News from Ben Knipe for March 2013

  • Meet the Ranger (Rohan Ambleside 30th March 12-3pm)

    19:25 26 March 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Meet the RangerNeil Winder - Ambleside - Sat 30 March
    Neil, National Trust Area Ranger, is most probably the Lake District's biggest fan; his enthusiasm for his adventure playground of a workplace knows no bounds. Meet him in the Ambleside store to learn about the National Trust Rangers' ongoing work to maintain the stunning landscape, and get the low-down on the best ways to experience the Lakes, both indoors and out.
    12pm to 3pm. Tel: 01539 431630

  • Old Elm tree on Gowbarrow Fell

    15:00 25 March 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe


    Close to Aira Force next to the path that leads up onto Gowbarrow fell beside Ullswater is this really old Elm tree. It is an ancient pollard that has lasted for hundreds of years. A pollard is where the crown of the tree has been reduced to about 3 metres above ground level so grazing animals would not eat the new shoots that grew from the stem, back in those days this would have been deer as Gowbarrow is an old deer park.  

    As you can see the trunk of the tree is quite rotten and open and only about half of it remaining. We were worried that the weight of the crown would get too heavy for the stem to support and pull the tree over so we decided we had to reduce the weight by cutting back some of the branches.

    Luckily we could do this with the high pruning saw as we didn't think it was safe to climb.

    Here is one of the branches we cut off, I counted over fourty growth rings in just this thin branch and it shows how slow growing it has been. At a guess i would say it must be over 150 years since the tree was last pollarded and who knows how many times it was pollarded before that so this could easily make the tree 300-400 years old. The work we have done will now hopefully keep the tree going for another 100 years and interest the many walkers that pass by it.


    09:07 25 March 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The white clawed crayfish is the UK's only native crayfish and our largest crustacean; its distribution and numbers have declined catastrophically in recent years, and now it is the rivers and streams of Cumbria that are its main stronghold.
    White clawed crayfish.
    White clawed crayfish inhabit clean mineral rich water, usually in limestone areas; this releases calcium carbonate into the water which the crayfish needs to build its hard carapace or outer shell. It is intolerant of pollution, so its presence is often a sign that the water quality is good. It plays an important role in maintaining a stable water ecology. It certainly does not thrive when cattle waste mixed in with mud and silt  threaten to overwhelm water courses.
    Part of the fencing work.
    For this reason, N.T Rangers based at St. Catherine's were given the go ahead to fence off hundreds of metres of a watercourse, with known populations of crayfish upstream; However, the cattle still needed to drink, and a way to reliably provide water for them from the original source was needed. -The answer was to pipe water by gravity feed from a header dam into a water trough put in place many metres further downstream. The following images illustrate the most recent phase of the project, which is still ongoing.

    Building the header dam...The fun bit but COLD!
    The completed dam.
    The blue alkathene pipe on its way to the water trough.
    through the wall......

    ........and into the trough.....
    ....and back out through the wall into the stream again!
    The water trough fills up rapidly.
    a new gate was needed to allow stock movement past the fenced off beck.
    The new gateway.
    Ideal habitat for crayfish, with plenty of watercress for the juveniles to take cover!

    The water pipe is well hidden, and the gap in the wall normally has a hurdle placed across it to deny access to stock.

    The main reason for the massive losses in native White Clawed numbers was the introduction of the American Signal Crayfish in the Seventies. It is a voracious predator that has annihilated the White Clawed from many waterways, especially in the South of the country. It breeds much more prolifically, outcompetes it for food and worst of all, carries a fungal plague that is fatal to the native species. The Signal does major harm to the eco systems of rivers in the UK. It severely depletes fish stocks by devouring fish eggs and small fish, as well as impacting on plants, invertebrates and snails. The Signals burrow into river banks in such numbers, that in the worst infested sites, people have reported seeing banks retreating under the relentless pressure. 

    Please help maintain the populations of the White Clawed Crayfish in Cumbria;  clean and dry any equipment. you may use around rivers and lakes. This will reduce the risk of spreading the "Crayfish Plague" , the fungus of which thrives on damp boots, fishing gear etc.
  • Friday 22 March

    15:06 22 March 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The Tree Doctor
    Over the winter we have been carrying out our tree safety inspections, we need to check that trees in high public areas are safe and will not fall or drop limbs on any one. Occasionally some trees may look ok but have signs that all is not well and then we have to call in the tree doctor with his high tech peace of kit called the PICUS which is latin for woodpecker.
    The picus works by ultra sound, sending sound waves through the trunk of the tree, then depending on the speed it travals through the wood it can tell if the wood is healthy or has decay in it.

    He starts by hammering some nails just a short way into the tree, these are at regular intervals around the circumference of the tree, he then attaches sensors which are connected to each other by cable and then to a computor. When it is all set up he then goes round and taps each nail three times, hence the name woodpecker, the reading is then recorded into the computor.

    As he go round the tree tapping the nails the computor records the measurements and starts to draw an outline of the tree.

    When he has been around the tree and all measurments have been recorded we get a picture like the one above, the darker areas indicate sound wood and the blue and red area indicate rot. So looking from the outside the tree looks fine but the Picus shows that there is decay developing within the tree and we need to do some remedial action. In the case of this tree we did a slight crown reduction to reduce the weight and sail of the crown. The Picus machine is a very usefull piece of kit but very expencive at about £5000 but if it helps to protect our visitors its well worth it.


  • Doras' Field 24th March 11am to 4pm

    12:12 16 March 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    NGS Cumbria 'Wordsworth's Daffodil Legacy' Day on 24th March
    • The week before Easter 8 gardens will open to the public the length of Cumbria 'from Cartmel to Carlisle' to mark the Lake District's link with Wordsworth's 'host of golden daffodils'.
    • Wordsworth left a double legacy to the Lake District - not only his poem 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', but also Dora's Field, which he planted with native daffodils in memory of his daughter. Opening Dora's Field last year was the starting point for all the openings.
    • Includes an eclectic mix of gardens- (Dora's Field & Acorn Bank are both National Trust properties)
      • South Cumbria - Dora's Field and Rydal Hall in Rydal, Eller Howe in Lindale, Holehird Gardens in Windermere,
      • North Cumbria - High Moss in Portinscale near Keswick, Newton Rigg Campus Gardens & Lowther Castle & Garden Trust near Penrith and Acorn Bank Garden & Watermill  in Temple Sowerby near Penrith.
    • The NGS, which celebrates its 86th anniversary this year, organises the opening of almost 4000 gardens in England & Wales.
    • In 2012, by opening their gardens, NGS Garden Owners raised £2.8m benefiting nursing & caring charities and horticultural education in England and Wales. 

    Come and join us at Dora's field Rydal on Sunday 24th March, enjoy the sea of yellow Daffs and chat to the Rangers about the Fields history and secrets.

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.