Burnbanks Project

  • News and Events
  • Oral history
  • Equipment list


  • Photos
  • Testimony

  • Bampton and District Local History Society

    Burnbanks project

    Interview with Dave Shackleton

    10th December 2004

    CW:If you would just like to say your name and when and where you were born.
    DS:My name is Dave Shackleton. I was born in Leeds in 1962.
    CW:And when did you come to Burnbanks first?
    DS:In 1984.
    CW:You said the date just now?.
    DS:The 1st of April (laughter).
    CW:And why did you come?
    DS:I came as a volunteer to work on the Eagle Protection Scheme as it was then.
    CW:Can you just tell me a bit about that?
    DS:Yes, well the eagles first nested in 1969 and there was a protection scheme running from 1970. I think it was jointly run by the RSPB from Leighton Moss and the Nature Conservation Council at that time and there was a team of volunteer and paid staff, mostly paid I think, who used to stay originally at the hotel and then in a caravan below the dam in Burnbanks as far as I'm aware and normally it would be four paid staff per year. I think that continued until around about the late seventies when we moved into one of the buildings.
    CW:And how did you get permission for that? Did you have to consult North West Water as it was then?
    DS:I don't really know because that would be something that was done at a much higher level but I would imagine that by that time we built up quite a relationship with the local people on the ground and also we were talking to them about the possibility of the area becoming a reserve by that time as well. And we rented No. 64 Burnbanks. I think we may have been in the old offices prior to that. I'm not sure what number that would have been - it was at the entrance to the depot.
    CW:That's the big stone building..?
    DS:No that was actually part of the depot buildings - the houses opposite the entrance there, one of them had an old red cedar outside it, that was called the old offices I believe and I think we were in there for one or two years as well.
    CW:Any idea what the rent would have been in those days?
    DS:Absolutely no idea.
    CW:And what was the house like? What can you remember about the house when you first went in there?
    DS:Well when I first went to 64, it was pretty basic. There were no beds, just mattresses on the floor and because we worked a sort of shift system on the eagles, sleeping up over night, you didn't have your own mattress, you just swapped them round as they became available. Very very basic - there was no heating except an open fire?
    CW:That would be the original open fire would it?in some of the houses there was a range..
    DS:Oh no there was no range in that one. There were actually fireplaces in the bedrooms of all of them, but we only - the only one by that time that worked was the living room. And we burned wood that we scavenged in the vicinity basically.
    CW:What about the rest of the house? Was there a bathroom? A kitchen?
    DS:Yeah there was a bathroom, three bedrooms, ummmm..
    DS:Kitchen, a little sort of utility type storage place next to the toilet in the back. There was nowhere, in 64 there was nowhere to park a car really, we used to cram one outside the front of the track going up on to the fell but we had very little parking space. But in those days we were, it wasn't an RSPB reserve at that time so it was purely protection of the eagles so it was running from the last week in March through to the end of July and there were, I think there were three paid staff by then and up to three volunteers a week coming from all over the country.
    CW:And just out of interest, the house what was it like being in - was it cold??
    DS:It was cold. When I arrived it was very cold but 1984 was an extremely hot summer and it became very hot and subsequently when we were in there all year round they were very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer - very high ceilings..
    DS:So the heat escaped quite quickly in the winter and from what I remember 64 wasn't in particularly good condition. Some of the cladding was falling off the outside at that time and you could see that the walls were bowed under the weight of the ceiling by then - umm, you could look down the building edge and think 'blimey' and the doorframes didn't fit - they'd all bowed as well.
    CW:Had it been empty for a while or was there someone in before you?
    DS:Ummm, I don't honestly know. When we took it over - I'm not sure when we actually took 64 over - Dave Walker might be able to tell you that but I don't know whether it had been occupied before.
    CW:And then after that you moved?
    DS:Round about 1987 we moved into No. 62. We were never in 63 - that was always empty I think, which is just an identical building. And then we slowly took over 61 as well.
    CW:How did that come about?
    DS:Well it was unoccupied and we had a lot of volunteers, and the Water Authority let us use that one as well and I can't remember what year it was but they replaced all the windows in the front - round about 1990 I think. It became an RSPB Reserve in the Spring of 1988 and the whole operation became on a much grander scale then. We had a permanent member of staff here all year round, plus three summer contract wardens. We also had many more volunteers, not just working on the eagles but also on survey work and management. So at any one time in 61 and 62 there might have been ten to fifteen people staying, when it was very busy, so it was quite cramped and again very basic, just the heaters in the living rooms, or the open fires.
    CW:So was that house in similar condition?
    DS:No actually, 62 was in quite good condition and 61 had been lived in until quite recently by Raymond Crabtree who then moved into the new house next door up the hill. So they were in a lot better condition than 64 was.
    CW:Had a lot been done to them do you think - improvements - since the early days?
    DS:No I don't think so - the ceilings hadn't been lowered like they had in some of them. I think they had just been looked after better by the people who had lived in them. I can't think that there was any - the kitchen was fairly modernised in 62 from what I remember.
    CW:Modern fire surrounds?
    DS:No, I would say they were probably - well, perhaps in 61 - 62 I would say probably had the original fire surround in it.
    CW:What was that like?
    DS:It was just like tiles, browny buffy stained tiles from what I remember.
    CW:And there is a tree nursery isn't there, when did that start?
    DS:We established the tree nursery around about 1990. When we took it over it was full of Christmas trees that were only a couple of years old really and over the next three or four years we eventually got rid of all those, we ploughed it and made raised beds in it. Prior to that it had been a paddock for a horse which had been owned by Barbara Harrison, the wife of the previous reservoir keeper and prior to that I think it had been tennis courts - I'm not sure. Sylvia would probably be able to tell you that. So the tree nursery has produced a lot of trees over the years for the surrounding area, mostly oak trees, a few junipers now and probably half our volunteer time is spent in the tree nursery still, although we are not actually living in the village anymore and that's on the - obviously the land is owned by United Utilities but we work in partnership with them now and it's a sort of symbiotic relationship really. We also - we had a workshop in the barn which is about to be Thornthwaite Mill and then we moved the workshop into one of the old buildings in the depot - that would have been about ten years ago now. So we've got a workshop down there as well.
    CW:Doing what?
    DS:Well we store some equipment there and all the odd jobs are done there like any woodworking type things, that sort of thing, are all done down there. But we don't have electricity so there's no power saws or anything like that?
    CW:So has there always been a good relationship with the water authority?
    DS:Yes I think so - when we first came it was North West Water, well when I first came it was North West Water now UU, but yes we have always had a good relationship with them and now they actually pay the wages of the Eagle Warden through the summer and they supply us with a lot of the materials that we use for fencing and things like that where there have been enclosed areas on the estate and in return we deliver some of their biodiversity objectives - I think that's the current speak isn't it - it covers everything (laughter).
    CW:So when you first came here do you remember how many people were living permanently in the village, roughly?
    DS:Oh gosh - well there was the Harrisons, who was the reservoir keeper, and there was Raymond the assistant, there was George and Sylvia Hindmarch, Norman Buckle and family, Keith and Gina Harrison on the end - I think George and Sylvia's son was still in the village and Judy whose surname I don't know she was in the village as well and Madge Scott and Nana Hindmarch - oh and Mrs Walker and Jack Buckle and his brother who I think was called Cliff - so in fact they were probably almost all occupied apart from the one opposite the entrance to the depot - the old offices I think, and 63 wasn't occupied next door to us. The rest of them may well have all been occupied at that time.
    CW:Do you remember what things like public transport were like and things like mobile shops?
    DS:From what I remember there has always been a mobile butcher's and I think a mobile baker's and an ice cream van came round in summer. The mobile library used to come into the village. Public transport - I can't really remember because I never really used it. For as long as I can remember it's been the school bus plus two buses on Tuesday and Saturday, that's all I can remember.
    CW:And what about the environment at Burnbanks when you came twenty years ago. Obviously there is some mature woodland isn't there - what was it like then? Any different?
    DS:It hasn't changed an awful lot - well, it has in some ways, like the woodland, the coniferous woodland below the dam, has been thinned. That happened about five years ago. A lot of the birch scrub, the regeneration that occurred after the work on the pump station, has matured - there's a lot of sort of mature birch in the last twenty years I guess.
    CW:That's sort of between the dam..
    DS:And the pump station?
    CW:And the main road, basically?
    DS:Well not really because there is Bluebell Wood in between which hasn't changed an awful lot - that's a mature oak wood - and that hasn't really changed. Between the depot, the pump station and the dam really, that area. The other thing that has changed, I guess, that has grown up a lot there was what we call a Poor Fen round the pool below the dam, that has scrubbed over a lot with alder and willow and we have also put in some enclosures below the dam to encourage woodland regeneration. Some conifers have come out in various places and the old tip which is now sort of behind the fish farm was covered in conifers and they were all felled. We burned them and planted trees on those.
    CW:Had someone planted those or were they self-seeded?
    DS:The conifers? I have no idea. I guess they were planted; I would think they would have been. I think there was a lot of amenity-type planting went on after the dam was built, I presume so anyway, of non-native species as well as ? So some of the woodland composition has changed and of course just recently the twenty one big conifer trees came out from behind The Oaks - that was just this last couple of months - they were a huge feature. I noticed I was up on the hill today looking this way and the panorama of the village has changed totally because of the removal of those trees and a few other trees have been taken out recently because of the development that's going on now. The other big thing I guess that has happened - well, there's the fish farm, the arrival of the fish farm, which has increased a lot of the traffic through the village.
    CW:Can you remember when that was, roughly?
    DS:Roughly ten years ago or something like that - very roughly that - around about privatisation time I think. So a lot more traffic goes down there and also that area below the dam obviously is much more disturbed than it ever once was. It was a real wildlife haven, one of the few or the least disturbed places in the whole Lake District probably because it was all strictly private but with the fish farm coming and various other developments there is a bit more activity under there now.
    CW:Was there anything unique there in way of wildlife or just a combination of factors?
    DS:I wouldn't say there was anything hugely unique. There's a nice alder-dominated woodland community which is quite unusual in the Lake District really, the sort of wet woodlandy bit. There are some very old oaks. There are some nice lichen epiphyte communities actually on the trees. And there's kingfishers, well kingfishers don't breed there but they winter there and things.
    CW:Is there a return of some fish to the river as well? People elsewhere talk about that.
    DS:Return of fish?
    CW:In some of the other becks? Salmon? Trout?
    DS:Well places like Heltondale and Cawdale they have been putting - well, in Heltondale there is a fish ladder type thing going in. I think United Utilities are always striving to improve water quality which is always going to benefit fish and wildlife really. I don't know about the wild fish population. Things like the migratory fish like salmon can no longer get into Haweswater. I'm not really au fait with the fish communities in the River Lowther I'm afraid! There are periodic floods. I've got photographs somewhere of some quite bad floods under the dam - the whole lot is just a lake and things like that.
    CW:Do you remember when that was?
    DS:No but I'll have it on the slides. One other thing I've just remembered that we used to have to do when new volunteers arrived. There was always a suspicion that there was a possibility that the dam could be a terrorist target, particularly when the troubles in Northern Ireland were at their height and any new volunteers we had to take down to introduce to the reservoir keeper or his assistant and they were given a briefing and we all had permits in those days. And we weren't allowed between the depot and the dam, it was strictly - we weren't even allowed to go there when I first came here. We were allowed to use the concrete road and that's really what the permits were for but that was it.
    CW:It's interesting that it's more relaxed now with terrorism on the agenda.
    DS:I suppose so, yes it is really isn't it.
    CW:What about, what happens, well what did happen to the sewage from those houses?
    DS:There's this little treatment works by the depot.
    CW:That's the original treatment works?
    DS:I would assume so yes. It's behind the row of garages - it's just been ripped out.
    CW:Yes, they are putting in a new one somewhere.
    DS:I think it's roughly in the same place - it's a septic tank.
    CW:Oh Sylvia said she thought it might be a reed bed?
    DS:A filtration thing - I don't know, actually, you'd have to talk to Nick the site manager up there. He'd be quite useful actually because he knows where all the waterworks are and things - all the underground stuff!
    CW:Yes that's true, well someone may have done that. Do you think that there is a chance that Burnbanks as a village, as a community might carry on?
    DS:Yes, it's difficult to know how much of a community it will be, with what, twelve houses - fifteen, twenty occupants - I don't know.
    CW:I think that's probably about it, unless there is anything else you can think of?
    CW:Do you think it would be a nice place to live?
    DS:Yes, well I've lived in it probably for about five or six years, I lived in the actual village and worked here since then. Yes it's a lovely place to live, a very peaceful place - obviously it's a bit isolated from Penrith and it's a bit of a drive out on that road and presumably there will be increased traffic but that's just one of those things.
    I was going to say are you aware of the gravestones above the dam - a couple of lads who drowned in the lake. If you go above the dam - I'm not sure if you can actually get into it but at the moment you can see them from the other side of the road - two stones - gravestones; two lads who drowned and I think they might have been from the village.
    CW:Oh right..
    DS:That's going back quite a long way. They were moved those stones, well they were lying on the ground and they've been re-erected; I think they're new ones and they've been re-erected.
    CW:So were they actually buried there?
    DS:I don't know, that I wouldn't know.
    CW:It might just be a memorial..
    DS:Yes I'm not quite sure, it might say so on them I don't know.
    CW:I mean is that a place that people can go now- is there access to them?
    DS:Well I'm trying to think; because a lot of the old woodlands just along beyond the dam have been fenced and replanted. I think you can get in there because the gates aren't locked and no one will mind - that's what they are there for I suppose, so people can read them. And there's also a connection with the Giant's gravestones that are in the churchyard at Penrith - I'm not quite sure what that is. That's a bit of local history!
    CW:What about the houses here at Naddle Gate? Do you know what the connection is between Burnbanks and here?
    DS:Johnny Idle is the man to talk to about that really, but I presume they were built for the managers, the sort of white collar people who turned up and over the years I know that Sid Weir who was not the previous reservoir keeper but the one prior to that, he lived next door here on the end. Johnny lived next door.
    CW:That would have been number?
    DS:Six, Sid was up in number eight and Ron Harrison and Barbara they lived in number five for a time- or did they live in this one - no they lived in this one - number seven at various times. I think - because the depot had various workers in it: there was a blacksmith's forge, a paint shop and a woodworking shop and they were all employees of Manchester Corporation and then North West Water and various of them lived either in the village or in here on Naddle Gate. But these were sold off as private houses quite a long time ago now. This may have been the last one to go actually which would have been in about 1988 - or the one in the corner might have gone after that?.
    But when I came here there were no community institutions left, everything had gone, there was just the houses and nothing else.
    CW:The buildings were dismantled and often re-erected elsewhere for further use.
    DS:I believe so yes, some of them. Looking at some of the ones that came down this time that wouldn't have been an option, although having said that we salvaged quite a lot of the wood, particularly from The Oaks, which was very dry. It's Canadian spruce - it actually said on it what it was. It's a red wood.
    CW:So it was stamped? In reasonably good condition?
    DS:Yes, absolutely bone dry the stuff that came out of The Oaks was and no woodworm in it at all. And today, well you probably can't buy it because it's just not logged, well it is but it's environmentally unsound! But we've actually used it to build cloches in the tree nursery. Salvaged as much as we can. The Oaks was the best, the stuff that came out of the one nearest the dam was a lot wetter and full of woodworm for whatever reason.
    CW:Do you think that was due to the state of the roof?
    DS:Possibly, it could well have been.
    CW:Did you see anything else interesting about the structure of the houses as they were being taken down?
    DS:Not really I don't think no. They were obviously quite substantial for temporary buildings. There was a lot of brick in them, in the chimneybreasts and what have you. But there's very little foundation really - they were just built on concrete slabs and some of it wasn't even concrete it was just wood by the looks of it I think. But no it was pretty much what I expected! There's a lot of cast iron came out of them.
    CW:Well that was the idea I guess - they were planning to sell it on?
    DS:Do you actually know where some of the other ones have gone?
    CW:I can look it up because Sylvia said in her interview where some of the public buildings went. They went off to be village halls and various different things.
    DS:I know the house that has been for sale at Shap granite works there, I don't know if you know just at the foot of Shap on the A6, that looks suspiciously like one of those - I don't know if it came from there but that did look very much like one of these.
    CW:But there was a slightly similar village over there wasn't there?
    DS:Was there?
    CW:Yes I think it was possibly earlier, but there was a purpose-built village of which there is not a trace now.
    DS:Oh I didn't know that.
    CW:So it might be connected with that.
    DS:It might, there's also some very similar looking buildings in Long Sleddale as well.
    CW:Ok well I can't think of anything else, I think that's it.
    DS:No, I can't off the top of my head. I did collect press cuttings and things for a little while. I should have brought them down, I've got them in an album but I was in a rush this morning. I will dig them out and drop them off for you sometime. I've got some old pictures of the house when we first moved in to it.
    CW:That would be excellent. Well thanks very much Dave.
    DS:That's OK.

    Interviewer: Caz Walker

    All site Copyright © 2004,2005 Bampton and District Local History Society