The University of Cumbria along with Natural England, the Forestry Commission and Cumbria Wildlife Trust has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the development of the South Cumbria species restoration programme.
Development funding worth £174,500 has been awarded to a project aimed at developing the area’s landscape through a community-led species restoration programme; species such as the pine marten could be among those reintroduced to the Morecambe Bay area.
Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to create a sense of ownership of the natural heritage as well as increased sustainability and resilience of the landscape.
An ‘eco-museum’ – a virtual museum focused on a specific area involving supporters drawn from local communities - will be created. There will also be a scheme to share knowledge about the area among generations to ensure a lasting difference to the natural heritage of this precious part of northern England.
The project will also offer huge opportunities to local schools, colleges and universities to participate in a ‘living laboratory’ of natural heritage restoration.
“A recent Natural England review of the Morecambe Bay lowlands has identified a range of species locally extinct over the last 200 years or so; ranging from plants such as goldilocks aster and burnt orchid up to sturgeon and sea-eagle,” said Professor Ian Convery professor of environment and society and research director, Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas. “Some species cling on in isolated pockets, for example maidenhair fern can be found on a wet rock face at Arnside and northern-dune tiger beetle in the dunes at Haverigg. Many more, however, are lost altogether and with their loss the landscape has become impoverished and our experience of it diminished.”
Working with a range of partner organisations, the development phase will identify the feasibility of involving local growers to help nurture plants for reintroduction. It’s hoped ‘social heath’ programmes such as Piccadilly Gardens, Growing Well and the rehabilitation programme of Haverigg prison, as well as local volunteer growers will contribute to the project.
“The loss of wildlife along with flora and fauna has been compounded by demographic changes in South Cumbria; many of today’s local residents are not aware of what has been lost,” Prof Convery said. ”Nature, culture and heritage are deeply entwined, and this project will bring together all three concepts through the restoration of a suite of locally extinct native species as key natural heritage features of the South Cumbria and particularly Morecambe Bay landscape. We’re delighted to receive the award from the National Lottery which will enable us to make a difference before it’s too late.”