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Teams of community volunteers have worked with local school children and Forestry Commission staff to create a new woodland walk in the Lake District.
More than 30 volunteers have spent hundreds of hours creating a 2.4km-long (one and a half miles) circular ‘Words in the Woods’ trail through Masmill Oakwood, in Whinlatter Forest, near Keswick.
The trail - which was opened on Saturday, March 12 by Lord Judd - will feature numbered posts, as well as an information panel, all crafted from storm-damaged Masmill oak. The posts are inset with a poetic, thoughtful or humorous verse from writers, philosophers and conservationists who cherished the natural environment.
Cumbrian artist Kim Butler has also carved a tree or plant found within the wood on each of the posts and there will be installations made from local Honister slate.
The trail passes through two areas of mature oak woodland and an area of new oak trees planted to replace a coniferous wood that was felled by the Forestry Commission to make way for the native broadleaf trees.
Volunteers from the local community were joined by pupils from schools in Threlkeld, Borrowdale, Bassenthwaite and Braithwaite, as well as people from the West House charitable trust in Workington, to plant new oak trees in Masmill Oakwood in addition to building the new walk.
Nathan Fox, Forestry Commission forest ranger at Whinlatter, said:
“The creation of the Words in the Woods trail, and the new planting at Masmill Oakwood, has been a real grassroots community partnership project. It has been great to see the volunteers and the school children come up to this part of Whinlatter to help create this wonderful walk and help restore the native woodland – which will give a positive boost to the area’s environment.”
The Masmill Oakwood project has been assisted by £35,000 funding from the Bassenthwaite Reflections Landscape Partnership Programme
Lord Judd, who is president of Friends of the Lake District and a vice president of the Campaign for National Parks, and who also lives locally to Whinlatter, said:
“I’m delighted to be able to open this new trail which provides access to the area of newly planted native broadleaved woodland. It is encouraging to see local volunteers working with the Forestry Commission, and being so active in their local woodland”.
By replacing conifers with native broadleaf trees, the purity of Bassenthwaite Lake will be improved as soil erosion will be curbed. Broadleaf planting will also encourage the return of a rich variety of woodland flora and fauna – such as wood sorrel, bird cherry, dog violet and bilberry.
Colin Webb, from Cockermouth, a volunteer who helped create the woodland, said:
“I’ve spent a lot of time running, orienteering and cycling in Whinlatter and working on this project seemed an ideal opportunity to put something back.
“I’ve worked alongside dozens of volunteers of all ages and together we have cleared non-native species and areas of brash for planting. We have also created habitat piles and planted thousands of broadleaf trees. I still get a thrill every time I see those green leaves sprouting from the top of their protective tubes.
“I know that with oak trees being what they are I won’t be around to see the eventual results of our work, but hopefully my children will and one day they will look out from the tracks above Masmill and think ‘thanks dad’.”
For more information about Whinlatter log on to www.forestry.gov.uk/whinlatter
For more information on Bassenthwaite Reflections or the Masmill Oakwood project visit www.bassenthwaite-reflections.co.uk
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over 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 today are managed for conservation, wildlife, landscape and recreation as well as providing a valuable source of timber. www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland
Sarah Bruce, the Forestry Commission’s marketing manager in Cumbria, on 01229 862011 or 07827 232832; or alternatively Nathan Fox on 017687 78611.