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Mixed ash woodland in Cumbria

As ash dieback is identified in the county, Cumbria Woodlands has been successful in applying for £40,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to improve ash tree and mixed ash woodland management. Ash trees are an important ecological and cultural asset in Cumbrian woodlands and the wider landscape. Experience in mainland Europe suggests that ash dieback will devastate ash tree populations as well as the flora and fauna that are dependent on ash. Scientific research is underway, but Cumbria Woodlands feel there is an immediate problem for woodlands now, as managers do not know how to respond to the threat. Nearly all ash woodland is in private ownership, so it is particularly important that effective management advice is provided. The project will bring together woodland managers, forestry professionals, ecologists and regulators to improve communication on ash dieback management. This will mitigate the short term effects of ash dieback, as well as constitute an investment in longer term woodland management when it comes to pests and diseases. The project will set up trial sites as an engagement and education tool.

Cultural Heritage

Cumbria is home to many individual ancient ash trees, some pollarded or coppiced over hundreds of years as part of ancient farming practices. Ash responds well to being coppiced or pollarded, providing feed for stock, wood fuel, charcoal, hammers, axes, spades, spears, bows and oars. Veteran ash are an iconic landscape feature and form an important cultural link to past land management practices dating back to the Vikings.

Ecological Heritage and biodiversity

They are one of the last trees to come into full leaf in spring, and lose their leaves early in autumn. This allows sunlight to reach the woodland floor, providing crucial habitat for wildflowers such as dog violets, campion, garlic and consequently, rare and threatened insects such as the high brown fritillary butterfly. Ash are also particularly valuable as host to deadwood invertebrates, including the lesser stag beetle, as well as rare species of lichens, mosses and liverworts. Birds like the bullfinch rely on ash seeds as their staple food in winter, and other birds such as the redstart, woodpecker, nuthatch and barn owl use ash trees as nesting sites because of the natural hollows that often develop in the tree trunk.

We are delighted to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out this project, because we want to do what we can to respond to the arrival of ash dieback in Cumbria. We are confident that this project will help us to make Cumbria’s ash trees and ash woodland better managed and more resilient, and we look forward to finding out more about the cultural and ecological heritage of Cumbria’s ash trees.

About Heritage Lottery Fund: Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery

For further information, please contact Clare de Villanueva at Cumbria Woodlands via clare@cumbriawoodlands.co.uk.

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