News from Ben Knipe for April 2013


    18:08 23 April 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Rumour has it that underneath this mass of ivy on a birch tree at St. Catherine's.....lurks a bat box!
    Be worth having a look for it, even after all these years!

    First step to finding the bat box is to cut through the main ivy stem... being careful not to damage the tree.

    Pulling the ivy away from the tree trunk.
    Loading up the trailer.

    Rope and ladder needed higher up the tree.
    Discovering the bat box.....still in good condition.
    Most of the ivy removed. Hopefully bats will be able to find the bat box now
    and make use of it.


  • Ben and Shirley’s Little Kingdom

    09:56 08 April 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    …Tales from the Woodland Ranger…

    If you go into to the woods today, you might not see any elves drinking tea or fairies flying round but you might just see some scarlet elf cups.  These bright red fungi are easy to see and sometimes look far too bright at this time of year and possibly thought of as litter.

    A Scarlet Elf cup growing on dead wood on the floor of a Cumbrian woodland.  Photo: Nigel Gilligan.

    Back in February Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre (CBDC) asked their facebook followers to be on the lookout for these distinctive fungi around Cumbrian woodlands and to report back any sightings.

    In the National Trust woodlands around Windermere and Grasmere we came across quite a few and duly sent our reports in.

    But the story didn’t end there, because there are two very similar looking types of scarlet elf cup which can only be distinguished by expert, microscopic analysis!  So one lucky elf cup travelled first class, snug in bubble-wrap, to Scotland for a much, much closer look.

    What you see below are very close up images of hair-like structures called paraphyses which give the white furry look to the underside of the cups.  The paraphyses are connected to a layer of tissue called the hymenium.  On the hymenium are also asci, which produce the spores to help the scarlet elf cups to multiply around the woodlands. 

    Images of Sarcoscypha austriaca by Peter Wilberforce
    Here’s how Peter, the expert made these wonderful images:

    "To get the photos of the paraphyses, asci and spores I usually use a simple "squash" of a minute part of the hymenium.  I boil a small amount of material and then mount in water. The hairs are collected by gently scraping the outside of the cup.  These are then mounted in water and viewed under Normarski contrast lighting.  The photos are taken using a Nikon Coolpix 995 digital camera held over the phototube with a x10 wide-field eyepiece in place”

    Peter describes the hairs as having the appearance of "Shirley Temple's mop of golden curls"!

    A lovely close up image of scarlet elf fungi. Photo: John Malley.

    But if you don’t have Peter to explain this to you, then ask the wise old elf sitting under the bright red fungi, and join him for a spot of tea.

    Ben Knipe
    Woodland Ranger

News from Ben Knipe

Photo of Ben Knipe

I'm the woodland ranger for Central and East Lakes working with the other rangers to manage woodlands in Windermere, Troutbeck, Ullswater, Grasmere and Langdale.
I've worked for the National Trust for over 13 years across many parts of North West of England including Staffordshire, Cheshire and now Cumbria.
My work is very varied and includes looking after ancient trees on busy lakeshore paths to quiet and wildlife rich fell side oak woodlands.