Mountainous effort to repair flood damage on Cat Bells

31 March 2016

One of the UK’s biggest outdoor festivals is pledging its support to the huge effort to repair one of the Lake District’s favourite fells. Keswick Mountain Festival and the National Trust have joined forces in a campaign to raise £25,000 for urgent work needed on Cat Bells on the Western Shore of Derwentwater in Keswick. The much-loved fell suffered extensive damage to its paths when Storm Desmond hit Cumbria last December.

National Trust Rangers worked around the clock before Christmas to make sure paths remained open for festive and New Year walkers but have now been able to fully assess the true extent of damage to the fell.

Joe Cornforth, upland path supervisor for the National Trust in the North Lakes, said: “Storm Desmond caused a landslide on Cat Bells, ripping straight through the well-known lower terrace path and making existing erosion scars on the summit path so much worse that they almost became unwalkable.

“We carried out emergency repairs to keep the paths open for Christmas. However, we need them to withstand the next storm that comes along, so we’ve got to make the paths and the fells a lot more resilient to the extreme weather events we’ve seen in recent years in the Lakes.”

One of the first tasks to be undertaken by the National Trust, and supported by Keswick Mountain Festival, is the planting of trees on the steep flank of Cat Bells. Long term, the trees will help to stabilise the very unstable ground as well as helping slow the flow of rainwater down the fell reducing the risk of future landslides.

Joe Cornforth adds: “This will not only help protect Cat Bells, making it less likely that paths will be carried away by landslides as they were in December. It will also help protect the roads from damage by slowing the water down and releasing it more gradually into rivers and the lake. I live in Keswick and also witnessed first hand the damage to family and friends’ homes as a result of Storm Desmond and I hope never to see anything like that again.”

Steve Birkinshaw, the Cumbrian fell runner who holds the record for tackling all of Alfred Wainwright’s 214 peaks in just six days and 13 hours, joined teams from The National Trust and Fix the Fells to plant the first lot of saplings on Cat Bells. Birkinshaw broke the legendary Joss Naylor’s record in 2014, and Cat Bells was the final Wainwright he reached.

Steve Birkinshaw will be working with Berghaus during this year’s Keswick Mountain Festival, which runs from 19-22 May. He will lead group trail runs for visitors and speaking in the Adventure Talks Tipi in the Festival Village and was only too pleased to come out to do his bit on Cat Bells. Birkinshaw comments: “The Lake District is the most amazing and beautiful natural adventure playground. It’s loved by so many people, but it does still need to be looked after so it’s great that the Keswick Mountain Festival is supporting the work of the National Trust teams in caring for Cat Bells.”

Nicola Meadley, Keswick Mountain Festival director, adds: “For many people, Cat Bells is their first climb. It provides a stunning backdrop to the Festival village and we know it holds a special place in the heart of the many walkers, runners and outdoor enthusiasts who come to the festival each year.

“The National Trust Rangers work really hard to keep Cat Bells and much of the Lake District beautiful and accessible so we’re delighted to have them as our official festival charity in our tenth anniversary year. We hope that everyone attending the festival can donate something to help look after the landscape that we all love running, cycling, swimming and climbing in.”

The campaign aims to raise the £25,000, which will pay for 950 tonnes of gravel, 30 bags of stone, and the labour and machinery needed – including a helicopter to lift the bags of stone into position - to move them up the fell to repair the paths. Everyone who purchases a ticket for Keswick Mountain Festival will be given the opportunity to make a donation to the National Trust, and there will also be fundraising activities taking place in the Festival Village during the event.

For more information on how to support the National Trust’s flood recovery work in the Lakes, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lakes-donate.

Tickets for all 2016 Keswick Mountain Festival events are available at www.keswickmountainfestival.co.uk or by calling See Tickets on 0871 2305537 (calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras). To find out more, visit the website, email info@keswickmountainfestival.co.uk or call 03300 555 734.

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