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.