Giggle Alley lies on a small knoll adjacent to the village of Eskdale Green on the western edge of the Lake District National Park. The woodland extends to nine hectares and is owned freehold having been purchased from the Outward Bound Trust, the owners of the Gatehouse Estate in 1961.
Giggle Alley is greatly valued by the local community and visitors alike who enjoy its diverse woodland character, secluded nature, and Japanese Garden all within a very small area. Its close proximity to the village of Eskdale Green encourages regular visits by local residents. In addition the gardens growing popularity sees visitors from a much wider catchment area including Gosforth and Seascale as well as visitors from outside Cumbria. The woodland is only a short walk from the Irton Road station of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway which is a very popular tourist attraction.
The woodland that surrounds the garden is home to a wide variety of tree species all benefiting from the freely draining brown earth soils and, with the exception of Stag Wood, a southerly aspect. Excluding Stag Wood the woodland has been regularly thinned and regeneration is occurring at encouraging levels. Access for harvesting is difficult but this has encouraged management to develop a little and often approach which has helped minimise disruption to the public. The January 2005 storm caused significant damage to 15% of the woodland. The clearance of the windblow was completed by Autumn 2005 leaving three new clearings. Much of the timber from the clearance was stacked in the wood is slowly being removed as firewood by the local community.
Giggle Alley is a small diverse woodland area with limited significant conservation features. It does include a number of large native trees especially oak and is home to native wildlife such as badgers and Red Squirrels. Roe Deer from Miterdale make occasional forays into the wood.
In terms of historical features Giggle Alley includes 15 features of archaeological interest ranging from a possible prehistoric ring cairn to medieval bloomeries and features associated with charcoal production. In addition there are a few remnant foundations of greenhouses and building platforms from the late 19th century period as part of the Gate House Estate.
The main overall objective for Giggle Alley is to manage Giggle Alley for the benefit of the local community as a place of recreation and as part of a wider project to deliver local employment, tourism and sustainable tourism. Other objectives are:
Manage the woodland through Continuous Cover (regular thinning) to encourage the woodland to regenerate naturally and develop large specimen trees for their amenity value.
Start a process of rhododendron control in Stag Wood.
Timber from thinning offered locally as woodfuel.
Local contracts used where possible.
Improved information and signing will make it easier for visitors to find and enjoy the garden and woodland walks.
Continue to involve the local community and work with the Parish Council to maximise befits to the local area.
Some of the timber from the thinning will be offered to local people for use as woodfuel.
To ensure that this fit with the landscape continues it is important that the woodland is regularly thinned to release natural regeneration to renew the woodland whilst at the same time allowing specimen trees to develop. These are important in maintaining structure and character to the woodland and continuing its link with the landscape. Clear felling doesn’t fit with this philosophy and so should not be used for managing Stag Wood.
Given the difficult access and lack of roadside space harvesting should be small scale but frequent with the timber produced offered locally. Restoring the native broadleaf character of Stag Wood is important but at the same time this should not detract from the value of Giggle Alley's non-native species including the area of beech. This is highly valued locally and should be retained and allowed to regenerate as long as the species does not threaten to dominate the woodland.
The Japanese Garden has come a long way in the last ten years from rescue through restoration which is still ongoing but now into possible expansion. The garden is both an important heritage feature and recreational resource for the community. The continued maintenance of the garden remains a priority and any expansion must continue to be weighed up against the resources available to maintain new areas. Key to the future of the garden is controlling the Gaultheria and Sasa grass as well as securing future labour and resources.
Given the unthinned and dense rhododendron in Stag Wood recreational access is currently concentrated on only half of the woodland area. Access to the southern half of the wood has improved in the last 5 years with new steps and the ramp being maintained. In addition better signing is planned. The future of the unmanaged area behind the car park should be explored to release benefits to the local community.