Wild Lakeland - Nature Restoration around Ullswater

By Rob Dixon

All images © Wild Lakeland

At Wild Lakeland, we are working to conserve nature in the beautiful landscape of the Ullswater Valley, restoring habitats, ecosystems and encouraging ecological diversity. We work with a range of landowners, community interest groups and parish councils, both within the Ullswater area and further afield across the Lake District.

Importance of surveys

Nature conservation and restoration can take many forms, the truth is that we are often unaware of what specialised and rare habitats we already have. It is therefore, necessary as a first step to carry out ecological surveys to identify important species that are already present in a certain area, so that we can all work together to protect and encourage the important wildlife we still have left as a baseline.

Hay Meadows support huge diversity

Hay meadows in particular are one of our most valuable habitats that support a huge diversity of life. An increase in intensive farming practices through the last century, such as increased mowing and fertilisation, has seen species diversity in our hay meadows rapidly decline. Wildflower rich hay meadows can both support a wide range of wildlife and plant diversity, as well as fulfilling their farming purposes by producing high quality winter feed for livestock. In the Ullswater area, restoration of meadows is taking place through various schemes, such as Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship and local charitable organisations.

Hay Meadow restoration

Our biggest hay meadow restoration project in the area is a 30 acre meadow restoration scheme at Racy Ghyll Farm, Matterdale. 6,500 wildflower plug plants have been planted across 7 meadows, with the reintroduction of iconic meadow species including Wood Cranesbill, Great Burnet, Lady’s Mantle, Globeflower, Water Avens and Devil’s Bit Scabious. These species were once far more commonly found in meadows in the area than they are today, and their reintroduction here will benefit the local ecosystem by increasing food sources for pollinators, such as Bees and Hoverflies. This then has a beneficial effect higher up the food chain, particularly for our birds and mammals. The hope is the species will be able to spread to other meadows, roadside verges and pastures.

Hidden treasures

We have also had the privilege to survey many fields, meadows and wetlands within the Ullswater Valley. Many of these fields are unlikely to have ever been surveyed before, and more often than not, the landowners got a very pleasant surprise to find out they have either very species-rich land, or have a rare plant they did not know was there. This is probably the most enjoyable and rewarding part of our survey work.

At a small wetland field near Hartsop, we recorded over 100 species of wildflowers, several of which are classed as “red-listed”, meaning they are at risk of national extinction. We found species such as Sneezewort, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Marsh Marigold, Marsh Cinquefoil and Bog Stitchwort. The landowner was overjoyed to know there was so much variety in the field and was very keen to make sure it stays protected.

by Rob Dixon



Ullswater Catchment Management CIC

Natural England

Cumbria Wildlife Trust

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