Meet Rowan - The border collie who works on the Lakeland fells
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 June 2020
For a National Trust ranger in the Lakes, every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day
Every June many people celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day and surveys show that taking a canine companion along to the workplace can reduce stress and boost performance and job satisfaction. National Trust Ranger Sarah Anderson knows better than most the joy of having a four-legged friend alongside her in the working environment, but not just for one day of the year.
Much of Sarah’s time involves upland work in the Southern Lake District fells and her lively nine-year-old border collie, Rowan, can be found by her side almost every working day. ‘Rowan loves to be in the fells with me whatever the weather, sun or snow,’ she says. ‘Snow is definitely her favourite, though.’
The strong bond between the pair means Rowan will never stray far from Sarah’s side but if she does it will be to find a nearby beck where she loves to swim and cool down on a hot day.
Sarah is a part of a team that spend their days on the high fells undertaking work for Fix the Fells, a partnership project that aims to protect the Lakeland fells from erosion by maintaining and repairing paths. ‘We work every year from March to October with the rangers doing the project work while a band of invaluable volunteers do the maintenance,’ Sarah adds. ‘We cover the Coniston fells, Helvellyn and a little of the Eastern fells. Places such as Striding Edge, Scafell Pike, Crinkle Crags and Catbells are our office.’
Sarah is clearly dedicated to her work and enjoys the challenges and variety involved. ‘Every day for us can be different, whether it’s the people we meet, the weather we contend with or just the work on the ground. It keeps us on our toes.’
Rowan is always close by as a reassuring presence and is hugely popular with other staff and the volunteers. ‘They all love her, and she loves the fuss and attention.’ Working in the high fells means the workers have the company of a furry friend and there’s always a chance, weather permitting, of a pretty good lunch time view.
Sarah, who is originally from the West Midlands, says holidays in the Lake District instilled a love of the Lakes from an early age which led her to choose a university course at Ambleside. Sarah undertook an Outdoors Studies course with the aim of becoming an outdoor activities instructor, but fate had other ideas in store.
Sarah explains: ‘In my second year at university I broke my ankle during a visit to Spain which meant I had to turn down a contract with an outdoor activity instructor and that changed the course of my career. Looking for work later in the summer I was offered two seasons work as a ranger in Borrowdale.
‘I had done some volunteer work with Fix the Fells in my first year as I wanted to learn about conservation in my spare time and eight years ago, I began work as a National Trust ranger. Rowan joined me six years ago and by then I was an established team member which made it easier to introduce her gently into the team. She was an immediate hit and because she gets so much stimulation when we are outdoors, she is very calm when it comes to office time. I think she has a positive influence but she’s also worked out who will give her treats so I keep a stash of dog treats in the office.’
Joan Grenville, the Senior Marketing and Communications Officer for the National Trust, North Region, South and West Lakes, adds: ‘Rowan is truly special. Sarah starts her day in the office before heading out and up. Rowan gets a treat from us – any of us, we all love her – and similarly when they come back down at the end of the day. While Sarah is finishing off Rowan always comes to say hi. She’s always welcome, even when she’s a bit wet!’ Sarah is also a member of the Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team. ‘I decided not to train Rowan as a Search and Rescue dog because of her age. It’s a big commitment and one I might take on with my next dog. Although Rowan does come to the base with me and is an established member of the rescue family which means more treats which I sometimes have to limit.’
While Rowan is relishing her treats, Sarah will often take along a cake to share with the team who insist that Sarah’s passage to the team has nothing to do with her baking skills. ‘I love to bake and often turn up with a cake in my bag. I can get out of training or call outs if I just arrive with a cake,’ jokes Sarah. ‘I take cakes to work too, which always goes down well.’
Despite the abundance of treats, Rowan’s daily fell walks keep her fit. ‘She’s very active but also very vocal. She’s unusual in that there is some huskie in her mix. I only realised when I visited Norway that huskies ‘talk’ and make quite a lot of noise.’
Rowan is clearly in her element as she happily runs around outside the Coniston office. Sarah adds: ‘I have also recently boomeranged back to the Borrowdale team where I do general work, so Rowan really does meet a lot of people’. The energetic pair also spend a lot of leisure time in the fells and, when they can, take outdoor holidays. ‘We love Cornwall and swim together in the sea. She’s a real water baby. When I holiday abroad, she stays at home but there is no shortage of family members who volunteer to look after my dog and home. She really does have a big fan club.’
get your fix
Weather constantly causes erosion and millions of pairs of boots enjoy walk the fells each year which means repairing the paths and keeping them in good condition is essential. To find out more go online to fixthefells.co.uk.
If you and your four-legged friend get involved in Take Your Dog to Work Day, share your pictures with our gallery of readers’ photos online at lancashirelife.co.uk.