28th January 2021

The Right Trees in the Right Places

You have a chance to have your say on proposals to replant Ashstead Fell with more coniferous trees, when native trees would be so much better for landscape, wildlife and habitats.

Friends of the Lake District was launched on 17 June 1934 at Fitz Park in Keswick to campaign for the protection of the Lake District. Little did our founding fathers know on this day but just 6 months later it was revealed that the Forestry Commission had bought significant chunks of the Eskdale and Dunnerdale Valleys in the heart of the Lake District with the intention of afforesting them with Sitka Spruce.  Friends of the Lake District opposed this and while some parts of Hardknott and Dunnerdale were afforested and an agreement was brokered that protected the central section of the Lake District from such forestry proposals. These days Hardknott Forest is subject to a project that is removing sitka spruce and replacing it with native trees. This is of relevance to Ashstead in that it shows how commercial plantations can be improved making what is required- an enhancement to the landscape. 

We are supportive of additional tree planting, but our mantra - as it was in responding to the newly proposed tree strategy for England - is that we should plant the right trees in the right places. You may know that Friends of the Lake District owns land at High Borrowdale, north east of Kendal, between the A6 and the M6 where we have planted thousands of native broadleaved trees on a south facing slope.  This faces a commercial forestry plantation that has long been regarded as a detraction to the local landscape.  We have raised concerns about new proposals for felling and replanting through a new management plan last year. 

The changes are being consulted upon by the Forestry Commission and the public register for the plans can be seen here Forestry Commission Public Register for England - Cases Open for Consultation (arcgis.com)  where you can also add comments. The Ref No for the case is FL-010-38-2021 consultation closes on 3 February. 

This plantation is located in an area where the Lake district National Park was extended in 2015 and we do not think the proposals are appropriate in a nationally designated landscape. The forest has been harmful to the landscape for 20 years and now there is an opportunity to make significant positive change. 

We would ask members and supporters to reply to the consultation making the following points:

  • The site is incongruous in the local landscape and the changes proposed are contrary to the landscape character of the area.  The blanket of forestry masks the intricate pattern of crags, heather and grassy slopes.  The geometric dark shapes can be seen for some distance from the south in particular.  The shapes, colour and massing of the blocks result in straight lines that conflict with the natural landform. 
  • Being within a National Park any changes should conserve and enhance the landscape and scenic beauty of the area.  The changes proposed do neither. The site is also within the setting of the World Heritage Site and is detrimental to the values that world heritage status seeks to protect. 
  • We believe what is proposed is contrary to the duty that Section 62 of the 1995 Environment Act imposes upon public bodies such as the Forestry Commission to have regard to National Park purposes. We believe the changes proposed do not. 
  • There are some gaps in the lower part of the plantation that will be filled in.  we do not think it is appropriate. FLD work in the valley on a regular basis and these open areas are important to a range of species and in particular raptors that hunt in these gap areas. 
  • The line of the forest is being brought towards the public bridleway that runs through the Borrowdale Valley.  We think this will spoil some of the views along the valley and once mature the conifers will present an oppressive atmosphere to walkers, cyclist and horse riders. 

  • While recognising that the plan covers an area of existing forestry the Cranfield Institute Soilscapes Map recognises that the soil types on the fell are either of high or medium value for carbon storage ad this must be considered in any decision to approve the plans.

Our full response can be viewed / downloaded here (pdf) Ashstead Fell Response 2021


What should happen next 

In our view a fundamental approach needs to be taken to this plantation.  We welcome the fact that some conifers are to be removed from the ridgelines on Ashstead Fell.  However, for the sake of the Lake District as a  nationally designated landscape any proposals should emphasise native broadleaved woodland to a much greater extent and leave open areas that are valuable for a range of species.  This would be better for landscape, biodiversity, slope stability and natural flood management.

13th June 2019

Ashstead Fell lies next to our land at High Borrowdale, north east of Kendal, and can be seen from much of the surrounding land in South Lakeland as the coniferous plantations are so conspicuous on the fells. Friends of the Lake District strongly opposed these in the 1980s. Proposals have now come forward to fell some of the coniferous woodland which we strongly support, but we fundamentally object to the proposals to replant with coniferous species. This area is now within the Lake District National Park and also forms part of the setting of the World Heritage Site. Forest design and the policy context have moved on, but the proposals will further the harm caused by the planting since the 1980s.

Read our full response to these proposals, submitted 12th June 2019:

fld ashstead comments, june 2019.pdf

View the Felling Licence Application (FLA) restock map:

FLA restock Map.pdf