Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Central and East Lakes Rangers: Juniper Conservation Work at Troutbeck Park Farm.

Juniper, a long lived and slow growing conifer tree, is in decline in the U.K. Cumbria, even with the most extensive stands in England, is no exception.

As one of the first tree species to "colonise" Cumbria after the last ice age, juniper has been a feature on this landscape ever since.

Juniper is adapted to extreme weather conditions, and thrives on the poor soil of the Lake District fells.

Many of the trees in Cumbria are now very old; some stands have trees upwards of 200 years old. Unfortunately, the few seedlings that they do manage to reproduce are heavily grazed by sheep, rabbits and deer.

Juniper's poor regeneration is of such concern, that it has been included in the Biodiversity Action Plan as  a priority species for Cumbria.

National Trust Ranger digging out and scraping
away the turf, prior to planting a seedling.
Juniper is a dioecious  (two houses)  tree species. This means that the male and the female flowers grow on separate trees. In effect,  individual  juniper trees are either male or female.

A reasonable number of both male and female junipers, able to produce viable seeds, are needed at any given site to ensure successful regenerations.

Funding from the High Level Scheme has allowed for the planting of 500 seedlings on Doup Crag, high above Troutbeck Park Farm, to hopefully boost numbers here over the long term. 

National Trust Land Rover with the plants and materials.
Using the power barrow to take the tools
and materials on the next leg of the journey.
The quad bike and trailer also being used to transport
the juniper seedlings, stakes and mesh guards.

This is the point where it is too difficult for the quad bike to go any further.
Everything has to now be manually carried up the long, steep slope .
  Clambering up into the mist with bundles of stakes and mesh guards.
The designated planting site is still some distance away.....

A young Juniper....approx 3 years old newly planted into bare ground.
The turf has been stripped back from around where the juniper has been planted.
Junipers packed around with straw in storage box, prior to being planted.
Juniper protected by plastic mesh guards.
Juniper is an important habitat:

It supports, or is host to over 40 types of insects, including the Juniper Carpet Moth. The caterpillars feed exclusively on juniper. Larvae of the Juniper Berry Miner Moth feed on  juniper seeds.

Juniper's dense prickly foilage provides good cover and protection for nesting birds.

The Ring Ouzel, an upland bird of the thrush family, feeds up on ripe juniper berries before its Autumn migration to Southern Spain, or the Atlas Mountains in North West Africa.

Various schemes, aimed at conserving juniper, will hopefully safeguard the long term future of this threatened species.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The uplands for Juniper project

The Uplands for Juniper Project aims to conserve and restore Cumbrian Juniper populations through targeted survey work and the provision of management plans to land owners and land managers. Juniper and other tree species are being planted by Cumbria Wildlife Trust where populations are in decline or in places where recreated juniper stands will provide stepping stones between existing populations.
A young Juniper plant
This focus on juniper conservation came about after long term declines across the UK in the 20th Century. A decline of 60% up to 1960 was followed by a 31% range contraction in the UK from 1970. These declines lead to Juniper being identified as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species, and the species was later the only vascular plant to be short-listed as a Cumbrian BAP species.

The Wren and SITA funded Project has now surveyed more than 260 stands – a huge effort which was only made possible by the dedication and commitment of more than forty volunteers. Unfortunately, the survey findings don’t make great reading, as the majority of stands are in long term decline due predominantly to sheep browsing but with shading by tall trees and browsing by red deer being important factors in some areas. The mapping of all of these juniper stands will be used for decades to come – resulting in more focused and strategic conservation efforts in the future, which will hopefully counter the decline that the survey has now highlighted. 

Glenamara Park above Ullswater which is owned by the National Trust is one area that was identified as a site for planting, 500 young plants were planted over two years along with 40 Aspen trees.  It will act as a stepping stone for the stands of Juniper to the west on Glenridding common and to the south at Hartsop.

An Aspen tree protected by a tree guard.

 National Trust rangers and volunteers having a well earned break.
The Uplands for Juniper Project will come to an end in 2014, having planted 9000 juniper across the Lake District, and having encouraged more positive conservation work through 40 management plans Juniper in the Lake District will remain a common feature for many years to come.  

Friday, 6 December 2013

Water-Gate (Heck) at Troutbeck Park Farm.

One of the many water gates or "hecks" at Troutbeck Park Farm needed repairing recently.

The wooden cross "beam" had collapsed into the stream, after becoming rotten in the middle.

A replacement was needed  urgently.

These gates or hecks act as barriers to livestock, whilst allowing the stream to flow past.

A recently felled birch at St. Catherine's looked to be an ideal replacement.


With the bark stripped off, it was ready for several coats of wood preserver.
Getting the replacement "beam" into position.
The length of birch  was transported to site by land-rover and trailer.

Final adjustments.
Drilling through the new beam to allow the "swing gates" to be attached . 
Job done!