The tree planting season may be over for us but there is still plenty of work to do in the woodlands before all the summer growth prevents entry. This week we have been in Gillside Wood and Rusland Wood.

On Monday we got another soaking working in Gillside Wood at Grasmere. Some years ago, we planted around 6,000 trees and the growth rate since has been phenomenal.  The trees love the microclimate in this little valley.  We have been working hard in the last couple of years taking off the tree tubes, but the big question is what to do with them. No one wants to use plastic guards in the countryside but there is little choice at present.


There are few places on our land where we can plant new trees without protection, largely due to damage that would ensue from deer, voles, rabbits or invading sheep.  Trials of alternatives to plastic guards have not yet come up with anything that can withstand our relentless wet Cumbrian climate. So our approach to guards is to use them in the short term if we need to, ideally re-using ones we already have.


When it comes to disposal our priority is re-use, either by ourselves, or we offer them free to anyone who can re-use them for planting elsewhere. Last year we trialled recycling them via Tubex if there were no other takers. So on Monday, our team spent the whole day preparing tubes for recycling.  Tubex takes them in dumpy bags, but there is a canny trick to getting more than 100 in each bag.  Tubes come in different sizes, and although it is time-consuming, you can nest them within each other, getting some 400-500 in each bag. Luckily the back of the work truck just fitted the metre-long tubes, so once we had nested them, we moved them down to a field nearer the main road and bagged them up ready for collection.  At a rough guess, we moved around 3,000 tubes. Just another 3,000 to go…


Work parties are never boring. One reason that's true is the new or different people with you. Each one has new stories to tell and you never know what you will find out during coffee or lunch breaks. On Monday, discussions ranged from walking in the Spanish hills and nevadas followed by welcome beer and tapas to worries that their water reservoirs are only a third full already, and on to the fact that badgers and hedgehogs do not co-exist, basically because the former eat the latter!  That led us to the white jelly that is deposited after herons/otters etc eat frogs, which in turn led to the merits or otherwise, of slugs! So you never know what you will learn, but you can guarantee it will be interesting, whacky and unpredictable!

On Tuesday, we were back down in our Rusland Woods.  A recommendation of one of our charity members and tree advisor, Luke Steer, an expert on veteran trees, was to gradually remove some trees from around the old coppiced holly trees at the top of the woods. Luke has worked with veteran trees in Sherwood Forest and witnessed the impacts of creating a halo of light around them. He has recorded how gradually removing some trees from around the old trees gives them more light and leads to improved rejuvenation and health. He advised that we take this approach with our veteran holly trees, but rather than clearing all around them in one go, to take it slowly so we do not send them into shock. 


Tree surgeon, Pete has been on site with us to start this process.  We have four or so pollarded holly trees, which are hard to age due to their slow growth.  We cleared a couple of trees from around them and will return in the winter to take out some larger ones.  Whilst we had Pete on site, we also took the chance to take out some sycamore and beech that had grown from seedlings. Lots of people love beeches for their lovely autumn colours, and sycamore can be good for some forms of nature. However, neither is native to Cumbria and both are very invasive, shielding out any ground flora. Our preference is for native trees and ones that also allow ground flora and other growth so that we can get a more diversified and resilient wood. 

We have a skills training day coming up. It's on woodland archaeology on the 29th of April and you can join us in Rusland Woods. Please book a place here