The multiple challenges of managing recreation and biodiversity in a working landscape

Understanding Ullswater Evening Talk by Pete Barron, Glenridding Common Land Manager, John Muir Trust

The John Muir Trust was established in 1983 to ‘Protect and enhance wild land for the benefit of both people and wildlife’. In 2017 they were awarded a 3 year lease on Glenridding Common which includes the summit of Helvellyn plus Swirral and Striding Edges.

In his talk, Pete Barron highlighted the achievements of the last two years, describing the range of tasks they have undertaken and the way in which the local community has been involved.

33% of all Commons in England are in Cumbria. A key aspect here is that Glenridding Common is a working landscape: two local farmers graze their sheep on this section of the Fells.

Achievements by JMT in the last two years include:

  • A winter conditions monitoring system from near the summit of Helvellyn that provides hourly temperature data to help winter climbers assess conditions before attempting a climb. The climactic conditions and the craggy terrain of Helvellyn provide a niche habitat for unusual plants, including three extremely rare alpine species (downy willow, alpine saxifrage and alpine meadow grass). These are vulnerable to damage by crampons and ice axes when the ground is not frozen solid.
  • Connecting and engaging with young people and sharing knowledge of wild sites with them.
  • Mitigating the effects of human footfall and especially of large events – e.g. the JMT can warn event organisers where the rare plants are along a planned route for e.g. fell-running
  • Re-seeding the summit of Helvellyn. Twenty six tons of stone (removed from cairns) have been scattered to discourage walkers from straying from the path and the area has been re-seeded with a mix of grasses. The vegetation has already recovered significantly.Work party 8 18 Helvellyn summit

Work Party on Helvellyn Summit © Pete Barron

  • Local residents are supporting the JMT’s programme to increase the population of rare alpine plants on the Helvellyn range. Willow grown from cuttings and a range of alpine plants grown from seed have been cared for by local residents before being planted out on the rock face of the Helvellyn coves by JMT and Natural England. Water avens & sawort

Water avons and sawort © Pete Barron

Other rare species on the site that are being protected and encouraged are:

  • Dwarf Willow and Greenside Juniper which is in danger of disease and needs constant surveillance.
  • The Schelley fish in Red Tarn is an ice age relic and needs protecting. Red Tarn also contains England’s highest (in altitude) population of sticklebacks.
  • The Ring ouzel (mountain blackbird) is a declining species and needs monitoring. There are four pairs here at present. Other rare birdlife includes snow buntings in winter.
  • Mountain Ringlet, the only true Mountain Butterfly, can be seen on the wing on Raise in July

 

Other priorities and achievements include:

  • The leats (water management system) from the old Glenridding mine are part of industrial archaeology and need maintenance too
  • Education is very important aspect. MICCI (Moorland Indications of Climate Change Initiative)has  supported local schools, including Patterdale school,  helping to collect data such as water levels and peat depth.
  • The John Muir Trust award scheme encourages children and young people especially, to connect with, enjoy and care for the wild spaces https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/john-muir-award
  • Signage on the Fells – JMT joins in the debate about whether more signage of The Fells for walkers would be a good thing or not.

Cecilia McCabe

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