Click on pictures below to enlarge
Diamond oak- Featherstone Castle Cumbria
View of massive alder pollard and Ullswater
Each month we turn our focus upon a different county,
highlighting some key ancient tree sites and identifying some other
places of general interest for tree-lovers. Other than Woodland
Trust properties, admission or parking charges apply for many sites,
and as access may be prohibited or limited to certain dates or
times, it’s always advisable to check with the site owner or with
the local Tourist Information Office before making a visit.
This month we head north-west to Cumbria,
billed as “England’s most beautiful corner” and one of our few
remaining havens for that most endearing rodent, the red squirrel.
If Cumbria makes you instantly picture the Lake District National
Park, however, then it’s time to take another look. This county
boasts a breathtaking diversity of landscape, with coastline,
farmland, woodland, mountains, fells, valleys and yes, the lakes as
To the north, Carlisle provides interesting heritage,
with its cathedral, castle, citadel and museums. It was originally
sited on Hadrian’s Wall, built by Roman legionaries from AD122 to
mark the northern frontier of their empire. Now a World Heritage
Site, large sections of the wall remain, adding a marvellous
historic feature to some truly spectacular scenery.
The Eden Valley to the eastern side of the county is
perhaps least well known but is in fact quite delightful, combining
the rugged North Pennines with lush green valley. Well worth a visit
are the four historic towns of Alston, Penrith, Appleby and Kirkby
Stephen, and Ullswater to the west, with its shoreline, meadows,
sheer rocks and woodland is just enchanting.
To the far west are the red sandstone nesting cliffs
at Little Bees, the Georgian port of Whitehaven and the Victorian
town of Silloth. Here lies the heart of the Solway Firth, an Area of
Outstanding Natural Beauty, with rare wildlife and views to
Scotland. Inland is Cockermouth, Wordsworth’s birthplace, whilst the
Western Lake District boasts Hardknott Pass (Europe’s steepest),
Wastwater (England’s deepest lake) and Scafell Pike (England’s
Towering above the tree-lined Thirlmere is the
highest peak in the Northern Lakes, Helvellyn, providing a challenge
for climbers and walkers alike. Skiddaw provides a similar setting
for Bassenthwaite, home to England’s sole pair of breeding ospreys.
The “Queen of the Lakes” is Derwent Water, with its wooded fells and
tiny islands, whilst the spectacular Lodore Falls introduces the
glacial valley of Borrowdale and the wildness of Honister Pass.
Nearby Keswick, meanwhile, attracts both shoppers and
culture-vultures, with its acclaimed Theatre by the Lake.
Popular for boating and water-sports, Windermere -
England’s longest lake - lies beneath some wonderful peaks and
woodland. Another mountain, the Old Man of Coniston, overlooks the
more peaceful Coniston Water. Other places of interest in Central
and Southern Lakeland include Ambleside, Bowness and Hawkshead
village, whilst fell walkers, following in the steps of Alfred
Wainwright, might visit the historic riverside town of Kendal.
There’s the picturesque Rydal Water and Grasmere too, whilst the
Kent Estuary provides both sands and rivulets at Arnside.
So, where might
you go in this ever-changing landscape to find some ancient trees or
ancient woodland sites? Well, the National Trust invariably provides
a good start. It’s responsible for conserving about 25% of the Lake
District National Park, amounting to some 123,500 acres, which is
about a quarter of the National Trust's entire holding. It owns or
leases almost all the central fells area and the major valley heads.
National Trust’s first acquisition in the Lake District, Brandelhow
Woods, is located on the shore of Derwentwater in
(NY2417), which heads our list. This area, covering more than 29,000
1,000 ancient specimens including pollards of ash, wych elm,
small-leafed lime, oak, rowan, holly, birch, yew, hawthorn, hazel
and crab. Fine examples can be found at Wood Bank (ash) and Low Bank
(over 100 ash and wych elm) near Seathwaite. Similarly, around 100
ash pollards are to be found at Wood Bank near Watendlath, a lovely
hamlet under the protection of the National Trust.
Ancient ash pollards are also located at Langdale (NY3006).
The National Trust’s Coniston and Tarn Hows area comprises a mixture
of fell and woodland, covering some 6,600 acres. It includes the
well-known Tarn Hows beauty spot and Little Langdale, which provides
several indicators of there being early settlements here. Further
examples of ancient trees can be spotted on National Trust land at
Hartsop (NY4013) and at Gowbarrow Park (NY4120).
Around 35 ash pollards are located at the first site and alder, wych
elm, oak and ash trees are all to be found at the second.
Another National Trust property, Windermere and Troutbeck, includes
the beautiful and secluded head of the Troutbeck valley, as well as
several sites next to Lake Windermere. One of these, Troutbeck
Park (NY4207), offers another excellent opportunity to seek out
a number of ancient ash pollards. This site was once farmed by
Beatrix Potter and was her largest farm. Footpaths lead from
Ambleside over Wansfell to the Troutbeck Valley and offer high-level
views and contrasting valley landscapes.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust is also responsible for preserving several
ancient woodland sites in the county. To the south, Brown Robin
(SD415790) near Grange over Sands provides a popular nature
reserve of over 60 acres of woodlands and pasture. Parts of this
woodland are ancient, and the yew and ash trees probably mark these
areas. They naturally adopt limy soil, and the rock here is of
limestone. Other ancient woodland indicators are present, including
carpets of bluebells together with wood anemone, primrose and wild
garlic. Another interesting and less common feature is Spindle,
which also grows here, producing pink berries in the autumn.
Park Wood (SD565777), a National Nature Reserve near Burton in
ancient woodland on a series of limestone terraces,
with small areas of grassland. Look out for field maples here.
Ancient woodland and species-rich grassland are also to be found on
the steep banks of Argill Beck.
(NY844139) near Brough is accessible via public footpaths or by
permit. The steep reserve of Ivy Crag Wood (NY244266) near
Keswick is home to mature oak woodland, believed to have been
planted in the 18th century, and fine examples of sweet
chestnut, sycamore and beech are also present, together with wood
sage, bluebells and wood anemone.
Woodland Trust has a number of interesting properties too, including
Dufton Ghyll Wood (NY685251) toward the western edge of the
Northern Pennines at Dufton near Appleby, designated as both a
of Special Scientific Interest and
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and listed as Ancient
Semi-Natural Woodland by the Nature Conservancy Council. As well as
some superb views and wonderful woodland, with mature beech, elm,
oak, sweet chestnut and sycamore, the sharp-eyed visitor may well be
lucky enough to spot a red squirrel. Milton Rigg Wood
(NY560615) near Brampton, a few miles south of Hadrian’s Wall,
provides another outstanding landscape feature with some fine mature
oak trees. This site, part semi-natural ancient woodland and part
planted ancient woodland, is dominated by beech and oak, with
pockets of birch, ash and sycamore. Ancient woodland indicators are
present among the 200-plus species of flowering plants, which have
been recorded at this location. Within the Lake District National
Park stand Moss and Height Spring Woods (SD324863), near
Bouth around 8 miles north-east of Ulverston. This attractive
ancient woodland site is believed to be at least 350 years old.
Along with the predominant mixed coppice including alder, birch and
hazel, there are some fine specimens of oak and yew, and keep an eye
open for the red squirrels which still reside here.
are three other sites that may be of interest. Geltsdale
(NY5653) – a Site of Special Scientific Interest – is home to
several hundred veteran trees including alders. Ancient ash pollards
are in evidence around Ullswater (NY4420), which is the
area’s second largest lake at more than seven miles long and on
average around three-quarters of a mile wide. Its three distinct
bends are often considered to give it the appearance of a dog's leg!
Owned by the Diocese of Carlisle, Rydale Park (NY3706) has
fine examples of oak in the old park and alder and ash in the new
park, and the public footpaths provide adequate viewing facilities.
If you know of other ancient trees in Cumbria or if
you wish to suggest a site for inclusion in next month’s article,
Focus on Wiltshire, we’d love to hear from you! Please
us, providing as much information as possible and preferably
including an Ordnance Survey map reference.
We’re also very keen to build up a library of
photographs of ancient trees and ancient tree sites. Can you help?
If you’re willing to share your treescapes and tree portraits,
them to us, remembering to provide location details for each photo,
with an Ordnance Survey map reference if possible. We’d love to
include them in a future article!