Chronicles of an upland ranger

Ranger repairing the path on Cat Bells, Keswick

I rise early, early enough to see the sun rise over Neolithic Castlerigg if I'm lucky...

A new day in a new life

...today however is different and the early summer is bringing much needed rain to quench the sweeping fells and wooded valleys of Borrowdale. I draw back the curtains and assess the mood the valley has found herself in this morning. A hearty breakfast follows, waterproofs are donned, boots laced and bait is stuffed into my rucksack. The door shuts behind me and I know that whatever the weather decides to throw at me I'll be at it's mercy, repairing upland paths for the rest of the day. The rain hits my hood as I walk out into the 'Jaws of Borrowdale' and I allow myself a small smile, I love this life, this is my job after all.

Who am I?

There are 16 lucky folk like me making up the upland ranger teams in The Lakes. We work for the National Trust in partnership with other local organisations such as The Lake District National Park, Cumbria County Council, Natural England, Heart of the Lakes and Nurture Lakeland combined, these organisations create Fix the Fells, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

'Working with others in the Lake District' is one of the seven principles that guides the National Trust in looking after the Lakes and through Fix the Fells we work alongside The Lake District National Park and many volunteers to fix and maintain the many paths that criss-cross this iconic landscape. The work of me and my team is part grant funded and part funded by donations.

Bags filled and ready for lift-off
Rangers and filled bags for heli-lift, Borrowdale
Bags filled and ready for lift-off

Summer stirs in the fells


Due to the nature of our work we carry it out in the best eight months of the year (tricky to time in The Lakes mind). We are at the mercy of whatever the elements decide to throw at us, so come wind, rain, hail, snow or shine we are out fixing the fells.

My first 3 months in this new career has seen us filling heli bags with local stone sourced from the flood erosion left after Storm Desmond of 2015. The stone ageing between 250 million and 450 million years old will form our new path on Cat Bells, which will stand as a testament to our work in a hundred years from now (fingers crossed). A metre of path takes one person on average one day to pitch (build). In that sense it is a job of both deep and present time working together seamlessly.

Path materials are flown in by helicopter
Helicopter at Cat Bells above Derwent Water, Keswick
Path materials are flown in by helicopter

With the bags flown in to site by helicopter (in a steady gale force 8 may I add) we are now at the stage where we are re-pitching our new path, widening an existing route to minimise erosion from an increasing footfall.

Skilled pitching protects the fell for future feet
Ranger repairing the path at Cat Bells, Lake District
Skilled pitching protects the fell for future feet

So, as early summer rolls on into the warmer months and the valley rings with cuckoo calls and the maternal bleatings of freshly sheared ewes you will find us on Cat Bells. The colour of the lake below predicts the weather forecast of the day but rain or shine our spirits are always high, we truly love what we do and it is with a happy heart that I can say I cannot wait to see what experiences this new and exciting fell season brings.