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28 Sep 2020

Field Notes: Mountain planting in the Lakes

Our staff at Glenridding Common have been busy planting this year’s montane willows and alpine plants


September is an especially busy time on Glenridding Common. As summer moves into autumn it’s a perfect time to put out all the plants grown by our local community volunteer growers, Natural England and John Muir Trust staff.

This year, the plant propagation program has done exceptionally well. Our local growers managed to rear over 60 montane Willows and seven species of flowering plants. When combined with the plants grown by Natural England and Trust staff, this has meant we’ve had a lot of planting to do!   

tea leaved willow on the crag

We carry the plants up in Hessian bags. Two bags can take 16 4inch pots, so it can take quite a while to get all 60 willows and a similar number of flowering plants up into the hills.

We choose the locations for our plants carefully. We look for indicator species visible from a distance like roseroot. Plants like this indicate that there’s a slight vein of lime in the underlying geology. This is the perfect habitat for montane willows. Taking care on steep loose ground and wearing helmets, we make our way up to the planting site.

In addition to the presence of lime, it can help if the planting area is also out of reach of grazing animals and there’s enough soil to work with. Once we’ve found the perfect spot it can be easy to plant five to 10 plants quite quickly. It’s also important to keep a record of what and where we’re planting, so we can revisit in years to come to see how the plants are getting on.

Earlier this year we had a wonderful experience with some of the older downy willow plants that have been planted out. We were amazed to see catkins on these tiny willows. For all these species - whether its willows or flowers - the end goal for this project is to achieve a self-sustaining population that will be resilient enough and genetically diverse enough to reproduce successfully long into the future.

Photos show Trust staff gearing up for steeper ground, things to look out for on a tea leafed willow. Credits: Graham Watson and Isaac Johnston