Woodland & landscape
Lowther woodland featured in BBC TV Countryfile on 30 January 2011. Here's an extract of John Craven's interview with Ian Jack:
JC: What I want to know is whether handing over woodland to the private sector is necessarily a bad thing. I’m in Cumbria in the heart of the Whinfell Forest. 6,000 acres of it. And it’s been the private property of the Earls of Lonsdale for hundreds of years. It’s a commercial proposition and it’s Ian Jack’s job to look after it. What’s your first priority? IJ: The first priority is to manage these woodlands efficiently to make sure we meet the owner’s objectives, producing some timber to sell but at the same time promoting wildlife. JC: So money isn’t everything? IJ Money isn’t everything. We very much care about the woodlands. We have cared about the woodlands for 500 years on this estate. JC: Do you have public access here? IJ: There’s a public footpath that runs through the woodland. We encourage people to use that, we are happy for people to use that but it would be too dangerous for people to use the other parts of the woodland because of felling operation . There’s also shooting in these woodlands. We just don’t want people to get hurt. JC: But elsewhere on the estate everyone’s welcome. IJ This is one of the community woodlands which we did for the public about five years ago. It stretches for about a mile that way. It’s about 100 acres. We planted it principally for the local village to use for their own enjoyment. JC: Given time and patience it’s really going to look like a proper woodland, isn’t it? IJ: Yes, it’s only five years old now but it will be spectacular woodland one day. JC: So, if private ownership works here, why not elsewhere too?
Many Lowther trees have stories about them.
Beech from the battle of Waterloo A footpath linking Lowther to Eamont Bridge along the River Lowther passes through ancient beech that tower over mere humans like the vaults of a massive cathedral. The story goes that an eminent member of the family was one of Lord Wellington’s lieutenants at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Having sent the Emperor Napoleon packing, the day after the victory a group of the victorious officers went walking in the nearby Forêt de Soigne. They saw the forest was beautiful, made of spectacular beech trees. Lieutenant Lowther collected a batch of seedlings and brought them home to plant by the river at Lowther. There is a remarkable and uncanny resemblance between the beech at Lowther and those in the Forêt de Soigne, between Waterloo and Brussels, said to be one of the most beautiful forests in Europe. Needless to say, the beech at Lowther will never be felled but will continue to give pleasure to all who stand in their presence. The Lowther trees are recognised to be of such good quality that their seed is in demand throughout Britain by tree nurseries who grow them to market the seedlings to be grown into the forests of tomorrow.
The Squadron of Horse Three large ancient groves of beech stand on one of the highest parts of the estate in the South Park. Fable has it that a marauding band of Scots had crossed the border pillaging and ransacking as they went. After a drunken night in Penrith they awoke with severe hangovers in the cold light of dawn to see, what they thought to be four squadron of English horse, coming over the hill to attack them. Needless to say, they high-tailed it back over the border as quickly as they could. These days, the trees which make up the Squadrons are not the spritely young things that deterred the marauding Scots, but venerable and very much cared for by the Lowther family. They are protected and nursed along in their old age and if one looks closely on the ground underneath these beautiful trees, one can see new seedlings which will be nurtured to take the place of the veterans when they finally succumb to the vagaries of the wind and weather.
The Barbados pines The trees that form the impressive backdrop to the showfield arena, on the hill on the opposite side of the river, came from Barbados. Many years ago, the then Earl of Lonsdale was appointed to be governor of Barbados. Desiring to take a small piece of Lowther with him, he transplanted a number of Scots pine from one of this favourite woods and took them as small seedlings to stand on the veranda and in the grounds of his bungalow in Barbados. Having completed his time as governor and still very much attached to the trees, he once again packed them away to be fetched back to Britain and replanted them where he could see them from Lowther Castle. These trees are also now ancient and venerable and in their turn played host to many important ecosystems with interesting beetles and fungi. They will never be felled but will be nurtured and their progeny encouraged to thrive and so continue to give pleasure to many future generations.
Lowther woodland extends to approximately 6000 acres (2500 hectares) in many diverse blocks throughout north Cumbria with the historic Lowther Park at the hub. The estate has many miles of hedges and hundreds of ancient parkland trees, about two million trees in total. The Estate attaches great importance to managing the woodlands for all the benefits they bring, not just as an economic resource.Trees and woods make a large contribution to the ecology and landscape, and their use for recreation is also important. In areas of high public usage there are a number of permissive paths giving extensive public access. Many of these paths are tended and mown to enhance the experience of woodland. The Estate foresters liaise closely with local schools which have special access to some of the woods in order to undertake curricula activity using the woodlands as a classroom. One woodland in the heart of the Estate has mown pathways and a well laid-out orienteering course which is enjoyed, as a sporting venue, by schools throughout Cumbria.