Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

We were back in our woods in the beautiful Rusland Valley yesterday with our volunteers and some of the Westmorland Dales apprentices. We began work on one of the ideas mentioned in the blog last week – thinning and chopping back some of the blackthorn to see if it will rejuvenate and give a more diverse age structure.  We even found time to pick some sloes for Andy to concoct something nice to drink!

Pictured: The perks of volunteering; sloes in abundance in our woods this week

We were also joined by tree lover and adviser Luke Steer who we spoke about in last week’s blog. Luke specialises in veteran trees and wood pasture, amongst other things and came to give us his thoughts on the wood and the way forward. He was blown away by our pollarded holly, probably several hundred years old, and also by the wonderful stand of yew trees, these amazing trees which will grow in conditions too stressful for other trees.

Pictured: Yew

Luke has been talking to us about a whole new way of working, using GIS (geographical information systems) with layers of data which can form maps presenting information. He had compiled maps for us using LIDAR data which showed the contours, ground terrain, tree height and tree cover. These can inform what is where and why, but also what we can do in future. He showed us how we could walk around the wood and plot there and then the features that are important of interest, such as the pollarded holly. This can all be used to feed into a management plan for the property.

Pictured: Mapping of Rusland Woods using LIDAR data

We talked with the volunteers who were with us about whether this was something they may be interested in doing with us, walking our properties and logging things of interest. This ties in nicely with a programme of volunteer training that we want to get up and running over the next year.

Pictured: Volunteers recording data

We would like to offer a series of training days for volunteers, who when trained could then help us with surveys on our own land. Topics to be covered could include lichens later this year, veteran trees, archaeological features, butterflies and moths, upland hay meadow flowers, fungi, bees and insects, woodland ground flora.

Combining the training and the recording could give us a powerful new level of information to feed into our land management and hopefully provide volunteers with new knowledge and skills too. So before we set up a programme, we would be interested to know whether this is something that would interest people?

  • Is there something you would like to be trained in that could be of use on our land?
  • Would you be willing to help survey our land?
  • How would you feel about recording it on a phone or tablet whilst out on the land? 

Meanwhile, back in the woods, there was another bit of good news… we finally found the cake box that had got left in the woods by two of our younger helpers in February who put it down to go and explore the yews and hidey holes and could then never find it again!! The cake was still in it, but not sure that we will be offering that round at the next workparty…. Which is next wed at High Borrowdale when we will be planting some great burnet plug plants, doing dry stone wall repairs and tree staking.

Do come and join us if you can, you can book here>