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The South Cumbria Species Restoration Project: Back On Our Map

The development phase of this project has now been completed. Further updates on this project will be communicated soon.

Back On Our Map is a brand new project working to restore species to the distinctive lowland fells and coast of south Cumbria.

The University of Cumbria, working with local communities and project partners, the Forestry Commission, Natural England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust will be aiming to restore up to twelve species of plants, animals, birds and invertebrates which are missing from sites in the region.

Why Now?

With each generation, people are becoming less connected with nature, their local countryside and landscapes.

We know that biodiversity is declining across the UK, and south Cumbria is no exception. However, existing and ongoing habitat restoration schemes in the project area make it sensible and sustainable to build on this, and work to restore species which are extinct or declining in number.


How Is It Funded?

The Heritage Lottery Fund have awarded the partnership a one-year development grant to finalise the project plan and business case, and work towards an application for a four-year delivery grant. During this development phase year, the partnership must also secure additional funds towards the delivery phase. We are in the process of securing this from businesses and charitable organisations.

Why Is This Project Needed?

Our extraordinary biodiversity and cultural heritage needs protecting


Almost 200 of the rarest and most threatened species in the UK including plants, birds and butterflies have been recorded in the project area across 32 important and vulnerable habitats.

Species missing from the landscape, maybe for generations, may also have cultural significance in the area and are documented in place names such as Cater (Beaver), Earne (the nesting place of eagles) and ‘mart’ indicating the presence of pine martens.

These species were once as much a part of the Cumbrian identity as Wordsworth’s daffodils. As this local connection between nature, culture and heritage has diminished over time, so too has the relationship between communities and the natural world around them.

Our extensive species loss needs addressing to prevent further extinctions


Natural England reviewed species in the South Cumbria lowlands around Morecambe Bay and found many that have become locally extinct over the last 200 years, including species such as goldilocks aster and burnt orchid, sturgeon and sea-eagle.

Some species survive in isolated pockets, including maidenhair fern on a wet Arnside rock face and northern-dune tiger beetle in the Drigg dunes. Many more, however, are lost altogether for an assortment of reasons, including hunting, changes in habitat management, habitat loss altogether, and the movement of species reacting to climate change. The landscape today is impoverished in species and our experience of it diminished as a result. However, positive change due to recent successful habitat restoration undertaken by projects like Rusland Horizons, Dunes of Barrow, and Headlands2Headspace now provide ideal conditions for species restoration and reintroduction.

Our extensive cultural loss needs addressing to ensure long-term restoration


In some cases, natural heritage loss leaves few physical signs, and the presence of some species only survives in the memory of older generations; passing from the awareness of the wider community.

This ‘invisible loss’ or ‘shifting baseline’, and acceptance of a degraded landscape as ‘the way it should be’ has been made worse by demographic change in South Cumbria. Many of the people living in South Cumbria today are unaware of lost species and often lack the ‘intergenerational connectedness’ to their local natural history: out of sight is literally out of mind.

Nature, culture and heritage are deeply entwined - restoration of a locally extinct native species will help reconnect the people of South Cumbria with their natural landscapes. We will be running workshops for people to help shape the decisions about managing their local natural heritage for positive environmental change.

Natural restoration is in demand nationally and enhanced by local initiatives


Bio2020 is a national government strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services published in 2011, and provides a comprehensive picture of how we are implementing our international and EU commitments. It sets out the government’s ambition to halt overall loss of England’s biodiversity by 2020, support healthy well-functioning ecosystems and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife. This includes aims to get 90% of priority habitats (definition or link) in favourable or recovering condition and at least 50% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in favourable condition.

Complementing this strategy document are successful local practical projects which have restored or improved habitats in the area. These include those overseen by the Morecambe Bay Local Nature Partnership, including the Morecambe Bay Nature Improvement Area project; the Headlands to Headspace Landscape Partnership; Dunes of Barrow WREN-funded restoration; Wetlands Vision funded Morecambe Bay Wetlands project; and the Catchment Restoration Fund’s ‘Source to Sea’ project. Cumbria Wildlife Trust has also been working hard to restore raised bogs in the area with extensive peatland restoration at Foulshaw, Meathop and Ireland Mosses. These examples of habitat restoration provide healthy functioning ecosystems for our introduced species to thrive in.

South Cumbria has areas of substantial deprivation; demanding improvements to health and wellbeing


Barrow-in-Furness has 13 communities that rank within the 10% most deprived of areas in England, six of which are classified as being within the 3% most deprived nationally. Three of these communities are located in Central ward, while the remaining three are located in the Ormsgill, Hindpool and Barrow Island wards. Furthermore, over 20 areas in Lancaster District rank in the most deprived 25% of the country. Of these, seven areas are in the worst 5% nationally, and one area in the most deprived 1% of all 32,468 areas in England.

The project will work within these communities, running events and activities outside and developing apps record the natural world within the project and ecomuseum. The project will also offer huge opportunities to local schools, colleges and other groups to participate in a ‘living laboratory’ of natural heritage restoration.

What Will This Project Do?

The four-year South Cumbria Species Restoration Project aims to:

  • Undertake natural heritage restoration to reintroduce 12 species of flora and fauna across an area of lowland fringing Morecambe Bay; positively impacting local natural heritage for 15 years.
  • Undertake community engagement and citizen science to engage with communities to address local loss of landscape value and custodianship that has resulted in a degraded sense of place; enabling people to connect to and appreciate the landscape, and protect wildlife for future generations.

Strand 1: Natural Heritage Restoration

The partnership will follow International Union for Conservation of Nature guidelines, which state there must be ecological, economic and social feasibility for reintroductions. ‘Communities of interest’ will be consulted during the development phase to establish suitability, including government agencies, local and national conversation bodies, and species-specific organisations. We have also consulted with ‘communities of place’, including local community groups, social-welfare charities, landowners and farmers, and at public events, shows, and other meetings for local people. For more information in regards to the IUCN Guidelines, see -

Strand 2: Community Engagement and South Cumbria Eco Museum

Communities of interest and place are at the heart of this project, and they will be involved in all aspects of the natural restoration above. Reintroductions and restorations will involve people from a wide age range, including primary students, college and university students, working-age people and senior citizens. The exact activities are still being determined as part of our HLF development phase but based on current partnership discussions are likely to include the following themes:

  • Growing - Community planting, growing and seed collection, including work with community growers.
  • Looking – Habitat and species surveys, and monitoring.
  • Learning – Direct involvement of school groups and students in reintroductions with training for volunteers in conservation skills.
  • Working – Involvement of volunteer groups in works to improve habitats, river and nature reserve quality.
  • Making – Involvement of volunteer groups to produce reintroduction materials such as dormice boxes and seed-collecting bags, and creative opportunities such as nature writing, poetry, film making and print making related to heritage.
  • Listening – Collecting memories and recollections from local people of the natural and cultural landscape; promoting intergenerational connectedness between nature and people, and informing the development of a ‘South Cumbria Ecomuseum’ (see below).


South Cumbria Eco Museum

A tangible legacy of the project will be a ‘South Cumbria Ecomuseum’ – a community museum ‘without walls’. Centred on the identity of ‘place’, ecomuseums require local participation and aim to enhance the welfare and development of local communities alongside presentation of historical information or locations. Ecomusems promote both culture and heritage, are generally related to a geographical territory and/or a specific sphere of activity. They can include tangible (artefacts, buildings) or intangible (personal accounts, know-how) aspects.

The South Cumbria Ecomuseum will be community-led to establish what is important to local people, and what natural and cultural sites, artefacts, and historical locations should be included. Some on-site interpretation might feature as well as online tools to guide people across the ‘territory’; offering alternative destinations outside Lake District ‘honeypots’ and opportunities for people to engage with their local landscape and heritage.  

As examples, the Skye Ecomuseum ( focuses on Staffin for its territory, and includes footpaths, interpretation illustrating the story of each area, and focuses on the heritage and landscape. It includes the famous Staffin Beach dinosaur footprints, crofting, use of the Gaelic language, past industries, wildlife, geology, and archaeology. The Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum ( connects site across the North East related to the Flodden Campaign.


Consultation Events and Volunteering

South Cumbria Species Restoration is seeking local people to attend our consultation events, volunteer, share their stories and knowledge, and support the project.


We will be running the following consultation events across the project area. These will take place from 10am - 4pm and will include opportunities to talk to the project team, ask questions, share knowledge and experience of local cultural and natural heritage, and take part in family-friendly (and fun!) growing activities and crafts. Contact Claire Cornish or James Hodge if you would like to know more. 

  • Green Heart Den, 190 Marsh St, Barrow-in-Furness, (Saturday 4th August - TBC)

  • Castle Street Community Centre, 3 Castle St, Kendal, LA9 7AD (Saturday 28th July)

  • Grizedale Visitor Centre, Grizedale, Ambleside, LA22 0QN, (Saturday 23rd June)

  • Gaskell Hall, 17 Emesgate Ln, Silverdale, Carnforth, LA5 0RA (Saturday 11th August)


The project team will also be present at the following county shows.

  • Countryfest, Westmorland County Showground, Lane Farm, Crooklands, LA7 7NH (Saturday 2nd and 3rd June)

  • Ruslands Show, Whitestock Meadow, Rusland, LA12 8LB (Saturday 18th August)

  • Hawkshead Show, Hawkshead Hall Farm, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0NN (Tuesday 21st August)


Volunteer with Us!

Come and work with us to help develop and shape Back On Our Map. We are looking for people to help with events, surveying habitats, and data recording. As we enter into our delivery phase, we will also need help with species reintroductions and engagement events.

Please contact Claire Cornish, Species Restoration Officer, to register your interest or find out how you can get involved with this exciting new project.


Share Your Knowledge and Stories

Do you have memories of the natural and cultural heritage of the Morecambe Bay area? We want re-introductions to reflect local pride in your area, and we are looking for people to share their stories about species and land management they recall in the landscape, or how place and field names relate to natural features, animals and plants.

Please contact Helen Rawlinson, Species Restoration Officers, to find out more.



Project Online Survey

We want to hear from you!

As we seek to develop a species restoration project for the communities of south Cumbria, we’d like to better understand your views on wildlife and how you might want to get involved or take part. 

This will enable us to make a case for further funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and help shape the project. It should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

Click the link below to get started.

Support South Cumbria Species Restoration

We are keen to provide opportunities for companies to support the project with corporate donations or as ‘species’ and ‘site’ sponsors. These will be promoted on our website and social media channels and we anticipate strong national interest and local involvement in this ambitious project as we journey through the species selection to species re-introduction process.

If you want something different for a team building day, we can arrange Corporate Days in the field for them to experience problem solving in the natural world.

Please contact James Hodge, Project Manager, If you would like to find out more.

Contact the Project Team

To talk to one of the team or make an enquiry about the project, please contact Jane Naik, Project Administrator (01524 385473).  

South Cumbria Species Restoration is based in Ambleside, at the University of Cumbria. Our address is BOOM, Room CM2.05, Charlotte Mason Building, University of Cumbria, Rydal Road, Ambleside LA22 9BB.

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