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About this wood
Great Knott Wood is over 40 hectares of ancient woodland on the south west shore of Lake Windermere, within the Lake District National Park in the County of Cumbria. The wood is just north of Newby Bridge, occupying an east and north-facing outcrop below Summer House Knott; between Newby Bridge and Finsthwaite, in the village of Lakeside. This location, at the southern end of Lake Windermere, has one of the highest densities of woodland cover anywhere in northern England, much of which is ancient woodland.More about this wood ...
The wood is composed of Silurian rocks, mostly greywackes (hard clay-rich sandstones with various minerals) of about 400 million years old. These were laid down by the erosion of the older volcanic rocks and were then covered with younger beds. The beds were then eroded by ice moving southwards, leaving the ridges and minor outcrops of more resistant rock which now form its relief. These rocks have been weathered by frost and leached by the rainfall, about 140 mm (55 inches) annually. This has produced a rather acid and nutrient poor soil, very variable in depth. Several thousand years after the retreat of the glaciers, birch, willow, juniper and then pine would have colonised the hill, to be succeeded 10,000 years ago by a forest of elm, oak, alder and small-leaved lime with an under storey of hazel.
In the last three hundred years Great Knott Wood and many other local woods were managed to produce oak-bark for the tanning trade and charcoal for iron-smelting. Pitsteads, circular levels a few metres across where charcoal burners built their kilns and remnant woodworkers huts can be seen throughout the woods. The rise of the Lancashire cotton trade brought a huge demand for wooden bobbins, supplied by the Bobbin Mill still standing at the foot of the hill, now a museum.
In the last century, demand for these products lapsed and the main requirement was for coniferous saw timber, which resulted in about three-quarters of this wood being cleared and planted in 1958 with conifers, mostly Norway spruce (Picea abies). Woodland Trust key objectives are to protect ancient woodland and improve biodiversity by restoring this planted ancient woodland and to promote the characteristics of the ancient woodland by gradually removing most of the non-native species to create the right conditions for the surviving native species to rejuvenate.
Great Knott Wood is predominantly composed of Norway spruce (Picea abies) with some Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and larch (Larix decidua) with little under storey. There are also remnant patches of broadleaves including sessile oak (Quercus petraea), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), alder (Alnus glutinosa), birch (Betula sp.), beech (Fagus sylvatica) and yew (Taxus baccata) where the under storey is generally sparse, typical of the thin acidic soils, with hazel (Corylus avellana), holly (Ilex europaeus), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and the occasional rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).
Within the dense conifers ground vegetation is poor with mostly mosses, some ferns and patches of wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella). Where the broadleaves are dominant the vegetation density increases with mosses and ferns flourishing, including hard fern (Blechnum spicant), broad buckler (Dryopteris austriaca) and beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis). Other ground flora present includes bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), wood sorrel, wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) and greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) all typical of National Vegetation Classification Woodland 11. As well as lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) and honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) grading to bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) in the more acid soils with grasses and ferns and lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) and opposite leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysoplenium oppositifolium) in the alder flushes. Bracken ((Pteridium aquilinum) can be seen in small localised patches confined to deeper soils and to areas which are not heavily shaded. There are two small patches of rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) and some laurel (Laurus nobilis) to the north east boundary with the road.
There are a number of Victorian water tanks in the woodland which once supplied water to the big hotels at Lakeside. Now most are disused and filled, but can still be seen.
There are many well used footpaths through Great Knott Wood that offer good circular walks and link up with public footpath routes across neighbouring countryside, see Evaluation for Public Access for more details.