News from John Atkinson for February 2017

  • Restoring a Victorian Vision

    18:19 07 February 2017
    By Clair Payne, Craig Hutchinson, Glenn Bailey, Ian Griffiths, John Atkinson, John Moffat, Luke Sherwen, Matthew Allmark, Nick Petrie, Paul Farrington, Paul Kear , Richard Tanner, Rob Clarke, Sam Stalker, Sarah Anderson, Stuart Graham


    Here in the Lake District the National Trust looks after an awful lot of land - about a fifth of all the countryside in the National Park. But it’s not all high, open fells, we also care for iconic historic places like Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top, and James Garth Marshall’s Tarn Hows.

    
    A stunning wintry scene looking across Tarn Hows to the Old Man of Coniston and Wetherlam

    Located in the low level hills between the villages of Coniston and Hawkshead, Tarn Hows is ideal for a walk or cycle trip from either, and has lovely circular walks around the tarn. With a commanding panorama out across the wider Lake District fells, it's a favourite with both regular and first-time visitors to the area, attracting over 300,000 visitors a year, and is popular with artists and photographers who love the fantastic views.

    Marshall's design

    Yet despite Tarn Hows dramatic setting, it’s very much a ‘man-made’ environment. It was created as part of a designed landscape by James Garth Marshall, a wealthy Leeds industrialist and owner of the Monk Coniston Estate, in the 1860s, in the ‘picturesque’ style popular at the time. Tarn Hows as we see it today was originally three natural tarns. When Marshall bought it he embarked on a project to create a new body of water surrounded by a bold, ornamental planting scheme, which also had an industrial use to feed his sawmill, downstream in Coniston. 

    Tarn Hows in the late 19th century, much less wooded than it is today.
    Marshall’s vision involved clumps of trees planted in a carefully considered way, highlighting rocky knolls and the dramatic Lakes landscape beyond. The new planting was protected by ‘nurse’ crops of conifers, which were intended to be removed once the young trees were established. However, Marshall died before his vision was realised and the nurse crops were never removed. Trees then grew to dominate the Tarn Hows panorama as we know it today. 

    Looking across to the Langdale Pikes today...

    The wood for the trees
    Recently, the Trust decided that the majestic views over the tarn and across to the fells beyond were in danger of being lost amongst the trees. Marshall’s clumps of specimen trees, although still present, were hard to see in the thick growth, his vision fading in the passage of time. Aware of the popularity of the present-day landscape however, and realising that many visitors who came to enjoy Tarn Hows  didn’t know of Marshall’s ‘hidden’ landscape, the Trust carried out a full survey and consultation with local stakeholders to decide on the most appropriate  course of action. As Tarn Hows is highly protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, we also had to make sure that work would protect the rare plant communities and habitats that exist there.  An approach was agreed which therefore aimed to restore elements of Marshall’s vision, without impacting too suddenly and dramatically on the modern cherished landscape. There will be a gradual receding of the modern character and a simultaneous emergence of Marshall’s vision, with a medium term co-existence of the two landscape characters. Work will take place very incrementally over a number of years, with no sudden or drastic changes to the views and feel of Tarn Hows, and there will be periods when little or no work is being carried out there.
    ...and in the 1950's



    The project today  

    We have now started this work to restore elements of the designed landscape, as it was intended to look when it was originally created. This will involve very gradually removing some trees, particularly thinning areas where there is dense regrowth, to open up some views over the tarn and across to the fells beyond, as well as revealing some of the rocky knolls identified in the original design which have become overgrown.  Opening up views across the tarn and surrounding countryside will enable visitors to enjoy perspectives on this landscape as it was originally intended to look in the 19th century, as well as helping to protect some of those rare habitats around Tarn Hows. 

    Our ranger teams will also be working to partially reinstate parts of Marshall’s vision with some new planting in selected locations from the suite of trees in his original plans. Work will be done very gradually over a number of years, but starting now means that we can avoid too much intrusive felling work in the future, and keep the visual impact on the landscape to a minimum. So if you’re out and about around Tarn Hows in the coming months, and see us working down there, do stop and have a chat. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this exciting project!

    Matt Tweed.
    Looking up Tarn Hows towards Helvellyn, possibly 1920's.

News from John Atkinson

Photo of John Atkinson

Lead Ranger.
I have lived and worked in the Lakes for most of my life both as a farmer and for the last 20+ years as a National Trust employee. Over the years I have worked right across the Lakes firstly as a practitioner repairing walls and footpaths and working on conservation projects. Then more recently managing upland access projects and advising on access and erosion issues, before gaining my current position managing the Ranger team in the South Lakes. I am also a very passionate supporter of rural skills and upland farming and sit on the national committee of the DSWA and also the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners. When not at work I run a 200ha upland farm with my family where we keep traditional breeds of cattle and sheep and assist in conservation grazing schemes.

Blog:
http://www.countryside-catchup.blogspot.co.uk/