Now that the first snows have arrived, it seems fitting to turn one’s thoughts to reflections of the year gone by. It feels like a long time since I started as the Fix-the-Fells Volunteer Development Ranger back in the halcyon days of late spring. A reflection perhaps, of the work involved in developing the nature of this brand new role, and hopefully the positive impact that the role has had within the Fix-the-Fells partnership.
I’ve certainly been busy; organising and leading work parties with our dedicated cohort of volunteers to tackle minor repairs on upland footpaths within the Lakes. I’ve also been working closely with new recruits, identifying training needs and helping people to get skilled up in some of the techniques necessary to carry out this work to the high standards expected of us. It’s gratifying that these work parties and training events appear to be paying off, with the notional targets for both of these well surpassed for the first year of the role.
When I’m not out and about with our amazing volunteers, I’ll perhaps be having a rare office day, catching up on some of the paperwork required to help look after such a large and busy group (and hopefully coinciding these with the days with the worst forecast!). Or I’ll be out with the LDNP Fix-the-Fells Ranger, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of the Lake District fell paths is invaluable in helping to direct me to where resources can be used most effectively. Perhaps I’ll be catching up with one of our four specialist path teams, who with their high levels of skill and intimate understanding of the paths in their area, can offer indispensible advice on what issues need addressing and the best approaches to tackling them. Sometimes though, I’ll be up on the fells on my own, walking upland paths to check out potential problems that have been identified to me by our volunteers on their regular ‘drain runs’, where they keep paths and drainage features in good working order, to slow down rates of erosion and degradation of the paths. These drain runs are a vital part of Fix-the-Fells’ armoury. With multiple paths covered every week in the summer months and beyond, and the keen and ever more experienced eyes of our volunteers, potential path erosion problems have nowhere to hide, and we have a better chance of nipping them in the bud well before they become major issues.
When the weather is fine (!), I sometimes have to pinch myself that going for a nice walk in the Lake District fells (and getting paid for it) is part of my job, as long as I remember to look at the paths and not just the fantastic views! Of course when it comes to the Lake District weather it’s certainly not always fine, and taking the rough with the smooth is definitely a useful philosophy in this line of work. Working with such an inspiring and committed bunch of folk however, in such an amazing place as this, has to be about the best job in the world! Thanks to all for giving me such fantastic support as I’ve got to grips with this brand new role – I’m already looking forward to whatever 2019 brings!
Matt Tweed. Fix-the-Fells Volunteer Development Ranger.