Mardale Mountain Meadow Launch

Lee Schofield

Friday 3 March 2017

Restoring mountain plants at RSPB Haweswater

An exciting new project to restore native alpine plants to the fells around Haweswater, many of which are remnants of the flora that flourished after the last Ice Age, was launched on Thursday 2 March by a partnership involving the RSPB, United Utilities, the Alpine Garden Society and Natural England.

Representatives from the four partners, along with a team of volunteers planted 400 eared willow and juniper at Mardale Head, to mark the start of an important project that aims to rejuvenate this upland site, giving a valuable link to the landscape that would have existed in the past.

The land surrounding Haweswater reservoir, which is owned by United Utilities and partly managed by the RSPB, is home to oak woodland, ancient juniper scrub, bogs and upland hay meadows as well as rocky cliffs that host alpine plants. Birds such as ring ouzels and peregrines can be spotted at the site as well as red squirrels and rare mountain ringlet butterflies. However, the native mountain plant communities, have seen serious declines in the area due to years of grazing by sheep and deer.

Now, thanks to funding from the Alpine Garden Society, this project aims to bring these plants back from the brink. The site to be restored is at Mardale Head, easily accessible from the visitor car park at Haweswater. An area the size of around 42 football pitches has been fenced off to exclude grazing animals and allow the planting of native trees, shrubs and herbs. A walk will also be incorporated to allow visitors to get a closer look and discover what the uplands could look like when nature is given priority.

Lee Schofield, RSPB Site Manager at Haweswater, said:"We are proud to be working with the Alpine Garden Society to restore some of our most threatened native plants here at Haweswater. This partnership will combine their knowledge and experience in cultivating alpine plants, with the RSPB's ecological and upland management expertise. We not only want to address the declines in these treasured mountain gems, many of which are currently only found clinging to inaccessible cliff edges, we also want to highlight how important they are to the many visitors that come to Haweswater, by installing a walk through the site as well as interpretation."

John Gorst, Catchment Partnership Officer from United Utilities said: "United Utilities has been working hard to restore our upland catchment land for well over a decade. This project stands to have a positive impact on the 'raw' water which flows off the land into our reservoir, as well as promoting biodiversity. We are looking forward to seeing a resurgence in native plants around Haweswater which last flourished after the Ice Age. It's an exciting prospect."

Christine McGregor, Director of the Alpine Garden Society said: "The Society is delighted to be participating in this important conservation work. We look forward to seeing this site develop into an example of what can be achieved when like-minded organisations pool their resources."

Simon Webb, Lead Conservation Advisor for Natural England in the Lake District said:

The high mountains of the Lake District are the English stronghold for arctic alpine plants and mountain vegetation. These plants still cling on although they have been affected by Victorian plant collecting, livestock grazing and now the impacts of climate change. It's great that we are working together to change the outlook for some of these mountain specialists and to make Mardale Head a richer and more colourful place."

For more information on the nature conservation work at Haweswater, visit rspb.org.uk/haweswater

Editor's notes:

1. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654

Tagged with: Country: England Country: UK Topic: Habitat conservation