Beacon Wood, Penrith, Cumbria, England


A well-thinned production woodland with significant recreation activity and conservation interest, transforming to continuous cover forestry

Site visit: February 2023

Beacon Wood is a prominent woodland situated above the historic market town of Penrith, Cumbria, England. It forms a dramatic backdrop to the town and is visible from several miles away, especially from the M6 motorway travelling north. The wood is part of the Lowther Estate and is actively managed for high quality timber. It is now a popular (although unofficial) walking area for the people of Penrith, and there are fine views from the top of the hill, looking west to the Lake District National Park. On a clear day, Ullswater and the major eastern fells are visible, including High Street, Hellvelyn and Blencathra. The name Beacon comes from the red sandstone tower that stands at the highest point of the hill. In former times this served as a watchtower and signal post for the residents of the town and the surrounding area.

The woods are noted for their long history of active management. Most of the upper area and “cap” of the hill is occupied by Scots pine. The soils here are sandy and mostly free-draining above a red sandstone bedrock. To the sides of the woodland and on the slopes of the hill, the soils are more moist. Here the dominant species is Sitka spruce, with some areas of larch and other species. The Sitka spruce is especially fine in terms of timber quality. This can partly be attributed to a regular programme of thinning. At present, the spruce stands are starting to become more open and irregular in tree spacing. This is facilitating patches of natural regeneration. These patches are now scattered through the forest and a more complex woodland structure is rapidly developing – the forest is transforming to continuous cover forestry. Photos: Sony SLT-A77; Digital | Edited.

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