Woodland ranger Maurice Pankhurst has spent the last 24 years looking after the trees and wildlife of Borrowdale.
And as he retires at the age of 70, he leaves a lasting legacy in the shape of a group of saplings taken from his favourite yew trees in the valley.
Maurice says he has loved his years working in Borrowdale which have been “challenging and varied” but have got “better and better” as time has passed.
He said: “I was sad to leave as there is a lot going on in the countryside now. The Government and the National Trust are planning to plant millions of trees over the coming years.
“But the time was right for me to leave and I am writing a book on my journey with trees and conservation.”
He began his career in tree management in Kent and Sussex and his love of trees sent him to the US and South America. He came to work in Cumbria in the 1980s, spending six months in the Eden Valley before becoming a warden for the National Trust in Borrowdale for a year.
Maurice knew he would need more qualifications so studied plant and marine biology at Bangor University, Wales. Then came Borrowdale, a temperate rain forest of national and international importance – and an Atlantic oak wood.
He said: “There is not a lot of temperate rain forest left. There are a few areas in the Lake District, some in north Wales and the west coast of Scotland. It is a testament to the National Trust and the farmers that so much Borrowdale woodland still remains.”
He has worked hard at managing not only the woodlands but the animals and plant life within it. Some of his favourite trees are the Borrowdale yews or “Fraternal Four” as Wordsworth referred to them. This ancient group near Seathwaite is thought to be 1,500 to 2,000 years old.
Not too long after Wordsworth wrote about them, one was uprooted by a storm in 1866, leaving three standing. Maurice has researched the trees and one day he received a phone call from a local farmer saying a storm had destroyed them.
Maurice said: “Although the canopy had collapsed and the trees were ravaged – they were still alive.”
During work on the trees, he received a phone call to say someone had taken seedlings from the Borrowdale Yews and would let Maurice know if they were successful.
Seven years later, the same person called him back saying he had seedlings to return. Three have been planted in the original Borrowdale Yews enclosure at Seathwaite and four in the Langstrath valley.
A further eight have been planted at Falcon Crag which the National Trust has now called the Pankhurst Yews to “recognise a lifetime’s work dedicated to the trees and woodlands of the North Lakes.”
Jane Saxon, general manager for the National Trust in North and West Lakes, said: “Maurice has been such a dedicated hard-working member of the team with over 20 years of service in Borrowdale, surveying and managing the valley’s internationally significant woodlands.
“Recognising his love for the Borrowdale Yews and his work to help establish a new generation at Falcon Crag is a fitting legacy for his passion and commitment to the woodland habitats of the valley.”