Walk, love, Fix the Fells

Fix the Fells team on Cat Bells, Lake District

Did you know our Fix the Fells volunteers spend hundreds of people-days out on the mountain paths of the Lake District every year? This equates to thousands of hours of TLFC (Tender Loving Fell Care).

Walking the upland paths in the stunning Lakeland landscape is one of the joys of life isn’t it? But, 10 million pairs of walking boots traipse the Lake District fells and vales every year and that’s a lot of shoe leather. Sadly it can also mean a lot of erosion which damages sensitive habitats and heritage.

So, what is the Fix the Fells lengthsmen scheme all about?

Fix the Fells is a dynamic partnership between the National Trust, the Lake District National Park, other local organisations and a 70-strong bunch of seriously hardy volunteers. This team of dedicated souls are known as ‘lengthsmen’ - despite over 50% of them being women. Out in all weathers, and often trekking up big climbs to even get to their work sites, the lengthsmen undertake key conservation tasks such as unblocking drains and clearing loose debris from the paths.

Fix the Fells maintain these drains across the Lake District
Typical upland path drain, Lake District
Fix the Fells maintain these drains across the Lake District

Training the volunteer path makers

The volunteers undertake extensive training in multiple skills such as map reading, first aid and manual handling as well as the traditional techniques required to carry out the bulk of the work. Monthly work parties are led by National Trust or National Park rangers from across the Lake District wherever they are needed.

Lengthsmen are supervised and assessed and then many are able to undertake drain runs or footpath repair independently of staff. They commit to volunteering for a minimum of 12 days a year and many also get involved in the organisational aspects of the project, such as establishing work priorities and rota management. What a contribution!

Look out for the team in Borrowdale

In the northern lakes we have some of the most popular and accessible fells in the lake district, such as Cat Bells and Castle Crag which can demand extra care and attention. Recent work on Cat Bells has included tree planting which achieves the multiple benefits of obscuring erosion scars, detering further wear and tear, stabilising the fellside and increasing biodiversity.

Rangers assess path at Castle Crag
Fix the Fells Rangers assess path Castle Crag, Lake District
Rangers assess path at Castle Crag

Routes such as the one from Grange to Castle Crag experience a lot of 'traffic' and are especially beloved of mountain bikers as erosion scars can actually be favoured for the sport. Of course this kind of activity though, while fun, can lead to damage and more repairs on the Fix the Fells job sheet.

A typical day's volunteering

The conservation work the teams tackle can be varied but most jobs consist of getting armed with spades and brooms and simply 'getting out there' - constructing drains, painstakingly hand-making paths or undertaking repairs.

Fix the Fells whatever the weather
Fix the Fells team mending upland paths, Lake District
Fix the Fells whatever the weather
" It’s a brilliant achievement by a great bunch of people who really care about the fells. It can be tough, but all that hard work makes a big difference"
- Joe Cornforth, National Trust Upland Ranger for North Lakes

What can you do to help?

• Think about where you put your feet!

• Stay on the path and try not to take short cuts

• Leave the landscape just as you found it - paths need stones more than cairns do

• The project needs £350k per year to continue the current level of care so why not help by making a donation to Fix the Fells

Ranger repairing the path on Cat Bells, Keswick

Chronicles of an upland ranger 

Meet Jordan, one of 16 upland rangers working across the Lake District.