7 tree management tasks you may not know we do!

The winter ranger comes in from the cold, fresh faces and clad in chainsaw kit, for now is the season of hot cups of tea and tree management. There are a number of reasons to undertake work at this time of year, ranging from tree health to keeping the public safe, doing work in the quieter times of year. Here are 7 tree related tasks we undertake in the colder months of the year that you may not know we do.


Checking tree safety

      What goes up must come down, and the same is the true of trees. However when they come down they can pose a serious threat to people and property. Hoping to avoid such calamity the National Trust undertakes tree surveys each year, with particular attention to those that are near paths, roads and houses. Tree safety surveys involve getting close and personal with each tree, looking for signs of rot, movement of the root plates or areas of disease or dieback. We then take appropriate action to remove the threat, from removal of a limb, pollarding or removing the tree. The safety surveyor’s most trusty tool- the stick! Using it to measure the depth of any rot or holes found in the tree One area we surveyed was at the beautiful Beech Avenue coming out of Boscastle. Thankfully the trees here are all in good shape.

Removal of dangerous tree over path

    Removal of dangerous tree over path.Those trees however that do come down may need to be removed. Over early winter in particularly, a combination of heavy rain and high winds brought down a number of trees over the footpaths around the Vallency Valley, Boscastle. One in particular straddled the path presenting a problem to any walkers. The ranger team came out and within a few hours it, and 3 other trees had been cut and safely removed, allowing access in the path once again.


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Dizzard survey

    . An internationally important site for lichens this rare Atlantic woodland site is known for its stunted trees and wide views. We manage the woodlands in this area to promote the growth of these special lichens by removing an occasional tree (particularly in overcrowded areas) and taking out creeping ivy, allowing for more light to filter down from the canopy. This in turn helps the lichen to grow on the surfaces and promotes a greater biodiversity for the woodlands as it encourages the growth of wildflowers such as primroses, anenomies and campions. Woodpiles left over from the work also make a great home for insects and beetles which in turn feed larger animals.

Apple pruning

    During the winter we tend to a number apple trees across the property. The aim of pruning is to create a strong healthy tree with an even canopy. To do this we remove around 1/3 of the years new growth to a shoot that is strong and growing in a desirable direction. Any overcrowded, dead, rubbing or disease wood is removed. Water shoots (straight upright growing shoots) are also removed as these are unproductive, particularly if they are growing into the crown. The centre of the crown is opened to prevent overcrowding and discourages disease. With good pruning the early years, apples should develop into resilient trees with a good harvest.


    The art of coppicing has been important in deciduous woodlands across Europe for centuries with trees grown for commercial use to build house, boats and more. Coppicing takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump if cut down. It maintains trees at a juvenile stage, with the tree rejuvenating after each cut . Some coppiced trees are thought to be many centuries old.Tree are cut at the base to create a “stool”, the cut branches are then processed using a bill hook through a process called “sneding” to produce straight poles and brash. The brash is then piled over the stool in order to protect new growth from grazers such as deer. The stool left will then send strong straight regrowth which made the wood commercially valuable.Harvested sections are known as coups, creating a mosaic of different aged trees, diverse habitats and increasing biodiversity. Increased light allows wildflower growth and increases insect population including fritillary butterfly species. Brambles grow around stools which provide food and shelter of birds and small mammals. One such small mammal is the dormouse, whom inhabits the hazel woodlands we manage. As the area grows it becomes unfavourable for these species, left for too long they become “over-stood coppice”. So every year the ranger team removes a couple of these coppiced trees in order to keep the woodlands at different ages and the hazel tree forever young.

Primroses coming up in the spring


Hazle woodlands just coppiced with log piles left for insect life.

Veteran tree management

    Veteran trees and tree that are good examples of their species, that provide a good ‘high canopy’ habitat and that we manage to be many hundreds of year old. To manage them we remove growth from around the veteran tree to prevent overcrowding and shading out the understory or ground. Some of the timber will be left in the woods providing shelter and cover for ground nesting birds and great habitat for insects and fungi. It will in time all rot down and return nutrients to the soil under the watch of our veteran trees.

Removal of a Sycamore in order to give room the Ash behind it. The Standing deadwood in the foreground is left, as it is a great habitat for insects, fungi and plants


Log walkway

    Though not so much tree management, with all that wood work above we have a lot of timber left over. Some is left for habitats, some is removed and some we use on site. Back in Vallency valley, we held a ranger day in order to put down a log walk to combat some of the more muddy sections of the paths. Trees we had previously felled where then cut by volunteers into logs suitable for the path, fitting them closely together. Smaller braches where cut into wooden ‘pegs’, that were hammered at the ends of sections in order to hold the walkways into place.

As winter draws to a close we will be (mostly) putting down the chainsaw for another year and moving into more brush cutting work, and hopefully more sun will be seen. Keep following the blog to find out what spring will bring for the North Cornwall teams

Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend

Take part in Big Garden Birdwatch and contribute to the world’s largest wildlife survey! Count birds for an hour in your garden or local park this weekend and tell the RSPB what you see.

Big Garden Birdwatch

Big Garden Birdwatch will bring you closer to nature. It takes just an hour and is suitable for all ages and abilities.

Since the Birdwatch started 37 years ago, results show 80% fewer starlings and 58% fewer house sparrows in our gardens.

The more people watching, the better – so why not invite your family and friends?

What happens if you don’t see any birds?
Surveys are as much about what’s missing as what’s there. So if you don’t see anything at all, it is still really important that you send in your results.

For all the information please go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Why is the Big Garden Birdwatch in winter?
It’s often the best time of year for watching garden birds, as cold weather brings birds into our gardens, looking for food and shelter.

Happy bird watching!

Helpful hands needed for an ancient abode

Join our team:

Do you have a passion for preserving historic houses, enjoy working as part of a team and meeting many new people? Then we’d like to hear from you.

Tintagel Old Post Office NT is recruiting Visitor Experience Assistants for the 2016 season, 1 March – 30 October. This is a permanent position, with the opportunity to return for following seasons.

Work to include weekends as well as week days.

Please see the poster below for more details.
To apply, please search job reference IRC32920 on www.nationaltrustjobs.org.uk

For any queries, please call the house to speak with us on 01840 770024

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Bubble bath at the seaside

With the recent strong winds, the sea has been churned up and was producing a lot of sea foam at Trebarwith Strand last Friday. The wind was blowing the foam onto the grassy cliffs making it look as though snow was settling.

It’s not the sort of bubbles I would bathe in, but is always humbling to witness the power of nature.


Caught on camera



Cornwall Mammal Group have very kindly lent the Tintagel to Holywell ranger team a trail camera and it’s been really useful to find out what the wildlife gets up to when we’re not around!

There is always great anticipation and excitement when we collect the memory card and download the photos and videos. I must admit I got very excited when I saw the video of a badger.

We’re learning what species we have and where, how active they are and at what times of day. For instance we were surprised to discover roe deer in the daytime (as well as at night) in an area we thought would have been too ‘busy’ for them in the daytime.

We’ve learnt who’s eating the fallen apples – foxes, and that some rabbits are very brave, grazing on grass in the same area that the foxes eat the apples – risky business!

Finding out what wildlife we have can help us make informed decisions about the management of our special places. If you spot some wildlife at one of our places, please let us know via email northcornwall@nationaltrust.org.uk or phone us on 01208 863821

It is important that wildlife, both plant and animal, is recorded, even the more common such as limpets, rabbits, thrift and blackthorn so their numbers can be monitored and the areas where they are found can be mapped. You can add your sightings via ORKS (Online wildlife Recording Kernow and Scilly) www.orks.org.uk  a wildlife recording website run by the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS).  All records matter.



Things found on an autumn beach

After several days of storms, strong winds and big seas, it was calmer for a few days this week, so on a day off I went exploring at Polzeath beach to see what the tides had brought in…..


Although this washed up, otherworldly squid isn’t itself massive in size, it is thought that creatures like this were the inspiration behind the legendary kraken…

In 1830 Alfred Tennyson published the irregular sonnet The Kraken, which described a massive creature that dwells at the bottom of the sea

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Scyliorhinus canicula aka the small-spotted catshark, also known as the lesser-spotted dogfish, aka Rough-hound, aka Morgay (in Scotland and Cornwall). So many names, you might think it was in witness protection…


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‘A rare visitor to the UK, the mauve stinger jellyfish is generally found in deeper waters in the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason when it is found around the UK and Ireland it is most likely to turn up on the western coasts’ (info via britishseafishing.co.uk)

This beautiful little blue things are commonly called ‘by the wind sailors’ and have been a familiar sight for the past couple of weeks. When you see them, you can often expect more flotsam and jetsam to follow on the wind and the tide.

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Help Protect the Coast

It’s December! It’s one of those months that appears out of nowhere and then can seem to disappear even quicker! Don’t miss out on our final scrub bash of 2015, for some fresh air, dramatic views and a free lunch cooked up on the bonfire. There might even be some mince pies…

We’ll be out on the coast near Polzeath on December 12 and 13, 10am – 4pm, cutting and burning scrub, anyone is welcome to join us for the day or just an hour or so.The event is free, but it would be great if you could book in so we know how many people to cater for. Please email tom.sparkes@nationaltrust.org.uk or call us on 01208 863821 to find out more.

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