Barbour supports storm recovery work at Cragside

Dame Margaret Barbour re-planting an oak tree at Cragside to mark HM The Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

We’re delighted to announce that iconic British brand Barbour, will be supporting Cragside with a partnership fund. Following an unprecedented series of winter storms, Barbour is generously helping to fund the clean-up and restoration work needed at Cragside. They are a brand that cares about nature and have proud roots in the north east of England.

What happened at Cragside?

Storm Arwen, and the subsequent winter storms, devasted the landscape at Cragside. Thousands of trees were lost as wind gusts reaching almost 100mph bombarded the estate. With an unusual northerly wind direction, and little defence from the surrounding low-lying moorland, Cragside’s treeline caught the full force of the exceptionally high winds.

Trees were blown over, some with roots ripped up, while others were snapped in two. Broken branches hung precariously in the canopy of other trees, debris littered the forest floor, and in some places, large branches were found sticking out of the ground, having been catapulted into the soil at great speed.

Drone footage showing the damage caused by Storm Arwen from the air.
Drone footage showing the damage caused by Storm Arwen from the air.
Drone footage showing the damage caused by Storm Arwen from the air.

After Storm Arwen, Cragside closed entirely for two weeks to allow the forestry team to carry out tree safety inspections, assess the damage across Cragside’s huge woodland and start clearance works.

Using drones to understand the impact of more frequent storms

The Debdon Valley was another area heavily impacted by the winds with many of Cragside’s oldest and biggest trees blown over in the wind. Due to the shape of the valley, the wind whirled around, creating a cyclone effect. This meant that the wind-blown trees were lying on top of each other, rather than in one direction. The team used drones to assess the damage. This helped them to decide what equipment they needed and assess how dangerous the Valley was.

The clearance work in the Valley is now complete and from the ground there is a noticeable difference in the amount of light as there are now large gaps in the tree canopy. Thanks to the funding from Barbour, the forestry team will work with a contractor to carry out another drone fly-over to evaluate the changes in the landscape. The footage will show the team the dramatic changes to the treescape from the air and help to determine a re-planting programme. It will also create a better understanding of the damage that might be caused by the ever-increasing severe winter storms. 

Monitoring the health of the trees

While planting trees is a great way to support the environment and mitigate climate change, it’s also important to protect the trees that we already have.

Cragside’s foresters use their knowledge to look out for the signs that trees may be unhealthy; bulges appearing in the trunk, unusual fungus growing on the bark and branches and deterioration in the tree canopy, such as needle discolouration or an unseasonable loss or lack of leaves, can all be signs of disease.  Although this is often this is a sign that the tree needs to be felled, as some of the tallest trees in the collection are some of the tallest of their kind in the country, it’s important that the foresters confirm their observations. Using the funding from Barbour, the Cragside foresters will be able to purchase a new resistograph. 

A resistograph drills a narrow hole into the tree and measures the resistance of the wood against the force of the drill. Healthy wood will report a higher resistance, while diseased wood will report a softer, spongy result, prompting the foresters to do more testing and research into the health of the tree.

" We were delighted that Barbour want to support Cragside’s recovery following the winter storms. The funding awarded will not only help us to plant new trees, but also ensure we can care for the historic trees within this vast collection."
- Chris Clues, Head Forester
Exposed root showing on a footpath at Cragside. We're planning work that will protect these essential part of the trees.
Exposed roots showing on a footpath at Cragside.
Exposed root showing on a footpath at Cragside. We're planning work that will protect these essential part of the trees.

Protecting the tree roots

Trees soak up their nutrients from the soil to grow and live using their roots. Over the last 160 years, the roots of the giant trees have grown across some historic footpaths that visitors still walk along today. These precious life-giving roots are at risk of being trampled on and damaged through everyday use.

Using the money received from Barbour, the team at Cragside will create a cushion between the roots and people’s feet by putting down a protective membrane and laying gravel on the footpaths affected. This will help to safeguard this essential part of the trees to support their growth and health.

" When William and Margaret Armstrong moved to Cragside, the area looked very different. They transformed the landscape from a heathery, rocky moorland into a huge woodland landscape which covers three quarters of the estate. Their vision left an unrivalled mark on Northumberland, which with Barbour’s support, the National Trust will ensure is around for years to come."
- John O'Brien, General Manager