Meet the dogs tackling the Wainwright Fells in the Lake District
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 May 2018
A former police officer poleaxed by kidney failure found dogs were great medicine following a transplant. Emily Rothery reports.
Rescue dogs Jack and Skye are the best of pals and there’s nothing they like more than taking to the hills with their owner Carolyn Hastings. But they’re not just any hills and she’s not just any owner.
In November of last year they made it to the 1,887ft summit of Maiden Moor in the Lake District to celebrate the fact that they had achieved Carolyn’s ambition of climbing all 214 Wainwrights.
‘I had done the Wainwrights previously but it felt that the time was right for the dogs to tackle them too. I chose rescue dogs as I feel strongly that unwanted dogs should be given a home,’ says Carolyn, a retired police officer who achieved her feat after two years on energy-sapping dialysis caused by life-threatening kidney problems.
It was appropriate that the dogs were adopted from the Kapellan Kennels, also known as the Wainwright Centre, at Grayrigg, near Kendal, which is run by the charity Animal Rescue Cumbria.
Lancastrian Alfred Wainwright, the author of the legendary guide books, became its chairman in 1972 and he was instrumental in helping to establish the centre.
When the centre recently opened a ‘Wainwright Kennel’ Carolyn decided she and her canine companions should raise money through sponsorship.
Eight-year-old Skye, a lively jack russell/border collie cross has been with Carolyn since 2010. ‘She’s stubborn, very independent and intelligent and loves being with other dogs, so in 2012 I decided to get another,’ she says. ‘We allowed them six weeks to get used to each other but they bonded straight away. Jack is a Welsh border collie. He’s seven and is intelligent, loveable and very good natured.
‘Syke climbed her first Wainwright, Black Fell, in January 2011 and Jack’s was High Hartsop Dodd in January 2013. The dogs know when we are getting ready for a walk – they spot my outdoor gear and are waiting with great anticipation at the door.
‘They are in their element on the fells and Jack particularly loves the snow. He runs around, digs and catches snowballs. He comes into his own on the fells and his confidence just soars.
‘Skye’s confidence on the fells is unbelievable. She’s like a crag rat and shows no fear but knows how to stay safe. It took Jack longer to get used to rocky summits but he’s much more confident now. He’s such a placid boy and knows not to compete with Skye for top dog. Jack does as he’s told but Skye does as she wants!’
Jack and Skye live a full and happy life but Carolyn, who lives in Kendal, explains that, in turn, having the two dogs in her life gives her happiness and benefits beyond measure. Eleven years ago she was seriously ill with Goodpasture Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease, and had to undergo a kidney transplant. ‘I was lucky in that I got my transplant through a match after just two and a half years on dialysis, which knocked me for six. Most people have to wait much longer so I was very grateful. At the time I had another border collie called Lucky and through taking her for walks on the lower fells I began to regain my health. I know that my health wouldn’t have improved as much without Lucky.’
It changed her attitude to life and now she gets out as often as possible with they dogs. ‘They have motivated me to do more. We all benefit from the fresh air, exercise and the challenge of new places and through our walking we have formed a really strong bond. It has kept me fit both mentally and physically and I’m in good health now. The happiest days are when we go out on the fells and come home tired with a great feeling of satisfaction,’ says Carolyn.
Each route has been part of Carolyn’s remarkable road to recovery.
The inseparable threesome have also bagged many of the Monroes and Corbetts in Scotland and intend to do more. A Monroe is a mountain over 3,000ft and a Corbett is a separate mountain over 2,500ft. As if that isn’t enough, Carolyn has set up another challenge to walk all of the Wainwrights following each and every route set out by AW. ‘I reckon that might be close to 700 to 800 routes. I have about 450 routes left to walk and have already walked about 350, and possibly more,’ says Carolyn, who keeps meticulous lists of all walks achieved.
The Alfred Wainwright Centre was set up by a group of women who took action after reading about the number of homeless pets being put down by the RSPCA. They began taking in these animals until homes could be found. Soon afterwards Alfred and Betty Wainwright became involved. Animal Rescue Cumbria was then registered as a charity.
The royalties from the sale of AW’s books funded the acquisition of the current site at Grayrigg in 1984 which operates as the Kapellan Centre today. The centre re-homes over 100 dogs and 180 cats every year. www.animalrescuecumbria.co,uk.
You can find out more about organ donation at www.organdonation.nhs.uk.