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Sprucing up South Lakes nature reserve to make way for our native trees

Joe Murphy, Senior Reserves Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust (right) with Oliver Newhouse, forestry student at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, at Howe Ridding Wood Nature Reserve, where spruce trees are making way for more traditional woodland.

[W]hile many of us are decorating our Christmas trees for the festive season, work is underway at a South Lakes nature reserve to remove a plantation of conifers. One and a half hectares (roughly the area of 1.5 football pitches) of non-native spruce trees are being removed from Howe Ridding Wood Nature Reserve, near Witherslack. The trees are being felled by Witherslack Woodlands and the 700 tonnes of timber will be used to fuel biomass boilers around Cumbria.

Joe Murphy, Senior Reserves Officer for Cumbria Wildlife Trust explains why: “Spruce plantations like this were planted after the war, at a time when there was a need for more timber production, but we felt it was time to clear it to enable more of our natural woodland to regenerate. Howe Ridding Wood is an area of ancient woodland, full of wonderful native trees such as oak, ash, birch and alder. We have some majestic small-leafed lime trees, probably the largest you’ll see anywhere in the county, and in the spring the nature reserve is a carpet of bluebells. In early April, there’s a sea of beautiful wild daffodils, which are much rarer than the larger garden varieties.

“By clearing the spruce plantation, we’ll enable more of this glorious woodland habitat to flourish. Working with volunteers, we’ll carry out some maintenance over the coming year, removing spruce seedlings as they appear, and we should see the native trees start to recolonise this space very soon. We’ll also continue our regular work around the rest of the nature reserve, coppicing, fencing and clearing scrubland to create space for butterflies – we’re lucky enough to have rare species such as the pearl bordered and high brown fritillary here. It’s a very special nature reserve and all of this conservation work ensures that people will be able to enjoy this wonderful environment for many years to come.”

Volunteer work parties will take place at Howe Ridding Wood Nature Reserve throughout the coming year, starting on Thursday 18 January 2018. Find out how to get involved at http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/volunteer-with-us

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