Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

It has been a week in the woodlands this week, looking, planning, pondering…

On Tuesday we were out in our Resp Haw and Bull Coppice woods in the beautiful Rusland Valley with woodland adviser Ed Mills. These woods have existed happily for decades with no management and under our stewardship we could continue this approach. But at Friends of the Lake District the do nothing approach does not sit comfortably if there are things that we can do to enhance the landscape and habitats or make the woodlands more resilient. We have spoken before of our investigations to establish if these woods were once Atlantic Rainforest and our survey work into this continues. But what if they are not relict ancient rainforests, what should we do with them? The woods are largely composed of birch, oak, beech, yew and holly and the trees tend to be of an even age structure due to browsing by deer. We could put in some fenced coupes to allow us to plant other species in the enclosures, protected from deer to add more diversity. We could add some understory species such as hazel and rowan by planting individually in tubes. We found some holly trees that had been pollarded many years ago and were providing a great habitat for bugs and beasties. Should we re-pollard them to extend their lives? We could thin some of the oaks to allow some to grow to maturity by providing more light. We could thin a stand of blackthorn to allow it to regenerate and reinvigorate. Or we could do nothing…. As ever a lot depends on resources and ultimately what it is we aspire to for these woods.

Above: Woodland adviser Ed Mills with a pollarded holly tree

Image: An open glade for possible planting

On Wednesday our volunteers headed over to the land and wood at Middle Bleansley near Broughton in Furness. Again there is a beautiful woodland there, much younger than those at Rusland. It was a day of funghi spotting, path clearance and removing tree tubes from the trees if we could find them amongst the bracken. We were joined by Friends member and woodland consultant Luke Steer. Luke has advised us for many years on our woods at Ambleside and has a particular interest in veteran trees and wood pasture. There is nothing Luke does not know about trees and nothing he likes more than talking about trees and our volunteers enjoyed a fascinating lunchtime discussion about all things trees. As we ate our sandwiches looking down towards Morecambe Bay in one direction and upto the Duddon Valley and Scafell Pike in the other, we discussed options for the wood. It is still very young but the bracken is dominating most of it. An interesting option Luke put to us was to introduce hardy cattle, to get them to mob graze it and in doing so trample down the bracken and in time allow other habitats to be created. Luke also noted some old veteran trees, including ash, rowan and oak. He has done a lot of work in Sherwood Forest which has proven that if space and light are allowed around such trees, giving them a halo of light, they are much healthier. We need someone to help us plot these trees on a map and then we can plan some work to help them.

Image: lunch time with the volunteers

Image: Woodland consultant Luke Steer at Middle Bleansley

So lots to think about, but it is sometimes better to have lots of options rather than very few.

Thanks to everyone who has responded to offer help on the Helm, counting in the animals and checking boundaries. It is very much appreciated. We have set up a Helm Lookers Whatsapp group so if anyone else wants to join, just get in touch.
The woodland workparties continue next week with a visit to Rusland on Tuesday, you can book here.  Hopefully we will begin work on some of the options noted above!