Home > ATF Field Meeting Reports > First meeting of ATF Cumbria takes place in Geltsdale

18th July 2016

First meeting of ATF Cumbria takes place in Geltsdale

by Ian Jack

Ian Jack, co-ordinator of the new Ancient Tree Forum Cumbria group, joined the members for their first field event this June.

The Cumbria chapter of the ATF had its inaugural meeting on a beautiful spring day in June at the magnificent pasture woodlands of Geltsdale in the foothills of the Northern Cumbria Pennines. The day was ably lead by Iris Glimmerveen who has been associated with these woodlands for the last  nineteen years.

The pasture woodlands at Geltsdale are in a truly wonderful setting and Iris is clearly at one with all that these woodlands represent and laid on a day which will be well remembered by all who participated.

The theme of the day was ‘trees within trees’ and Iris began by explaining how one of the amazing features of Geltsdale is how Rowan trees often seed themselves into niches in Alders and these two trees then age together. The Rowan does not live off the Alder but with it, both trees occupying the same space. The Rowan puts down aerial roots which helps in time to give the whole structure a fantastical appearance. Eventually the Alder succumbs to age and withers leaving the Rowan to act out a solitary role as it too becomes ancient.

 by Ian Jack

Rown seedling in the crook of an alder tree

The whole of this act plays out over a very long time period and, at Geltsdale, in a largely open woodland setting amongst other mature and ancient trees. What was truly remarkable was that Iris was able to show us all the stages of this relationship from early seedlings in the crook of a mature Alder (above) through mature examples of both occupying the same space to hulks of veteran Alder  with ancient Rowan, and the final stage of fascinating-shaped Rowan living on their own. We even saw an ancient Rowan entwined with an ancient Alder (below).

by Ian Jack

ancient rowan and alder growing together


School children visit this site and are encouraged to interact closely with the trees and even give them names. One boy when asked why he had hugged a tree at the end of the visit said it was because it was his friend. Our group was like a bunch of children loose in a sweet shop and needed no encouragement to interact with the trees. They were hugged, photographed and climbed onto and into as the group lost themselves in the fairyland of Geltsdale as Iris cleverly revealed one wonder after another.

Finally when we thought the day had finished Iris brought out her ace in the shape of a short pleasant walk to the magnificent Tottergill oak (below). Probably four hundred years old at 8.5 metres in girth and still very healthy and thriving.

by Ian Jack cropped

Tottergill oak, Geltsdale, Cumbria


The group departed replete and looking forward to the next Cumbrian outing on the 24th September when pasture woods will again be the theme but with a different slant. If you want to learn more we will see you there.

A video of the Geltsdale event, exploring the wood pasture setting, has been made by group member Damon Peacock.

Posted by: Ian Jack Ian Jack is Head Forester at Lowther Estates, and leads the ATF Cumbria group.

1 Comments | Leave a Comment

  • Jim O'Neill says:
    Posted July 18, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Ian Jack has captured the day lead by Iris well. For those of you who have never been to the woods in Geltsdale, I would encourage a visit, it really is a special place, with special trees. To be so ably hosted by the most enthusiastic of tree lovers, Iris Glimmerveen, finds you swept along with the passion she has for the trees and the location.


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