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Forestry Commission contractors in Cumbria have been working to thin the growth of one of the county’s oldest living trees to help it survive.
The small-leaved lime has been growing in Rainsbarrow Wood, near Ulpha, in the Duddon Valley for between 500 and 700 years – making it older than the Sistine Chapel, the Church of England and it probably would have been around to witness the War of the Roses.
The tree had been pollarded - where upper branches are removed to encourage a dense head of foliage and branches - around seven years ago. Staff at the Forestry Commission took advice from a lime tree expert who recommended that the re-growth should be pruned as there was a danger that the regrowing branches may split the trunk – the oldest part - of the tree.
Nigel Williams, Forestry Commission beat forester, said:
“This tree must be one of oldest in Cumbria and will have been living during many important moments in history. We needed to do some work to the tree in order for it to continue to survive for many more years to come.
“It was advised that we should thin out the re-growth in order to stop branches breaking off and splitting the trunk in the future.
“Because of the age of the tree it is very important for the biodiversity of the wood. Old trees like this contain a lot of dead wood, which are liked by insects. Also a tawny owl roosts in the tree.”
Matt Flynn of local contractors Radiata Specialist Tree Services did the pruning work.
Cumbria is at the most northerly limit for small-leaved lime trees. The small-leaved limes need high summer temperatures in order for their seed to set and it is believed that this tree is one of a few small-leaved lime trees that have survived from a warmer period in history as the Lake District’s temperatures are now too low when the trees flower for them to pollinate. However, this may change in the future with global warming.
The presence of small-leaved lime trees in Cumbria has been shown to accurately mark sites where woodland has existed since prehistoric times.
The Forestry Commission recognised the importance of these trees more than 50 years ago and has used its research knowledge and skills to help preserve them ever since.
More information about the Forestry Commission’s work in Cumbria and the rest of the North West can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland
Notes to editors
The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain, with responsibility for more than one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The North West England Forest District covers the Lake District in Cumbria, the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. The forests are managed for conservation, wildlife, landscape and recreation as well as providing a valuable source of timber.
Nigel Williams on 01229 862009 or Sarah Bruce on 01229-862011 or 07827 232832.