going to plan and to also plan what we will do next. It just happens that we have been having a spell of fantastic autumn weather and it’s a shame to have to spend any of it working indoors! Fortunately the meetings went well and there’s the satisfaction of knowing that we are being careful stewards of this special place as we try to improve accessibility.

    I’ve mentioned before that I would be having some consultation sessions about the possibility of creating a recycled plastic boardwalk through Ings Wood. Lots of people stopped off to talk to me about that and I also had emails about it. Everybody was in favour of the idea. It will improve accessibility and will also protect the wetland vegetation that might otherwise be trampled so it’s a win/win situation.  We always have in mind the Trust’s core aim to protect the environment for everyone for all time.

    Between meetings I managed to pop out one lunch-time to take photographs in Borrowdale. It also gave Daisy a breath of fresh air as well. The colours are spectacular at present and the weather has been perfect for some great photographs.

    Daisy here.

     I’ve had a boring week but I did get to run around for a bit. That’s great.

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.