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Another interesting week managing Friends of the Lake District’s land holdings. On Monday we went over to see colleagues at the RSPB Haweswater. We were looking at proposals for fenced enclosures on the fells above Naddle Farm to trial different types of grazing and impacts on tree growth. We also saw some 'weldmesh' guard planting from over a decade ago that was done by United Utilities (UU) and had largely failed. 

Pictured: 'Weldmesh guard'

Talking about the reasons why and what the RSPB and ourselves have learnt from our various tree planting endeavours, it seems the key really is the right tree in the right place – the UU trees were in the main the wrong species – they have been replanted with juniper which is realistically just about all the RSPB think will grow at height; and many were in the wrong place – not sheltered enough, too wet, etc.

We see a lot of public money being put into tree planting but we also see a lot of failure. It is not as easy as just sticking trees in and walking away. In landscapes such as we have here it needs careful planning, careful planting, and careful maintenance and quite often that is missing. We continue with our calls for Forestry Commission and other funders to look at what works and fails and use that knowledge wisely when planning new schemes. 

On wedneday, we were down in our two woods in the beautiful Rusland valley. We were removing beech and sycamore seedlings, thinning holly, and tubing up some oak regeneration. The conversation was similar, it is not as easy to manage a woodland as you think.

Pictured: 'Woodland canopy and open space at Rusland woods'

These woods have some open spaces which are good for light, diversity and wildlife, but some people tell us we should be planting them up with trees and this would help get a diversified age structure.

Pictured: 'Hunting seedlings at Rusland woods'

In other places, the canopy is quite dense and some people tell us we should thin these areas and then plant up with shrub species for more diversity and keep the open areas open.

So it seems there are no real rights and wrongs and that you can achieve the outcomes desired in various ways but it can be quite tortuous deciding on which way to go! 

We are continuing our discussions with nearby farmer Adam about the possibility of some cows going into the wood to trample the bracken which in turn will make access easier, regeneration easier and help with ground flora. Before we do anything we have key issues to resolve of how to keep them in – fence or no fence cow collars, where they could get access to water, and how we can keep them away from the yew trees which can be poisonous. 

Pictured: 'Split sycamore at Rusland woods'

All of it is fascinating stuff and the benefit of having a lot of woods of different characters and in different places is that we can compare and contrast techniques and learning between them.

Pictured: 'Honey Fungus at Rusland woods'

Meanwhile, in the wood it was obvious we were in autumn with puffballs and funghi dotted about, and still good to hear the birds singing – we logged some great tits, nuthatch, crows and redwing (according to our bird app) and at one point were joined by a rather stunned mouse, a bit put out at its holly house being disturbed!