By Marianne Birkby
Wildlife and Environment Artist
Click on pictures to enlarge
Robin in Rusland Mist
Hawfinch Rusland Beech
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Ten years on from the threat of clear felling and the Rusland
Beeches are still standing looking as beautiful as ever and providing much
needed habitat for bats, birds and insects. Bats include the solo pipistrelle
and noctule - birds include the hawfinch which particularly likes beech
Here is a time line which gives an indication of the historical perspective.
Late 1700s The Rusland Beeches were planted at about the time of
1787 Margaret Taylor (thought to be the ghost of the the Rusland Beeches) of
Ealinghearth cottage buried at Finsthwaite Church
Late 1800s Mary Gregson of Rusland writes the poem of the Maid of
Ealinghearth - the lonely ghost of the beeches
1883 Tree grafitti appears - a bark peelers hut
1835 More tree grafitti - a ship in full sail is carved into one of the
1952 A tree preservation order is put on the trees following a request from
Friends of the Lake District
1984 Lake District National Park authority acquire the Rusland Beeches
1987 and 1988 severe gales in England - No significant damage to Rusland
1984-6 The National Park Authority fell 22 trees - people are told it is
"due to biforkation"
1995 Heavy snow fall - remaining 54 Rusland Beeches remain largely intact
1996 National Park Authority propose clearfelling the Rusland Beeches.
Friends of the Lake District, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, English Nature, Local
bat group all agree that it is "for the best of reasons- safety"
1996 Save the Rusland Beeches are formed - all volunteers. South Lakeland
Friends of the Earth are the only group to
support the commissioning of an independent report into the health of the
trees. Report by Roger Cartwright and Andrew Lee recommends that only 10 of
the 54 trees be felled and the rest sensitively managed.
1997 Following the campaign by Save the Rusland Beeches the Department of
the Environment sends an expert who says only
9 of the trees should be felled. The National Park authority remain
unconvinced and reiterate claims that the trees are "dead,dying and
dangerous" - another DOE expert is sent who says only 4 of the trees should
be felled and most of the rest with sensitive management. could remain for
many more years. 4 of the 50 trees are felled.
2001 Rusland Beeches closed for access - a measure brought about as a
response to foot and mouth
2006 A very sad day the school I went to as a child - Satterthwaite and
Rusland village school closes - 9 years earlier the school children had
written poems revealing how they felt about the trees and the thought that
the trees might be clearfelled. These children are now young adults.
Some of the poems....
"What have the beeches done wrong? They have done no crime. So don't chop
them down. They have been there for a very long time"
"The beeches have been there a very long time, they've done no crime.
They're just past Julie Crows farm, they do no harm"
"The beeches give out oxygen. Without trees we'd die . Don't destroy the
beeches, or perish might you or I"
"If we had no trees , how would we breathe? If the beeches were not here,
what would become of Margaret's lonely wandering spirit?"
2007 The trees continue to provide increasing wildlife habitat and in the
words of Elvis Costello "useless beauty"
Personal observation: The attitude to veteran trees has changed from 10
years ago and they are increasingly valued - BUT
beeches in the Lake
District are viewed as non-native by many authorities and this was a main
argument for clear felling -even though they were here in the north west
before the last ice age and it could be argued they would have made their
way up north naturally. The beech trees in the south of England where they
are percieved as truly native are beginning to suffer from climate change -
another reason to cherish the old veteran beeches here in the north.
Marianne is planning to complete a celebratory series of paintings of the
trees from this summer to autumn (see left).
New work featured in the exhibition is the wildlife of Leighton Moss from
bearded tits to red deer. Marianne has recently worked with volunteers at
Leighton Moss on a series of giant jigsaws depicting the diversity of
wildlife and interconnections on the RSPB reserve. There are also new pastel
paintings of the wildlife of the Rusland beeches - 10 years on from the
campaign to prevent clear felling, the trees are providing increasing
For further information regarding Marianne's work and details of her
Exhibitions please phone Kendal Museum
on 01539 721374
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