Rangers work on restoring the summit cairn. Photo: Paul Kinston/NNP

Rangers work on restoring the summit cairn. Photo: Paul Kinston/NNP

A group of rangers has begun work restoring the summit cairn on England’s highest mountain.

The team of seven is camping on Scafell Pike while they carry out the repair of the substantial summit marker, which includes a war memorial plaque.

The work is being carried out by the National Trust, which owns the mountain, to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Rangers expect the work, which entails rebuilding the cairn, to last up to two weeks.

The memorial plaque will be reset into the walls of the 7.5m-wide structure, and the steps leading to the top of the cairn will also be reinstated. The restoration team will also place a time capsule into its stone walls, containing details on the work undertaken, including plans, photos and information about the rangers themselves.

The time capsule will act as a record of the conservation work that goes into maintaining the mountain. Since the cairn was unveiled as a war memorial in 1921, there have been ongoing repairs, with the last major work taking place in the 1980s. The current conservation work is thought to be the most thorough restoration in the cairn’s 97-year history.

Scafell Pike was one of 14 Lakeland summits given to the National Trust in the years immediately after the Great War. Labelled the Great Gift, the peaks are viewed as Britain’s most spectacular memorial to those lost in the First World War.

The cairn incorporates a memorial plaque. Photo: Paul Kingston/NNP

The cairn incorporates a memorial plaque. Photo: Paul Kingston/NNP

Scafell Pike was gifted to the National Trust by Lord Leconfield in 1919; in 1920, Castle Crag in Borrowdale was gifted to the trust by Sir William Hamer. Then, in 1923, 12 summits were donated to the charity, including Great Gable, which was given to the trust by the Fell & Rock Climbing Club for people to have the freedom to enjoy the fells.

Lord Leconfield, an honorary member of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club, dedicated his gift ‘in perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom peace and right in the Great War 1914 – 1918’.

Other mountains gifted by the FRCC were Lingmell, Broad Crag, Great End, Seathwaite Fell, Allen Crags, Glaramara, Kirk Fell, Green Gable, Base Brown, Brandreth and Grey Knotts.

The donation triggered a series of endowments to the trust and a marked a transformational moment in the nation’s relationship with beautiful landscapes, paving the way for the formation of the first national parks.

A dedication ceremony, described at the time as ‘as service in the clouds’ was held on top of Great Gable in 1924 and led by author, poet and renowned British mountaineer, Geoffrey Winthrop Young. Young continued to tackle famous peaks after being wounded and losing a leg when working as an ambulance driver at the Battle of San Gabriele in Italy.

He said: “Upon this mountain summit we are met today to dedicate this space of hills to freedom. Upon this rock are set the names of men – our brothers, and our comrades upon these cliffs – who held with us, that there is no freedom of the soil where the spirit of man is in bondage, and who surrendered their part in the fellowship of hill and wind, and sunshine, that the freedom of this land, the freedom of our spirit, should endure.”

As well as being a historically significant site, Scafell Pike is also a fragile habitat, home to rare plants and designated a site of special scientific interest and special area of conservation.

Walkers on the summit of Scafell Pike. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Walkers on the summit of Scafell Pike. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

More than a quarter of a million people climb Scafell Pike each year. The trust said the pressure of hundreds of thousands of boots and the Cumbrian weather lead to erosion of paths, which is an ongoing maintenance challenge. The conservation charity estimates around half a million pounds is needed to prevent further decline in the condition of the mountain.

Sam Stalker, the National Trust’s lead ranger on Scafell Pike, said: “It’s great that so many people are able to enjoy Scafell Pike and the surrounding peaks each year. The mountains will be here forever, but they need ongoing care.

“Repairing the cairn is just part of the work we’ll be doing this year to keep Scafell Pike looking its best. It’s an exciting opportunity to share what we’re doing with our visitors and show them the hard work that goes into maintaining the Lakes for them and future generations to enjoy.”

A project supported by the Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council will bring together musicians and choirs for a ‘song cycle’ across the 12 mountains of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club gift.

The memorial on the summit of Great Gable. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The memorial on the summit of Great Gable. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

On Armistice Day, the National Trust will light a beacon on top of Scafell Pike, just as Lord Leconfield did on Peace Day – 19th July 1919. Peace Day was Britain’s chance to really recognise and celebrate the end of the First World War. While Armistice Day, commemorated annually, marks the ceasefire, it took until the 19 July 1919 for both sides to sign the official peace treaty.

Marian Silvester, General Manager for the National Trust, said, “Millions of people visit the Lake District each year, but few are familiar with the story behind these mountains, which we are extremely proud to look after.

“By repairing Scafell Pike’s cairn and re-dedicating the peaks, not only are we remembering the past, but looking to the future to ensure this inspiring landscape can be enjoyed by generations to come.”

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