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Published 22 May 2024

BLPT Update May 2024

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Planting trees is hard work. I can’t complain, I don’t plant most of them. I salute NW Forestry who managed to get the bulk of the 147,000 trees in the ground between November and the end of March. They went up Low Fell in rain, sleet, snow, miserably windy drizzly weather. It is STEEP, and a lot of the trees went in nearly at the summit which involved a lot of climbing up and down the fell carrying heavy tree bags. The ground is stony, and you have to keep putting your spade in several times until it goes in far enough to ensure the tree is in good enough ground to grow.

Just coordinating it can be tricky, sorting out where to park and how to get the trees delivered to site and checking whose fields you need to cross and making sure you’ve got permission. Then there is all the MUD. Winter in the Lake District is a very muddy thing.

So now, the trees are in leaf, many of them have grown several inches already, and it’s brilliant to see. The air is vibrant with birdsong and insect noise. Those puny little sticks that were planted in the winter months are turning into trees before our very eyes. On Low Fell, some of the ones we planted just two years ago are already bigger than me (I’m fairly tall, for scale).

Sally Phillips with a 2 year old tree at Crabtree Beck, Low Fell (May 2024)
(Photo: Sally with 2-year old birch and rowan)

We have planted a good mix of trees and shrubs up the fell this season. Here they are in the proportions we’ve planted:

Alder 14440
Aspen 10880
Bird cherry 2625
Blackthorn 3015
Crab apple 2925
Downy birch 16310
Goat willow 2500
Hawthorn 20370
Hazel 14740
Holly 1000
Rowan 11980
Scots pine 2375
Sessile oak 21395
Field maple 1320
Grey willow 3500
Eared willow 376
Silver birch 11000
Dogwood 575
Broom 135
Spindle 100
Juniper 2180
Wild Cherry 2005
Buckthorn 150
Alder buckthorn 60
Elder 120
Yew 410
Wayfaring Tree 60
Guelder Rose 195
Small-leaved lime   800


I like to put in a good mix, since we are planting woodlands for the future. Who knows what conditions will be like, what tree diseases or weather conditions or threats from invasive species there might be. So, by planting a good variety, some of them stand a chance of developing into veteran trees that provide homes for wildlife.

It’s amazing to see that even 2-year-old trees are immediately used by birds as perches. The rowans and bird cherries are producing flowers already, so the hope is that if birds eat the berries, perch on the trees and pop the seeds out with a package of fertiliser, then more trees will come of their own accord without all that back-breaking work.

Whinchat perched on alder branch

(Photo: Whinchat perched on alder branch)

At 13 Acres, the trees are doing really well too. The first image is from March 2021. The second is May 2024. Not bad for 3 years' growth! While they were little, the surrounding vegetation would have swamped them, so they all got mulch mats. Now they are well above the vegetation and creating their own mulch and leaf-mould. Despite all the hard work and difficult conditions, the results are tremendously rewarding. Tree-mendously. Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one.

Before and after photographs of the same area showing newly planted trees in 2021 and later in 2024
(Photo: Before and after photographs of the same area showing newly planted trees in 2021 and later in 2024)


Sally Phillips

Inventor of Chimney Sheep

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