Giving nature a helping hand

31st March 2022

Lying in the central southern part of the Lake District, the valley of Coniston is overlooked by rugged fells and extensive woodlands and forest plantations.

The National Trust’s South Lakes Landscape Project is helping to restore a large area of wood pasture above Coniston Hall for the benefit of wildlife and people who visit it.

The charity received £6,000 from the English Lakes Hotels Sustainability Fund to deliver a programme of innovative conservation at Bleathwaite above Coniston Hall. The National Trust has committed to planting or establishing 20 million trees by 2030 as part of efforts to cut its emissions to net zero.

Working in partnership with farm tenants, National Trust rangers and volunteers have restored more than 60 hectares of wood pasture and a series of peat bogs in partnership with Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Eight hectares of lakeshore fen was restored, and 120 sustainable tree cages were created and planted, which are constructed and felled from the National Trust woodlands and will naturally decompose on site as the trees establish, eliminating the need for plastic cages.

Ross Mackintosh, Fundraiser, said: “This has been made possible through the help of some of our long-standing volunteer groups, in particular a mental health group and also a rehabilitation volunteer group. Together they have assisted us in removing old fence lines and are now helping plant new wetland wildflowers in the area. We planted 1,200 plug plants in autumn 2021 and plan to plant a further 4,800 wildflowers in 2022 to further enhance the floristic diversity of this area.

“This will provide the magic combination of pollen, nectar and a valuable seed source supporting life through the food chain. A further 20,000 trees have been planted on open ground working with volunteers as well as our tree planting contractor.”

In addition, 650m of new hedges has been planted and a further 350m of existing hedge has been laid, which will create new ‘green corridors’ for wildlife to move throughout the farm.

The National Trust will continue to give nature a helping hand at Coniston Hall while the trees and restored habitats establish themselves.

“True restoration of habitats takes years however, and so beyond 2022, with the right management, these changes will naturally as the landscape continues to adapt and evolve,” said Ross.