Words from the Woods Dec 2023

14th December 2023

The winter is keeping us on our toes out in the woods, skipping seamlessly from bright frosty days with sunlight streaming through the branches... to deep snow enough to collapse and bury the woodland shelters at National Trust Footprint... to enough rain to create streams in the woods that don't normally exist. All part of the beauty and drama of just 'being' in the woods... . best wishes Gareth and Ro [Photo credit Jonathan Smith Grasmere School]

Wilderness Therapy

Gareth has just passed his level 3 advanced certificate in Wilderness Therapy...whoop whoop! It's been a fascinating 18 months of training. Thanks to everyone who has been involved in the training and the Pilot programmes. 2024 will see two stand alone Wilderness Therapy weekend camps and a number of one day workshops. The weekend camps are on the 26th-28th April and 4th - 6th October 2024. The content of the programmes are still being developed but if they are something you may be interested in then please email and we will keep you up to date. The dates for the one day workshops are yet to be confirmed so watch this space.

Common Farm

As part of the nature friendly farming work the National Trust are undertaking at Common Farm Windermere, there are funded educational visits available. If you have a group of under 18s who would like to explore the interrelationship between farming, nature conservation, land use and livelihoods please get in touch. Over the last few months we have run pilot sessions with local primary schools. Here's what Grasmere Primary wrote after a visit... "Learning to look properly at the land around us, and to think about its wellbeing... Beyond the geology, our Lakeland landscape is created by human farming practices. At Common Farm, the National Trust are working on improving biodiversity, so that wildlife and farming can work together. The aim: to create healthy habitats, in which insects, plants, animals and birds thrive, but which are also productive farmland. It's a fascinating initiative, which we are exploring with Gareth from Woodmatters. This is the third stage of our work with this project. This time we were restoring a woodland meadow, and planting cowslips." [Photo: Jonathon Smith]

Wonderful Willow

While the leaves are off and the trees are dormant this is the time we coppice the willow to gather the long, lithe and beautifully bendy willow rods to weave into wonderful playspaces, 'fedges' (half way between a fence and a hedge!), bird screens and hangouts. Ro and Debs love creating these organic imaginative shapes and structures. Let us know if you would like a living willow addition to your grounds or garden Click here for more images

Animal Tracks in Snow

The recent snow has gone for now but if it should return there's lots of fun to be had. Apart from the obvious joys of sledging, snowman building and crunchy through the beautiful light and muted sounds of a snow-scape... it also brings great opportunities for spotting the movements of animals that may otherwise go unnoticed. The Woodland Trust have put together a quick guide to the more common tracks you are likely to find.

Winter Bird Feeding

Another winter delight is helping the local birdlife with a little bit extra to get them through the winter months. Different birds like different foods so its worth having a mix to suit your local species. Here's some advice from RSPB for food choices

  • Goldfinch, siskin, redpoll – smaller seeds like nyjer
  • Greenfinch, tits – sunflower hearts
  • Sparrows, woodpigeon, collared dove – large grains
  • Woodpeckers, tits, starling – fat balls and peanuts
  • Robin, thrushes – mealworms
  • Thrushes, waxwing – windfall fruit


  • All salted foods, as they dehydrate birds
  • Cooked food, as this can attract unwanted visitors, such as rats
  • Loose peanuts. Keep peanuts in a feeder so small chunks can be nibbled
  • Dry, hard foods or bread during the spring or summer months. Parent birds might take these back to their nests and their young can choke on it

Poor quality peanuts can carry the aflatoxin fungus, which kills birds if they eat it. Make sure you buy peanuts that are guaranteed aflatoxin-free from a reputable supplier.

Please also remember to keep feeders and bird baths clean to reduce the risk of diseases
More info on this link https://www.rspb.org.uk/helping-nature/what-you-can-do/activities/open-a-bird-cafe

Canopy Learning - Cumbria Woodlands

If you are interested in Woodland Management or are planning to plant, or establish a woodland, it's worth keeping an eye on the Cumbria Woodlands online learning courses and resources
Click this link for more details
https://www.cumbriawoodlands.c... next course is Ground Preparation for Woodland Creation which starts in Jan 2024


Oak Mother by Brian Fereday (a wonderful woodsman of South Lakes. Sadly no longer with us but often in our thoughts while working in the woodlands around Sizergh)

White frost on a late November morning
The moss fields are bitter places
Water still lying, lurking in the grass
No place for sheep to lie or complain.

There is a place of sanctuary though
The rough branched oak has kept her leaves
She holds out her arms.

Green grass beneath her
Floating high on the moss
A root raft on the water
Green island on a sparkling, frozen sea.

Sheep are beneath her
As chickens under a mother hen
When the sun strikes her branches
More of her brown leaves will fall.

The flock endures
As each day
The tree fold fades.