Daisy the Labrador - Borrowdale Valley’s four legged National Trust Ranger
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 March 2014
She’s been a TV star and once strained her tail because she wagged it so much. Emily Rothery met her and her master
Climbing fells in the Lake District is all in a day’s work for National Trust Ranger Roy Henderson and his dog, Daisy. I join them as they set off to check the disused mines on Cat Bells in the beautiful Borrowdale valley near Keswick. Lead was mined here until the end of the 19th century and today’s task is to check that the fences are in good order so visitors can walk in safety.
Roy is the ranger for Borrowdale and Newland valleys and is accompanied by Daisy as he carries out vital conservation and educational work. Today, Daisy is in her element, tracking scents and enjoying the freedom that the fells offer her.
‘The job offers diverse challenges every day but Daisy is always by my side whatever the weather. I am part of the team responsible for maintenance of footpaths, fences, styles and bridges on National Trust land,’ says Roy.
‘The variety of work means that one day I may be teaching navigational skills and the next helping to organise the Derwent Water Regatta. Along the way I may rescue a sheep stranded on a crag.’
‘For me the best bit of the job is working with the public, especially youngsters and that is where Daisy comes into her own. Currently, we are working with Borrowdale C of E Primary School to reinstate an old orchard at Watendlath and with Braithwaite C of E Primary School pupils to create a wild flower garden.
‘The children love having Daisy around and I find that the quiet children who may not want to talk to me will engage with Daisy and really gain confidence. Daisy is only 12 months old and still quite bouncy. She is playful with the children but always good-natured and gets everyone involved’
Roy also teaches the ancient craft of coppicing to pupils aged 8 to 11. Coppicing, the centuries old sustainable way of managing woodland, allows the children to develop practical skills through pruning trees and lighting fires.
‘They love having Daisy around and she thinks that the off-cut branches are playthings just for her. The children enjoy it so much that they don’t want to stop at the end of the day,’ adds Roy.
‘The other pleasing thing is that these pupils will be able to bring along their own children and grandchildren to show off the results of what they are doing now. I get real satisfaction from teaching children about the landscape be it through educational visits or history walks.’
Daisy is a firm favourite with grown-ups too, including the members of the public who join Roy on guided walks, the staff in the North lakes office and the band of volunteers who work with the rangers on various projects throughout the year.
Roy deliberately opted for a Labrador because the breed is even-tempered, intelligent and versatile. Daisy, who has her own dog blog, is equally at home accompanying Roy in a canoe, swimming in the lake or running alongside a mountain bike. She is also currently in the early stages of training to become a Lakes Search and Rescue dog. If she completes the rigorous two years training successfully then she will be qualified to work with Roy and his partner Jan who are members of the Keswick Mountain Rescue team.
The playful pup also won the hearts of the film crew when she starred in the ITV series ‘Inside the National Trust’ with Michael Buerk. In 2013 Daisy was filmed throughout the year undergoing her training and introduction to ranger work with Roy. She was only tiny when filming started but seemed undaunted as she was introduced to large off road vehicles and new working situations alongside a film crew.
It seems that Daisy with her love of people and boundless energy is well matched with Roy who is preternaturally cheerful and has enjoyed working for the Trust for 30 years: ‘When I was 13 I did my Duke of Edinburgh award and I worked with the then valley ranger. I loved it so much I came back at weekends and school holidays as a volunteer. When I left school at 16 I was lucky enough to be offered a job in Borrowdale Valley and now I’m the valley ranger Daisy is a real ice-breaker and she is so pleased to see people that she even strained her tail wagging it so much!’
To read more on Roy and Daisy’s blog : www.ntlakesoutdoors.org.uk/our-team/blogs