The woodlands of the estate are rich in their biodiversity, and support populations of some of our most endangered species. Guided by the Forestry Commission and Butterfly Conservation, the Witherslack Woodlands team works to sustainably manage our woodlands and safeguard the survival of these species.
Through active management of our woodlands we hope to enhance the number of butterfly and moth species they are able to support. A large proportion of our work is spent coppicing - an ancient practice which involves removing older trees and thinning the tree cover in certain woodland ‘plots’. This practice promotes fresh tree shoot growth and maximises the light reaching the woodland floor. As a result wildflowers such as violets and primroses are encouraged to grow, providing an essential food source for butterflies and other insect life. In a few years the new shoots will have grown up and we can start the whole process over again. These plots, all at different stages of maturity, are patchwork throughout the woodland and provide a variety of habitats for not only butterflies and moths, but also for birds and other insect species.
Red Squirrel Project:
In 2016 we teamed up with local red squirrel expert, Bob Bradley and the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society, to reintroduce the red squirrel to Witherslack. We have installed feeders and nest boxes designed to deny access to the larger, non-native grey squirrel. Our project aims to maximise the nest and feeding opportunities available to the reds, and through effective trapping, significantly reduce the population of greys in the area. With red squirrels already successfully re-established in nearby Levens we hope to see them thriving in our woodlands again soon. Visit the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society Web Page
Rare species to look out for:
- High Brown Fritillary - this rare butterfly has disappeared from 94% of UK sites in the last 50 years - its habitats in our area are therefore vital to the survival of the species.
- Other butterflies - Dark Green Fritillary, Dingy Skipper, Northern Brown Argus, Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Silver-washed Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Visit the Butterfly Conservation web page
- Hawfinches -The hawfinch is a red fire engine of a bird, beautifully coloured in contrasting rust-red, black and white and with a massive bill. It’s 20 per cent larger than its little green goddess relative the greenfinch but it is also one of our shyest and most secretive woodland birds. Sadly it has a declining Cumbrian population, based in South Lakeland of only 30 breeding pairs. With a drop in distribution of over 40 per cent in Cumbria since the 1970s it is becoming a very rare red indeed and as in so many cases we are not sure why. Over all of England there may be only 3,000 pairs.
- Flowers – the woods are an important habitat for a variety of flowers including bluebells, wood anemones, celandines, lesser stitchworts and orchids such as the Early Purple Orchid click here for more information
- Red Squirrels