Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Grand Fir of Skelghyll Woods

Our Rangers in the Lake District have discovered the tallest tree of its kind in England growing in one of their woodlands. The Grand Fir, which stands at 57.8m high, has now been crowned the tallest tree in Cumbria and the tallest Grand Fir in England. 

The Grand Fir of Skelghyll Woods
Officials from the Tree Register, the body which keeps a record of the UK’s notable and ancient specimens, have confirmed the Fir’s giant status. Lead Ranger John Pring had called in specialist arboriculturists to help him measure the tree’s dizzy heights - and also decided to capture the experience on video, with the help of Dreamtime Film, an award-winning Cumbrian film company.

The Grand Fir was planted in around 1860 as part of an arboretum at the Wansfell Holme country estate. The area is now known as Skelghyll Woods and is a mixed oak woodland with the addition of a small selection of conifers. John said: “A survey 20 years ago suggested that some of these trees were going to get really big. We decided to get them resurveyed this year and Toby Fisher, a local forestry consultant, kept coming back with the same figure for this tree. We knew it was something special and decided to get it more accurately measured. “It really is a rather splendid specimen so it was great news when it was confirmed as the tallest tree of its kind in the country, as well as the tallest of all the trees in Cumbria.”

Mark Sigrist and Mick Lupton of Aspen Tree Management scaled the tree, then used a long badminton pole to reach the top of the tree’s highest branches where they weren’t able to climb. They also placed a camera at the top for some time-lapse photography and to record the amazing views across Windermere and beyond. John said: “I’ve worked with Mark and Mick on numerous occasions and they are used to me asking them for weird and wonderful things!  Not so long ago I sent them to the top of some lime trees armed with a freezer bag and a pair of scissors to snip the top shoots, known as ‘sun leaves’, for a research project. They’re more used to carrying chain saws up trees than little pairs of scissors!”

At 57.8m or 189.6ft, the Skelghyll Grand Fir is higher than Nelson’s Column (51.59m) and taller than a dozen double decker buses stacked on top of each other.

If, as thought, it was planted in 1860, that was the year Charles Dickens published his first installment of Great Expectations, Britain produced 20% of the world’s output of industrial goods, JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan was born, and the Pony Express mail delivery service was launched in Missouri.

The Grand Fir, or Abies Grandis, originated in Canada and is widely seen across North America. The tallest tree in the whole of the UK is a Grand Fir, located in Argyll, which stands at 211ft (64m).

See the film footage of the measuring of Skelghyll’s Grand Fir

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