Restoring Hardknott Forest

This project is a historic opportunity to restore native woodlands and other natural habitats amongst some of England’s most dramatic mountain landscapes. The project will work to restore one of the largest conifer plantations in the Lake District National Park to a wild native woodland.

In the absence of this project, being funded by The North Face Explore Fund, non-native conifer seedlings will spread across the project area. Without immediate action these non-native conifers will dominate and prevent native woodlands from developing. Our project will engage volunteers to practically contribute to the restoration of native woodlands whilst learning about wildlife and the unique landscape. We will remove invasive, non-native conifers, plant native trees and monitor and record the recovery of the woodland and its associated wildlife. The new native woodlands will improve habitats for nature and will enhance the experience for walkers, climbers and nature enthusiasts. In this 18 month project we will plant 1500 native tree saplings and remove non-native conifers from 130 hectares enabling the regeneration of 250 000 native trees. We will arrange more than 50 practical volunteer days and host 10 different school visits.

The Update

Our final update for this project. We are pleased to report that all planned actions are complete. Indeed, a couple of actions have exceeded their targets:

– Non-native conifers have been removed from 139.8 hectares (target was 130ha); all project staff are now fully qualified chainsaw operators which will help this project going forwards.
– 4,400 native trees have been planted (target was 1,500) to supplement natural regeneration where necessary.
– Engaging 11 school groups throughout the duration of the project. Groups spent the morning exploring the forest and planting trees before setting up their own wildlife camera. The “adopt-a-camera” scheme proved very successful in introducing, and engaging, children to wildlife and nature in their local area.
– Volunteer days have been a huge success and were running at full capacity. Unfortunately, the pandemic resulted in some days being cancelled, but it is fantastic to see that this did not affect the outcome, and success, of this project!

Restoration work at Hardknott also turned up an unexpected benefit: the removal of non-native conifers exposed previously inaccessible crags which have now been transformed into functioning climbing sites.

And finally, one particular highlight of this project is the success of natural regeneration: an average of 3205 native saplings per hectare, significantly more than the 2500 saplings per hectare that foresters would typically plant when creating a new woodland. A great result which should prove invaluable in continuing the success of restoring this area back to a wild and native woodland!