Wild About Cumbria: Hardknott Forest Regeneration

Restoring Hardknott Forest

A new project is recruiting volunteers to help restore Hardknott Forest. Project Officer John Hodgson explains how you can get involved.

The Duddon Valley is one of the more secluded of the Lake District’s valleys. It is also one of the most wooded; with it’s series of ancient oak woodlands which snake down the valley and all the way to the coast.

Hardknott Forest

When, back in the 1930’s, a 600 hectare area was planted with non-native conifers by the Forestry Commission it wasn’t a popular decision. But over 70 years later the Forestry Commission has decided to restore the entire plantation to native habitats of oak and birch woodland, bogs and open ground. This initiative is a historic opportunity to create one of the largest semi-natural woodlands in the Lake District.

Non-native trees such as Sitka spruce (a North American species) are gradually being removed and replaced with native species such as oak. Some areas are regenerating naturally and we have seen holly, willow, birch and rowan all returning to the forest, with associated benefits for native wildlife.

Restoring Hardknott Forest

The area is known to support rare mammal species such as dormice, otters and red squirrels, and birds increasingly seen here include great spotted woodpeckers, jays and bullfinches.
In partnership with the Forestry Commission, the Restoring Hardknott Forest Project is organising practical restoration activities and research. Local residents, schools and community organisations have contributed hundreds of days of volunteer work so far, and are seeing some good results from their work.

Hardknott Forest Restoration

Restoring a native forest is a long-term task and more help is always welcome. The volunteer days are open to all and are a great opportunity to socialise and to learn about forest restoration, as well contributing to creating more native forest in Cumbria.

Volunteer days are the second Sunday and fourth Tuesday of each month (except July and August) and run from 9.30am – 3.30pm. Tools and work gloves are provided but volunteers are required to bring lunch and suitable footwear and clothing. The project also run occasional residential weekends (the next one is in October) and can organise days for schools and community groups, or for businesses and workplaces.

Find us at the Birks Bridge Car Park, on the minor road between Cockley Beck and Seathwaite (Landranger Map 96 Grid Ref SD234995).

For more information contact j.h.hodgson@leeds.ac.uk or follow @HardknottForest

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