Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

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The volunteers were back on the Helm on Monday and luckily avoided all these heavy showers more typical of April. We strimmed a path down through the bracken in the southern woodland section from the top down to the bottom, a much easier job having been done at the back end of last year.

Pictured: View from the Helm looking north

Our next task was to fit some rabbit wire to our new woodland enclosures. Many years ago we planted 50 trees all in individual tree cages, in ten groups. The trees have done really well, but the cages had gone rotten and the ponies and cows kept rubbing on them and knocking bits off.

Pictured: Woodland enclosures 

We decided that rather than replace them and have the same issues, now the trees are bigger, that we would put a lower sheep fence around each group of five. That would give us some rather larger enclosures that we could add further trees to later.

Pictured: Installing rabbit fencing on the lower sections of our woodland enclosures

The fences are now in and we are pleased that they have a lower landscape impact than the individual tree planters. Our juniper planting experiment has shown that there are a lot more rabbits around than we thought, and it won’t be enough just to fence out the cows and ponies. We did a trial trying to dig the wire in at the bottom… no chance with all the stones! Sometimes helping nature is incredibly difficult due to nature!

Pictured: Finished rabbit fencing covering lower section of our enclosure and looking very smart!

Ideally we want to plant with no plastic tubes, but our High Borrowdale experience tells us that voles will eat the bark of the trees, so we will have to look at either vole guards, or tree tubes in the short term. So we will likely do another one of our experiments : try planting with tubes and vole guards to compare, rabbit wire and no rabbit wire to compare. The plan is to plant some fruiting and seeding trees to help the birds and wildlife, a job for the winter. Meanwhile, one enclosure done, potentially another nine to do 😊 

On Wednesday we were out on the fourth of our volunteer training days, this time focusing on upland hay meadow plants at High Borrowdale with trainer Stuart Colgate. We had a fascinating day, with our heads buzzing with information like the bees and hoverflies we saw all over the meadow.

Pictured: Volunteers learning about upland hay meadow plants

Who knew that you can tell a hawkbit by the ‘y’ shaped hairs on its leaves, or that some grasses have hairy knees and others knobbles.

Pictured: Hawkbit banking

As with the lichen day, the use of the eye glasses took us into a whole new secret world, showing the make up of the plants in technicolour detail. We learnt about the whole array of hay meadow flowers, but also the vast range of grasses such as bents, fescues and oaty varieties. There are a couple of weeks left before the meadows will be cut, so still time for people to go and enjoy them. 

We still have spaces on re butterfly and moth training day on 18th July, so if you would like to, do join us by booking here>