Ancient woodlands to mark Platinum Jubilee

This year marks HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.  In addition to the tree planting as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy, there are also plans to recognise 70 ancient woodlands as Platinum Woodlands.  These will receive formal protection. 

I have been tasked with finding a woodland within the Lake District to present as our contribution.

I started by selecting 11 sites with potential and began to apply these specific criteria to them.

λ The woodland needs to exceed 10 hectares in size, as an individual woodland or collection of woodlands.  It needs to be being actively managed with a formal Woodland Management Plan.

λ It needs to have a story, a known history.

λ It needs to have a secure tenure for the long-term.

λ It needs to be accessible, including provision for parking cars.

I soon realised that only one of these 11 sites was eligible. It is a special site:  The Rusland Valley Woodland, which has many ancient trees.  It also has two Champion Small Leaved Limes, these being the tallest in Cumbria and two Beech trees, which are of local repute as The Rusland Beeches.  It has a history, which includes coppicing (where trees are grown for timber and cut to stumps which re-grow), and bark peeling.  I submitted my choice and await news with interest.  I initially thought that there would be many woodlands eligible but it has not been a straightforward exercise!

The clear-up following Storm Arwen continues, and I can see an end in sight.  The local arborists have been so busy that they are only now getting round to felling some of the damaged trees away from local populations.  One element of the process of dealing with the storm that has been changed is equipping the team of rangers to respond.  There are 15 rangers managing the various sites.  They do a great job as the eyes and ears of the Council in managing this resource.  There is a form to be completed when they find a damaged tree.  We had overlooked that the form was only available on-line, and many of the ranger offices do not have access to the internet.  And one office could not be accessed because a tree had fallen against the door!

This meant that there was a delay in walking some of the woodlands to identify any fallen or damaged trees.  Now all of the rangers have ‘storm bags’.  These contain ‘no access’ tape, printed copies of the forms and a pruning saw.

There will also be training for the rangers in the Basic Tree Surveying and Inspecting course run by Lantra.

Lantra is the Lead Body for providing vocational and short-term courses for those in the land-based sectors, including Arboriculture.  They run courses on how to survey trees.  When the next storm comes, we as a county will be better prepared!

Tree Preservation Orders are a key part of my work.  These are legal documents which protect some trees.  Here in the Lakes, some of the documents date from the 1950s, and some of the trees concerned may have fallen or been removed since then.

The process of checking the documents for accuracy is a major project.  The Lakes have around 400 Orders in place!

When I am out on site, I try to take a few of the Orders with me so I can check if the trees are still present.  I am going to one area this week where seven Orders are present.

Sometimes, a degree in investigation is needed to find the trees.  However, if the site has woodland, that is quite easy to find!

Finally, I had a visit from an Arboricultural Consultant who specialises in managing ancient trees.  We walked a site with ancient trees together, discussing management and it was great to compare notes.  My fellow arborist travels across the country advising on managing ancient trees.  I reflected on that and then on the huge variety of trees here in the Lakes, and how much I enjoy this area.  What a place to work!

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