Wild Ennerdale National Nature Reserve
The Wild Ennerdale partners together with Natural England are proposing to declare much of the Ennerdale Valley as a National Nature Reserve (NNR). The NNR will be a legacy for future generations committing the management of the valley to have a continued focus on nature restoration and recovery.
More about National Nature Reserves
National Nature Reserves (NNRs) were established to protect some of our most important habitats, species and geology, and to provide ‘outdoor laboratories’ for research. Most NNRs offer great opportunities for schools, specialist interest groups and the public to experience wildlife at first hand and to learn more about nature conservation.
There are currently 225 NNRs in England with a total area of over 98,600 hectares - approximately 0.7% of the country’s land surface. The largest is The Wash covering almost 8,800 hectares, while Dorset’s Horn Park Quarry is the smallest at 0.32 hectares.
To find out more visit UK Governments National Nature Reserves Homepage
More about the Wild Ennerdale NNR proposal
The NNR designation is likely to cover most of the valley but not all of it. To be designated as an NNR the land must be managed primarily for nature conservation and be owned by an organisation approved by Natural England. Buildings and other infrastructure will not form part of the NNR.
The NNR proposal is likely to be confirmed by Natural England in the autumn of 2022
The objective of the NNR declaration would be to publicly commit to the management of Wild Ennerdale as a National Nature Reserve. This means that the Wild Ennerdale partnership are making a long-term commitment to this approach to managing the valley. The proposed NNR demonstrates the Lawton Principles for nature recovery - bigger, better and more joined up.
In the current nature and climate crises we need examples of exemplary land management and habitat restoration to provide demonstration sites and to inspire others to see how they can change their way of managing the land. Not all the land in Ennerdale is in perfect condition and the NNR will be used as to demonstrate how to restore habitats and recover nature. The designation of Ennerdale as an NNR will provide a landscape scale example of how a future natural approach to management can be taken forward in the uplands of the North of England.
Very little will change on the ground, Wild Ennerdale is an established and stable partnership and has a management plan which went through a community consultation in 2018. The NNR declaration will not change the partnership, or the management plan and the proposals have been discussed with the farmers and other stakeholders within the NNR area. The NNR will not change existing provision of access and enjoyment for the public.
The current Lake District National Park Partnership Plan (LDNPP), developed and agreed in 2021, includes the ambition to develop and grow the network of landscape scale nature recovery areas and delivery approaches that combine farming, forestry and land management choices to achieve nature recovery.
The designation of Wild Ennerdale as NNR and the delivery of the Wild Ennerdale Stewardship plan is aligned with the nature recovery priorities identified in the draft Cumbria Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS). Delivery of the ambition and vision of the LNRS is a key ambition of the LDNPP plan.
The LDNPP plan sets the target of core areas specifically focussed on nature recovery covering at least 10% of the National Park by 2025. The creation of Wild Ennerdale NNR will make a substantial contribution to delivery of this plan target.
Over the past 20 years the Wild Ennerdale Partnership has significantly extended the area of farmed land. Many hundreds of hectares of forest and fell which were not farmed in 2003 are now part of the farmed landscape. Wild Ennerdale relies on farmers to deliver some parts of the Wild Ennerdale Vision and this will continue with the NNR designation. For example, the extensive grazing of traditional breed cattle has been a key part in restoring habitats in the valley bottom. The NNR will see the partnership continue to work together with farmers as set out in the 2018 Wild Ennerdale Stewardship plan. This will continue to be through extensive farming rather than production led farming and it will support and pilot new models of farming and farm support.
NNR designation will not change any aspects of public access or open access land. People will still be free to enjoy quiet recreation in the woodlands and fells of the valley up as they are now. Some areas of meadow and farmland are not currently open access, and this will not change as part of the NNR declaration. Buildings and the immediate land around them will not be designated as part of the NNR so their privacy will not be changed.
Ennerdale forms one of the 13 valleys contained within the English Lake District World Heritage Site (WHS) designation. The introductory paragraph to the Ennerdale valley description in the WHS nomination identifies the sense of wildness as one of the key characteristics of the valley: “Though much modified by human activity in the form of forestry, water extraction and farming, it is the large scale of its natural features that impose themselves and create and overriding sense of isolation, wildness and tranquillity”. The valley description ends with this final summary: “Ennerdale continues to play an important part in the development of conservation practice in the Lake District through the Wild Ennerdale project.” Ennerdale displays a range of WHS attributes and dedication as a National Nature Reserve will be compatible with protection of the World Heritage Site and part of its future development and evolution.
The Wild Ennerdale Stewardship Plan helps support and deliver many public benefits such as volunteer opportunities, recreation and access, tourism, thriving biodiversity, clean and clear water, increased protection from flooding, support of local farming and locking up carbon in peaty soils and forests. All these actions and benefits will continue into the NNR. The NNR status can help support local business, enhance the nature recovery focus for Ennerdale and the visitor experience which fits with the Wild Ennerdale vision and principles.
Yes, Ennerdale Water is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and will be included in the area designated as a National Nature Reserve. Ennerdale Water is an important example of a nutrient-poor lake and in Cumbria is second only to Wastwater for its low productivity. It is relatively undisturbed and supports a characteristic freshwater flora and fauna which include examples of nationally rare and local species The site contains a variety of habitats apart from the open water of the lake itself, including the shoreline, a small area of semi-natural deciduous woodland with important lichen and bryophyte communities, and a small area of wetland at the head of the lake.
Yes, the management of the forest will continue to include the production of timber. The Vision for the forest is that it becomes more species rich and less dominated by Sitka spruce. To achieve this we will continue to thin and fell trees to make space for natural regeneration and planting to develop more diverse forest structures and introduce missing or under represented species such as Scots pine, Juniper and Aspen. We will also look for opportunities to increase deadwood, gaps and glades with the forest which will continue to be part of the area that extensive grazing cattle have access too.
Looking forward into the future the eastern third of the valley has the potential to be the wildest and most tranquil however at the moment it is the least biodiverse. To support this future vision there will come a time when timber production no long continues to be a significant element of the management of the eastern end of the valley.