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Another week, another beautiful bluebell and stitchwort wood. This time we have been down in Friends of the Lake District’s Resp Haw and Bull Coppice woods in Rusland, kindly gifted by member and local resident David Archibald.

Pictured: Bluebell and stitchwort wood

We were on our third volunteer training session, this time focusing on veteran tree identification with expert Luke Steer. Luke is the most passionate and knowledgeable tree expert ever and so we learnt not just about veteran trees but all manner of things from phoenix trees, how to tell if a holly is male or female from its flowers, how blackthorn thickets grow outwards and trees can often grow through the outer edges, the chemistry of trees and much, much more.

Pictured: Identifying male or female holly

We had a go at measuring the girth of a pollarded holly with a special tree tape measure and we found that many of the trees in our woods are likely over a 1000 years old.

Pictured: Measuring the girth of a pollarded holly

The training programme is already paying off – a group of those on the bird training went out onto the Helm last week. They produced an amazing spreadsheet showing the birds they had found at four different locations across the Helm, allowing us to compare the open areas, woodland, and marginal areas. The most birds were found at these marginal areas, with a mix of open ground, scrub and woodland. Common sightings included wren, chiffchaff, robin, crow, willow warbler, and chaffinch, but there were also sightings of linnet, moorhen, blackcap, treecreeper and goldfinch.

The volunteers put all the info in an amazing spreadsheet and we have now sent this to the Cumbria Biological Data Centre so that the species are recorded. The value of the volunteers doing these surveys is massive, not only to us to tell us more about what we have on our land, but also as part of citizen science, people recording what we have so that others can then use the data and we have more records which can help others looking at issues such as climate change, changing species, etc. How brilliant is that?!

On Tuesday we were back at Mazonwath for our monthly dry stone walling. We were accompanied by a noisy group of crows, a chattering chaffinch and the lapwing overhead.

Pictured: Drystone walling at Mazonwath

The top field hay meadow which was restored last year as part of our Westmorland Dales project is coming on. It seems to have a phenomenal amount of hay rattle which is essential to suppress grass so flowers can seed and grow, but so far the flowers seem to be missing! We have retrieved the timelapse camera which has been up for a few months so hopefully have caught the changes through the seasons from snow to spring…watch this space!