16 May 2014

Excuse me, where's the...

Hello! My name's Sarah and I'm an Upland Ranger.  Strange way to start a blog I bet you're thinking, but I'm the only female Upland Ranger in the Lakes and quite probably one of the very few that exist around the UK, and I want to give you a little insight into my world...

It's a muddy old do...

Fix the Fells has 14 Upland Rangers across the Lakes, between us we look after many of the access routes into the fells.  As of April 2012, according to the Lake District National Park Authority there are 1913 miles of rights of way in the Lakes.  If that was laid out end to end it that would get you from Lands End to John O'Groats AND back again with a bit to spare!

South Lakes Upland Ranger team
So it's a fair old do looking after it all and the upland routes can be the most challenging but inspiring to work on.  Take our current project on Striding Edge for example, that's a pretty special office in my eyes and a real privilege to have the opportunity to work on it.  Yet there is something that niggles me here..... Where on earth am I meant to pee?!

Striding Edge.....
Now I'm no stranger to wild wee-ing as 99% of my working life is spent outside, but sometimes I arrive onto my work sites and the concept of baring my bum to the world really doesn't appeal.  Striding Edge is one of these places.  If it's not the steep drop either side of the edge, it's the masses of people that go walking up there when the weather's good.  Add the bright red ranger jumper and well I may as well declare to the world that I just gotta pee, because I've been holding it in since 7:20am and I won't get home til 5:30pm!

Swirral Edge had the same problems
I guess that brings me onto something else, the wet knicker rule.  No, not because I couldn't find somewhere to pee (close call some days though...) but because the weather is so horrifically wet it's gone through me waterproofs, working troos (thick troos at that) and finished its journey at my knickers.  What a bad do.  So much so I would like to be able to declare the day done.  And trust me there have been many many of these days because whatever the weather, we go out! Alas, I've not had much success in implementing this rule, maybe wet boxers aren't quite the same....

Wet knicker day
You see, I do exactly the same as the guys do, yes including hauling around some pretty beefy rocks (no gym membership needed for me).  Indeed on our current working holiday we have out with us I have earned myself the nickname 'rock whisperer'.  I guess this comes from my manual handling technique.  As I don't quite have the strength or bulk to move some stone I really rely on technique, so it may look like I'm telling the rock to be light/move itself, but in reality I'm just trying to find the best balance point and easiest way to move stone without doing myself in.  After all, footpath work is a marathon, not a sprint.

Winches can also be helpful with big rocks!
As the only female upland ranger I also currently hold the "Our Woman At The Top" crown/tiara for Heart of the Lakes, other teams have a 'Man at the Top' for other business. This is one of Fix the Fells fundraising methods, whereby anyone who books a holiday cottage with Heart of the Lakes has the option to tick a little box that donates two pounds towards Fix the Fells, a great way for visitors to the Lakes to give something back, so if you've ever ticked that box - thanks!

Sarah with all the previous 'Men at the Top'
I must say I do feel a great sense of pride to be doing the job I do and to work with the team that I do.  We all share a great respect and love for the mountains in which we work.  As offices go it can be as inspiring as it is exhausting, somehow stunning in the sunshine or pouring rain and forever challenging and changing.  And although I may be the only full time female worker, we have many female Fix the Fells volunteers who regularly go out on drain runs and work parties.  Together us guys and gals, staff and volunteers work together to protect these mountains that so many of us enjoy.  So when you're next out on the fell and you see a collection of workers digging away come and say hello, and if you see a wee lass on site, make her day by saying "good job boys AND girls", trust me, it's a small gesture that goes a long way!

Not a bad office!
If you are interested in the work Fix the Fells does we have a volunteer day in Langdale on 8th June, everyone welcome, click here for more info! 

We are also on twitter, follow us @ntlakes fells

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