Managing the biodiversity of the Lake District National Park

The Lake District Foundation has awarded a grant of £4,500 to the Cumbria Local Nature Partnership, enabling them to lead the development of a clear, strategic approach for managing the biodiversity of the Lake District National Park.

Local Nature Partnerships have been established to drive positive change in the local natural environment.  This funding will enable them to consider the broad picture across Cumbria, pooling knowledge and indentifying any gaps and challenges.  We will then be able to ensure that future funding is invested in the best possible places and projects, with the right people involved to deliver measurable benefits for wildlife, people and the economy.

We look forward to the development of this strategy, which will help us all ensure that we care for and protect the landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage of the English Lake District in the best possible way.

Helping to save Helvellyn’s vulnerable arctic alpine flora

The Lake District Foundation has awarded a grant of over £2,600 to the John Muir Trust, which last year took over responsibility for the management of a large part of the iconic Lake District mountain, Helvellyn.  The money will fund a new project aiming to increase the populations of threatened arctic-alpine species found on the high crags of the Helvellyn range.

The project will bring together national experts, local volunteers and staff of the John Muir Trust in a project to safeguard our nationally important but extremely vulnerable populations of Arctic alpine flora.  Many of these species are growing at the southern edge of their range on Helvellyn.  The project hopes to see the successful re-introduction of species lost or under threat due to people and erosion pressure.  The work will also help to ‘future-proof’ upland floral and shrub populations against the threat of climate change.  Alpine mouse ear, Alpine cinquefoil and purple saxifrage are amongst the species that, it is hoped, will benefit from a gradual increase in their population size.

Beginning in the autumn/winter months of 2018, the project will start with the close monitoring of the arctic alpine species present and the collection of seed and cuttings.  Volunteers from the local community in Patterdale will work with staff from the John Muir Trust to propagate and ‘grow-on’ a stock of young plants.  Specialist advice will be available from Natural England and volunteer growers will help assess the success and failure of propagation of these rare species to help inform future work.  The funding from the Lake District Foundation will cover the costs of the special growing medium, pots and tools needed, and will contribute towards the costs of seed and cuttings collection, volunteer training and transport.

Hopefully – and with the enthusiastic support of Patterdale’s volunteer horticulturalists – the first successful shrub cuttings will be ready to plant out by autumn 2019.  The more adventurous and athletic volunteers may even get the opportunity to climb the high crags of Helvellyn to help planting out back onto the fells.  But the whole community and visitors to this upland landscape will benefit if this ground-breaking project is successful in creating more robust populations of the endangered arctic alpine species found in this tough Lakeland habitat.

‘Cultural Heritage’ within the Lake District World Heritage Site – Join the discussion

The Lake District’s World Heritage Site inscription includes its Cultural Heritage – but what does that mean?  If you live or work in or close to the Lake District, you will now have an opportunity to join in the discussion to help define and manage this special characteristic of the area.

The Lake District Foundation has awarded £4,500 for a series of community workshops to be held throughout Cumbria and the Lake District to help residents understand and take ownership of the Cultural Heritage of the Lake District World Heritage Site.

A pilot event held in May 2018 clearly demonstrated that there is currently a lack of understanding about World Heritage Status and what it might mean for local communities in the Lake District.  Equally important is the impact on communities on the periphery of the designated World Heritage Site.  Participants at the pilot workshop were keen to establish on-going dialogue so that local representatives share in the development of both identity and vision for the World Heritage Site.

Thanks to the funding from the Lake District Foundation, community development organisation ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) is now able to arrange a series of local engagement workshops.  These will enable residents to explore the benefits, opportunities and challenges presented by the Lake District’s World Heritage Status.  They will give local people an opportunity to help define the identity, protection and management of their cultural heritage.  Residents and community representatives from across the county will have an opportunity to attend workshops in Bootle, Broughton-in-Furness, Keswick, Glenridding and Grasmere.  The events will focus on listening to community views and exploring with them ways to work with the Lake District National Park Partnership (the body responsible for World Heritage Status inscription) to celebrate their cultural heritage and conserve the natural environment.

Tree planting at Mardale Common, Haweswater

The Lake District Foundation has awarded a grant of over £2,000 to the Royal Society for the protection of Birds (RSPB) for tree planting at its Haweswater Nature Reserve at Bampton, near Penrith.  Commencing in November 2018, the project will see 400 trees planted on Mardale Common over the coming two winters.  The new planting will enhance the resilience of the existing ancient woodland, which is vulnerable as trees become older and less able to withstand the spread of disease and the effects of climate change.

This valuable contribution will enable the RSPB to train and equip their active team of local volunteers to plant the saplings, sourced from their own Haweswater tree nursery, to create an area of new woodland on Mardale Common.  The trees will be surrounded with weldmesh protection, nurturing their survival into mature trees.  Planted at low density, the new trees will become the large open-grown landscape trees for future generations.  Currently, these large landscape trees are being lost in Cumbria at a faster rate than they are being replaced, and the Lake District World Heritage Site nomination highlighted the vulnerability of our ageing native tree population and the need for new planting in appropriate places.

The RSPB has extensive experience of tree planting at Haweswater, having managed the area in collaboration with the landowner, United Utilities, for over 40 years.  The project has been developed in consultation with the Woodland Trust, the National Trust and United Utilities to provide a co-ordinated response to the challenges.

The local community welcomes this important project, recognising the importance of woodlands in providing habitat to support a broad range of wildlife, as well as being concerned about the impact on the landscape caused by the loss of ancient trees.  The RSPB already has extensive experience of tree planting at Haweswater, where previous planting work has resulted in an increase in biodiversity, with gains recorded for species including red squirrels, tree pipits and whinchats.  Mardale Common is all designated public access land, and the new area of woodland can be reached using a number of public footpaths that pass nearby.

Whilst the RSPB is hugely grateful to the Lake District Foundation’s supporters whose donations have made this funding possible, they are indebted to their team of around 20 local volunteers who are committed to conserving the wildlife and landscape on their doorstep.  The group is open to all ages and abilities and is always actively seeking new members to join its weekly work parties.

The Lake District Foundation funds work to improve Dash Beck at Bassenthwaite

The Lake District Foundation has approved a grant of over £2,000 towards a project led by the West Cumbria Rivers Trust, working in partnership with Bassenthwaite Rotary Club, to enhance the habitat of Dash Beck and surrounding land.  The project was first conceived by local people, and they will be fundamental to the successful delivery of the works necessary to improve the habitat of Dash Beck for a range of wildlife, particularly salmon and trout.  The project will also improve the safety and accessibility of the footpath from Bassenthwaite village to the lake, benefiting the local community and visitors alike.

The River Derwent, Bassenthwaite Lake’s principal river, is internationally important for its salmon and trout populations but these are currently in decline.  Preliminary work shows that Dash Beck could be an excellent spawning habitat for salmon, trout and other salmonids, but is currently not reaching its potential.  The project will tackle pollution inputs, reduce sediment inputs to the beck, increase in-stream habitat diversity, allow more light to reach the river bed, and will manage the riverside woodland to enhance its suitability for a wider variety of species.  To achieve this, tasks will include clearing and repairing the footpath; stabilising the eroding bank with natural materials; coppicing bankside woodland to allow more light to reach the stream and increase diversity of woodland habitat; pulling Himalayan balsam; and fencing off the beck and footpath from the farmland.  Other planned work includes training for landowners on the benefits of coppicing by Cumbria Woodlands.

As much work as possible will be carried out by volunteers, and activities will give them the opportunity to learn about the stream and the threats it faces.  Volunteers from Bassenthwaite Rotary Club will be trained as Riverfly monitors, taking monthly surveys of invertebrates as indicators of water quality and siltation.  Local volunteers will continue to walk the beck to monitor Himalyan balsam and overgrowth, and will continue to control if necessary.

Work will also be carried out to maintain the footpath alongside Dash Beck down to a quiet area of Bassenthwaite lake shore, where it joins a network of other footpaths, including the long distance ‘Allerdale ramble’ trail.  The project will reduce the risk of bank erosion, making the footpath safer and improving access to the lake.

Dash Beck lies in the northern fells of the English Lake District, descending rapidly from its source on the north facing slopes of the Skiddaw massif over a series of cascades known as Whitewater Dash or Dash Falls, described by Wainwright as the finest succession of falls in the Lake District.  The lower reaches of Dash Beck, which is where the work will be carried out, continue through a small valley of the same name, through the village of Bassenthwaite before flowing into Bassenthwaite Lake at its north-eastern corner.

Lake District Osprey Project

osprey

In 2001 ospreys made a momentous return to the Lake District, after being extinct in England for decades. The ospreys now return from Africa to their nest near Bassenthwaite Lake each spring and more than 19 chicks have fledged since they returned.

The visitor viewpoints at Dodd Wood are great locations for watching the birds fishing in the lake.The viewpoints are open to visitors from April to August and volunteers are on hand to provide information and answer questions about the birds.

Big screens in Whinlatter Visitor Centre show live close-up pictures of the nest throughout the season, thanks to new camera systems. The cameras also help staff and volunteers monitor the nest and carry out round-the-clock surveillance to protect the birds from disturbance and egg collection.

The ‘Osprey Bus’ runs during the season allowing visitors to travel around Bassenthwaite Lake and visit the osprey sites without needing to use their cars. Visit Cumbria County Council’s website for the timetable (Bus 74)

Funds raised support the nest protection work, and help develop the project’s educational facilities, bringing the birds to as wide an audience as possible.

  

Fix the Fells

Pete on Silverhowe

Fix the Fells is a partnership programme between the Lake District National Park, National Trust, Natural England, Lake District Foundation, Friends of the Lake District and Cumbria County Council to repair erosion scars which have developed over the years, and to make sure that these scars are prevented in the future.

The Lake District fells are enjoyed by millions of walkers every year but the high level paths can be surprisingly fragile and the sheer number of visitors leave a mark on the landscape. Over time grass is compacted by heavy foot traffic and dies. Heavy rainfall quickly washes away the exposed soil down the steep slopes into streams, rivers and eventually the lakes, where the increased amount of silt causes havoc for fish and other species.

The work being done aims to prevent this loss of grass and soil by designing and creating paths that are resilient to wear and tear and reduce the impact on the surrounding landscape. On steep slopes you may see ‘pitching’ where stone has been laid, while on less steep slopes the paths may have been repaired by a ‘soil inversion’ technique with the aid of a digger.

Take a look at what the teams have been up to recently:

  

 

Red Squirrels Northern England

The red squirrel is our only native British squirrel but is at serious risk of extinction if population numbers continue to decline. The main cause of this decline is competition with the American grey squirrel, an introduced species which is larger than the red and better able to survive harsh weather and occasional food shortages. It also breeds more successfully and quickly out-competes its red cousin for food.

Cumbria is one of the few counties in the country where red squirrels can still be seen and RSNE is working to protect and increase numbers. They are working with landowners to carry out conservation work to benefit the reds in 5 designated red squirrel reserves at Whinlatter, Thirlmere, Greystoke, Whinfell, and Garsdale/Mallerstang.

The project supports networks of volunteers and contractors to carry out grey squirrel control in these reserves, and their 5km buffer zones, and train volunteers to assist with population surveys and monitoring. They provide education programmes and web-based teaching materials for schools, and work to raise the profile of the red squirrel through educational walks, talks and events for the wider community, signs and interpretation panels at the reserves, their website and local media.

Take a look at the great work that RSNE carry out, thanks to the support of our fantastic fundraisers:

  

Barkbooth Lot Nature Reserve

Barkbooth Lot

Barkbooth Lot Nature Reserve is situated near the head of the Winster Valley and covers 27 ha of diverse habitat, including rough fell land, oak woodland, meadow and tarns.

Staff have worked to repair walls and fences and add gates so that livestock and deer are kept out of some areas to protect the oak woodland from grazing and allow an understorey of plants to develop. Bluebells carpet the floor of the woodland in spring.

The meadow area is being restored by planting with native species. Scrub is controlled to maintain areas of open grassland that are needed by rare butterflies such as the high brown fritillary. The bracken is controlled in summer  and is grazed by cattle in winter to stop it keep it under control.

Damselflies and dragonflies are numerous around the tarns on Barkbooth Lot and interpretation panels give visitors information about Barkbooth Lot and a path system has been created. Take a look at the great work our fundraisers have supported recently:

 

Cumbria Outdoors John Muir Award

John Muir

The John Muir Award encourages people of all backgrounds to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places through a structured yet adaptable scheme. It encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment, in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration.

The Award is the main engagement initiative of the John Muir Trust. You can find out more on the John Muir Award website.

Cumbria Outdoors use the John Muir Award with young people aged 7-19. Through activities to enjoy, explore and understand the outdoors they raise awareness of the importance of conserving wild places. As part of this the young people take responsibility for the environment through hands-on activities such as footpath maintenance, woodland management or non-native invasive species control. The Award isn’t competitive but challenges each participant.

Funds are also used to help people get involved who would not ordinarily have the opportunity to do so due to a range of social disadvantage. Take a look at what our fundraisers supported last year:

   

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