Thursday, 18 June 2015

Wicken Fen meets Ennerdale Valley

Last week, a few members of the Ranger team piled into two cars and drove a long way north. We were off to visit Wild Ennerdale, a similar landscape scale project to the Wicken Fen Vision Project, where they are allowing natural processes to shape the valley. After the initial stunned awe at the fantastic scenery on our arrival, and once we recovered from the shock that we may actually have to walk up a hill, we settled in to the cosy Ennerdale youth hostel ready for a full day of walking, looking and learning the next day.   
Howard was excited to arrive at Ennerdale
We were very pleased with our home for the two nights

Ennerdale Valley is located in the north west of the Lake District National Park. Wild Ennerdale is a project run in partnership with National Trust, Forestry Commission, and United Utilities, aiming to let the 4000ha valley evolve as a wild space for the benefit of people, relying more on natural processes to shape its landscape and ecology. The Wicken Fen Rangers and the Wild Ennerdale team met up to see the valley and discuss our project’s similarities, differences and share ideas on how to take both projects forward in the future.

Views up the River Liza
Our lunchtime views!
Even though Ennerdale has very different habitats, being a mixture of forest, river, mountain and lake, it is remarkable the similarities the project has with the Vision Project. The most notable is the use of large grazing animals to create an ever changing landscape. In the Valley they are limiting the number of sheep on the fells and have introduced a herd of Galloway cattle, owned and managed by one of their tenant farmers and, like our Highlands cattle, they are left to grazing all year round with no routine vet treatments such as worming or hoof trimming. They do, however, have more control over when the cows calve as they don’t have a bull with them the whole year around, ensuring that they calve in the early summer when the grazing is richer.
The Galloways heard the food call!

One of their lovely Galloway ladies
Both projects have a big focus on engaging with the community. Community surveys and liaison groups are used on both sites to help people enjoy the countryside, while limiting the impact they have on the wildlife in these areas. Both projects also have the support of dedicated volunteers that do essential work to manage the sites.

Both teams enjoying the sunshine
John getting to know one of the locals!
Wild Ennerdale was set up around the Millennium and has already shown great progress and has some success stories. By replacing parts of the conifer woodland with native broad leaved trees they are securing habitat for a variety of birds including spotted fly catcher, tree pipits and greater spotted woodpeckers. Some of the larch reduction has been forced by the appearance of a damaging pathogen called Phytophtora ramorum. It is a fungus, whose spores can spread through the air and on the surface of tools, footwear and animals. It creates large lesions down the trunk, killing the inner bark and eventually killing the entire tree. When a tree is diagnosed with being infected with P. ramorum, it has to be felled or killed immediately, to help stop the spread of the disease.

Here it could be seen where the broad leaf trees were starting to make head way into the conifer woodland
On a more positive note Marsh Fritillary butterflies, Euphydryas aurina, have been successfully reintroduced in to the valley over the past two years. They were originally introduced into a small nature reserve nearby, where they flourished. After it was established that the conditions were correct for the butterflies to be introduced into Ennerdale, and that there was plenty of their larval food plant, Devil’s-Bit Scabious, Succisa pratensis, they were released into the western end of the valley. They have been making their way slowly up the valley ever since.

We had a little time to explore all the nooks and crannies
And staying in the valley meant we got to see at all times of the day
The Wicken Fen team came back from this trip truly inspired and energised. To see the results and successes of Wild Ennerdale has reminded us of our own successes and encouraged us to push on with the Vision Project, as there are many more success stories to come.

The Wicken Team had a fab time, thank you to everyone at Ennerdale!

We had such a good time we didn't really want to go home.