Fell Top Assessor Jon hangs up his Lake District boots

Published on: 28 Mar 2024

JOn Bennett and Kath Jackson smile at camera with hills behind on a spring day

After 16 years and 778 summits of Helvellyn, Lake District National Park Authority Fell Top Assessor Jon Bennett today retires from this unique and special role.

As one of the team of Fell Top Assessors who summit Helvellyn each day from December to April to provide boots on ground safety condition reports, Jon has worked the Christmas day shift for years to ensure that people keep as safe as they can out on the fells.

He’s been featured on TV, radio, and newspapers over the years to communicate the safety message far and wide, becoming something of a local celebrity.

To see Jon off on his very last shift is Lake District National Park Authority colleague and Mountain Rescue Team member, Kath Jackson.

She said: “Thank you to Jon for all his hard work over the past 16 years. As a Mountain Rescue Volunteer, I know that the Lake District Rescue Teams really appreciate the contribution that the Fell Top Assessor team make, helping people to plan for safe winter adventures.”

Jon Bennett says: “I leave, proud to have been the longest serving Fell Top Assessor so far, having started in December 2008.

“People often ask if I get bored of ascending the same fell, but the changing weather conditions, light, under boot conditions and fellow walkers one meets makes each ascent unique. The most memorable was when a Brockenspectre accompanied me the whole way along Striding Edge. This phenomenon occurs when one is walking in the sun and one’s shadow is cast upon lower cloud (in that case covering Red Tarn).  A truly magical experience.

“I have found myself questioning if I really want to give up this special and unique job but this year, two things have changed for me. Firstly, the number of days of driving, horizontal hail, or rain and secondly, the hill is beginning to get steeper! Thus, although sad to be leaving it’s now time to ascend the fells on my days off and on fine, pleasant days!  As well as not being as quick with the advancing years, I’m also becoming softer with age.

“Although I am retiring from the Assessor role, I certainly have absolutely no intention whatsoever in hanging up my boots just yet!”

Kath Jackson continues: “Spring may see the Fell Top Assessors finishing their work but there can be challenging conditions on the fells all year round. It can be warm in the valley whilst remaining colder, even wintry, higher up the hill, a sunny morning can quickly become a wet and windy afternoon. If you are thinking about getting out and about over the Easter period, please be AdventureSmart; plan ahead, choose a route suitable for the skills, knowledge, and fitness of everyone in your party, make sure you have the right gear, and check the weather forecast. If in doubt don’t be afraid to change your plans or turn back.

“Along with all my Lake District National Park colleagues and Mountain Rescue colleagues I’d like to wish Jon all the very best for the future.”

The team of Fell Top Assessors regularly post photos and updates on X  (@LakesWeather)as people are genuinely enthralled with what is arguably one of the best jobs in the Lake District. The Lake District National Park Authority will recruit for Jon’s replacement later in the year.

More information on fell walking: What to pack : Lake District National Park

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