Why do paths need fixing?
A combination of millions of pairs of walking boots each year, the weather and gradient of mountain paths mean erosion scars can quickly form. Some of these, if left unchecked, can become as wide as 22 metres (as was the case on Skiddaw). They also need fixing to help protect the delicate vegetation at the sides of paths, which are often protected species and to reduce the amount of soil finding its way into our rivers, tarns and lakes.
Who decides which paths need fixing?
Our experienced Fix the Fells rangers from the National Trust and National Park undertake path surveys and monitor erosion activity on the paths using an agreed set of criteria. Between them they assess which paths need to be fixed and the order of priority. Our volunteers also help identify eroded paths and we take advice from other experts, such as Natural England.
What techniques are used?
There are a range of techniques from prevention to restoration. Find out more and see photos in our “techniques” section.
How do you decide what techniques to use when fixing a path?
The same rangers and volunteers who identify the paths that need fixing discuss and decide on the most appropriate technique to repair each one or each section. They take into account the history of the path, how busy it is, the local geology and a range of other factors. The aim always is to do as little as possible to repair the path or to reduce/prevent further erosion.
Who fixes the paths?
A team of skilled rangers and volunteers repair and maintain the paths and we also work with Basecamp to encourage more people to enjoy the opportunity to fix the fells. Highly skilled local contractors have also repaired many routes.
Why do you use diggers on the fells?
Diggers are used for “sub-soil” paths. They can do the work much more quickly than by hand, therefore we can repair a path in a shorter space of time. Normally the digger is driven onto the fells, but on occasions, if that is not possible, they are taken on the fells by helicopter in sections and assembled on site.
What are the rocks in large bags for?
These rocks are locally occurring surface stone that is selected and bagged up by our teams as close to the work site as possible, then delivered by helicopter and used for various forms of repair but particularly stone-pitching.
Why are the rocks in large bags there for so long before they are used?
How quickly we use the rocks varies significantly. We try and minimise the number of helicopter lifts each year to reduce our costs. This means at the beginning of the year we deliver rocks in one day to as many paths as possible and then use those rocks over the year. Depending on the weather and scale of work required, sometimes it will be the following year before we start work.
Do you repair paths all year round?
The main repair work is done from February to November but maintenance work continues all year. In the winter months the rangers work on lower level projects.
What you can do to help?
What can I do to help when I am on the fells?
Everyone can help by keeping to the paths wherever possible to avoid causing erosion damage and by raising awareness of why that is important. It is also important to remember that stones belong on paths so whilst it is tempting to add a stone to a cairn, please leave it on the path.
How can I volunteer?
By emailing firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance. We invite people on “taster days” so you can try a day as a Fix the Fells volunteer without committing yourself. It is hard work but great fun. It is labour-intensive however so not for everyone.
Do I need any specialist skills?
No, just an interest in the Lakeland fells, helping people enjoy the paths they walk on and lots of enthusiasm. We have a training programme to help you develop necessary skills. Please be aware that some of the work is physically demanding and occasionally involves walking in remote areas of the National Park.
Do I need any special equipment or kit?
We can provide you with waterproofs, tools and equipment to do the normal lengthsmen tasks. But if you would like to participate in work parties such as drain building or walling for example, you will need to get yourself a pair of steel toe capped boots, which we can help you buy.
How often will you need me?
We ask for a minimum of 12 days a year if possible. This can be done through drain runs and work parties throughout the year.
When do you recruit volunteers?
We recruit our volunteers throughout the year and try and be as flexible as we can to arrange training dates to encourage as many people as possible to get involved and develop the skills to help look after the fells. The first step is a “taster day”.
What does the training involve?
The training is comprehensive and includes practical “on the job” training as well as health and safety, navigation skills and a background of the programme. When on the fells, our volunteers are ambassadors for Fix the Fells so it is important you have a good understanding.
What will I get out of volunteering?
You’ll meet like-minded people and explore parts of the National Park you perhaps haven’t visited before. You’ll work with highly skilled National Trust footpath teams and wardens and National Park rangers and learn lots of new skills.
How much does Fix the Fells cost?
We are looking to raise £5 million over the next ten years. This will repair sections on 120 paths and maintain the existing network. The individual costs vary from £40,000 for a helicopter lift to £99 to repair a metre of stone-pitching.
Where does the money come from?
It comes from a range of sources including donations, our partner organisations, grants, visitor giving, local businesses, local communities, sponsorship and individuals. We need your help to reach our target however so please donate if you can. We have donation buckets in various locations around the Lake District and our teams carry them when they are working on the fells so look out for them.
What have you achieved so far?
We have repaired over 200 paths, developed a high level of skills and expertise, protected the upland environment, developed a strong volunteer programme, protected the local ecology and archaeology, rediscovered traditional techniques and developed new ones.