Lake District Trees at Aintree

Trees from the Forestry Commission estate at Grizedale Forest in south Cumbria will once again be making a star appearance at this year’s John Smith’s Grand National race, at Aintree in Liverpool on 10 April 2010

Over 60 tonnes of spruce branches from Grizedale are used for the event’s 30 jump fences.

Grand National - Pic Aintree

Grand National - Pic Aintree

The fence-building programme begins a month before the Grand National meeting is run, with spruce sourced and transported from Grizedale Forest to Aintree.

There are currently 98 potential runners and riders for the four and a half mile long course, which will then be whittled down to final maximum of 40 competitors.

The event will be watched by up to 70,000 spectators at Aintree and millions of BBC television viewers around the world.

The Forestry Commission’s Andy Bennett, says: “It’s been a long-held tradition for Aintree racecourse to source branches from surplus trees in Grizedale Forest to construct the jumps in the Grand National and we’re only too happy to help out.

“Many of the branches used at Aintree are from trees which have been felled by people having chainsaw assessments and training. Instead of going to waste, it’s a great opportunity for the branches to be recycled and play a big part in one of the world’s biggest horse races.”

The Chair is the tallest and most notorious fence on the Grand National course at five feet, two inches high. It has a six-foot ditch on the take-off side. During the race the jockeys have to complete almost two circuits, which means that most of the fences are jumped twice.

Each fence is made out of wood and then ‘dressed’ with distinctive green branches of spruce direct from Grizedale.

About six weeks before the event takes place, the branches are collected by Mark Shaw from Landcare, the Aintree-based company contracted to provide the materials for the fences. He makes up to 14 journeys in his truck to safely transport the spruce to the racecourse.

Mark Shaw, says: “It’s a challenging task to make sure the fences are in place in time for the big day.

“A huge amount of work is put into making the Grand National course. I don’t think many people watching the race realise how much effort goes into ensuring the fences are perfect.”

For more information about the Forestry Commission in North West England, visit

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