15th November 2016
ATF Cumbria visit to Lowther Park
Charles Bennet of the ATF Cumbria group, writes about the group’s second field trip, which was led by Ian Jack, head forester at the Lowther Estate, and the group’s founding member.
On the 24 September 2016 the Cumbria Branch of the Ancient Tree Forum met at Lowther Castle for a tour of Lowther Park in Cumbria, an old deer forest. The visit followed on from the group’s first field event, to the wood pastures of Geltsdale in June 2016, and looked at how the wood pastures on this part of the Lowther Estate have evolved into parkland.
The day started with a fascinating briefing presented by Ian on the history of the Lowther Deer Park. This ranged from the iron-age, via its award as a deer park by Edward I, through several incarnations as a landscape created by the great landscape designers of their ages including Capability Brown, to the current day where it is home to the Kendal Calling Festival.
After the introduction Ian led the group of 20 around parts of the deer park normally out of bounds to the public, starting at the iron-age settlement, past the haie, a gap between two areas of woodland where deer were driven to be caught in nets, and areas of recent plantings. We were introduced to some fine examples of ancient and veteran trees, including ash, oak, beech, pine, and sweet chestnut.
There was much discussion about how the park as we see it today has evolved, the lack of diversity, particularly in ground flora and a shrub layer, and what could be done to ensure the future of the deer park as a wood pasture, protect the most important trees from the sheep, and to improve its biodiversity. Ian explained how he is planting new trees to become the veterans of the future, and how he has managed to fence off some areas from the sheep so has been able to plant shrubs; hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn and spindle, to help with biodiversity. Wild flower planting is also on his agenda.
Ian brought the group to an area just outside, but very importantly adjacent to, the ancient deer park where he has fenced off an area which has been planted up in order to create a new wood pasture habitat. Although there were no sheep in here, there were deer. Again within this area there were separately fenced off blocks of shrubs with occasional trees.
From here it was on to the site of the Kendal Calling Festival with its many large veteran trees. Discussions were had on protecting the trees during the festival, as well as managing the trees from a safety point of view, taking account of the 30,000 people who, in keeping with the sheep theme, flock onto the site for the festival, which provides substantial revenue for the Estate.
Of course it is that time of year when many fungi are evident from their fruiting bodies. And some fantastic fungi were on show including; a wonderful Inonotus dryadeus, Fistulina hepatica, Grifola frondosa, and a fantastic beech covered in Ganoderma sp. and Meripilus giganteus brackets.
The day ended back at the iron-age settlement and a late lunch looking out towards Askham, Helton and the Lake District fells beyond. During lunch ideas for the groups next visits were discussed. So watch this space for future events.
A video of the Lowther Estate visit has been made by group member Damon Peacock.