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 seven 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 particular, a combination of heavy rain and high winds brought down a number of trees over the footpaths around the Valency 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 three other trees had been cut and safely removed, allowing access along 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. Wood piles left over from the work also make a great home for insects and beetles which in turn feed larger animals.

Cutting down trees in overcrowed areas to open areas of light. The space will quickly regrow in a few years


Some of the Lichen species that are found in the Dizzard


Insects such as these long-horned caddisflies (Leptoceridae sp.) appear in the newly created space, starting the food chain for mammals and birds.


In the spring the areas of light created by the gaps in the canopy allow for woodland flowers to grow up.

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 diseased 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 houses, 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. Trees are cut at the base to create a “stool”, the cut branches are then processed using a billhook 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 makes 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


Hazel 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 years old. To manage them we remove growth from around the veteran tree to prevent overcrowding and shading out the understorey 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 the ash room 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 Valency 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 branches 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 brushcutting work, and hopefully more sun will be seen. Keep following the blog to find out what spring will bring for the North Cornwall teams.

Tamsin Page, Volunteer Ranger -Boscastle to Morwenstow


Busy weekend

On Saturday morning we had 12 volunteers join us for some invasive, non-native Himalayan balsam removal in Rocky Valley, a beautiful valley near Tintagel. The volunteers who were brave enough, went coasteering with Cornish Rock Tors at Port Quin in the afternoon as a thanks for their hard work.

We work in partnership with Cornish Rock Tors and they kindly provided this coasteering session for free.

On Sunday, ranger Tom led a wildflower walk around the stunning Pentire headland near Polzeath. We had over 20 members of the public join us, soaking up the sunshine and all the wildflower knowledge we could. We noted 83 species of flowering plants and grasses as well as various birds, butterflies and insects including a ruby tailed wasp, a banded sexton beetle, oak eggar moth caterpillar and small eggar moth caterpillars. We also saw a fox out in the bright sunshine, but most awesome of all – a pod of dolphins!

To find out what other ranger days and events we have coming up over the next few months, click on the tabs at the top of the page.

Sarah Stevens, Ranger, Tintagel to Holywell

Half-term scrub bash success

VolunteersWe had a brilliant day yesterday with over 20 volunteers of all ages helping us tackle overgrown gorse and blackthorn scrub at Lundy Bay near Polzeath. The sun was shining, the bonfire hot, the jacket spuds cooked to perfection and with toasted marshmallows and a mug of hot chocolate as a thanks for all their hard work, what more could the volunteers want?
Spuds Marshmallows


The work is part of an ongoing programme to reduce the amount of scrub and increase the amount of grassland to improve the area for all wildlife – flowers, insects, butterflies, small mammals and birds.

Our last ‘scrub n spuds’ of the winter season are on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 March at Epphaven, near Polzeath. Please get in touch if you would like to come along and help. 01208 863821 sarahe.stevens@nationaltrust.org.uk

Sarah Stevens, Ranger, Tintagel to Holywell

Going batty and rock pool crazy

The Tintagel to Holywell ranger team had a busy August going batty and rock pool crazy with over 200 members of the public over five events.

Only one Bat Night and BBQ had to be postponed for a day due to the wrong sort of weather, otherwise all three bat nights went well. After everyone had enjoyed the BBQ and learnt numerous fascinating facts about bats, they walked up to the coast path to see wonderful sunsets and greater horseshoe bats emerging from their roost at dusk and listen to them echolocating with the aid of some bat detectors. Common pipistrelles were also seen and heard foraging in the area.

The first of the two rock pool rambles was rather a wet one, and not because rock pools are wet, but because the heavens opened as soon as we started to explore the rocky shore! Quite a few people didn’t last long but those that stuck it out were rewarded with finding and learning about lots of amazing sea creatures and with some sunshine towards the end! The 51 people who attended the second rock pool ramble we led in conjunction with Polzeath Marine Conservation Group, were basking in glorious sunshine throughout. Lots of different fish, crabs, anemones, sea slugs, worms, topshells, limpets, barnacles and so much more were discovered and everyone was told a bit more about the creatures they found so they have a better understanding of the way they live and feed.

If you missed out this year, come along to one of our Bat Night and BBQs or Rock Pool Rambles next year. Our events are advertised on this blog, our website and other social media, our Discover North Cornwall leaflet and posters so you should easily be able to find out more details early next year!

Sarah Stevens, Ranger, Tintagel to Holywell



So much to do, so little time….

Overgrown path

You may have noticed paths becoming clogged with vegetation recently, please bear with us as we make our way along miles and miles of path over the next few weeks. In the Tintagel to Holywell area we have over 50 miles of paths, with only three rangers (who have lots of other work to do too!) we really do appreciate the essential help we get from our volunteers with our path cuts. We started a few weeks ago, and some will already be growing well again with the perfect weather conditions we’ve had for the vegetation to thrive. Of course all these flowering plants are great for insects and birds so please don’t be in too much of a hurry for it all to be cut back or mind if we leave some areas, such as around the edges of our car parks. Where we cut vegetation we rake off the cuttings as this encourages a diverse range of flowering plants to regrow. If the cuttings are left to compost where they are cut, this increases the nutrients in the ground and encourages less biodiversity and the less desirable plants such as nettles and thistles to thrive (some nettles and thistles are good of course, just not at the expense of all the other flowering plants).

Path cuttingPath cutting







As well as cutting vegetation where it affects access and parking, we also have some plants we need to dig up or pull up. Himalayan balsam and montbretia are invasive, non-native species, in the Tintagel to Holywell area we have been pulling up Himalayan balsam in Rocky Valley and digging up montbretia at Glebe Cliff near Tintagel. Common ragwort is a native plant and essential to at least 30 insect species, with over another 200 insect species making use of the plant too. But we do have to control the spread of ragwort, especially near horse grazing areas, so we have been pulling ragwort at a number of our sites with a few more places to go over the next few weeks. Check out how you can get involved in the Volunteer Days tab at the top of the page.

Ragwort pulling






With summer being the prime time for vegetation we have also been surveying our flowering plants, not just cutting or pulling them! At West Pentire, we manage the fields for rare arable plants and crops for birds. Volunteers help us monitor the desirable and undesirable plants in the fields, this way we can tell if we are managing the fields in the right way so we have more of the desirable and less of the undesirable!

West PentireArable plant survey






There are numerous other surveys we have carried over the past few weeks too, we do this to monitor numbers which can affect our how we then manage our sites, some of the plants and birds we survey are rare, some very rare, therefore monitoring their numbers is essential. So far we have surveyed corn buntings, peregrines, choughs, seals, pyramidal orchids, newts, pond life, wild chives, butterflies and moths, with still a few more surveys to carry out over the next few weeks and the weekly butterfly survey at Lundy Bay til the end of September.

Pyramidal orchid

Pyramidal orchid

Newt survey



Want to get involved? Just get in touch! We always welcome new volunteers to the team to help us with our work. Email me at sarahe.stevens@nationaltrust.org.uk or phone 01208 863821

Sarah Stevens, Ranger, Tintagel to Holywell



Conservation in action…

A few months ago, we installed a barn owl box in a barn at one of our farms. We have recently had reports that a barn owl has been flying in and out of the barn! We don’t want to disturb the barn owl, so we won’t be going in to check whether its using the box yet.

The box was made by Phill, one of our full time volunteer rangers, based on a Barn Owl Trust design. In the photo you can see George, another full time volunteer ranger, fixing the box into position.

Barn owl boxWe’re very pleased with the news of the sighting, and hopefully this nest box will help with the survival of this majestic species in North Cornwall for years to come.

copyright Barn Owl Trust

copyright Barn Owl Trust






Sarah Stevens, Ranger, Tintagel to Holywell

Trevornick 10 miler

Newquay Road Runners held their annual Trevornick 10 miler on Sunday. The run starts and finishes at Trevornick Holiday Park but encompasses Cubert Common, West Pentire, The Kelseys and Porth Joke – all National Trust sites.

There were almost 300 runners who experienced less than perfect running conditions, with gale force winds and the odd squally shower. The run is described as one of the toughest in Cornwall due to the sandy conditions and with steep ascents and descents.

startThe winner, Tony Brewer, completed the course in a very impressive 1hr and 31 seconds! Check out http://www.newquayroadrunners.co.uk for the full write up and results.

finish lineSarah Stevens, Ranger, Tintagel to Holywell