News from Ben Knipe for December 2013

  • Juniper Conservation Work at Troutbeck Park Farm.

    15:21 24 December 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Juniper is in decline in the U.K....Cumbria, with the most extensive stands in England, is no exception.

    Juniper -- one of the first tree species to colonise Cumbria after the last ice age -- has been a feature on the fells ever since.

    Juniper is adapted to extreme weather conditions, and thrives in the poor soil of the Lake District mountains.

    Many of the trees are now very old; the few seedlings that they do manage to produce are heavily grazed by sheep and rabbits. 

    Juniper regeneration is so poor that it has been included in the Biodiversity Action Plan as  a priority species for Cumbria.

    Digging out and scraping away the turf, prior to planting a seedling.

    Funding from the High Level Scheme has allowed for the planting of 500 seedlings high above Troutbeck Park Farm to boost numbers here over the long term. 
    National Trust Land Rover with the plants and materials.
    The power barrow taking the tools and materials on the next leg of the journey.
    The quad bike and trailer also being used to transport
    the juniper seedlings, stakes and mesh guards.

    This is the point where it is too difficult for the quad bike to go any further.
    Everything has to now be manually carried up the long, steep slope .
      Clambering up into the mist with bundles of stakes and mesh guards.
    The designated planting site is still some distance away.....

    A young Juniper....approx 3 years old newly planted into bare ground. The turf has been stripped back from around where the juniper has been planted.

    Juniper seedlings  with plastic mesh guards to protect them from sheep and rabbits.
    Juniper is an important habitat:

    It supports, or is host to over 40 types of insects, including the juniper carpet moth. The caterpillars feed exclusively on juniper. 

    The Ring Ouzel, an upland bird of the thrush family, feeds up on ripe juniper berries before its Autumn migration to Southern Spain, or the Atlas Mountains in North West Africa.

    Various schemes, aimed at conserving juniper, will hopefully safeguard the long term future of this threatened species.

  • The uplands for Juniper project

    16:00 18 December 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The Uplands for Juniper Project aims to conserve and restore Cumbrian Juniper populations through targeted survey work and the provision of management plans to land owners and land managers. Juniper and other tree species are being planted by Cumbria Wildlife Trust where populations are in decline or in places where recreated juniper stands will provide stepping stones between existing populations.
    A young Juniper plant
    This focus on juniper conservation came about after long term declines across the UK in the 20th Century. A decline of 60% up to 1960 was followed by a 31% range contraction in the UK from 1970. These declines lead to Juniper being identified as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species, and the species was later the only vascular plant to be short-listed as a Cumbrian BAP species.

    The Wren and SITA funded Project has now surveyed more than 260 stands – a huge effort which was only made possible by the dedication and commitment of more than forty volunteers. Unfortunately, the survey findings don’t make great reading, as the majority of stands are in long term decline due predominantly to sheep browsing but with shading by tall trees and browsing by red deer being important factors in some areas. The mapping of all of these juniper stands will be used for decades to come – resulting in more focused and strategic conservation efforts in the future, which will hopefully counter the decline that the survey has now highlighted. 

    Glenamara Park above Ullswater which is owned by the National Trust is one area that was identified as a site for planting, 500 young plants were planted over two years along with 40 Aspen trees.  It will act as a stepping stone for the stands of Juniper to the west on Glenridding common and to the south at Hartsop.

    An Aspen tree protected by a tree guard.

     National Trust rangers and volunteers having a well earned break.
    The Uplands for Juniper Project will come to an end in 2014, having planted 9000 juniper across the Lake District, and having encouraged more positive conservation work through 40 management plans Juniper in the Lake District will remain a common feature for many years to come.  

  • Water-Gate (Heck) at Troutbeck Park Farm.

    14:26 06 December 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    One of the many water gates or "hecks" at Troutbeck Park Farm needed repairing recently.

    The wooden cross "beam" had collapsed into the stream, after becoming rotten in the middle.

    A replacement was needed  urgently.

    These gates or hecks act as barriers to livestock, whilst allowing the stream to flow past.

    A recently felled birch at St. Catherine's looked to be an ideal replacement.


    With the bark stripped off, it was ready for several coats of wood preserver.

    Getting the replacement "beam" into position.
    The length of birch  was transported to site by land-rover and trailer.

    Final adjustments.

    Drilling through the new beam to allow the "swing gates" to be attached .

    Job done!

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.