News from Dave Jackson for July 2013

  • Champion Trees of Ambleside

    07:16 25 July 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Towering over the North West shore of Windermere – Skelghyll wood can be spotted well before arriving.  The give-away?  Some of the tallest conifer trees in Cumbria and the tallest of their kind in England.

    The arboretum created by plant hunters over 150 years ago
    You’d be forgiven for not seeing the majestic wood as you negotiate busy traffic and sharp bends in the road to Ambleside.  But once seen, the wood and its colossal trees will stand out for miles around.

    Unlike the tall trees of other continents these can be reached in only a few minutes walk from Waterhead, just south of Ambleside and close to public transport links including the ferry.  Skelghyll wood is already very popular with walkers and cyclists travelling from Ambleside to Troutbeck via the very popular viewpoint called Jenkins Crag.

    Visitors to Stagshaw gardens at Skelghyll wood will have already seen a glimpse of the tall trees, but now we’ve opened up a brand new path to enable visitors to marvel, up close and personal at the Champion trees.

    
    A young visitor marvels at the size of a Wellingtonia
    
    The Victorians, famous for their plant hunting had a big influence on Skelghyll wood and planted over 150 specimen conifer trees from all over the world including South and North America, Japan and Europe.  Some of these have trees have thrived on the lush wooded slopes and survived harsh winters and storms to become over 50 meters high – higher than 12 double-decker busses stacked on top of each other.

    The tallest is a Grand fir measuring 58 meters (190ft) high making it the tallest tree in Cumbria and the North West, and the tallest Grand fir in England.  Other Champion trees found in the wood include Douglas fir, Wellingtonia, Western Red cedar, Hondo spruce and Blue Colorado spruce, all of which are the tallest of their kind in Cumbria.

    The residents of Wansfell Holme planted trees from around the world as a way to show off their wealth and status

    
    The planting vision set out in 1860 by the Victorians can finally be appreciated and the new Champion Tree Trail is a ‘must-see’ for anyone interested in trees, history or simply being in wonderful places that make you realise that nature is capable of huge things.

    Although the path is now open the story has only just started.  We want to plant what will be champions of the future and to add to the new trail, making it a favourite place for generations to come.

    The adventure for you and your family can begin in Waterhead and simply walking to Skelghyll wood or parking at Stagshaw Gardens car park nearby where the start of the new trail is located.

    Take 45 minutes to stroll in sturdy footwear along the route taking advantage of picnic benches to marvel at what nature can do, with a little help from Victorian plant hunters. 
    
    Beetles like this Longhorn (Rhagium mordax) love Skelghyll Wood too!

    
    The trail is available to download as a PDF at

    If you would like find out more about the trees or read our donations wish list  please get in touch with Ben Knipe – Woodland Ranger on 015394 46402 or email Benjamin.knipe@nationtrust.org.uk

    Enjoy your walk and don’t forget to pack a picnic!
  • Aira Force red squirrel trail.

    14:32 18 July 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    The red squirrel was once a common site throughout the whole of the UK but it is now an endangered species with only about 20,000 left in England and Wales, mostly in Cumbria and Northumberland.
    Aira Force is well known for its waterfall and specimen trees but it has also become a place of sanctuary for our native and increasingly rare red squirrels. Working in partnership with the Penrith & District Red Squirrel Group, the National Trust has created a safe haven for these enchanting creatures by introducing a red squirrel trail, with strategically placed feeders, on the footpaths up and down the falls, thereby giving visitors the opportunity to glimpse red squirrels in the wild.

    Red squirrel feeder

    The decline of reds is directly attributable to grey squirrels which were introduced from North America in 1876 and whose population has exploded to in excess of 2.5 million. The bigger grey displaces red squirrels over time by out competing them for food but more critically as a carrier of the highly contagious Squirrelpox Virus (SQPV) to which they seem immune but is fatal to red squirrels.

    With very kind donations from Garfield Weston and the John Speddan Lewis Foundation we have been able to  install a couple live cameras focused on squirrel feeder, they  relay pictures back to a monitor in the main car park so people can see the red squirrel close up without disturbing them. Here the camera is pointing at one of the  wooden feeders.

    Another of the cameras attached to a tree.

    This is the monitor displaying the picture in the info shelter in the car park.



    And the proof it does work, here is a red squirrel feeding from the feeder.
    If we can keep helping the red squirrel by feeding and controlling the greys our visitors will be able to see them for years to come. 

  • Balsam Bash at Troutbeck.

    20:11 12 July 2013
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    
    A VOLUNTEER GROUP ON A WORKING HOLIDAY AT AIRA FORCE NEAR ULLSWATER TOOK TIME OUT TO HELP US AT EAST WINDERMERE. A LARGE STAND OF THE HIGHLY INVASIVE HIMALAYAN BALSAM NEEDED TO BE PULLED OUT ALONG THE STREAM CALLED TROUTBECK.
    
    GETTING STARTED ON ONE OF THE LARGER STANDS.
    
    YET MORE BALSAM BEING DEALT WITH.
    
    SEPARATING THE ROOT FROM THE STEM.
    
    IF THE BALSAM WAS LEFT, IT WOULD HAVE SEEDED BY AUTUMN. MANY SEEDS WOULD HAVE FLOATED DOWNSTREAM, POTENTIALLY FORMING NEW STANDS OF HIMALAYAN BALSAM.
    
    A LARGE PILE OF BALSAM
    
    THANKS.