News from Ben Knipe for August 2016

  • Shiver Me Timbers!

    07:39 23 August 2016
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The historic yeoman farmer's house, Townend, was recently extensively restored after wet rot was discovered in the structural timbers.
    Under instruction from Stephen Haigh, Buildings Archaeologist, we cut out sections from the old timber so that a dendrochronologist could analyse them at a later date.
    Simply put, Dendrochronology is the science of dating wood through the analysis of the patterns of tree rings aka growth rings.

    Hopefully it can be determined in which year the timber was felled thus giving a valuable insight into the history of this wonderful house.

    In the images above Stephen Haigh has chalked sections of wood to be cut out for the dendrochronologist to examine.
    The timbers removed from Townend have been labelled  to indicate which part of the house they were used for during its construction.
    A cut through a comparatively sound section of wood... contrast this one is rotten for much of its length!
    'Chain Saw Carnage'!
    Stephen Haigh's liaison with the dendrochronologist has resulted in these samples being cut from the timber. Meticulously labelled, they are to be sent away for analysis.

    This was one of the more unusual jobs we have been involved with!

    Any updates will appear here.

  • New Bench for Holme Crag, Jenkyn's Field.

    11:52 18 August 2016
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Many years ago there used to be a bench on Holme Crag, a rocky outcrop  of Jenkyn's Field,  jutting into the north east side of  Windermere near to Waterhead.

    Holme Crag as seen from the lake.

    Thanks to a National Trust supporter, who chose to celebrate the birth of his grandson with a generous donation to our work in this area, we were able to commission a local blacksmith to fabricate a new bench.
    To give the new bench a firm foundation an oak sleeper was cut in half. Two parallel trenches were dug, at a set distance, within which the sleepers were placed...see below.
    A certain amount of landscaping was needed to get the bench as level as possible on its newly positioned supports. 
    The base of the bench was drilled back at St. Catherine's to allow it to be firmly attached to the two sections of sleepers... using coach screws.
    Approaching the bench (after a brief steep walk) you'll be rewarded with...
    ...a splendid view of the North West shore of Windermere and somewhere to sit and enjoy it!
    Subsequently the area around the bench has had lake gravel spread around its base.

  • Summer Branch Drop.

    07:30 03 August 2016
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Last week a loud cracking noise disturbed the peace and quiet of a hot, still afternoon at St. Catherine's. Within seconds a large oak branch crashed to the ground, narrowly missing the Spirit of Place sculpture that stands at the entrance.
    This occurrence had all the hallmarks of Summer Branch Drop (SBD). Once considered a rare event, anecdotal evidence now suggests, it may be more common than was first thought... Mature or veteran oak trees, along with beech and horse chestnut, are particularly prone to shedding branches during prolonged heat waves or in calm weather, after heavy Summer rainfall.

    Why, on windless hot Summer days, do branches showing no apparent defects suddenly and mysteriously crash to the ground?  One theory is that when the demands for transpiration (water evaporation from leaves) overwhelms the tree's vascular system... the tree responds by shedding branches. Other theories include tissue shrinkage, internal cracks, difficult to detect rot, and/or ethylene gas being released inside the branch....but there are no definite answers. Consistent warning signs have not yet been established or confirmed.
    Above is an image of where the branch split. The wood looks perfectly sound, and even with the most rigorous  inspection, it would be nigh on impossible to predict, prior to the branch being aborted, that it would fail.
     Liam, Woodland Ranger, is seen here cutting up the branch.
    Waste not. Want not. More firewood for the Footprint log burner!
    The brash will provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Hopefully it will provide cover for hedgehogs... numbers of which are, sadly, in steep decline
    This veteran oak at National Trust owned Jenkins Field is adjacent to the A591 near Ambleside. A very busy road and the pavement is used by many walkers.
    In successive years this tree has shed branches in late Summer. The evidence of one branch failure can be seen in the image above. The road was blocked on this occasion until the branch was cut up and removed; the police directed traffic while this was going on! Mercifully no one was underneath the tree when the apparently healthy branches were discarded.
    The concern that the tree might abort yet more branches in the future prompted the National Trust, at considerable expense, to reduce the crown of the tree to ensure the safety of walkers and motorists in its vicinity. Close examination showed potential weaknesses in some branches so more pruning was done than was at first envisaged. In the image above a split branch and a cut branch next to it can be seen. 

    Overall the risks associated with SBD are small and even in hindsight the cause is usually a matter of speculation or an educated guess!

    The National Trust carry out regular and thorough tree inspections. Identifiable problems, or quantifiable risks are dealt with as soon as possible.

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.