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The High Allotment

Summary of Proposed Management under
Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier Agreement 2023 - 2032

The Landowners of Crosthwaite and Lyth


Introduction

This document provides a summary of the contents of the Countryside Stewardship (CS) Higher Tier Agreement for The High Allotment which runs from 1st January 2023 until 31st December 2032.

In the context of the proposed management, The High Allotment includes the areas identified as Township Scar and Township Scar Wood in the south-western part of the site.

Site description

The High Allotment is situated at the north end of Whitbarrow Scar, a limestone massif located between the Lyth and Winster valleys to the west of Kendal in south Cumbria within the Lake District National Park World Heritage Site. Most of Whitbarrow Scar, including the western part of the application site, is within the Whitbarrow SSSI and Morecambe Bay Pavements SAC.

The land was purchased by the Landowners of Crosthwaite and Lyth, a charity which owns land for the benefit of the community within the parish of Crosthwaite and Lyth, in January 2022.

The High Allotment is important in the landscape and supports a number of important wildlife habitats: species-rich limestone grassland, moderately species-rich neutral and semi-improved grassland, broadleaved woodland and scattered trees and scrub (wood pasture).

Township Scar, the smaller parcel of land to the south, supports broadleaved woodland and a mosaic of limestone grassland, scree and scrub on and below the steep west-facing scar.

The site supports a number of special butterfly species (‘priority species’) including skipper, small heath, northern brown argus and small pearl-bordered fritillary. A number of priority bird species are also either known or likely to be present (eg. marsh tit, linnet, hawfinch and tree pipit).

The western part of The High Allotment, including and to the west of the main woodland area, is within the Whitbarrow SSSI as is the whole of Township Scar as shown the map.

The land also provides a pedestrian route onto Whitbarrow from the byway which runs along its northern and western margin.

The habitats are shown on the Habitat Map

Site condition

Although some parts of the grassland are fairly herb-rich, the sward is rank following several years of little or no grazing. This will be smothering the flowering plants to the detriment of the insects which rely on them and would eventually lead to the loss of the plants themselves.

Scrub is also encroaching onto the grassland areas, particularly in the western part, resulting in the loss of herb-rich grassland.

The whole of The High Allotment is classed as wood pasture but its condition is poor because there are relatively few tree species (almost all of the larger trees are larch or ash, both of which are susceptible to or already suffering from disease) and there is little fallen or standing dead wood.

The boundary walls are mostly intact but there are several gaps.

The illegal use of the steep eastern part by off-road vehicles has destroyed herb-rich limestone grassland, created an unsightly scar and caused soil erosion.

Proposed vision

The vision for the land as agreed by the Trustees, following discussions with the community including at the summer walk on the site in June 2022 and at the Landowners’ AGM in January 2023, is for wood pasture management on The High Allotment, consisting of some tree planting to supplement the existing tree cover and light grazing by cattle to improve the pasture.

There should be open grassland at the top of Township Scar and high quality mixed woodland on the lower slopes.

Public access on foot to the open access land on Whitbarrow will be formalised by the designation of the existing trod as a Permissive Path from the byway which runs along the northern and western edge of the site (Whitbarrow Road) up the hill to the south onto Whitbarrow.

Scope of work to be undertaken under the grant

To enable the land to be grazed by cattle, trees to be planted and maintained and scrub to be controlled, a 10 year Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier Agreement has been successfully applied for starting from January 2023.

This will fund the following:-

Management options proposed

The Countryside Stewardship management options agreed are shown on the Options map (maps 3 and 4). These are:-

  

Detailed work to be undertaken

Grazing

Luing cattle will be allowed to graze most of the area at times decided by the Landowners being up to 10 weeks per year excluding the summer months. They will get access through the existing gate onto Township Allotment.

Fencing

A fence will be erected near the byway to stop the cattle getting onto the byway and escaping if the gates across the byway are left open. The grant will part fund this two or three strand barbed wire fence.  A fence will be needed at the western end of The High Allotment to stop the cattle getting onto Township Scar. A similar fence will run along the bottom of Township Scar Wood to prevent stock from getting into the wood or out onto the byway if they get into the wood.

A field gate and three kissing gates will be part funded by the grant and will provide access from the byway onto The High Allotment and from there onto Township Allotment.

Scrub control

For the benefit of the SSSI we will carry out some scrub control in the western part of the site.  A small area of scrub control is included in the grant but more will be done subject to the availability of volunteers.

Tree planting

For wood pasture, tree canopy cover must be up to 20% and scrub cover 15-20%. The significant areas of existing woodland on The High Allotment mean that we are already at or near this limit. On the other hand, the larch could at any time get Phytophthera and need to be removed and the ash is likely to get Chalara dieback and slowly die. As much of the existing trees are of these two species, planting amounts and locations should take this into account.

We would also like to leave scope for additional trees to be planted in the future, perhaps when parishioners request sites for memorial trees (subject to Trustee agreement on location and species).

Trees and shrubs on wood pasture need to be open grown so that they develop large crowns. They therefore need to be spaced well apart. They should not be on the most herb-rich sward.

The proposed locations of individual trees in wooden post and rail guards and blocks of about 2 trees and 3 shrubs within fenced enclosures are shown on the options map. The fenced enclosures will need to keep out deer as well as cattle.

The species selected to be planted are species native to the area and which also provide flowers for pollinators and/or seeds for birds including hawfinch. It is proposed to plant trees and shrubs from the following list:-

Trees                                       Shrubs
oak                                          hawthorn
wild cherry                              holly
willow                                      buckthorn
rowan                                      crab apple
small-leaved lime                    elder
yew                                         guelder-rose
Threatened species supplement (for priority butterfly species)

The appropriate level of cattle grazing is the main way in which it is hoped that the populations of important butterfly species will be enhanced. Most of the work under this supplement will therefore be monitoring of the habitat and the species to judge when the cattle should go on and leave, where to target scrub control and how the species are responding to the management. It might also include some bracken management and cowslip planting, and possibly electric fencing if grazing needs to be less in some areas than on the rest of the site.

Deer management

As a condition of the grant a deer management plan will need to be prepared and implemented.

Woodland management

In Township Scar wood in the south-western corner of the site, two or three larch trees will need to be ring barked or felled to reduce the conifer cover. Dead wood levels need to be maintained, four veteran trees will need surrounding trees to be felled to give them more access to light and grey squirrel control will need to be undertaken annually.

Funding

As with any grant, the Higher Tier payments will only cover a proportion of the costs of the proposed work. The Trustees of the Landowners of Crosthwaite and Lyth have agreed to pay the additional costs required to undertake the work as proposed above.

Practical management

It is expected that the tree planting, the erection of the fencing, gate and kissing gates and the wall restoration will be undertaken by contractors.

This leaves a lot of work for which offers of voluntary help from the community will be gratefully received. The activities for which volunteers are sought includes:-

Because of the need to satisfy the conditions of the grant funding, it is important that the Trustees are aware of what work is taking place on the site. It is therefore important that work on the site is coordinated and therefore that volunteers agree management activities with the Trustees before doing them.

Conclusion

The purchase of The High Allotment by the Landowners and its acceptance into a Countryside Stewardship Agreement presents an exciting opportunity for this delightful area of land to be managed to enhance its attractiveness, value for wildlife and benefit for the local community.

It is hoped that the local community will enjoy the natural beauty of the land and will take a pride in the enhancement of the land resulting from its sustainable management by the Landowners on behalf of and supported by the local community. 

Any offers of help or comments on the proposed management should be made to the Landowners at landowners@crosthwaiteandlyth.co.uk

 

The Landowners of Crosthwaite and Lyth
Registered Charity No: 1073467