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.

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