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Conservation collaboration sees students create Cumbria’s newest nature reserve

Students, staff and supporters join John Fryer-Spedding (centre with umbrella) in planting saplings.

The first phase of work to create Cumbria’s newest nature reserve near Ambleside has been completed thanks to successful collaboration between local businesses and charities led by students at the University of Cumbria.

Second year conservation biology student Joshua Gilroy made a successful bid to the Woodland Trust for over a hundred saplings as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative. Friends of the Lake District, Hayes Garden World and Dalefoot Compost also offered their support for the idea.

On Wednesday (Dec 5) forestry students joined their conservation colleagues to plant saplings on land which was once used as a hockey pitch but had fallen out of use. The three-acre site had become scrubland but is now set to blossom into a wild life haven to be used by students and locals alike.

Joshua Gilroy

Joshua Gilroy said: “The idea is to create a community asset that will help with local flood prevention and carbon reduction. There are tracks through here so the area can be enjoyed by locals and visitors to Ambleside who can watch what was a field become something far more interesting for wildlife and fans of nature to enjoy.

He added: “Over the next 20 or 30 years we’ll have our own mini woodland here and it’s such a sense of satisfaction knowing it’s a piece of natural heritage that the students themselves have been involved with.”

Andrew Newton, chair of the National School of Forestry society, explained more about the variety of planting: “Hawthorn and blackthorn will create a woodland edge habitat which is great for bird species. Also a traditional Cumbrian mix of oak and hazel as well as birch and rowan.

He added: “We’re thinking about the benefits for wildlife and people as the area is popular with walkers. The Ambleside campus has conservation and forestry courses – two of the biggest sections in Ambleside. We want to create something students can use, maybe for a bat or small mammal survey or where we can plant more trees.”

Honorary fellow John Fryer-Spedding, a former President of the Royal Forestry Society, and currently a Vice-President of the Cumbria Community Foundation, carried out a ceremonial planting. In July 2016 he was recognised by the university for his lifelong service to the Cumbrian community and outstanding contribution to charitable work.

He said: “There are 53 of these planting schemes in different commonwealth countries and it is very nice to think that one of them is here in Ambleside.”

A formal opening of the reserve will take place early next year.

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